1 of 1
Viking is customarily used to refer to the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, and pirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century
These Norsemen used their famed longships to travel as far east as Constantinople and the Volga River in Russia, and as far west as Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland, and as far south as Al-Andalus
This period of Viking expansion – known as the Viking Age – forms a major part of the medieval history of Scandinavia, Great Britain, Ireland and the rest of Europe in general
Popular conceptions of the Vikings often differ from the complex picture that emerges from archaeology and written sources. A romanticised picture of Vikings as Germanic noble savages began to take root in the 18th century, and this developed and became widely propagated during the 19th-century Viking revival
The received views of the Vikings as violent brutes or intrepid adventurers owe much to the modern Viking myth which had taken shape by the early 20th century. Current popular representations are typically highly clichéd, presenting the Vikings as familiar caricatures
The most important primary sources for information on the Vikings are different sorts of contemporary evidence from Scandinavia and the various regions in which the Vikings were active Writing in Latin letters was introduced to Scandinavia with Christianity, so there are few native documentary sources from Scandinavia before the late 11th and early 12th centuries The Scandinavians did write inscriptions in runes, but these are usually very short and formulaic. The contemporary documentary sources upon which modern knowledge is based therefore consist mostly of texts written in Christian and Islamic communities overseas, that had often been negatively affected by Viking activity. These texts reflect varying degrees of bias and reliability, but not more so than is usually the case in early medieval writings, and they remain very important. Since the mid-20th century, archaeological sources have helped build a more complete and balanced picture. The archaeological record is particularly rich and varied, and provides knowledge of rural and urban settlement, crafts and production, ships and military equipment, and pagan and Christian religious artefacts and practices. Archaeology also provides the main source of evidence for circumstances in Scandinavia before the Viking Age.
Evidence from after the Viking Age can also be important for understanding the Vikings, although it needs to be treated very cautiously. After the consolidation of the church and the assimilation of Scandinavia and its colonies into the mainstream of medieval Christian culture in the 11th and 12th centuries, native written sources begin to appear, in Latin and Old Norse. In the Viking colony of Iceland, an extraordinary vernacular literature blossomed in the twelfth to 14th centuries, and many traditions connected with the Viking Age were written down for the first time in the Icelandic sagas. The reliability of these medieval prose narratives about the Scandinavian past is often doubtful, but some elements remain worthy of consideration, such as the great quantity of skaldic poetry attributed to court poets of the tenth and 11th centuries that was included in these writings. The linguistic evidence from medieval and later records and Old Norse place-names in Scandinavia and elsewhere also provides a vital source of information for the social history of Viking Age Scandinavia and the Viking settlements overseas.
A consequence of the available written sources, which may have coloured how we perceive the Viking Age as a historical period, is that we know a lot more of the raids to western Europe than those to the East. One reason for this is that the peoples living in north-eastern Europe at the time were illiterate. Another reason is that the vast majority of the written sources from Scandinavia comes from Iceland, a nation originally settled by Norwegian colonists. As a result there is much more material from the Viking Age concerning Norway than for instance Sweden, which, apart from Runic inscriptions, has almost no written sources from the early Middle Ages
Posted by ✉❤♞☺☯☮☏☂