Viking age

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Chronicle (small selection)
793 Viking raid on Lindisfarne Monastery
795 Raids on Ireland begin (Inishmurray)
799 The raids on the Frankish Empire begin
830 renewed Viking raids on England
840 first Viking winter camp in Franconia
841 Establishment of Dublin
844 Viking raids in Spain and Portugal
845 Viking raid on Hamburg and the Seine valley, Paris pays 7,000 pounds of silver Danegeld to be spared
856/57 Sack of Paris
866 The great army of the Vikings lands in East Anglia
880 Harald Fairhair founds the Orkney Earltum
881 Vikings devastate the Carolingian heartland . Numerous cities are looted. Charlemagne's palace in Aachen is burned down.
882 The Vikings pillage Cologne , Bonn , Andernach , Trier and the Prüm Abbey .
892 After the lost battle near Leuven (Belgium), the defeated Vikings attacked the Moselle valley and again pillaged Trier and the Prüm monastery
around 900 Discovery of Greenland by Gunnbjörn Úlfsson
911 Establishment of Normandy by Rollo
914 Loire Normans conquer Brittany
980 renewed attacks on England
983 Erik the Red settled Greenland
1016 Conquest of England by the Danes, Canute the Great establishes his North Sea empire
1066 End of the Viking Age ( Battle of Stamford Bridge , Destruction of Haithabu by the Wends )

Viking Age is a term used in historical science . It is applied to Northern Europe, insofar as it was populated by the Vikings , and to Central, Southern and Western Europe, insofar as they were affected by their attacks.

The term "Viking Age" was coined by the Danish archaeologist Jens Jacob Asmussen Worsaae (1821–1885). The definition is essentially determined by the history of the event and is therefore to some extent arbitrary. The Viking Age in the Scandinavian region is determined differently by different researchers today. The war campaign of the Dane Chlochilaicus between 516 and 522 AD is mentioned as the earliest point in time . Although there are already 742 the attack on the Pictish Burghead Fort and 787 on Portland in Dorset had been in southern England, usually just the raid on is Lindisfarne 793 seen as the beginning of the Viking Age. The end is traditionally dated to 1066 (at the same time the end of the Early Middle Ages in England and the destruction of Haithabu ), although the predatory individual actions of smaller Viking groups had declined earlier. The Viking Age came to an end with the subsidence of the Viking trains. Sven Estridsson's reputation (1020-1074) began as a Viking on raids. Bishop Adam von Bremen later praised him for his education. The rough date commonly used today is 800–1050 AD, although the Viking ship graves at Salme show that as early as 750 AD, 50 years earlier, North Germanic warriors were killed in hostilities in the Baltic States .

The Viking Age was shaped by a large network of friendships. This included, on the one hand, personal connections with mutual obligations based on the ritual exchange of gifts, the bond of the individual to the clan and ancestors and, on the other hand, the confrontation with Christianity . This confrontation was prepared by the gradual change from smaller rulers to stronger central powers. The progress in shipbuilding and the associated mobility, both in war and in trade, led to wealth and cultural prosperity.

In the case of military campaigns, a distinction should be made between those that were led on a private initiative for personal gain and those that had a political goal and were therefore led by rulers or their competitors. What they have in common is that the war was financed by looting and spoils of war . These wars by no means stopped in 1066. Magnus Berrføtt fought between 1098 and 1103 wars against the Orkneys , the Isle of Man and Ireland , in which looting financed the war and, if possible, produced a surplus. Sweyn Asleifsson , a character from the Orkneyinga saga , died in 1171 during a Viking campaign against Dublin . The last time there was talk of Vikings was when the Birkebeiners moved to Scotland as Vikings in 1209 . But it was only a matter of sole proprietorship that no longer dominated the social lifestyle.

In Scandinavian historiography, the Viking Age is followed by the “ Christian Middle Ages ”. It is preceded by the Vendelzeit in Sweden and the “ Germanic Iron Age ” in Denmark . Those authors who, in addition to the warlike existence, also assign trade and handicrafts to the Viking concept, see less narrow limits and relocate the beginnings to the first half of the 8th century and the end to the period after 1100. Others reject this: This would obscure the defining characteristic of contemporary perception, which in the Viking concept has been preserved to the present day; the term loses its usefulness. The Viking Age essentially ran parallel to the Carolingian and Ottonian times of continental Europe .

Some authors also apply the term Viking Age to the history of the Rus . This is due to the fact that many cultural developments in the Viking Age took place primarily in the Baltic Sea region .

The sources

The source situation poses a problem for the description of the Viking Age. While a treatment of the Viking Age claims to describe the conditions of this time in all of Scandinavia, the sources are spatially very unevenly distributed. The conditions in Iceland and Norway are quite well documented, while there is hardly any productive news from Denmark and Sweden from this period. It is therefore inadmissible to consider the statements of the sources from one area to be representative of Scandinavia. This applies in particular to customs and the position of women. The social conditions in Denmark and Sweden may have been different from those in Norway or Iceland.

Another problem is the modern criticism of sources, which calls into question the credibility of the sources. This leads to a certain arbitrariness of the representation. It is assumed here that the narrative sources embedded their action, whether it be historical or not, in real life circumstances. However, it must be checked whether it is the living conditions at the time of the events described or at the time of the author. Figures from the time, of which the authors could only have oral records, deserve particular skepticism. This applies, for example, to the strength of the fleet at the Battle of Hjørungavåg 986, which is probably exaggerated. Contemporary Frankish annals have also often exaggerated the number of ships, as shown in the relevant section of the Vikings article . Nevertheless, the basic structure of the course of the battle can be considered plausible.

The people

The graves show that the average age at death for men was 41 years and that of women was 51 years. The skeletons are evidence of hard physical work. There are clear traces of osteoarthritis - especially in women. The female skeletons show an average height of about 161 cm, that of the male skeletons of about 174 cm (the averages vary from region to region). There were also people up to 185 cm tall. Judging by the grave goods , the taller people apparently come from the higher social classes.

The Scandinavians in England and Ireland lived almost exclusively in closed territories or localities. Individual farmsteads are unknown. The situation is different in Scotland and the islands ( Hebrides , Orkneys, Shetlands and the Isle of Man ), where many individual farms have been found. In the dwellings, the floor was made of tamped clay, which was strewn with straw.

Apparently they had sniffer dogs for the hunt.


In the Rígsþula it says drastically:

Hann nam at vaxa
ok vel dafna;
var þar á höndum
hrokkit skinn,
kropnir knúar,
fingr digrir,
fúlligt andlit,
lotr hryggr,
langir hælar.
Þar kom at garði
aurr var á iljum,
armr sólbrunninn,
niðrbjúgt er nef,
nefndisk Þír.

It began to grow
and well to flourish. Rangen's fur was
rough on his hands
, his
joints knotted,
his fingers
plump, his face grumpy,
his back crooked,
his heels protruding.
[…] The crooked-legged woman
came into the courtyard
arms burned by the sun on her archesus, her
nose pressed
Thyr, the prostitute.

In Kristianstad in Skåne , a cemetery with 128 individuals was explored. The burial ground is dated to the late Viking Age. Of the 128 deaths, 79 had died in the first year of life. Only 10% were 60 years of age or older. Most children and at least a fifth of adults were iron deficient . Many had very bad teeth. Those over 60 usually had only a third of their teeth. Broken arms and legs as well as dislocated arms were found in many skeletons. There were also joint and skeletal diseases. Osteoarthritis was the most common disease. This is especially true for the knee joints of older women. Those buried on the outside of the cemetery apparently had leprosy . These statements do not correspond to the image of the courageous and enterprising Vikings. In particular, the oldest Christian burial site that has been explored in Lund shows that leprosy was a widespread disease. A case of tuberculosis was also identified.

Archeology has found numerous diseases in skeletons and excrement:

The hygienic conditions were poor in built-up areas. The distance between the drinking water well and the faecal pits was often not great. The archaeological findings in York show that the process water was not sufficiently separated from the wastewater. Ibn Fadlan reports that the Rus on the Volga have poor hygiene standards. However, statements made by sources or findings from a specific region cannot be generalized.

Clothing and personal hygiene

Men's hairstyle: shaved back of the head (clearly on the right and bottom left of the man) and long hair over the forehead. Depiction on the Bayeux Tapestry , 2nd half of the 11th century

The costumes seem to have varied widely. In addition to the traditional women's clothing, which was held together with bronze buckles and clasps on the shoulder, especially in the graves in today's Denmark and in the western part of Skåne (southern Sweden), Western European clothing fashions without metal clasps , but with fabrics in the silver or gold threads were woven in, as they are known from Frankish and Byzantine fabrics. Different types of pearl necklaces were worn. Bronze bangles were unknown in the West, but common in Austria .

In general, after the representations and the care utensils in the graves, one was very well cared for. Ibrahim ibn Jaqub reported from his trip to Haithabu around 965 that men and women had used eyeshadow. An English writer reported that the Northmen bathed, groomed their hair and were well dressed on Saturday for success with the English ladies. The neck was shaved and the hair on the forehead long. This certainly did not apply to the landless and servants .


The Viking Age men were on average 173 cm tall, which suggests good nutrition. The people of the Iron Age and the Viking Age ate meat from beef, pork, sheep, chicken and fish. The meat was preserved by curing, drying or smoking. Cheese, butter, buttermilk and sour milk were made from milk. Eggs were obtained from chickens and wild birds. In the Iron Age, oats and barley were grown. In the Viking Age, rye, which had been imported from Slavic regions, was added. Vegetables were peas, beans, cabbage, onions and cress. Apples, plums, blackberries, raspberries, wild strawberries, sloes, elderberries and hazelnuts were collected in the forest and in the fields. Salt was essential. It was obtained from seawater or imported. Honey was used as a sweetener. One drank water or milk drinks and fruit and berry juice. Beer was brewed from barley and flavored with hops or porst . Mead was made from honey, water and aromatic herbs. Bjórr was probably heavily fermented cider. Grape wine was imported.

Grain was used to cook grits or it was ground in a hand mill and bread was baked from it. Sourdough served as a leavening agent. The flour had a lot of impurities due to the wear and tear of the hand mills, which wore the teeth. Flat cakes were baked on pans over an open fire or in ovens. Fruit and berries were eaten raw or cooked as groats. Vegetables could be made into soup. People cooked or roasted in pots or on a spit over an open fire. Meat was also cooked in pits. Hot stones are put into the pit, the meat is wrapped in leaves, over it again a layer of hot stones and the whole thing covered with sod - in Iceland this is called hólusteik. It took 1 hour per kilo of meat.

Attitude to life

Viking diorama in the Archaeological Museum in Stavanger

As in all times, the attitude to life may not have been uniform. In addition to the view that life was predetermined and that magical powers also acted on it, there were also people who were non-religious and this-side-emphasizing realists, averse to any supernatural. Almost only the sagas are available as sources ; these statements only apply to Norway and Iceland.

The sources mainly reproduce the first group, since in the sagas the predestination in the narrative style increases the tension. In this group, the connection between the individual and the ancestors also played a special role. These or their followers also looked after their living offspring, for example through warning dream images. Groa, a sorceress in the Vatnsdœla saga, wanted to win Thorstein over with magic and invited many, including him, to a banquet.

"Og hina þriðju nótt áður Þorsteinn skyldi heiman ríða dreymdi hann að kona sú er fylgt hafði þeim frændum kom að honum og bað hann hvergi fara. Hann kvaðst heitið hafa. Hún mælti: 'Það líst mér óvarlegra og þú munt og illt af hljóta.' Og svo fór þrjár nætur að hún kom and ávítaði hann and kvað honum eigi hlýða mundu and tók á augum hans. Það var siðvenja þeirra þegar Þorsteinn skyldi nokkur heiman fara að allir komu þann dag til Hofs er ríða skyldu. Komu þeir Jökull og Þórir, Már og þeir menn aðrir er fara skyldu. Þorsteinn bað þá heim fara. Hann kvaðst vera sjúkur. Þeir gera svo. Þann aftan þá er sól var undir gengin sá sauðamaður Gró að hún gekk út og gekk andsælis um hús sín og mælti: 'Erfitt mun verða að standa í mót giftu Ingimundarsona.' Hún horfði upp í fjallið og veifði giska eða dúki þeim er hún hafði knýtt í gull mikið er hún átti og mælti: 'Fari nú hvað sem búið er.' Síðan gekk hún inn og lauk aftur hurðu. Þá hljóp aurskriða á bæinn og dóu allir menn. Og er þetta spurðist þá ráku þeir bræður á burt Þóreyju systur hennar úr sveit. Þar þótti rhymes jafnan síðan er byggð Gró hafði verið og vildu menn þar eigi búa frá því upp. "

“Three nights before he was supposed to ride home, Thorstein dreamed that the woman who had accompanied his ancestors would come to him and ask him not to ride. 'That seems unwise to me, and it will bring you bad luck too.' And so it went for three nights that she came and reproached him and said it was not going to be good for him, and she touched his eyes. It was the custom of the Seetaler when Thorstein planned a ride that everyone who wanted to ride with him came to Tempel that day. They came, Jökul and Thorir, Mar and the other men who wanted to travel. Thorstein asked her to ride home, he was sick. They did it. That evening, when the sun had set, a shepherd Groa saw how she stepped out of the farm and strode around her farm against the course of the sun and said: 'It is difficult to withstand the happiness of the Ingimund sons.' She looked up at the mountains and swung a pouch or cloth in which she had knotted a lot of gold, her property, and said. 'What must come will come.' Then she went in and closed the door behind her. A rock fall fell on the farm and everyone was killed. "

- Vatnsdœla saga chap.36.

In general, premonitions played a major role. They were evidently believed to be real by the writer and readers. Some of them are only a literary paraphrase of an assessment of all known factors from which the development of the event could be derived. Another trait is the often-described fatalism that persisted into Christian times. In the account of the Battle of Fimreite , for example, it is said that King Sverre had left his ship and rowed to his fleet to give it new orders. Then it means:

“The king rowed back to his ship. Then an arrow went into the stern of the boat over the king's head, and immediately afterwards another on the deck in front of the king's knees. The king sat quietly without making a fuss, and his companion said, 'One bad shot that, sir!' The king replied: 'It comes just as God wants it!' "

Social structures

Social stratification

U 209: Þorstein made this after Ærinmund, his son; he bought this farm and made wealth eastward in Garðarríki.

