Viking - Scandinavia

By Viking Zon on Dec 30, 2021

Vikings is the modern name given to seafaring people primarily from Scandinavia (present-day Denmark, Norway and Sweden),who from the late 8th to the late 11th centuries raided, pirated, traded and settled throughout parts of Europe. They also voyaged as far as the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Middle East, and North America. In some of the countries they raided and settled in, this period is popularly known as the Viking Age, and the term "Viking" also commonly includes the inhabitants of the Scandinavian homelands as a collective whole. The Vikings had a profound impact on the early medieval history of Scandinavia, the British Isles, France, Estonia, and Kievan Rus'.

Expert sailors and navigators aboard their characteristic longships, Vikings established Norse settlements and governments in the British Isles, Ireland, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, Normandy, the Baltic coast, and along the Dnieper and Volga trade routes in what is now European Russia, Belarus and Ukraine (where they were also known as Varangians). The Normans, Norse-Gaels, Rus' people, Faroese and Icelanders emerged from these Norse colonies. The Vikings also voyaged to Constantinople, Iran, and Arabia. They were the first Europeans to reach North America, briefly settling in Newfoundland (Vinland). While spreading Norse culture to foreign lands, they simultaneously brought home slaves, concubines and foreign cultural influences to Scandinavia, profoundly influencing the genetic and historical development of both. During the Viking Age the Norse homelands were gradually consolidated from smaller kingdoms into three larger kingdoms: Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

The Vikings spoke Old Norse and made inscriptions in runes. For most of the period they followed the Old Norse religion, but later became Christians. The Vikings had their own laws, art and architecture. Most Vikings were also farmers, fishermen, craftsmen and traders. Popular conceptions of the Vikings often strongly differ from the complex, advanced civilisation of the Norsemen that emerges from archaeology and historical sources. A romanticised picture of Vikings as noble savages began to emerge in the 18th century; this developed and became widely propagated during the 19th-century Viking revival. Perceived views of the Vikings as violent, piratical heathens or as intrepid adventurers owe much to conflicting varieties of the modern Viking myth that had taken shape by the early 20th century. Current popular representations of the Vikings are typically based on cultural clichés and stereotypes, complicating modern appreciation of the Viking legacy. These representations are rarely accurate—for example, there is no evidence that they wore horned helmets, a costume element that


The etymology of "Viking" is uncertain. In the Middle Ages it came to mean Scandinavian pirate or raider. The Anglo-Saxons regarded the word wicing as synonymous with pirate and in several Old English sources wicing is translated into the Latin pirata. It was not seen as a reference to nationality, with other terms such as Norðmenn (Northmen) and Dene (Danes) being used for that. In Asser's Life of Alfred the Danes are referred to as pagani (pagans), but this is usually translated as 'Vikings', in modern English, which some regard as a mistranslation.The earliest reference to wicing in English sources is from the Épinal-Erfurt glossary which dates to around 700,whereas the first known attack by Viking raiders in England at Lindisfarne was in 793.The origin of wicing is disputed, with some believing that it is a loan-word from Old Norse.

The form occurs as a personal name on some Swedish runestones. The stone of Tóki víking (Sm 10) was raised in memory of a local man named Tóki who got the name Tóki víking (Toki the Viking), presumably because of his activities as a Viking.The Gårdstånga Stone (DR 330) uses the phrase "Þeʀ drængaʀ waʀu wiða unesiʀ i wikingu" (These valiant men were widely renowned on viking raids), referring to the stone's dedicatees as Vikings. The Västra Strö 1 Runestone has an inscription in memory of a Björn, who was killed when "on a viking raid".In Sweden there is a locality known since the Middle Ages as Vikingstad. The Bro Stone (U 617) was raised in memory of Assur who is said to have protected the land from Vikings (Saʀ vaʀ vikinga vorðr með Gæiti).There is little indication of any negative connotation in the term before the end of the Viking Age.

Other theories suggest that its origin is from the Old English wicing and Old Frisian wizing that are almost 300 years older, and probably derive from wic itself related to the Latin vicus "village, habitation". Another less popular theory is that víking from the feminine vík, meaning "creek, inlet, small bay". Various theories have been offered that the word viking may be derived from the name of the historical Norwegian district of Víkin, meaning "a person from Víkin".

There are a few major problems with this theory. People from the Viken area were not called "Viking" in Old Norse manuscripts, but are referred to as víkverir, ('Vík dwellers'). In addition, that explanation could explain only the masculine (víkingr) and not the feminine (víking), which is a serious problem because the masculine is easily derived from the feminine but hardly the other way around.

Another etymology that gained support in the early twenty-first century, derives Viking from the same root as Old Norse vika, f. 'sea mile', originally 'the distance between two shifts of rowers', from the root *weik or *wîk, as in the Proto-Germanic verb *wîkan, 'to recede'.This is found in the Proto-Nordic verb *wikan, 'to turn', similar to Old Icelandic víkja (ýkvavíkva) 'to move, to turn', with well-attested nautical usages. Linguistically, this theory is better attested,and the term most likely predates the use of the sail by the Germanic peoples of North-Western Europe, because the Old Frisian spelling Witsing or Wīsing shows that the word was pronounced with a palatal k and thus in all probability existed in North-Western Germanic before that palatalisation happened, that is, in the 5th century or before (in the western branch).

