The Viking Age - Short Documentary

Friday, 26 November 2021

793 in Lindisfarne monastery here is a little bit on fire. It was set on fire by a group of raiders commonly known as Vikings, who saw the wealthy poorly defended monastery as easy pickings. Which to be fair, it was the raid on Lindisfarne is often considered to be the beginning of the period of European history known as the Viking age because hereafter the number of seaborne raids and the amount of Viking activity across Europe increase dramatically.


So who were these Vikings? Well, they originated from Scandinavia what is now Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Be aware that these one-two single groups of people had different social and religious practices and we're more than happy to read each other when it was profitable. Speaking of raiding, Viking has become synonymous with raid, but it's important to note that many Vikings were simply seaborne traders and most stayed at home Farming.

    Farming in Scandinavia was a mixed bag and in the north of the Viking territories, it was practically impossible because cold southern Denmark and parts of Norway and Sweden were actually quite good for farming but population growth and other means such as fishing was needed for sustenance. The difficult climate and terrain of Scandinavia also made governing the people there very difficult. Kings often rode with the light touches commanding someone who was on an island over a mountain or on the other side of a dense forest wasn't that easy.


That said force was one of the primary ways of securing loyalty along with rewarding followers with gifts. There were some areas in Scandinavia which were pretty good in terms of resources, and it was around these areas that power coalesced. The history of Scandinavia during the ninth century is shrouded in myth and legend and frankly, there's very little that can be said is a definite fact. Just a quick note on names too. We'll be using the names Danish, Swedish or Norse, Norwegian but be aware that the borders in Scandinavia weren't settled and that people simply lived wherever was habitable. 

    Anyway, in the ninth century, Norway was named after the sea route along its coast the northern way was the land of many petty kingdoms who rose and fell as they vied for dominance. That is until a certain King Harold's fair hair shows up around 872. But again, no one knows for sure, it was he who established a power base over the course of a few decades gained overlordship over the north, and then defeated the Confederation of petty King to the Battle of half his field. And it was after his victory that Harold declared himself to be the first king of the Norwegians in what is now Denmark, the ninth century is much clearer and actually, the name Denmark wasn't used until about the year 930.


It is known though from the records of the Frankish empire of Charlemagne that some of the lords who lived there will do a great deal of power and that the Danes were noted fighters in Sweden named after the sphere, people who lived here there is loads of evidence about what happened down to the tiniest minutiae. Oh, wait, no, there isn't. What can be said for sure, though, is that the people that live their lives mostly in these areas and that the sphere made a great deal of contact with their neighbors across the Baltic Sea.

    Also, shockingly, it was divided into petty kingdoms. It's also known that the Swedes made regular contact with the Sami people from the north, and it's likely that some of their religious practices were adopted from them. So whilst not a great deal is known about Scandinavia itself during this period that people from there certainly made an impact in other places in the ninth century, so widespread reading across Western Europe such as those on Frankia. Between 840 and 850. The Franks fortified their coasts and rivers, which forced the Vikings to turn their attention elsewhere. To the British Isles.


The British Isles had been subject to Viking raids throughout most of the ninth century, and it's well attracted many mostly from Denmark to come and take it the 860s or the landing of the great teeth an army in Britain, which devastated many of the Anglo Saxon kingdoms there and made a lot of money doing so. The Norse from Norway raided their way across the northern Western coasts of Scotland and ended up at the island of Ireland, where they did get more raiding the reasons behind Viking raiding a fiercely debated and ranged from a lack of arable land back home to cope with population growth to honor-based or semi-religious reasons.

    More on that in a bit. The great heathen army soon changed from one of raiding to one of conquest and in a short time, they conquered and settled this area subsequently called the Danelaw. The Norse conquered most of the northern islands across the British Isles and also settled places like Dublin and cork which soon became important slave-trading hubs. To the north lay the uninhabited island of Iceland, Iceland was settled by a man called a golfer an acid who settled Reykjavik in 874. And unlike the rest of Europe, no one lived there and so the settlement was done without violence.


The North also settled the Faroe Islands here, but no one knows when for sure expansion wasn't limited to the west or to the north. The East also saw a great deal of Viking mostly Swedish activity. The Vikings moved south settling, reading, and trading until they came to the Black Sea and made contact with a very wealthy Byzantine Empire. There's a lot of questions concerning the manner of Scandinavian settlement in Eastern Europe and to what extent they dominated the region. However, they were definitely deeply involved in the politics of the area and it made the Vikings they're very wealthy.

    The Vikings brought great change with them to the places they settled, generally speaking, the Vikings were much more urbanized and they expanded major settlements like York, Dublin, and Kiev, which became deeply intertwined with European trade. The social changes they brought with them vary depending on the region, but the primary area of conflict between the Vikings and those they conquered was that of religion.

So the Viking religion was a form of Germanic paganism and is extremely complicated. There were many gods or not all Vikings worshiped the same gods. There were also the Normans who determined a person's unchangeable destiny and this idea of a set fate was extremely important. For example, if you were destined to die in combat, you would ideally go forth looking for combat to approach your fate briefly, Christians have attempted to convert people in Scandinavia for centuries by this point, ultimately to no avail.