The aristocracy, which can be identified after 1000, is archaeologically detectable through large courtyards that comprised many buildings. Their basis of legitimation lay in their wealth and the subsequent generosity towards their entourage. Such large farms have been researched in Uppåkra (now in the municipality of Staffanstorp ) a few kilometers southwest of Lund , in Tissø in western Själland , in Lejre near Roskilde and in Borg in Lofoten . According to the finds (scales and weights as well as Arabic coins) most of the wealth came from trade. The retinue of the aristocrats was a troop of warriors called hirð . The king had the largest troop, and there is some evidence that this core troop in Canute the Great is identical to the Thingslið in England, which is often mentioned in its context . The earliest mention is on a rune stone from Uppland from the period between 1020 and 1060. This warrior troop exercised something like police power in the Lord's sphere of influence and served to enforce their own claims in local disputes; because otherwise there was no state monopoly on the use of force .

The graves also show a clear stratification of society in their grave goods: leading personalities, a broad middle class who, depending on their wealth, had more or less valuable grave objects, and slaves without grave objects.

At that time, in some quarters, it was right for a man to go abroad, gain wealth either through robbery or trade, and first return home rich and covered in glory to take up the traditional way of life there. The heimskr maðr , who stayed at home, was synonymous with "fool". But that doesn't mean that every young man in the upper class went on a Viking trip. They are only the main characters in the relevant reports.

The main dividing line within society was the line between the free and the unfree. Within the group of the free there were differences determined by property and family. The only quality that really embraced all free people was male holiness . It was reflected in the man's penalties payable for manslaughter, bodily harm, or honor, to him or, if he was killed, to his family. Such a penance was not entitled to the unfree, at most compensation to the Lord. In the case of the free woman, there was also penance for sexual assault.

After the introduction of kingship by Harald Hårfagre in Norway, a class society emerged that consisted of king, chiefs, peasants and slaves and was regarded as god-given.

The king

Like other kings, a king derived his legitimation from his descent from gods. With Harald Hårfage it was the descent from the Ynglings who traced back to the god Freyr , as Tjodolf von Hvin shows in the Ynglingatal , with the Ladejarlen it was Odin, as Eyvindr Skáldaspillir in Háleigjatal explains. Since he came from a divine race, the well-being of the people and general happiness were tied to him. His advance in battle was meant to show that the gods were with him. A gift from the king was not only of material value, but also granted a share in the salvation of the king. It is assumed that originally all chiefs attributed their gender to gods. With the increasing concentration of power in Norway on two families, the Hårfagreætt and the Ladejarle, the others have been "desacralized". The final introduction of Christianity after multiple failures led to a fundamental change in legitimation. The descent from a pagan god could not be sustained. The new basis was created by the sacralization of Olav the Holy as a martyr, to whom all kings subsequently traced themselves back, even if the actual descent for many is more than doubtful.

The king exercised supremacy over all parts of the country, which cannot be precisely delimited, but whose content can only be vaguely determined. Charges, meals during visits and military successes in the war should represent the main content. He did not rule over an area, but over people. Torbjørn Hornklove calls him dróttin norðmanna (King of the Northmen). But he was also seen as the owner of the land. The stereotypical legal consequence of persistent violations of the law was the expulsion from the country, which was expressed, for example, in Gulathingslov:

“En ef hann vill þat eigi. þa scal hann fara or landeign konongs várs. "

"And if he doesn't want that, he should leave our king's property."

- Gulathingslov § 23.

In return for the taxes, he was responsible for the external defense of his sphere of influence. See The inner development of Norway during the Viking Age .

The Norwegian king did not then have the power to govern as it did later. He had neither the legislation nor the jurisdiction and was essentially dependent on the local authorities. The army followed only partially. This becomes clear in the dispute between King Olav and Canute the Great in autumn 1027. At a deliberative meeting ( húsþing - Hausthing) the king encouraged the Swedish allies and their king Önund to stay on the ships in autumn and wait for the warriors Knuts had withdrawn home and pulled against his weakened fleet. Not the king, but the leaders present replied:

„Þá tóku Svíar aðtala, segja að það var ekki ráð að bíða þar vetrar og frera‚ Þótt Norðmenn eggi þess. Vita þeir ógerla hver íslög kunna hér að verða og frýs haf allt oftlega á vetrum. Viljum vér fara heim og vera hér ekki lengur. ' Gerðu þá Svíar kurr mikinn and mælti hver í orðastað annars. Var það afráðið að Önundur konungur fer þá í brott með allt sitt lið [...] "

“They said it was not advisable to wait for winter and frost, even if the Norwegians tell them to. 'You just don't know how the ice can lie here and how the sea so often freezes over completely in winter. We want to go home and not lie here any longer. ' The Swedes grumbled loudly and they all spoke to one another in the same vein. It was finally decided that King Önund should go home with his whole army. "

- Heimskringla. Ólaf's saga helga. Cape. 154.

In Norway there was initially a hereditary kingship, which entitles all sons to the same kingship, after the end of the civil war a restricted electoral kingship. But even under the hereditary kingship, the king required acclamation by a thing in which only men from a royal family were eligible. At the acclamation of Olav the Holy (995-1030) as king, he promised "the preservation of their old national laws and protection against foreign armies and masters". In return he was entitled to hospitality wherever he went with his men.

The king had his own crew around him, which was later called hirð . He had to be a role model in the struggle and in the way of life if he wanted to be recognized. It was less about his title, which he wore because he belonged to a powerful gender, than about the motivation he was able to instill in his team. So was Erik Bloodaxe not fast enough to draw up a fleet against his rival Håkon the Good, "because some of the nobles left him and went to Håkon". Erik's sons also had to leave Norway with their mother Gunnhild when Jarl Håkon came to Norway. "They called an army together, but only a few people followed them." The best examples of early ideals are given by the skald poems, which are cited in the Heimskringla, as they are the oldest evidence, often written immediately after the events described and passed on further.

Úti vill jól drekka
ef shall be ráða
fylkir hinn framlyndi
and Freys leik heyja,
ungr Leiddist eldvelli
og inni að sitja,
varma dyngju
eða vöttu dúns full.

Outside Jul will drink
If he decides,
the feisty Führer:
Frey's game there he plays.
He hates young embers
- he never squats inside -
and women's
rooms , warm, and the lining of down gloves.

Over time, the kingship grew stronger. Foreign role models and influences were decisive. Not only did Harald hårfagri send his son Hákon to England to the court of Aðalstein and he grew up there, the future kings also later gained their experience abroad, so that Snorri puts the sentence in the mouth of Olav's father, the saint of Olav : " Now you have also proven yourself in battles and have formed yourself on the model of foreign rulers. "


In the Viking Age there were around 20 large and dozen small chiefs. If one assumes that around 800 there were around 100,000 people living in Norway, it follows that the areas of sovereignty must have been very small as a rule during this period. The power of the chiefs rested on their network, which consisted of more or less dependent peasants. These had to support the chief in his undertakings, and the chief had to give them protection and ensure their livelihood. The relationship can be described as the relationship between patron and client . Then there was the Hirð, a group of professional warriors around the chief. Both presupposed a solid economic basis, which had to be created through warlike undertakings. This meant constant expansion of the areas of power through victories over other chiefs. Therefore, society was unstable in the pre-royal period. Then there were the conflicts that arose from inheritance law. Because all sons born in and out of wedlock had equal rights in the succession. Since they originally traced their sex back to gods, chiefs also had priestly functions. In Iceland they were called "Goden".


The peasants were at the core of Norwegian society from pre-royal times to the 19th century. They ran a farm and had clear duties: to protect the people living on the farm and to take part in the meeting of things. There were great economic differences among the farmers. Some owned large estates, some of which they leased out or had slaves run. Unlike the slaves, all peasants had "honor". At the top were the so-called "Haulde", a peasant aristocracy. In the Østlandet the term still had the original meaning of the land-owning farmer, in the Vestlandet Frostathingslov and Gulathingslov show that they were Odal farmers . To achieve Odal status, a family between four and six generations had to live on the same property. In Landslov the time was reduced to 60 years. It is not known how large the proportion of these farmers was. In the warrior society, honor was the highest good, and so, in order to increase honor, there were often armed conflicts. These honor battles could only be fought between people of the same status. They served the social differentiation within the same group. It was unthinkable that a chief would challenge a peasant, for no honor could be gained by challenging a member of a lower social class.

The individual farm with its associated land and the outskirts (Inn- and Utmark) was the basic economic unit on which the entire society was built. This is also reflected in contemporary mythology: in Asgard each god had his own hall. In Midgard the people had their farms and in Utgard the trolls and evil forces sat. Innmark and Utmark have been models in this worldview. The individual farms produced their own needs as much as possible. But the different resources required a certain specialization: fishing and iron extraction could be used to exchange for other important goods.

There were also small settlements. They were both a social unit and a production community. The settlement owned fields. Every farmer had his fields in the different districts without boundary walls opposite the neighbor. The farmers plowed, sown and harvested together. In addition, there were meadows and forests as commons . The whole thing belonged to one or more landlords.


At the beginning of the Viking Age, the warriors were recruited from the peasants. Warrior later also became a profession. A stone from Uppland on which a warrior is praised that he was the best farmer in Håkon's entourage proves that the peasants also performed military service in the late period :

"Gunni ok Kári reistu stein eptir [...] Hann var bónda beztr í róði Hákonar."

"Gunni and Kári put the stone afterwards [...] He was the best farmer in Håkon's squad."

- U 16

róð is described in the Upplands Law as follows: “And now the king offers the allegiance and the peasant army, he demands the rowing and warrior team and the equipment.” There was already a standing warrior troop.


In addition to these described groups of people, there were servants / slaves. They had no affiliation with families. They had no rights. Their origins played no role in society. They were owned by the Lord. There is news about them in the later Old Norwegian and early Swedish laws. But these allow certain conclusions to be drawn about the previous conditions. The economic importance of the slaves at that time is one of the unanswered questions in Norwegian historical research. English and Irish sources report on kidnapping. For example, in the year 871 it is reported that Scandinavians from Dublin enslaved large numbers of English men and Picts . But it does not appear from this that a large number of them came to Norway, as many may have been sold abroad. Also, there is no clue as to what number it was. Archaeologically, the facts are barely comprehensible. Often the prisoners were not sold, but were released for a ransom. If the ransom was not paid, the Vikings would often kill them. Jarl Erling Skjalgsson is reported to have had 30 servants around him at all times. They were allowed to do business for themselves and could buy their way out within two to three years. With the transfer fee, the Jarl bought new servants. Christian influence can already be felt here. Régis Boyer thinks that the slavery of the Viking Age in Scandinavia is not comparable to the slavery in ancient Rome . He thinks that the ideals of the Vikings opposed such an inhumane attitude. However, these ideals oppose a literary environment that is already contaminated by Christianity and which is also influenced by continental ideals. For pre-Christian society, an ideal relating to the species “human” is not tangible. Rather, all the ethical norms to be determined were limited directly to clan and allegiance. In Sweden slaves are documented in numerous wills until the 14th century, in which wealthy testators gave their slaves freedom. Not only did they come from raids, but many also voluntarily became slaves in order to ensure their supplies. There was also enslavement as a punishment. The content of slave status varied from landscape to landscape and from epoch to epoch. But one thing was consistently characteristic: the slave lacked male holiness. He had no rights to his owner and his family, who could use force against him or sell him with impunity. The violation of the slave by a third party was viewed as damage to the master’s property. A slave's children, like those with pets, belonged to the owner. However, the regulations were also different here: According to the law in Skåne and according to the Västgötalag, the child of a slave woman was a slave. In Östgötalag the child of a free man was free with a slave girl. In Svealand, a child of such a mixed marriage always followed the “better half”. There the possibility of such a mixed marriage was also regulated by law. This development is attributed to the influence of the church.

The lawlessness also meant that he could not appear on a thing. He was also not legally competent. He was also unable to obtain his own release. He did not gain full freedom after a release until he was adopted into a free sex by a member of a family. In Uppland and Södermanland the slave had a man's holiness limited to persons outside the family of the owner. The sale of the slave was also prohibited there.

There was a semi-free class ( fostrar or frälsgivar ). These were probably slaves who had been given a small piece of land for their own cultivation for life. The owner was relieved of maintenance, but the slave retained his status without rights. However, the damages to be paid to the owner in the event of injury were higher, and they could also marry a free one, and the children from the marriage were free members of the maternal family. The regulation of this semi-free class belong to the youngest layer of tradition.

In the Skarastadgan of 1335, King Magnus Eriksson ordered that from now on all children of Christian parents should be free. This development is traced back to the church, which - without shaking the social system - saw slaves as having equal rights in the church from the beginning. For the large landowners with widely scattered estates, it was economically better to let legally independent servants and farm laborers manage their estates than to have slaves who had to be monitored and maintained. The previous slaves were released en masse in the 14th century. The fate of these farm workers, however, was no different from that of the slaves. The large farmer retained the legal right to corporal punishment, and the poor farm worker had to submit to the working conditions if he did not want to be punished as a tramp. Since the landlord had now got rid of responsibility for the former slave, the latter now bore the risk of unemployment and hardship in old age. The right to corporal punishment was limited to underage servants in 1858 and only abolished in 1920.

Special functionaries

Very little is known about special functionaries in pre-Christian society.

  • One of the functionaries was certainly the “priest”, who for etymological reasons is assigned the name Gode . In Norway this function was performed by the chiefs. In Iceland they were called Goden. There were domestic, regional and national sacrificial festivals. (see article North Germanic Religion and Yule Festival ). Steinsland assumes that the religious rituals on the individual farms were led by women and that only the regional and national festivals were reserved for male leaders.
  • Initially, a god also presided over the thing assembly. According to Icelandic sources, he wore a sacred gold bracelet on his upper arm. The oaths were placed on this bracelet. A law spokesman also appeared at the thing, who had to recite the laws by heart.
  • Other officials were trained at the royal court, in the army and in the fleet. As a rule, they were recruited from the peasant aristocracy.