The Stora Hammars I image stone, showing the saga of Hildr, under what may be the rite of blood eagle, and on the bottom a Viking ship.

In that case, the idea behind it seems to be that the tired rower moves aside for the rested rower on the thwart when he relieves him. The Old Norse feminine víking (as in the phrase fara í víking) may originally have been a sea journey characterised by the shifting of rowers, i.e. a long-distance sea journey, because in the pre-sail era, the shifting of rowers would distinguish long-distance sea journeys. A víkingr (the masculine) would then originally have been a participant on a sea journey characterised by the shifting of rowers. In that case, the word Viking was not originally connected to Scandinavian seafarers but assumed this meaning when the Scandinavians begun to dominate the seas.

In Old English, the word wicing appears first in the Anglo-Saxon poem, Widsith, which probably dates from the 9th century. In Old English, and in the history of the archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen written by Adam of Bremen in about 1070, the term generally referred to Scandinavian pirates or raiders. As in the Old Norse usages, the term is not employed as a name for any people or culture in general. The word does not occur in any preserved Middle English texts. One theory made by the Icelander Örnolfur Kristjansson is that the key to the origins of the word is "wicinga cynn" in Widsith, referring to the people or the race living in Jórvík (York, in the ninth century under control by Norsemen), Jór-Wicings (note, however, that this is not the origin of Jórvík).

The word Viking was introduced into Modern English during the 18th-century Viking revival, at which point it acquired romanticised heroic overtones of "barbarian warrior" or noble savage. During the 20th century, the meaning of the term was expanded to refer to not only seaborne raiders from Scandinavia and other places settled by them (like Iceland and the Faroe Islands), but also any member of the culture that produced said raiders during the period from the late 8th to the mid-11th centuries, or more loosely from about 700 to as late as about 1100. As an adjective, the word is used to refer to ideas, phenomena, or artefacts connected with those people and their cultural life, producing expressions like Viking ageViking cultureViking artViking religionViking ship and so on.

In Eastern Europe, of which parts were ruled by a Norse elite, víkingr came be perceived as a positive concept meaning "hero" in the Russian borrowed form vityaz' (витязь).

Other names

The Vikings were known as Ascomanni ("ashmen") by the Germans for the ash wood of their boats, Dubgail and Finngail ( "dark and fair foreigners") by the Irish,Lochlannaich ("people from the land of lakes") by the Gaels, Dene (Dane) by the Anglo-Saxonsand Northmonn by the Frisians.[41]

The scholarly consensusis that the Rus' people originated in what is currently coastal eastern Sweden around the eighth century and that their name has the same origin as Roslagen in Sweden (with the older name being Roden). According to the prevalent theory, the name Rus', like the Proto-Finnic name for Sweden (*Ruotsi), is derived from an Old Norse term for "the men who row" (rods-) as rowing was the main method of navigating the rivers of Eastern Europe, and that it could be linked to the Swedish coastal area of Roslagen (Rus-law) or Roden, as it was known in earlier times.The name Rus' would then have the same origin as the Finnish and Estonian names for Sweden: Ruotsi and Rootsi.

The Slavs and the Byzantines also called them Varangians (Russian: варяги, from Old Norse Væringjar 'sworn men', from vàr- "confidence, vow of fealty", related to Old English wær "agreement, treaty, promise", Old High German wara "faithfulness"). Scandinavian bodyguards of the Byzantine emperors were known as the Varangian Guard. The Rus' initially appeared in Serkland in the 9th century, traveling as merchants along the Volga trade route, selling furs, honey, and slaves, as well as luxury goods such as amber, Frankish swords, and walrus ivory.[26] These goods were mostly exchanged for Arabian silver coins, called dirhams. Hoards of 9th century Baghdad-minted silver coins have been found in Sweden, particularly in Gotland.

During and after the Viking raid on Seville in 844 CE the Muslim chroniclers of al-Andalus referred to the Vikings as Magians (Arabic: al-Majus مجوس), conflating them with fire worshipping Zoroastrians from Persia. When Ibn Fadlan was taken captive by Vikings in the Volga, he referred to them as Rus.

The Franks normally called them Northmen or Danes, while for the English they were generally known as Danes or heathen and the Irish knew them as pagans or gentiles.

Anglo-Scandinavian is an academic term referring to the people, and archaeological and historical periods during the 8th to 13th centuries in which there was migration to—and occupation of—the British Isles by Scandinavian peoples generally known in English as Vikings. It is used in distinction from Anglo-Saxon. Similar terms exist for other areas, such as Hiberno-Norse for Ireland and Scotland.

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