In fact, many Vikings recognized the Christian desire to convert them and went along with it for political gain. One such example was Rollo, who in 911, after reading Frankia was given this land in Normandy, which was probably the land he was occupying. He was officially given it on two conditions, prevent reading from other Vikings and of course, be baptized.

    For many Vikings baptism was a sincere act of conversion, and for others, it was just a thing Christians wanted you to do after they paid you off. In fact, some Vikings complained that the baptism they were just given wasn't as nice as the last one. So back in Norway, things were starting to heat up. Harold Fairhead died around 930 His kingdom fell apart and what remained when to his son Eric the first better known as Derek Bloodaxe.


He was kicked out in 1933 by his brother, the new king Hakon, also known as hacking the good and Eric went off the road to Dublin and Northumbria. hakam was as his name suggests a pretty good king and so to strengthen his realm, he was also a Christian and attempted to convert his subjects but once he realized they were pretty annoyed with the whole Jesus thing he himself went back to worshipping the Norse gods.

    By the mid 10th century, Denmark was still divided into many kingdoms and it was this one the kingdom of Jutland, which was ruled by a man called Gorm the old golem being old guide 958 and was succeeded by his son Harold better known as Harold Bluetooth. Harold would go on to conquer the entirety of the now gormless Denmark, which is one of the reasons he's so famous. The other is that he converted to Christianity. This was after he attempted to read the Holy Roman Empire and to refer to the first in 960.


Harold lost and thus was made to convert but be aware that there were already many Christians in Denmark, such as those who had returned from the Danelaw. So one thing you'll have noticed throughout this episode is that I keep saying how we don't know much for certain so how do we know anything about the period the primary sources are often from outside of Scandinavia, like those from England or Frankia. But there are two important Scandinavian sources.

    The first was the gelling stones which were inscribed stones that were made at gelling the old capital of Jutland. The major ones were made by Harold Bluetooth to celebrate both the unification of Denmark and its conversion to Christianity. The other source is the Sagas mostly from Iceland, which were narrative stories written hundreds of years after the events they spoke of. Hence why half of what is written in the Sagas is seen as semi-legendary, not strictly trustworthy, so back to Denmark.


The rest of Harold's rain did see him deposed King hack on the good and replaced him with his nephew Harold's gray cloak did basically nothing except die in 917. So Howard declared himself to be the King of Norway to this would mark the high point of Harold's reins it's a 986 he was deposed by his sons when Forkbeard Swain forbids rain is frankly a bit of a mystery.

    After taking the throne he appears to have either raided England and Scotland for about a decade or was exiled there by his nobles and the Swedish king Eric the victorious in 95. He appears to have lost Norway to Olaf Tryggvason who wanted to convert it to Christianity with some success slightly after this Swedish king Olaf Scott cannon would do the same thing in Israel. Again. The problem with Swedish history at this point is that nobody can say for sure what was going on.


It's pretty certain that this fair had conquered the gates to the south, but their northern borders are basically unknown. Up in Iceland, a man called Eric the red was banished for manslaughter in the late 10th century. Shortly afterward, he stumbled across and then settled Greenland, Eric son Leif Erikson would then in the year 1001, discover North America so take that Columbus, there were some temporary settlements in North America, but for some reason, they didn't last and thus North America wouldn't see European contact again for nearly half a millennium.

    Swain would at some point return to Denmark and after the death of Tryggvason in the year 1000. He reclaimed Norway he went back and forth raiding England for many years and in 1013, he managed to seize it for himself and become King bear those beginning England royal house of Denmark. He died the next year and his son couldn't it would begin his role in England two years later, by 1020 acres not ruled all of these lands now known as the North Sea Empire can have died in 1035 and his kingdoms were divided and fighting broke out.


The Kingship of couldn't it would be used by his descendant, the King of Norway, Howard Rado, in 1066 landed in Northumbria with the intent to take England's crown for himself. This went pretty well for his enemies since Harada, got himself killed in 1066, and the death of Harold Hardrada is considered by many to mark the end of the Viking Age. The reason for this is large because the Viking nations were a part of the Christian world and we're no longer able to read with impunity or even defeat their enemies. Denmark, Sweden, or Norway was a Christian kingdom just like any other and so there were rules, you couldn't simply take a kingdom now just because you wanted it.

    You couldn't turn up and raid murder or enslave your fellow Christians anymore. That's not to say that nobody from these places ever raided again they did and the Norwegian holdings in the British Isles would remain theirs until the 15th century, the legacy of the Viking Age is extremely far-reaching this period did not settle the issue of Scandinavian borders, but it taught the rest of Europe that Scandinavia was not something you could ignore anymore.

Obviously, one legacy is that it spread the Scandinavian culture to the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Greenland. They change language and the politics of much of western Europe and whilst Hardrada had failed to subdue England, it was William the great, great, great-grandson of Rolla, who would concrete immediately afterward.

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