The family association

The society of the Norwegian Nordmanns was essentially shaped by external, especially Franconian influences. At the same time as the expansion of their sphere of influence outwards, internal colonization began. Only when the conditions no longer allowed further expansion in the interior did the emphasis shift to the expansion abroad, which is associated with the Vikings. Archaeologically, one can ascertain a steady increase in the built-up area since the turn of the ages with a temporary slump in the 6th century. The new district names before the Viking Age, which all begin with a personal name, allow the conclusion that agriculture was carried out by individual small families during this time. Nonetheless, before the Viking Age, society was shaped by family associations, as there was no higher authority above the extended family. In the Viking Age, however, the greater mobility led to a reorientation, as when abroad the own extended family could only provide limited and very limited support in cases of conflict. Here the group to which a person belonged came to the fore.

Nonetheless, the term “family group” to which a person belonged is important at this time. For a gender to stick together in all things, there must have been a common group feeling for all members. That is only possible in a strong patriarchy or matriarchy. In the Viking Age, due to the patrilinear form of personal connections, a patriarchy can be assumed, where the eldest of the family determined sons, wives, unmarried daughters and daughters-in-law. But this was different before. If a woman married before the Viking Age, she remained a member of her own family unit, and the maternal family unit was as important to the children as the paternal one. This included that, for example, two nuclear families of two brothers never had the same view of their closest relatives, except for the rare case that two brothers were married to two sisters. This society did not consist of separate sexes side by side, but of small families as nodes in a large network with connections criss-crossing the area and resulted in an asymmetrical pattern. It is therefore not surprising to hear of an argument between groups that were related to each other. The term “trunk” is avoided here because it encompasses too many different phenomena to be used meaningfully in this context.


The institution of friendship was at least as important. These are political alliances of mutual support before the final assertion of royal power. It is therefore most evident and effective in the Icelandic Free State Period. In contrast to the family association, into which one was born and in which nothing could be changed, the friendship association was a social construct that could be aligned to the respective political conditions. In this way, social networks were formed to expand and secure power. Such friendships were therefore only formed in or with the upper class. One learns nothing of friendships between the farmers. They were grouped into regional districts ( hreppar ), within which the duty of mutual assistance was already given. On the other hand, friendships were made between farmers and chiefs (Goden). They were connected with mutual duties of loyalty and support and, on the part of the god, with the duty of protection. Friendships were established through mutual gifts, which also included the fact that the farmer left one of his daughters to Goden as a concubine, who thus got a better position than if he had married her to another farmer. At the beginning of the settlement period there were considerably more Goden than at the end of the Free State, and it happened that farmers made friends with two Goden ( beggja vinir ). As a result, the social networks overlapped, and these farmers were the right mediators in the conflict between their gods. As the number of Goden decreased, such double loyalties occurred less often, which, in the absence of suitable intermediaries, led to the bloody disputes of the Sturlung period .

The dependence of friendship on the gift in Norway practically led to the merchantability of the federal cooperative. Canute the Great made Olav Haraldsson (the saint) alienated by sending them great gifts through envoys. On the one hand, royal power and chief power were in competition with one another, on the other hand, they were dependent on each other. In the civil war in particular , loyalty relationships frequently changed, depending on where the chiefs saw their greatest advantage in expanding their position of power. That only changed when the king derived his legitimacy from God in the late Middle Ages. This also changed the function of the gift from establishing a friendship with an obligation of loyalty, which was already given due to the king's position as God's representative, to bribery. This can be seen in the development of the law:

"Þat er upphaf laga narra at ver scolom luta austr ac biðia til hins helga Crist ars og friðar. oc þess at vér halldem lande varo bygðu. oc lánar drotne varom sanctuary. se hann vinr varr. en ver hans. en gud se allra vorra vinr. "

“It is the first in our law that we bow to the east and pray to the Holy Christian for prosperity and peace and that we can continue to inhabit our land and the salvation of our Lord. He should be our friend and we should be his friends and God should be the friend of us all. "

- Gulathingslov § 1.

This paragraph was deleted in the Landslov of 1274. The king no longer had to rely on the friendship of the peasants to ensure loyalty.

After Christianization, friendships with saints and with God were established according to similar rules. Churches and land were donated to them and support in conflicts was expected from them. The saints were called Gudsvinir (friends of God). Bishop Guðmundur Arason asked, when he saw his wife die, to convey his greetings to a number of saints, including Mary, the Archangel Michael and Olav the saint, but especially his friend ( vini mínum ) Ambrosius. In the 13th century, however, the relationship to God changed. The helping God, with whom one could negotiate with gifts, became a punishing God who strictly monitored the observance of his commandments regardless of rank and gifts.



Politically, women were not equal to men. So they were n't allowed to participate in the thing . But they were not socially disadvantaged.

The most richly equipped known grave of the Nordic Viking Age is assigned to a woman: The dendrochronological ordinance dates from around 820 AD. Two distinguished women - possibly a queen with a young companion - were buried in the burial mound of Oseberg . The wealth and power of the dead can be read from several clues. On the one hand, it is a very large burial mound, on the other hand, the dead were given numerous valuable grave objects such as sleds, animals, ships, boats, wagons and food. The co-burial of a companion is also known from other Scandinavian graves from the 1st millennium. Other burials also show higher-ranking female personalities. For example, a chamber grave was documented on the Viking Age grave field of Kosel near Haithabu , in which a woman was laid in a car body. Two horses with bridles lay at her feet: a complete carriage team that had probably served the deceased during her lifetime and on the last trip to the grave.

Economic position

There were clearly defined areas of responsibility for women and men, which were later even stipulated by law. Grave goods and literary evidence serve as sources for this. The Grágás , the medieval Icelandic code of law, represented the area “this side of the threshold”, i.e. in the house, as the territory of the woman, while the man “had to take care of what was to be done outside”. The social fabric was heavily dependent on women: They administered and ran the farm during the absence of their husbands and sons, some of which lasted for years. Courtyards were often named after the owners z. B. Hårstad to Hårek and Ingvaldstad to Ingvald. The fact that farms are also named after women, e.g. B. Møystad east of Vang , old Norwegian "Meyarstaðir", also after a young unmarried woman, to which the syllable "Mey = girl" indicates, shows that women could also take up leading positions. The fact that this is an isolated case shows that normally women were not treated as equal to men as a group, but in exceptional cases they were able to assert themselves on an equal footing with men. There are a total of 20-25 farms that are named after women, usually with their names and not anonymously. In Iceland, around 10% of farms are named after women. For women, to whom either rune stones were dedicated, or who themselves dedicated rune stones to other women or men, the ratio is different: There are 20% of women or for women. This difference is also due to the fact that the establishment of a farm required enormous physical effort, so that only a few farms have been named after the founders. Later, women were able to own farms through inheritance or other events and thus rise to become people to whom rune stones were dedicated or who commissioned them themselves. With a rune stone with the inscription: "Rannveig erected this stone after Ogmund, her husband." the widow documented that she now ran the farm herself.

The preparation of food was part of the women's job. The manufacture of textiles was reserved for women. This also included weaving the huge ship sails. It is indicative of the role played by women in Rus that 20% of the scales and weights, which are typical grave goods from traders, were found in women's graves: apparently women played an essential role in trade. Nevertheless, it cannot be overlooked that far fewer women graves with grave goods have survived than men graves. From this it can be concluded that men could have a lower status than women and still receive an impressive grave.

Legal Status

The runestone from Hillersjö in Uppland from the 11th century is a source for the fact that women could also play an important role in the line of succession. Widows had the most privileged position in this society. A widow could inherit her son if he died without an heir of his own. After her death, the inheritance went to her relatives. If necessary, women could also take over functions from men, for example, as an unmarried woman, founding and running a farm. The social norms did not prevent them from doing so.

Position in marriage

Women on Viking trains are not reported until the middle of the 9th century, when the first Scandinavians began to winter in France. However, it was mainly women who were taken as booty in the raids.

The expression " purchase of the bride " poses a certain problem . One can hardly doubt that this term, which occurs in many Nordic laws, originally reflects a real purchase. In the 11th century the term had long since received a weakened meaning. But nevertheless a sum of money was still paid for the bride - mundr . Originally, the bride price was paid to the bride's father, but in later laws this money became the bride's property. The expression in the sagas is clear: The suitor's friend says to the bride's father: "My friend wants to marry your daughter. There should be no lack of assets!" The minimum price after the Gulathingslov was 1½ marks. That was called the "poor mouth". The father was free to ask the daughter about it. If he found the trade advantageous, he took it immediately. But with the daughter's consent it was easier and the risk of complications later was lower. Whenever possible, she tried to marry a man of a higher rank than herself.

Both spouses had the same right to divorce. Her family was obliged to take her in afterwards. Also, the woman had to have a good reason if she didn't want to lose her dowry. The divorced, like the widow, was now much more free to choose her next husband. But here too she had to seek advice from her relatives if she wanted to ensure her full rights.

The requirement of virginity at the first wedding was absolute for the bride, as was the requirement of fidelity during marriage. The family's honor depended on it. Icelandic law was the strictest there: the man had to pay a fine of 3 marks for a secret kiss. Kissing a girl against his will resulted in expulsion. Writing love poems to a girl was strictly forbidden, but it was still practiced. It happened that the father refused to consent to marriage if the bride and groom had already agreed. The women had no claim to the inheritance from their parents, but only to a dowry in keeping with their class, consisting of trousseau and valuables. However, if the girl was still unmarried when her father died, she was entitled to a share corresponding to her assets. The husband could only manage the dowry. She was kept separate from his property. The legal capacity was limited in amount. The woman could only do business effectively up to a certain amount.

Women as warriors?

In a study from 2017, the opinion was expressed that new DNA analyzes had shown that in chamber grave 581 von Birka, which was opened in 1878, not a man but a high-ranking warrior was buried. Criticism was raised by Judith Jesch, professor of Viking Studies at Nottingham University, who complained about methodological shortcomings. An Irish text from the early 10th century tells of Inghen Ruaidh ("Red Girl"), a female warrior who led a Viking fleet to Ireland. Through this narrative, the shield maids also appear in a new light in the Völsunga saga.

Women in literature

While the scald poetry was generally a purely male-oriented literary genre, Sigvat Tordsson did not shy away from breaking new ground here and making a woman the subject of a poem of praise. He wrote a prize poem for King Olav II Haraldsson's wife, Queen Astrid Olofsdottir, of which three stanzas have survived. In it he portrays Astrid as a “good advisor” and “eloquently arguing, wise woman”. The Valkyries are often mentioned in the literature of the time . They were a kind of female war demons: they chose the warriors who would die on the battlefield and be brought to Valhalla to become warriors of Odin .

In all Icelandic sagas, men are formally the main characters and bearers of the external course of action. But women also play a big role in some sagas. You can influence what happens as an object of male desire. Women can incite men to do what they want. Basically, the same character traits are valued in women as in men. A saga woman who corresponded to the male ideals with revenge and honor as central concepts was considered a strong woman. In some sagas one also encounters softer types of women. This image of women is influenced by the romantic ideal of women in the translated courtly poetry. Women as secondary characters soon lose their individual traits and become stereotypes. In the sagas, women are measured by the standards of men. The man is judged on his character traits. A woman is judged according to the extent to which she uses her strength to support the men, or to act against them, who should support them according to social norms.

Sorcerers and sorceresses

“The magic sign Æirzhjálmur. It is said to be made of lead and to be pressed on the forehead when the enemy is expected to hit him. And you will overcome it. "

Before and during Christianization there were people who practiced magical practices. The men were called Seiðmenn , the women were called Völva or Spákona (seer). The women were old and unmarried or widowed, which ensured them great social independence. They enjoyed a very high reputation, as is described in the saga of Erich the Red (the passage is reproduced in Völva). As a rule, the Seiðmenn were not respected. Insofar as they used magical practices in combat, as described in the sagas every now and then, this was considered unmanly and not worthy of a real warrior. They also seem to have been considered homosexual (see Magic for details ). The spell usually referred to causing severe thunderstorms or making clothing that no sword could pierce. How the practices were carried out is almost never described. One of the very rare descriptions concerns the attempt of a woman who knows magic to protect her failing son from persecution by trying to make his opponents go mad.

"Og er þeir bræður komu að mælti Högni: 'Hvað fjanda fer hér að oss er eg veit eigi hvað er?' Þorsteinn svarar: 'Þar fer Ljót kerling og hefir breytilega um búist.' Hún hafði rekið fötin fram yfir Höfuð sér og fór öfug and rétti Höfuðið aftur milli fótanna. Ófagurleger var hennar augnabragð hversu hún gat þeim tröllslega skotið. Þorsteinn mælti til Jökuls: 'Dreptu nú Hrolleif, þess hefir þú lengi fús verið.' Jökull svarar: 'Þess er eg nú albúinn.' Hjó hann þá af honum Höfuðið og bað hann aldrei þrífast. 'Já, já,' sagði Ljót, 'nú lagði allnær að eg mundi vel geta hefnt Hrolleifs sonar míns og eruð þér Ingimundarsynir giftumenn miklir.' Þorsteinn svarar: 'Hvað er nú helst til marks um það?' Hún kvaðst hafa ætlað að snúa þar um landslagi öllu ‚en þér ærðust allir og yrðuð að gjalti eftir á vegum úti með villidırum og svo mundi og gengið hafa ef þér hefið enuyr.

“And when the brothers came over, Högni said: 'What kind of devil is coming up to us there? I do not know what it is.' Thorstein replied: 'Here comes Lyot, the old woman, and has done a strange job.' She had thrown her clothes over her head and was walking backwards and stretching her head back between her legs. The look in their eyes was grayish, as they knew how to shoot it like the trolls. Thorstein called to Jökul: 'Now kill Hrolleif. You burned for a long time.' Jökul replied, 'I'm ready for that,' and cut off his head and wished him the devil. 'Yes, yes,' said Lyot, 'now it was close to the fact that I could have avenged my son Hrolleif. But the Ingimund sons are great lucky men. ' Thorstein replied: 'Why do you mean that?' She said she wanted to overturn the whole country, 'and you would have gotten mad and stayed crazy out with the wild animals. And so it would have happened if you hadn't seen me sooner than I saw you. '"

- Vatnsdœla saga chap. 26th

The Sami (called "Finns" in the sagas) were a certain exception , as they were outside Scandinavian society. Above all, they were future-oriented. However, the line between compulsion and magic was fluid. A Finnish seer predicts the foster brothers Ingimund and Grim that they will leave Norway and move to Iceland. They take this as an order and say goodbye to the Norwegian king. He dismisses them with the words that it is difficult to act against magic words.

A focus of sorcery remained in northwest Iceland until modern times. They were men who vegetated on the lowest limit of the subsistence level and tried to improve their circumstances through all sorts of magical practices or at least to prevent further blows of fate. These were essentially amulet spells, i.e. magical symbols that were to be attached to doors or buried under thresholds, or that were carried with you.


There were the Norwegian and Swedish Vikings of the aristocratic upper class, who at a certain early stage of life went on a predatory voyage into the distance and possibly even observed a certain code of honor that they took with them from home, for example that one made a robbery public and that one should did not steal away secretly. The Vikings who plagued the Frankish Empire and England were radically different from these social groups. It was a pure robbery with no particular ties to the homeland. While they apparently returned home after their raids at the beginning of the 9th century, this stopped in the course of the 9th century. The fact that they set up fortified camps in the area to be plundered, into which they retreated in case of danger or even wintered, is often confused with or associated with the later land seizure. Dominion over land was never the goal of the predatory northerners. Their cruelty and destructiveness, which were already unimaginable at the time, made them a social group that could no longer be integrated into the gradually growing centralization tendencies in their home countries. Their accumulation of silver and treasures had no function. What they needed they stole. There was no use for the treasures. An Irish source reports that the Viking fortress Dublin was conquered and that enormous treasures were found there.

Social rules

Relations between the sexes

Daily life was determined by a multitude of unwritten rules. This included in particular the distribution of roles between the sexes. This is reflected in an almost template-like composition of the grave goods. With some objects it is assumed that they were only made as grave goods from the start. The women were buried in festive dresses, jewelry, household items and textile-making equipment. Weapons and items related to fighting, horses and hunting were added to the men. But these stencil-like grave goods cast doubt on whether the people actually dealt with them in their lives. It is believed that not all men who were buried with weapons actually used them during their lifetime. And not all women who were given a distaff spun wool in their lives. Some are known to have taken the initiative and even commissioned the erection of memorial stones. In some women's graves scales and weights were found, which indicates participation in the trade. The Njáls saga and the Laxdœla saga , which were written down late, but are based on much older traditions, offer a critical view of the traditional distribution of roles . In both accounts of family feuds, it is the men who propel the plot of the story forward. A closer reading, however, shows that they are only puppets in the hands of women. It is they who, through their thirst for revenge, incite the respective men to feud without even taking part in an argument.

More frequent conversations with the same unmarried woman indicated that courtship would soon be possible. If she was already engaged, this led to a conflict with the fiancé. A ritual seizure was seen in a man laying his head on a girl's lap. Thord had threatened Orm if he didn’t miss the visits to Sigrid that had been promised to someone else.

"Þenna morgun hefir Ormur njósn af að Þórður mun brátt sigla. Hann lætur taka sér hest. […] Síðan tók hann vopn sín. Hann reið út til Óss og þangað í hvamminn sem Sigríður var. Hann sté af hestinum og batt hann. Síðan leggur hann af sér vopnin and gengur til hennar Sigríðar and setur hana niður and leggur Höfuð í kné henni and leggur hennar hendur í Höfuð sér. Hún spurði hví hann gerði slíkt ‚því að þetta er á móti mínum vilja. Eða manstu eigi ályktarorð bróður míns? Og mun hann það efna. Sjá þú svo fyrir þínum hluta. ' Hann segir: 'Ekki hirði eg um grýlur yðrar.' "

“That morning Orm heard that Thord was about to leave. He asked for a horse. [...] Then he took his weapons. He rode out to Os into the valley where Sigrid was. He got off his horse and tied it. Then he put down his weapons and went up to her, sat Sigrid down, laid his head on his lap and her hands on his head. She asked why he was doing this - 'it's against my will; and don't you think of my brother's last word? He'll hold it. Do what you think is right. ' He replied: 'I don't care about your nightmares.' "

- Þórðar saga hreðud chap. 5 (The story of Thord and his foster son chap. 11).

Thord finds out about it, rides there immediately and kills Orm on the spot.

Rules in dealing with one another

Dealing with one another was determined by unwritten rules. The most important capital in society was honor and reputation. This not only affected the behavior on the thing, but even the way of greeting at the residential building. The visitor had to call the master of the house and the master had to step out of the house. It was considered gross impoliteness and disregard for the landlord to ride across his land without visiting him.

The seating arrangements in the hall were also precisely regulated. The landlord sat on a high seat, a seat with a high back, on one of the long walls of the house. The most distinguished guest's place of honor was on a high seat opposite him. The women sat on the narrow sides. Archaeological evidence suggests that the high seat could also stand in a corner. According to the finds in the ground (for example in Borg on the Lofoten), this corner was apparently intended for ritual sacrifices, so a kind of " Lord God corner ". It is assumed that the chief who presided over the ritual also had his high seat there.

Rules even applied to lying at anchor. Disregarding such rules could have fatal consequences: Þorleif the wise commanded a ship on which Erich, the son of Jarl Håkon, was also. It was very important to Erich that this ship should be next to the Jarl's.

“En er þeir kómu suðr á Mœri, þá kom þar Skopti, mágr hans, með langskip vel skipat. En er þeir róa at flotanum, þá kallar Skopti, at Þorleifr skyldi rýma Höfnina fyrir honum ok leggja or læginu. Eiríkr svarar skjótt, bað Skopta leggja í annat lægi. Þá heyrði Hákon jarl, at Eiríkr, son hans, þóttist nú svá ríkr, at hann vill eigi vægja fyrir Skopta; kallar jarl þegar, bað þá leggja or læginu, segir at þeim mun annarr verða verri, segir at þeir mundu vera barðir. En er Þorleifr heyrði þetta, hét hann á menn sína ok bað leggja skipit or tengslum, ok var svá gert. Lagði þá Skopti í lægi þat, he hann var vanr at hafa næst skipi jarls. "

“When they came to Möre, the brother-in-law of Jarl Skopti appeared there in a well-manned ship. As he rowed with his own to the fleet, he called to the Þorleif to vacate the harbor in front of him and leave the anchorage. Erich answered him immediately that Skopti should choose another anchorage. When Jarl Håkon heard that his son felt so powerful that he did not want to give way to Skopti, he immediately called over to let Skopti have the anchorage. He threatened that otherwise it would be easier for them to get worse, that there might be more blows. When Þorleif heard this, he instructed his people to loosen the anchor ropes, which they did. Skopti now went to the anchorage next to the Jarlship as he was used to. "

- Heimskringla. Ólaf's saga Tryggvasonar. Chapter 20.

Erich did not forget that and later killed Skopti.

The worst abuse that could be done to anyone was to set up a bar of shame . Egill Skallagrímsson built it against King Erik the Bloodaxe:

"Hann tók í hönd sér heslistöng og gekk á bergsnös nokkura, þá he vissi til lands inn; þá tók hann hrosshöfuð and setti upp á stöngina. Síðan veitti hann formála og mælti svo: ‚Hér set eg upp níðstöng, og sný eg þessu níði á hönd Eiríki konungi og Gunnhildi drottningu '- hann sneri hrosshöfðinu inn á land -' sný eg ggja nvetta þessu nvetta essu land svo að allar fari þær villar vega, engi hendi né hitti sitt inni, fyrr en þær reka Eirík konung og Gunnhildi úr landi. ' Síðan skýtur hann stönginni niður í bjargrifu og lét þar standa; hann sneri and Höfðinu in á country, en hann travels rúnar á stönginni, and segja þær formála þenna allan. "

“He took a hazel rod in his hand and walked up to a rock spire that looked far into the country. He took a horse's head and put it on top of the bar. Then he made the feud and said: 'Here I am setting up the bar and turning this insult against King Erich and Queen Gunnhild.' He straightened the horse's head towards the interior of the country. 'I also turn around,' he went on, 'this insult against the national spirits who live in this country, that they should all go astray and find no resting place anywhere until they have driven King Erich and Gunnhild out of the country . '"

- Egils saga chap. 58 (chapter 57 in the German edition).

There was not always a curse attached to the establishment of the bar. But the runes that contained the information and the horse's head were essential.

The guest right protected the guest from attacks by the host. After Skallagrim recorded Björn from Norway, he learned that Björn had married his friend's sister against his will and confronted him. Björn admits this and concludes with the sentence:

"Mun nú vera á þínu valdi, hver minn hlutur Skal verða, en góðs vænti eg af, því að eg er heimamaður þinn."

“I am now in your power, whatever my fate may be. But I hope the best from you, since I am now your housemate. "

- Egils saga chap. 34.


Culture also included the emphasis on personal relationships, expressed through the exchange of gifts. The exchange of gifts was a central part of social communication. So it is said in the Havamál:

39. Fannk-a ek mildan mann
eða svá matar góðan,
at væri-t þiggja þegit,
eða síns féar
svági [glöggvan],
at leið sé laun, ef þægi.

41. Vápnum ok váðum
skulu vinir gleðjask;
þat he á sjálfum sýnst;
viðurgefendr ok endrgefendr
erusk lengst vinir,
ef þat bíðr at verða vel.

42. Vin sínum shall
maðr vinr vera
ok gjalda gjöf við gjöf;
hlátr við hlátri
skyli Hölðar taka
en lausung við lygi.

44. Veiztu, ef þú vin átt,
þann er þú vel trúir,
ok vilt þú af hánum gótt geta,
geði skaltu við þann blanda
ok gjöfum skipta,
fara at finna often.

45. Ef þú átt annan,
þanns þú illa trúir,
vildu af hánum þó gótt geta,
fagrt skaltu við þann mæla
en flátt hyggja
ok gjalda lausung við lygi.

46. ​​Það er enn of þann
er þú illa trúir
ok þér er grunr at hans geði:
hlæja skaltu við þeim
ok um hug mæla;
glík skulu gjöld gjöfum.

48. Mildir, fræknir
menn bazt lifa,
sjaldan sút ala;
en ósnjallr maðr
uggir hotvetna,
sýtir æ glöggr við gjöfum.

145. Betra er óbeðit
en sé ofblótit,
ey sér til gildis gjöf;
he betra ósent
en sé ofsóit.
Svá Þundr of travels
fyr þjóða rök,
þar hann upp of reis,
he hann aftr of kom ..

I have never found such a mild
and free man,
who did not like to receive gifts, no one so generous
with his good
, who
would have felt sorry for his wages.

Friends should
enjoy themselves with weapons and robes,
the most beautiful ones they have: Giving and giving in
establish friendship,
if nothing else stands in the way.

The friend should
prove friendship to the friend
And gift counts with gift. The hero should answer
scorn with scorn
And loosess with lies.

Do you know the friend
whom you trust
and if you hope for holdes from him,
So exchange ideas
and gifts with him,
And sometimes visit his house.

Do you know the man
whom you trust little
And yet you hope for holdes from him,
Be pious in words
and wrong in thinking
And pay for loyalty with lies.

Do you know
someone who
you trust little, Because his meaning seems suspicious to you, You
may laugh
at him and hold on to yourself:
The retribution is like the gift.

The mild, courageous man
is happiest,
whom seldom worry creeps;
But the despondent
trembles above all
And meager withering with gifts.

Better not to be asked
than to command too much:
the gift always seeks retribution.
Better not send anything
than redeem too much;
So Thundr scratches it as
a guideline for the peoples.
There he escaped
from tubs he started out from.

It was a special honor to receive a gold ring from the king. It was carried on the arm. The giving of gifts was subject to strict rules, the violation of which could be a grave insult. So it came down to giving the right gift to the right person at the right time. So the lower rank was not allowed to give the higher rank weapons, only the other way around. The exchange of gifts for people of unequal rank also had to come from the higher ranking, since the exchange of gifts was a ritual to establish a friendship with mutual obligations, which the lower placed could not impose on the higher placed. The gift to the king was an exception. But only certain gifts were allowed for this ( konungsgjöf ). These were, for example, valuable sails, horses and falcons. But bears are also mentioned. Gifts were always reciprocal. When Thord wanted to buy a coat for his wife from Thorir, it was given to him, but something in return was expected.

"Þórir kveðst kenna Þórð og hans foreldra‚ og vil eg eigi meta við þig heldur vil eg að þú þiggir skikkjuna. ' Þórður þakkaði honum ‚og vil eg þetta þiggja og lát hér liggja meðan eg geng eftir verðinu. '"

"Thorir said he knows him and his parents - 'and I don't want to give you a prize, but ask you to take my coat.' Thord thanked him for it. - 'I want to accept that. I want to leave the coat here until I go and get some money. '"

- Þórðar saga hreðud chap. 4. (The story of Tord and his foster son, Chapter 9)

Holy places

Another unwritten law that must be observed was that holy places could not be entered with weapons. Ingimundur obtained the Kinship Knobs sword by distracting his owner by talking when entering the temple, so that he went inside with the weapon.

"Ingimundur snerist við honum og mælti: 'Eigi er það siður að bera vopn í hofið og muntu verða fyrir goða reiði og er slíkt ófært nema bætur komi fram.'"

"Ingimund turned to him and shouted: 'It is not custom to bring weapons into the temple, and you expose yourself to the wrath of the gods, and it is unbearable unless repentance is paid.'"

- Vatnsdœla saga chap. 17th

Rules for Vikings

Even with the predatory Vikings there had to be social rules, about which there is not much information. But the various negotiations between opposing associations require that there be signs of negotiators and safe conduct. There was a truce. A sign was hung up on the camp and the gates opened, which showed that no military action was to be expected. It is also not known how the looted property was divided up. However, it seems to have been distributed unevenly, since at the end of the Viking Age there were Vikings who were too poor to buy land in England from their tribesmen and therefore returned to France, where they joined Rollo.

Time calculation

The calculation of time followed the then common pattern of counting according to the years of the respective ruler. A ubiquitous uniform time system did not yet exist. So one letter ended like this:

"[...] þettabref uar gortt ok gefuet a Marti Marcellini ok Petri. A fimtanda are rikis virððulegs herra Æiriks Magnus enns korunnaðða Noreks konungs. "

"This letter was issued on June 2nd when King Erik Magnusson was in his 15th year of reign."

- Diplomatarium Norvegicum I, 82.

The Landnámabók dates the first settlement of Iceland to the reign of Pope Hadrian II . The time calculation from the birth of Christ only came after Christianization. At first it was only an ideological instrument. The ecclesiastical and secular calendar coexisted for a while:

“[…] Et cancellarii [secundo kalendas] Decembris indiccione .iija. incarnacionis dominice anno .mo co liiijo. pontificatus vero domini Anastasii pape .iiij. anno .ijo. "

"November 30th, 3rd indiction , 1154 after the birth of our Lord, 2nd year of the pontificate of our Pope Anastasius IV. "

In Iceland, until 1319, calculations were usually based on the years of reign of the Norwegian kings or the Ladejarle, very rarely also on the basis of the times of the great Icelandic chiefs. The same is assumed for Orkney, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.


Trade routes in northwestern Europe during the Viking Age
Sweden in the 12th century
Denmark in the Viking Age
Location of the former Haithabu
Excavation in Birka
Runestone Århus IV
St. Clemens Dane Church, which is considered a Viking Age merchant church

A prerequisite for the activities of the Scandinavians in the Viking Age was the further development of ships. There are many names in the sources for different types of ships, which could not all be assigned to the archaeological finds. In any case, the longship and the Knorr were available for long overseas voyages . In addition to the skipper, the cook, the rowing crew (see below on the warships), the ships often had passengers ( farþegar ), sometimes a pilot ( leiðsögumaðr ) and an interpreter ( tulkr ) on board. Usually the owner of a merchant ship was also the skipper at the same time. Otherwise he had a representative ( lestreki ). The ships going to Iceland could also have multiple skippers. Merchant ships had four crew departments, each under a foreman ( reiðumaðr ).

In 845, it is said that Emir Abd ar-Rahman II entrusted one of his most experienced diplomats, Yahya ibn Hakam al-Bakri, known as Al-Ghazāl, with the task of traveling to the court of the king of the Madjus (as the Moors called the Northmen), to dissuade them from another attack on al-Andalus. There is even evidence of an Umayyad embassy among the Normans, which was probably about negotiations regarding the fur and slave trade. The historicity and the Norman negotiating partners are, however, controversial.

In the case of archaeological finds, it is difficult to differentiate between booty, gifts and merchandise. This is most likely possible on a trading platform. One of these was excavated in Norway. It is mentioned by Ottar place Sciringsheal , in the later norrönen literature Skíringssalr today Kaupang in Vestfold . The settlement was built around 800 and was used until 930/950. It was not inhabited all year round, but there were Norwegian and foreign traders there, as the graves show. The finds show a far-reaching connection with large parts of Europe. Arabic, Frankish and English coins and one from Haithabu were found. In addition, ceramics came from the Rhine area and jewelry from the British Isles. How far the journeys of individuals extended can be seen from a short note on a whetstone that was found in Gotland: “Ormila, Ulfar: Greece, Jerusalem, Iceland, Serkland ” (= Arab / Saracen world). Another trading center was identified in 2013 through the discovery of scales and a button in graves near Steinkjer north of Trondheim.

Trade trips by the Frisians to Denmark and the Kattegat were known even before the Viking Age . But the real boom came with the connection between the mouth of the Eider and the Schlei , a connection between the North and Baltic Seas and the founding of Haithabu by King Göttrik. Now larger trading areas were opened up: ceramics, glasses, millstones, church implements, jewelry and wine from the Rhine region, cloth from Friesland, jewelry from England, swords from the Franconian Empire. From the Arabs jewelry, rings, bowls, buckles and fittings, silk, probably also spices, wine and tropical fruits and apparently many silver coins were procured. Trade with Byzantium brought brocade and silk north. The Scandinavian merchants brought furs and slaves, initially via Western Europe and the Mediterranean, via Russia together with wax and honey to the Orient. The close connection between trade and robbery can be seen in the slave trade, whose goods usually came from north-eastern Europe. Iron bars from Norway, Småland and northern central Sweden are also known to be exported. Amber came from the southern Baltic coast, and walrus teeth and skins came south from the White Sea . During the excavations in Haithabu, jewelry articles made there were found for export. Long-distance trade was therefore a downright luxury trade for wealthy circles. It was followed by local trade around the trading centers, as can be seen from the valuable finds around Birka . So was Adam of Bremen reported that all of Sweden is full of foreign goods. There are no certificates for the transshipment of Arab goods to Haithabu and Western Europe. Haithabu did not have such a rich hinterland as Birka and flourished due to the transit trade at the point of contact between two traffic areas, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.

The long-distance traders in the east were usually people from the area around Lake Mälaren and Gotlander . Whether and to what extent these traders were trading in the west, where the Frisians dominated, cannot be determined. Almost nothing is known about their ships, only their names ( snekkja, karfi, skúta, knörr, búza and byrðingr ). But we do know that they had sails and a side rudder. It is possible that the burial ships allow a conclusion to be drawn about the karfi , the most common ship used in Eastern trade, as the term κάραβος (kárabos), borrowed from Greek, shows. In any case, they were smaller and agile ships, like those used for the robbery trips. Due to their limited loading capacity, they could not keep up with the mass trade of what would later become the cogs.

A uniform commercial law that spanned the entire commercial network did not yet exist. You had to agree on the applicable law beforehand. Sometimes a customary law had already developed at the place of trade, which one adhered to. The forms of society that were more advanced among the Varangians in Rus also had no equivalent in Sweden. At most, there was a félag , a loot and trade community that included a common defense, a common profit, a common risk and a share in the ship. The only thing that can be deduced from the Viking Age rune stones is that the félag was initially only important for war journeys . Only the post-Viking period inscriptions extend the expression to trade. Apparently there was no professional trading stand yet. The mention of a trading guild in Sigtuna apparently refers to the Frisian trade, and it does not seem to have survived its decline. The merchants' guilds, whose purpose was mutual protection and the provision of replacement and assistance in the event of damage, were widespread in the Viking Age Frisian trade. This form of trade organization later penetrated the Baltic Sea region from the west and achieved successes that the former farmer-merchant had not been able to achieve.

FelagaR were men who pooled parts of their movable assets into common capital that served a common enterprise. They shared profit and risk. At the time of the second conquest of England by Svend Tveskæg and Canute the Great , the warlike importance prevailed in their followers. On the runestone Århus IV, the participants in the battle of the kings are referred to as félaga , as are the comrades in Toki Gormsson's fight and on the stone of Gårdstånga 2. The historical background of the construction time and the location of the stones far from the trading centers of Haithabu and Ripen make it It is probable that the other stones on which the word felagi appears, without the company being named, also belong to the campaigns. Later on, felagi developed into rowers , followers and friends. In the Hávamál the word was finally spiritualized into pure friendship. On the rune stone of Sigtuna, a partner of a member of the Frisian Guild is referred to as a felagi , so that only a trading partnership is possible here. The fact that, with the advent of the Hanseatic League, the term félagi , unlike Denmark and Iceland, did not survive, also suggests that in Sweden it mainly referred to trading companies.

In the 10th century, silver production in the Caliphate declined . Saxon silver gradually took its place. Up until 930, the coin finds in Gotland and Russia had roughly the same composition with many new Arab coins. After that, the supply of newly minted coins decreased and the proportion of old coins increased steadily. According to the coin finds of the Arab coins to the west, this supply must have ended around 930, the one from Russia to Gotland around 970. This gap has now been filled with the silver from the Harz Mountains, the coins of which subsequently came to Gotland in large numbers and were found in north-west Russia. This trade, which was often made by non-Scandinavian merchants, gradually weakened Birka's importance and favored Wollin. In the 10th century, political changes on the Volga made the Volga route impassable. In its place came the road across the Dnieper. At the same time, trade grew from southern Sweden and Gotland to southern Finland and the Baltic States. In the 11th century swords, spearheads, buckles and fittings for horse harness became the main export items. Many runic inscriptions testify to the role of the Gotland trips. The peak of trade with the Oder and Weichselland falls in the 10th and the beginning of the 11th century.

Birka was now off the prevailing trade routes and was finally abandoned towards the end of the 10th century due to constant raids. Even Sigtuna could not attain special importance like Birka in the past, even if a Frisian guild attested on a rune stone testifies to the continuation of the east-west trade. The focus was on Gotland.

Many Swedes were involved in the robbery trips from Denmark to England that began again at the end of the 10th century. A large part of the Danegeld was found in eastern Sweden . In Haithabu, the export trade gradually ceased around 1000. Only the Danish trade with England increased towards the end of the Viking Age in the time of Canute the Great . Evidence of this is the St. Clemens Dane Church in London, which is considered the merchant church of that time. Sweden's trade with Byzantium ceased in the second half of the 11th century and was, to a lesser extent, replaced by trade with Novgorod . The popular predatory trade also declined in the course of the consolidation of Russia and the tribes in the Baltic States. It was not until the 12th century that Gotland trade with Russia grew again, and the Gotlanders expanded their position in Novgorod again. At the same time, Gotland was able to use the trade line further west from the Lower Rhine via Dortmund and Soest to Schleswig and other Danish cities. This practically replaced the Frisian Baltic Sea trade .

In contrast, intra-Scandinavian trade took place on a smaller scale. He followed the navigable waters and the mountain ranges ( åsar ). The distribution of rune stones in Västmanland , North Uppland and Gästrikland characterize these ancient travel routes. The longest was probably the one from Trøndelag to Lake Mälaren . Iron bars from Dalarna were found that had been transported to Birka and on to Gotland. The traffic took place especially in winter when the waters were frozen over.

The trade with Christian merchants was tied to the fact that the Scandinavian merchants were either already Christians, which was largely the case according to the rune stone inscriptions, or at least had received the sign of the cross on their foreheads, the primsigning .

"Konungur bað Thorolf og þá bræður, að þeir skyldu Lata prímsignast, því að það var þá mikill sidur, bæði með kaupmönnum og theim mönnum he á Mála Gengu með kristnum mönnum, því að þeir menn he prímsignaðir voru, höfðu allt samneyti við kristna menn og svo heiðna, en Höfðu það að átrúnaði, er þeim var skapfelldast. "

“The king asked Þorolf and his brothers to accept the primsigning, because at that time it was common practice among merchants and those who served Christians. The men who bore the sign of the cross had free intercourse with both Christians and Gentiles and professed the faith that pleased them. "

- Egils saga chap. 50.


Activities of the Scandinavians in the 8th to 10th centuries
The spread of the Scandinavians in the Viking Age. The domain of the Romanized Normans is marked in yellow.

The success of the Nordmanns rested on their ships . In any case, there were no pure land wars in Norway like on the continent. All wars involved ships, even when battles were fought on land. Either a party had come with ships, or the losing party fled on ships, or the battle was decided by the fact that the enemy fleet was conquered, as in Sverre's victory over King Magnus in 1180 at Ilevoll (Trondheim). A king without ships was a powerless man in Norway. These were not just a means of transport, but part of the culture, as the ship graves show. The entire complex of ship, shipbuilding, ship equipment, nautical and shipping routes on the North Sea is dealt with in the articles Viking ship , Viking shipbuilding and the history of Viking shipbuilding .

The reason for their expansion is the subject of extensive research literature. The following theses are essentially represented:

  • The political-social-historical thesis: The Viking raids can be traced back to the ruling followers. The follower had an obligation to reward his followers with goods. This led to the extensive raids. Some researchers added the moment of social prestige among friends and girls. Furthermore, the Scandinavian succession regulation is cited, according to which only one son inherited the property, which drove the other sons to raids far away. The thesis, which is only represented in popular scientific works in this context, that the centralization of the country under one king, Harald hårfagre in Norway, drove some nobles out of the country, is not pursued further today, as the Viking marches began 80 years before this development.
  • The psychological thesis: According to their representatives, in addition to the social and political causes, above all a common mental structure, which included lust for fame, belligerence and lust for profit, was the basis of the Norman trains. In contemporary poetry, Jørger Bukdahl found elements of detachment from old, crumbling forms of life and a corresponding triumph of individualism.
  • The pedagogical thesis: Here the Norman trains are viewed as a school of life, which gives the truck drivers knowledge about foreign countries and teaches them about church and state organization. Even if representatives of other theses mention this effect, the training here becomes a program. It was also a military school for the young Norman nobility. These theses are no longer upheld today.
  • The thesis of the environmental conditions: This thesis traces the looting and conquest trains back to the material living conditions and environmental conditions. This includes the causation of overpopulation. It can already be found with Dudo von Saint-Quentin , who attributed the overpopulation to polygamy, so that the young men should have left the country. It was represented again in the 19th century. In addition to these theses, there are further considerations on the cause of overpopulation, which are seen in the poor soil conditions. Archeology and biology do not confirm these views, however, and contemporary sources do not show an impoverished peasantry.
  • The three-phase theory: All authors see that the pure looting voyages gradually lead to regular conquests. In the three-phase theory, a distinction is not only made between the looting phase, transition to land conquest and subsequent settlement, but these phases are also based on different motives. Before the first phase, one got to know the riches of Europe on the occasion of the trade and finally got them without payment. With the wealth acquired, a material basis was acquired for later settlement, but this had other reasons. This is how freebooters became conquerors.
  • Theory of Complex Representation: It was essentially developed by Fritz Askeberg: Norden och Kontinenter i Gammal Tid. Study in Forngermansk cultural history. Developed in Uppsala in 1944. The distinction between private raids and state-organized operations and finally the colonization enterprises goes back to him.
  • Migration thesis: Many authors establish a connection between the migration of peoples between the 3rd and 6th centuries and the Norman migration in the 8th and 9th centuries. There is talk of a “sea migration”.
  • Thesis of challenge and answer: According to this, the Norman activities are said to have been a response to the challenge of the Christian West and South or vice versa. This thesis was already represented by David Hume . The challenge consisted in the overthrow of the Saxons by Charlemagne. This thesis of the Scandinavians' bitterness over the Saxon Wars was also cited again and again later. Even Leopold von Ranke depends on the idea of a challenge. The Frankish Christian weakness after the death of Charlemagne had encouraged the Normans to take up the fight against Western Europe, and the paganism that had been pushed back had once again combined all its strengths. Zettel rightly sees in it a breath of the idea of ​​a crusade, which the Vikings were certainly not familiar with.

These approaches criticize that the Vikings are viewed as a more or less homogeneous group. In the Egils saga, Egill is not yet twelve years old after a promise from his mother:

Þat mælti mín móðir,
at mér skyldi kaupa
fley ok fagrar árar
fara á brott með víkingum,
standa upp í stafni,
stýra dýrum knerri,
halda svá til hafnar,
Höggva mann ok annan.

My mother said
I deserved a warship
Soon with strong men
to fetch robbery than Vikings.
I have to stand on Steven ,
taxes boldly Sea Kiel:
Heroes DC in port
bat I hit the men.

That was the traditional appreciation of the great journey. What Egill Skallagrimsson imagined as a 12-year-old to be a Viking, namely a glorious hero, and what he later embodied himself, differs fundamentally from the senselessly burning and murdering hordes that plagued the Franconian Empire in the 9th century.

Today it is also strongly doubted that Harald Hårfagre made a decisive contribution to emigration. Because this had obviously already started long before the peak of his power. He soon had to defend himself against the Vikings from the Atlantic Islands, who had been in Orkney and the Irish Sea for a long time. However, there is no archaeological evidence of a Viking center on the Orkneys in the 840s. Incidentally, in the sagas of the 12th and 13th centuries, the position of a king in the 9th century is overestimated when the impression is given that the rule of Harald Hårfagre was so heavy on the inhabitants that they preferred to emigrate. The circumstances of the death of Olav the Holy show that power only limited and occasionally led to severe interventions, as had always been the case with the Jarlen. In contrast to England, the settlement of Iceland did not take the form of an invasion led by aristocrats, but rather gradually. Anyone who considers the form of the Free State in Iceland to be a deliberate anti-monarchical decision would also have to state what function a king should have had in Iceland at the time of the conquest. A targeted defense against enemies under a single command was not necessary, and the role of judiciary and legislation only grew to the king much later. In addition, it was of course the highest honor of an Icelandic man from the chief families to be at the court of the Norwegian king and to be part of his retinue. At the time of the conquest, the country's economic power was too weak to be able to afford a king with his retinue and troops. So the fact that Iceland had no king cannot be traced back to an anti-centralist attitude of the settlers.

Apart from that, the same bloodthirsty raids as those of the Vikings occurred in the 11th and 12th centuries in the Baltic Sea, where they were carried out by Ranen , Abodriten , Liutizen and Pomoranen . However, these explanatory models fail there.

The large number of theses indicates a general deficit in the data basis. There is no reliable estimate of the number of Scandinavian residents and able-bodied men for this period. There is no reliable estimate of how many men went on Viking raids, so their proportion of the total population or even of men capable of military service remains in the dark. At the same time in the Scandinavian countries the conflicts related to the ongoing process of centralization are being resolved. Most of the able-bodied men in Norway are likely to have been involved here. The same applies to Denmark under Horik I. , Horik II. And Gorm the Old . The result is a picture as if every noble son has gone on a Viking trip and has always found enough willing comrades-in-arms. The not inconsiderable penalties that the Frostathingslov imposes on those who do not follow the royal command suggests that a campaign did not meet with enthusiasm among everyone. This must apply all the more to raids on a purely private initiative. In particular, Rimbert's remarks show that, at least in the Swedish area, a clear separation between traders and Vikings emerged. He describes the traders as early converted Christians and the Vikings as warriors who remained conservative in paganism. Here, too, the respective proportion of the population is not known. There is also a lack of reliable data on emigration. They dragged on over several centuries, so that the colonization of England, Ireland and Iceland over many generations also do not allow any conclusions to be drawn about the population proportions. In addition to the pressure of the conditions at home, the prospects for a more lucrative economy in the new areas may have been an attractive prospect. This is particularly obvious with the settlement of Iceland when one compares the wide domains and economic areas of the first settlers with the relatively narrow spatial conditions in the Norwegian fjord landscape.

Mentality and external perception

If it is repeatedly claimed that the Viking raids were within the framework of what was customary at the time, it needs to be explained why contemporaries attached such overwhelming attention to horror to the Viking campaigns. Because this suggests that the Viking raids did not move within the framework of the usual. One reason for this may be the civilizational non-simultaneity of the historically simultaneous.

The parallels on the continent can essentially be found in the 6th century. The baptism of Clovis I around 500 did not change the actual situation. Christianity was essentially understood as cult and in no way supplanted the traditional behavior and social rules. In the 6th and 7th centuries one could not muster a team to achieve purely political ends; an incentive to prey was always required. The final dispute between King Guntram I and Gundowald, an alleged son of Chlotar I, may serve as an example of the importance of the booty . The description of the bishop and historian Gregory of Tours , who lived in the 6th century, particularly emphasizes the desire for booty. They set out from Poitiers, and people from Tours joined the army. The warriors of Tours robbed them and killed many, so that they had to return to Tours. The greed for prey already outweighed the possibility of an orderly warfare. In the course of the further persecution of Gundowald, the church of St. Vincentius was also looted. Then they came to Comminges, where Gundowald had holed up. The siege of the city is also determined by greed for prey on both sides. An orderly attack or defense strategy is not recognizable. Soldiers who plundered too far from the camp were slain by the farmers. Gundowald lost because his following crumbled, not because Gunthram was superior. After Gundowald's death, the city and of course the church were looted. The disputes within the Merovingian dynasty were accompanied by violence against churches, monasteries, priests and nuns, as in the unsuccessful campaign that Gunthram ordered against Septimania . For a long time this no longer corresponded to the world of wars in Charlemagne's time. Gregory of Tours puts the later view of King Gunthram in a speech to the defeated generals, who defend themselves with the predatory indiscipline of the troops. Even the successes of Karl Martell are attributed to a higher level of discipline among the troops, even if the looting and devastation began after the victory. The continental contemporaries of the Vikings thus encountered behavioral patterns that were long past in their own realm. And in this past, at the end of late Roman civilization and at the beginning of Christianization, these behavioral patterns had a much lower cultural attention value than in the 9th century, when such behavior was combined with largely regulated political actions of warfare. In the 6th and 7th centuries it was not known otherwise. The pillage served the livelihood of the men long before anyone else. So says Olav the Saint :

"Svo er sem yður he kunnigt að eg em kominn hingað til lands og verið áður langa hríð utanlands. Hefi eg og mínir menn haft það einu alla þessa stund til framflutningar oss er vér Höfum sótt í hernaði og í mörgum stöðum orðið til að hætta bæði lífi og sálu. Hefir margur maður fyrir oss, sá er saklaus hefir verið, orðið að láta feið en sumir lífið með. "

“So it is, as you know, I came here after spending a long time abroad. The whole time I and my men had only what we had won on our campaigns for maintenance. In some places we had to put life and limb at risk. Many men, no matter how blameless, lost their belongings through us, and some even lost their lives. "

- Heimskringla. Ólaf's saga helga. Cape. 35.

The final sentences already betray Christian ideas, but that the followers ate from the robbery is not to be doubted.

The uniform designation "Vikings" does not represent a peaceful internal relationship with one another. Fights between Vikings and Vikings are often reported. Snorri already reports about Olaf the saint at a young age, when he was on his first Viking trip to Sweden:

"Það haust barðist Ólafur við Sótasker hina fyrstu orustu. Það er í Svíaskerjum. Þar barðist hann við víkinga og er sá Sóti nefndur er fyrir þeim réð. "

“This autumn, King Olav fought his first battle on the Sotis archipelago, in Skågård, Sweden. There he quarreled with Vikings, whose leader was called Soti. "

- Ólafs saga helga chap. 6th

General designations of origin

In the continental and Anglo-Saxon sources, geographical information on the origin of the Vikings is rarely given. Sometimes there are general remarks that they came from across the ocean or from the barbaric north. Hrabanus Maurus writes about the Suevi as part of the Germanic peoples that they came to fine Septentrionis (from the far north). Alcuin refers to Jer 1,14  EU and writes: Ab aquilone inardescunt mala […] ( calamity ignites from the north). Otherwise, there is only a general reference to the north as the starting point for the Viking raids.

Sweden, Norway

Runestone U 258

The rune stones from eastern North Jutland suggest that in the 10th century this area was the main starting point for trips to Sweden and Gotland. The already quoted runestone DR 216 in Lolland mentions death on a Viking train to Sweden. Skåne seems to have been seen as a real pirates' nest. Because the skald Guþorm Sindri writes about the struggles of Håkon des Good in Denmark:

Selund náði þá síðan
sóknheggr and sik leggja
vals ok Vinda frelsi
við Skáneyjar síðu.

Zealand, there won the archer's
tree, further
coasts of Skåne, slip, precious
cheeky Wenden warrior .

The "Wenden-Warren" are Vikings according to the following context.

Gotland itself also seems to have been the target of Viking attacks. Because a stone on Lolland that commemorates someone who fell in Skåne has the image of a Viking ship. They probably also drove from Uppland to Norway. One drove from Norway to Greenland.

Sole proprietorship from Sweden and Danes

The Varangian Guard in the Chronicle of Johannes Skylitzes (12th century)

Between 845 and 849 Rimbert reports in his Vita Anskarii that the expelled Swedish king Anund had led Danish Vikings to Birka.

“Per idem fere temporis accidit, ut etiam quidam rex Suenonum nomine Anoundus, ejectus regno suo, apud Danos exul fuerit. Qui fines regni quondam sui denuo repetere cupiens, coepit ab ipsis auxilium quaerere, spondens, quod, si se sequerentur, multa eis possent donaria provenire. Proponebat enim eis vicum memoratum Birca, quod ibi multi essent negotiatores divites et abundantia totius boni atque pecunia thesaurorum multa. Ad illum itaque vicum se eos promittebat ducturum, ubi sine sui exercitus damno multo suae necessitatis fruerentur commodo. Illi ergo promissis muneribus delectati et thesaurorum adquisitione avidi, in auxilium eius expeditorum ad pugnam hominum viginti et unam naves impleverunt et cum eo destinaverunt. Ipse vero de suis naves habebat undecim. Exeuntes ergo de Danis, ad vicum insperate venerunt memoratum. Et forte tunc rex ipsorum longius inde aberat, et principes ac populi multitudo congregari non poterant. Tantum supradictus Herigarius, praefectus ipsius loci, cum eis, qui ibi manebant negotiatioribus et populis praesens aderat. In magna ergo angustia positi, ad civitatem, quae iuxta erat, confugerunt. […] Sed quia civitas ipsa non multum firma est, et ipsi ad resistendum pauci, miserunt ad eos legatos, dextram ad foedus postulantes. Quibus rex praefatus mandavit, ut pro redemptione ipsius vici centum libras argenti absolverent, sicque pacem haberent. Quod illi, ut petebatur, statim miserunt, et a rege iam dicto susceptum est. Porro Dani graviter huiuscemodi ferentes conventionem, quia non secuti disposuerant actum fuisset, coeperunt velle super eos subito erruere et locum ipsum funditus depraedari atque incendere, dicentes, unumquemlibet negotiatiorem plus ibulamumumno, quam sibi et tatum fuissumnet. "

“At around the same time, the Swedish king Anund, who had been driven out of his empire, lived with the Danes. He asked Danish help to regain his former rule and promised that they would make rich profits for their followers. He described the Handelswik Birka to them; there are many wealthy traders, an abundance of goods of all kinds and a lot of money and treasures. He promised to lead her to this wik; there they would steal a lot of useful things for themselves without harm to their army. Full of greed for the acquisition of these riches, the Danes were happy about the promised gifts, manned 21 ships to his aid and went out with him. He himself owned 11 ships. So they left Denmark and appeared unexpectedly before Birka, whose king was just abroad; neither the noble nor the crowd could be called up. Hergeir, the head of the Wik, only had the resident traders and residents. But they fled in horror to the neighboring castle. […] But the castle was not very strong and the number of defenders was small; so they sent negotiators to the attackers for a handshake and settlement. The king decided that after paying a ransom of 100 pounds of silver for their wik, they should have their peace. Immediately they sent him the money he asked, and the king took it. But the Danes were dissatisfied with the contract that contradicted their agreement; they therefore planned a sudden raid, thorough pillage and cremation of the place; every single trader there owned more than was offered, they claimed; they wouldn't let themselves be deceived like that! "

- Rimberti Vita Anskarii = Rimbert - Ansgar's life. Cape. 19th

This quote shows, on the one hand, the contrast between Vikings and pure traders who flee in horror, on the other hand, that the plundering trains could also be directed against Scandinavians, and thirdly, it confirms the observation described above that the leaders of such trains only have limited disciplinary power had about their troop.

According to the number of memorial stones, most of the foreign drivers came from Denmark, Södermanland and Gotland. Östergötland , Västmanland , Uppland , Gästrikland , Öland and Bornholm are far behind . On the other hand, the share of the rune-carving upper class in the clear evidence of the robbery trade in Västmanland and Småland is significantly higher. In Denmark, during Sven Tveskæg's time, there was a clear predominance of young warriors. The more experienced skipper personalities apparently come from Denmark, while young, greedy and adventurous crews set out from Västergötland and Småland. In Sweden, the impetus for trips abroad apparently came from Södermanland. Yngvar (old Icelandic Yngvarr ), whose failed move is described in the Yngvars saga víðfǫrla (saga of Yngvar the Far Traveler) and is attested on more than two dozen rune stones (so-called Ingvar stones), came from there. In Uppland, the clear Kauffahrersteins predominate, on which félagi can also be found as trading companies. They apply to fathers, husbands, brothers, trading partners and guild members, but not sons or other people who can be classified as young.

In addition, due to the spread of conversion in the 11th century, Viking trains to Christian areas were gradually no longer approved in their homeland. Almost all identifiable long-distance trade drivers in Denmark and Sweden in the 11th century were Christians. This does not necessarily mean that Scandinavian trade would flourish for this area at the end of the Viking Age. This heyday was more likely in the 9th and 10th centuries, when there was sufficient commodity available through robbery and tribute, albeit not to the same extent as in the West Viking, and slave hunting among the West Finnish and Slavic tribes.

In the 11th century, the flowering began more in Norway. In Sweden, the political change in the Baltic Sea region meant that young people with a thirst for adventure were only allowed to join the Varangian Guard of Byzantine emperors, sometimes also to rob the coast and later isolated crusades. In Sweden trade was soon overtaken by the Hanseatic League . Gotland was the least affected by this change.

With the advance of the rune stone custom from south to north and the transition from the Viking Age to the Christian Middle Ages, the proportion of married foreign drivers also increases. Since the predatory activities according to the obituaries (runic inscriptions on cenotaphs ) rather originated from the younger and unmarried people, or rather suggest that they were, one can assume that the later foreign drivers were mainly concerned with pure trade.

Nordmanns in England, Scotland and Ireland

Chronicle of the Scandinavian Period in England (selection)
793 Viking raid on Lindisfarne Monastery
794 Raids on locations in Scotland
795 Irish annals mention raid on Rathlin Island
866 Northmen conquer York
871 King Æthelred , along with his brother Alfred, defeats a Scandinavian invading army at the Battle of Ashdown after being defeated at the Battle of Reading .
876 Scandinavians begin to settle permanently in England.
886 King Alfred the Great draws a formal boundary between his empire and that of the Scandinavian King Guthrum , later called Danelag .
950 Vikings from Ireland , the Isle of Man and the Hebrides plunder the monasteries in Wales .
954 Erich Blutaxt , the last Scandinavian king in York, is expelled.
994 Unsuccessful siege of London by King Sven Gabelbart and Olav Tryggvason and systematic sack of Southeast England.
1013 Sven Gabelbart drives up the Humber and Trent with his son Knut and is recognized as king in the Danelag. King Æthelred the Unadvised of Wessex must flee.
1014 After the death of his father, Knut becomes the leader of the Danes and after the death of King Æthelred and his son Edmund Eisseite, King of England in 1016.
1042 Æthelred's other son, Edward the Confessor , becomes King of England.
1066 End of the Viking Age (Battle of Stamford Bridge, Battle of Hastings)

The contact with the British Isles had already started in the century before the Viking Age (800-1050 AD). There, certain foreign traders are referred to as Frisians in the sources . According to some researchers, these were Scandinavians, according to others they were actually Frisians . Archaeological evidence is scarce. The Viking raids began at the end of the 8th century. Among them, the attack on Lindisfarne , which is mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle under the year 793, is of particular importance as it was the first attack on a monastery to attract attention. Other attacks followed quickly: 794 Wearmouth Monastery in Sunderland , 795 Iona , the islands of Rathlin and Skye , 798 the Hebrides and Ulster . During the reign of King Beorhtric , raids on Wessex are also said to have occurred . It is believed that the Vikings came from the northern islands. A grave with weapons from before 750 was found on the Isle of Arran .

Around 830 the raids on English territories seem to have stopped because the pirates turned to other shores. In Ireland they plundered until the 840s when they started setting up permanent bases there. Possibly they settled the Orkneys and the Shetland Islands at the same time, if one may follow the dating of Scandinavian graves, which are generally dated to the mid-9th to the early 10th centuries. The first certain date for a Scandinavian earldom on Orkney is around 880 when Harald Fairhair took possession of the islands . The details of the settlement by the Vikings are still controversial. Despite the lack of Pictish place names after the settlement of the northern and western archipelagos began, it is believed that the local population was neither expelled nor killed.

In the 830s, the attacks on England that can be counted as invasions began. They could be repulsed by 850. Then for the first time a large pagan army wintered on Thanet (Kent). The presence of women and children is interpreted as an indication of settlement intentions. Women were also part of the prey, so it is unlikely that they were Scandinavian women.

Since then, the Nordmanns have often wintered in different areas. In 866 they wintered in East Anglia . The successful attacks by the Danish Norsemen continued until 878 when Alfred the Great defeated them and their king Guthrum was baptized. Most of England's Scandinavian graves date from the second half of the 9th century, and in the northwest from the beginning of the 10th century. In the earliest there are apparently men who died during the winter. But there is hardly any archaeological evidence of Scandinavian raids. From that time until the first half of the 10th century England had many Scandinavian rulers, mostly Danes. The status of these rulers, whether they were kings or not, is uncertain. Scandinavian domination initially lasted until 954, when Erik Blutaxt was expelled from York . It is noteworthy here that although the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle still speaks of here for a long time with regard to the Scandinavians , which suggests the continued existence of fighting parties, Erik Blutaxt is driven out by the "Northumbrians" without distinguishing between Scandinavians and natives, which already indicates a certain merging process. This is also shown by the joint manning of the fortress of Nottingham mid Engliscum mannum ge mid Deniscum (with English and Danes).

Scandinavian graves from the late 9th and early 10th centuries can also be found in Scotland. A few older graves could be those of killed looters. The beginning of the settlement by Scandinavians in the north and west of Scotland is dated to the middle of the 9th century, the settlement of the Isle of Man to the end of the 9th century. In Ireland, the shallow graves of Kilmainham appear to be related to the fortification of Dublin in 841.

Three rune stones from the Redvägs härad between Småland and Västergötland attest to journeys from there to England in the 10th century. Also from Skåne and Södermanland one drove to England on Viking.

The great Scandinavian invasion of England occurred in 865 and continued for several decades. In 866 the North Mannian kingdom of Jórvík was established . Of the many small English empires, only Wessex remained with King Alfred the Great in the south. In 878, the Danelag emerged from the territories conquered from 793 as a separate Scandinavian empire, which was also recognized by the non-Scandinavian rulers at the latest in 884. From 900 onwards, the kings of Wessex slowly began to recapture areas in their neighborhood. In 937 this reconquest by King Æthelstan was almost completed. In 954 the last realm of the Northmen York fell under its last king Erik Blutaxt , who had previously become a Norwegian king, but then became a Viking himself.

The raids led to the levying of Danegeldes . In 991, Archbishop Sigeric apparently proposed for the first time to pay Danegeld of 10,000 pounds of silver to avert the looting. This process shows that there was a coexistence between the expansion of rule and the raid, so the prospect of booty was the means with which the king had to motivate his fighters. Brave fighters got their share. It was honorable to receive a share of the Danegeld because it is specially mentioned. In 994 the looting increased under Olav Tryggvason , which could be ended with a payment of 16,000 pounds of silver. In 1002 £ 24,000 was paid. Claims rose to £ 48,000 by 1011. The last payment in 1018 was £ 78,000 plus £ 10,500 from London. There was Knut the Great already two years ruler of England and the Danegeldzahlungen under him were discontinued, but resumed later as a tax ( "here money"). Apparently he paid his fighting troops with the last amount. This process shows that the general had apparently already gained greater authority, so that he was able to tame the fighting impulse of his warriors.

The fact that people from Skåne went to England under Knut can be seen from a rune stone in Skåne, which is dedicated to a follower of Knuts. Other archaeological finds also point to warriors from Skåne in the army of Sven Gabelbarts and Knuts the Great. There were also Norwegians among the fighters for Knut. There is also evidence of England trains from Sweden from Christian times. For example, people drove to England from Småland, Västergötland and Östergötland. Nevertheless, state-political goals already played a predominant role under Sven Gabelbart and Knut the Great as king of a North Sea region , and looting on their own is taking a back seat.

A post 1050 stone from Transjö is associated with attempts to regain England after 1050.

Harold Harefoot had a Scandinavian troop that was entertained with the heregeld . Eduard the Confessor dissolved this army and abolished the tribute. People from Småland probably also served in this army.

The silver depot finds are well researched. They were buried before the start of and in anticipation of the Viking attacks : Trewhiddle (around 868) and Beeston Tor (around 875), Pentney (late 9th century) and the hoard on St. Ninian's Isle (2nd half of the 8th century) ). Of a different kind are the widespread hoards attributed to the Vikings, which are characterized by a high proportion of hacked silver , ring money and marked bars next to the coins. Another important early Viking treasure in England is the Croydon Treasure (around 872). It contains 240 coins of Anglo-Saxon and Carolingian type and Arabic (Kufic) origin as well as hacked silver of southern Scandinavian origin. The markings on the bars indicate the coexistence of coin currency and bar currency. This coexistence continued even after the minting of their own coins in East Anglia and North Humbria. The largest coin hoard in the Viking world is the treasure of Cuerdale , Lancashire (around 905). He weighs around 40 kg. It also proves the parallel currency systems. Around 990 and thereafter, the Danegeld caused a large outflow of silver. The oldest hoard in Scotland is on Storr rock , Isle of Skye (Inner Hebrides) (935/940). But the bulk of it was buried between 950 and 1070. In Ireland, on the other hand, much silver was smuggled into the economy, as evidenced by the rich silver finds (around 130 from the period between the late 9th and 12th centuries). In 997, coins were even struck in Dublin . The most remarkable find is the treasure of Hare Island on Lough Ree (5 kg), the largest known gold find from the Viking world. At the beginning of the 11th century, rune stones were found on Skåne, which indicate journeys to England.

The robberies in Ireland initially focused mainly on monasteries and churches. After the archaeologically determined distribution of the found objects from Ireland, almost exclusively Norwegians were involved. The Scandinavians were called Gaill (pagans), the Norwegians Finn-gaill (white pagans), the Danes Dubh-gaill (black pagans). The attacks were preceded by the occupation of the Orkneys and the Hebrides. In 803 the monks of Iona fled the Viking attacks and founded a new monastery in Kells, Ireland. In the period up to 823 the entire Irish coast was ravaged by Vikings. However, this has not yet had any impact on the domestic political situation in Ireland. The first winter bases were built. Then there was a hybrid form in which predatory Vikings settled, temporarily gave up their Viking existence, founded or fortified cities, and from then on again undertook new raids. Soon it was no longer a matter of raiding expeditions as an end in themselves, but rather regular war campaigns by aristocrats of Scandinavian descent to gain land and rule. A case in point is Thorgest , who tried to found his own kingdom in 839. This gave rise to the Kingdom of Dublin (→ History of Ireland (800–1536) ).

Norway's King Magnus Barefoot was considered the "last Viking". In 1098 he forced Scotland to surrender all claims to Man and the other islands, subjugated the Kingdom of Dublin again in 1102 and finally fell in further fighting in Ireland in 1103. Nevertheless, Magnus 'son Sigurd ruled the Isle of Man until 1130, and Magnus' grandson Øystein II attacked English coastal towns for the last time in 1153. Occasionally Sweyn Asleifsson , who only fell in the battle for Dublin in 1171, was referred to as the "last Viking".

Continental Europe

Location of the Danewerk

Some of the raids took place in the Vendelzeit , but cannot be precisely classified historically. The first war campaign reported in the sources is that of the Dane Chlochilaicus (Gregory of Tours writes him Chlochilaichus ) († between 516 and 522), who based on the time of the attack is believed to be the Hygelac in Beowulf . But the sources about this event are too scanty to be called a harbinger of the later Viking advances. You don't know the context and background. At best they serve as a testimony that the interests of these Northmen in this area extended to the southern areas of Jutland and the North Sea, which Pliny described as Ingvaeon . It is also doubtful whether Gregor's term “Dane” referred to Jutland. Because, according to Alfred the Great , his informant Ottar localized the Danes around 890 in Skåne and the eastern Danish islands. If Chlochilaichus was Hygelac, then according to Beowulf he was from the tribe of the Geaten, who are also located somewhere east of present-day Denmark. On the other hand, it would be astonishing if warriors from the Baltic Sea had invaded Friesland with ships at the beginning of the 6th century.

When the raids of the Viking Age (800 to 1050 AD) began, the historical situation had changed completely. Trade had grown into a sizeable industry, giving rise to towns with considerable capital: Dorestad , Ribe , Hedeby , Skuldevig , Wollin and Truso . Hamwic , Fordwich , London , Ipswich and York stood by these places in England . This concentration of capital became a profitable target for looting and is believed to have led to its rapid growth during the Viking Age. The Carolingian Empire, with its urge to expand, faced a community in Jutland which, due to the meanwhile growing centralization, was in a position to carry out larger operations, even if one cannot yet speak of a Danish state.

This community had evidently already marked out foreign areas of interest. Einhard reports from King Godofridus that he saw Friesland and Saxony as his provinces.

So one can not all assign the disputes and the armed events in this context, which lasted until 885 and in the course of which the Carolingian coastal fortifications on the one hand and the Danewerk on the other, to the Viking campaigns. In this context belong a series of raids led by Jut aristocrats on the Franconian North Sea coasts, for which these pirates allegedly paid tribute to the Jutian king as a kind of license fee.

"Ipsi vero pyratae, quos illi Wichingos appellant, nostri Ascomannos, regi Danico tributum solvunt, ut liceat eis predam exercere a barbaris, qui about hoc mare plurimi abundant."

“These pirates, who are called Vikings for them, but Eschenmänner for us, pay tribute to the Danish king so that they can undertake raids against the barbarians; they live in large numbers on the coasts of this sea. "

- Adam of Bremen IV, 6.

Adam already presupposes a central ruling power of the king, which would have required such permission. According to the explanations given above about the position of the king in Scandinavian society, the raids could hardly have been dependent on the king's permission. Rather, as the most powerful in the country, he received a share of the booty. But these were selective attacks. Given the cohesion of the defense under Charlemagne, there were no large organized raids. Notker der Stammler saw the death of Emperor Charles as the decisive turning point for the great raids. So when the Normans came briefly to the coast, but immediately fled again, he put the sentences in Charlemagne's mouth:

"Scitis, inquit, o fidelis mei, quid tantopere ploraverim? Non hoc, ait, timeo quod isti nugae et nihil mihi aliquid nocere Praevaleant, sed nimirum contristor, quod me vivente ausi sunt litus istud attingere, et maximo dolore torqueor, quia praevideo, quanta mala posteris meis et eorum sunt facturi subiectis. "

"Do you, my faithful, know why I cried so much? I am not afraid that these nothingnesses and zeros could harm me a little, but I am very sad that they dared to set foot on this coast in my lifetime, and I am tormented by a great pain because I foresee what ailments they will bring about my descendants and their subjects. "

- Notkeri Gesta Karoli II, 14.

In the 30s of the 9th century there were disputes in the Franconian Empire, which led to the division of the empire into three parts in 843, but in 888 to a complete dissolution. This had to lead to a weakening of the defense on the Channel and North Sea coast. The grave goods in the west of Skåne show that it was mainly the Franconian Empire that was visited from there. This is also supported by the fact that instead of the usual cremation burial, continental burials in graves predominated.

But also in Denmark wars of succession to the throne paralyzed the emergence of a central power, so that the leaders of these military campaigns retained a large degree of independence in their operations. After 830 the raids increased significantly. They even affected the areas considered by their own king to be dominant. Dorestad was looted several times in the 1930s . In 841 a Viking fleet went up the Seine for the first time and sacked Rouen . In 845 a Viking fleet drove up the Elbe and sacked Hamburg. Allegedly even King Horik the Elder himself was involved. On March 28, 845, Paris was attacked by the Viking leader Reginheri , and the city had to buy itself out for 7,000 pounds of silver. This easy money seems to have attracted the viking vikings. Because in the following time the Vikings appeared on all navigable rivers of the Franconian Empire and plundered monasteries and churches, whereby not only Jutian, but apparently also ships from the rest of Scandinavia were involved. Monk Ermentarius von Noirmoutier describes the devastation caused by the Vikings:

"Augescit numerus navium, crescit innumerabilis numerus nortmannorum; fiunt passim christianorum strages depraedationes, vastationes, incensiones, sicuti, quamdiu saeculum stabit, manifestis patebit indiciis. Capiuntur quascumque adeunt civitates, nemine resistant; capitur Budegalensium, Petrocorium, Santonum, Lemovicensium, Egolisma atque Tolosa civitas; Andecavensium, Turonensium, perinde et Aurelianensium civiates pessumdantur. […] Deinde post aliquantulos annos innumerabilis pene multitudo navium Nortmannorum ingreditur Sequanam fluvium. Nihil enim illis in partibus minus grassatur malum. Invadunt Rotomagensium civitatem populantur incendunt; Parisiorum deinde, Belvacensium, atque Melduorum capiunt civitates necnon Melidunensium devastant castellum; capitur Carnotis; Ebroicas populantur atque Baiocas reliquasque undique secus civitates invadunt. "

“The number of their ships is increasing. The innumerable number of Nordmanns grows. Massacres of Christians, looting, devastation and pillage are taking place everywhere, as will be seen with tangible evidence as long as the Säculum lasts. Whichever cities they come to, they will be conquered, no one will resist. Bordeaux, Périgeux, Saintes, Limoges, Angoulême and Toulouse are taken; Angers, Tours and Orléans are destroyed in the same way. […] A few years later, an almost innumerable number of Nordmann ships entered the Seine. No less evil is rampant in these areas. They invade Rouen, pillage it and incinerate it; then they take Paris, Beauvais and Meaux, and even destroy Melun's strong fortress, Chartres is taken, they sack Evreux and Bayeux , and they march against any other city as well. "

- Ex miraculis S. Filiberti auctore Ermentario ed. O. Holder Egger. In: Monumenta Germaniae Historica. Scriptorum Tomi XV Pars 1. Supplementa Tomorum I – XII Pars III Vitae aliaeque historiae minores. Cape. 25. Hanover 1887, p. 302, for the year 841.

In the 9th century, many northerners settled in Normandy and Flanders. How extensive this settlement was cannot be determined with certainty. In any case, geographical names such as Normandy and place names on -bec , -dalle , -hogue , -torp and -tot bear witness to this settlement. In 911, in the Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte , Charles the Simple left all of Normandy to the Viking leader Rollo . So he became the king's lieutenant . His job was to protect the coast from further Viking incursions. After a few generations, the Scandinavians became part of the local population.

Overview map of the Viking raids in the Rhineland

In the last decades of the 9th century there were raids by the Vikings in the Rhineland . So they got as far as Trier, an advance on Metz was repelled in the battle of Remich . There were many other forays into almost all of France, Flanders, Brabant, northern Lorraine and the Bessin.

The general reputation that the West Franconian King Ludwig achieved by defeating a Viking army on August 3, 881, after which the Ludwigslied was dedicated to him immediately afterwards , shows how great the danger was estimated.

"Kuning uuas eruirrit, Thaz richi al girrit, Uuas erbolgan Krist: Leidhor, thes ingald iz! Thoh erbarmedes got, Uuisser alla thia not, Hiez her Hluduigan Tharot sar ritan: 'Hluduig, kuning min, Hilph minan liutin! Heigun sa Northman Harto biduuungan. '"

“There was holy Christ full of anger. Woe, the Reich had to pay for it! But God was [also] full of mercy, he knew the dangerous situation completely, and so he ordered Ludwig to ride there without hesitation: 'Ludwig, my King, you help my people! The Normans harassed them so much. '"

- Ludwigslied

In 884, an army of Danish Vikings was defeated in the Battle of Norditi (also the Battle of Hilgenried Bay ) by a Frisian army under Archbishop Rimbert of Bremen-Hamburg, which resulted in the complete withdrawal of the Vikings from East Frisia .

Spain and the Mediterranean

As early as the 840s, raids on the French and Spanish coasts began to spread southwards. Their leader was Björn Járnsiða , a Danish skipper. At times they occupied Seville . However, they were defeated in 844 by Abd ar-Rahman II in the Tablada plain near Seville. Some isolated groups fled to the swamps on the banks of the Guadalquivir , surrendered and converted to Islam. They settled in the area around Seville. They became farmers and after a few generations were absorbed by the local population.

In the years 859/860 the first contingents drove through the straits near Gibraltar and attacked the North African coast. From there they plundered the Balearic Islands and moved to the southern French coast. In the spring of 860 they went up the Rhone. Your further path is not certain. In any case, they left the Mediterranean in 862 and came back to the Loire. It was the only foray into the Mediterranean.

Around 1050 there was fighting of the Byzantine Empire in the Mediterranean. Swedes from Södermanland and Uppland may also have been involved in this.

Eastern Baltic Sea, Baltic States, Russia to Constantinople

Archaeological finds show that at the end of the 5th century there was an expansion from Gotland to the East Baltic. While the inhabitants of the west of Skåne mainly oriented westwards for their war campaigns, the inhabitants from the area around Lake Mälaren, Gotland, Öland and along today's east coast of Sweden mainly moved eastwards to the Caspian Sea. They sought contact with Arab merchants and established trading centers in Novgorod , Staraya Ladoga and Kiev .

In the 7th and 8th centuries there were important colonies in Grobiņa (western Latvia), Suaslaukas near Liepāja in western Latvia , near Apuole in northwestern Lithuania and in the area around Elbląg (Truso). Rimbert confirms this in his Vita Anskarii . All Scandinavian written sources agree that in the 7th century Swedes under Ivar vidfamne set out for the Baltic States. This expansion of power lasted until around 800. Then the Svear were expelled from Courland, probably because their interest had shifted more to the west to the Curonian Lagoon and the Memel estuary, where Wiskiauten (around 800 - 1000) were excavated. Swedish settlements upstream of the Memel are also known. But around 850 a new wave of expansion began. The reconquest of Courland and the East Baltic was started. The first advance was made in 855 by the Danes, but they were defeated by the inhabitants. Then came King Olov, who destroyed and pillaged Grobiņa, then subjugated all of Courland. According to the findings, these settlements were purely trading colonies. Around this time invaded Scandinavians from Sweden to Kiev before and founded the kingdom of Rus . This expansion differs greatly from the western expansion of the Northmen in the North Sea area due to the fact that, despite the warlike episodes, it is oriented towards trade policy in principle. From Kiev the Varangians advanced to Constantinople around 860 , but failed in conquering the city as well as in their second attempt in 907.

But people also drove from Norway to the Russian Empire , as a stone from Oppland shows.

A stone from Frugarden in Västergötland tells of a Viking trip to Estonia. It is classified as “mission time”, i.e. after 1000. Members of the Varangian Guard at the Byzantine court also seem to come from this area. Two rune stones refer to northeastern Estonia, which was called Virland. Livonia was also approached, even Finland is mentioned.

The Icelandic Yngvars saga víðförla reports on a failed military expedition of Yngvar. It is the saga best documented by rune stones. It is also important for the dating of these rune stones because it gives a year in the Christian calendar: Yngvar died in Russia in 1041 after traveling for 5 years. In 1042 the news of his death came with the only ship that returned from the 30 ships that had sailed. The rune stones that refer to this journey are therefore called "Yngvar stones".

A rune stone from Västergötland from the first half of the 11th century attests to the journey from Sweden to Byzantium . Byzantine drivers also came from Småland. But the eastward voyage is also occupied from North Jutland, as well as from Östergötland, Södermanland,

From the second half of the 11th century, no warlike trips to the east from Sweden are recorded.

Fighting style

In the following it is assumed that the fighting methods in the entire Scandinavian, English and Irish area were roughly the same in the Viking Age, so that the reports from the sources are reasonably representative. No major changes are likely to have occurred over the timeline either. The sources are essentially the Sagas and the Heimskringla Snorri Sturlusons . Both sources were written down only after the Viking Age, sometimes centuries after the events. Therefore, doubts are inevitable about the descriptions of the course of events. However, some information can be described as credible. These are essentially general processes of combat operations, especially if the concise presentation assumes that the readers of the time were able to add the rest from their own experience. Furthermore, information from the skald strophes cited in the sources can be classified as credible, as these were written in a direct temporal connection with the events and passed on fairly unchanged.

The Hirð

The hirð was initially a team that was directly assigned to the king as an entourage. Gradually an elite force developed from it. They became a small group with special combat skills, maintained by the konungr (king) and eminent jarlar . It is likely that elite groups have existed to protect the respective leader of the entire army or small groups in battle (see above). Their abilities, however, could not possibly be compared with the hirth konungar of the later Viking Age. These were professional soldiers in a standing army.


The "Berserkir" are very rarely mentioned in the sources. They are portrayed very differently. In the early sources they are portrayed as elite fighters. At Saxo Grammaticus , they lapse into a kind of madness and bloodlust at times.

They are said to have come to fruition in a large-scale battle. They are said to have formed a corps separate from the main army and to have been known for their bravery and fighting strength. Among the ship's crew, they are named as the foremost fighters on the stem . The Ingeldlied in Saxo Grammaticus reflects the Berserkian point of view: the vow not to look after your hair and beard. “Even in peacetime they do not allow themselves to be dressed in a more lenient costume […] Nobody has a house or a farm or any other business. Wherever they go, they are entertained, wasters of the foreign, despisers of their own good. ”Their suspicious attitude is expressed in the Hávamál:

Tveir ro eins herjar,
tunga er höfuðs bani;
he mér í heðin hvern
handar væni.

Two force one
the tongue kills the head
behind every shell
I watch out for the hand.

So: don't get involved with two people, don't talk a lot and be suspicious - the sword is loose. Or:

Veit-a hinn
er vettki veit,
margr verðr af aurum api;
maður er auðigr,
annar óauðigr,
skyli-t þann vítka váar.

The man who
knows little does not know:
Gold often makes a monkey.
One is rich,
the other is poor.
Do not despise misfortune.

It is not clear from the sources how the berserkers fought, whether shirtless or wolfskin . Possibly both occurred. Þorbjörn Hornklofi wrote:

Grenjuðu berserkir,
guðr var á sinnum,
emjuðu úlfhéðnar
ok ísarn glumdu.

Then the berserkers roared
Los broke the feud.
waved javelins, howling wildly .

From the passage it cannot be inferred whether the “Berserkir” are identical to the “Wolfskins” or whether there are two groups. The often cited Tacitus report about the Chatti bearskins is far before this time and so far away that it is questionable whether they can be used as evidence for the berserkers. There are no sources of connecting lines and the totemic use of animal skins in fighting is a worldwide phenomenon. Neither the Franconian nor the Anglo-Saxon sources mention the berserkers of the Viking incursions. In the Icelandic sources it is only about invulnerable men with special powers.

„Þessu next kom út annað skip and voru þar á berserkir tveir and hét Haukur hvortveggi. Þeir urðu óvinsælir af mönnum því að þeir buðu mönnum nauðung til kvenna eða fjár ella buðu þeir hólmgöngu. Þeir grenjuðu sem hundar og bitu í skjaldarrendur og óðu eld brennanda berum fótum. "

“A second ship came out and there were two berserkers on it, and both of them were called Hauk. They were hated by the people because they forcibly demanded women or money from them, otherwise they offered Holmgang. They howled like dogs, bit into the edges of the shield and walked barefoot through a burning fire. "

- Vatnsdœla saga chap. 46.

There are no reports of special operations in battle.


The Gjermundbu helmet (probably 10th century)
Viking swords in the Viking Museum Haithabu , Schleswig

Since the beginning of the Iron Age, lawn iron ore ( rauði ) was the only material used to make iron weapons. At that time , the result of iron extraction was wrought iron , which could only be hardened through lengthy processing. The hardening was also brought about by charcoal , especially animal charcoal , which was associated with the red-hot iron. This shines through in the mythical tales of the manufacture of special swords.

In addition to grave goods, the laws are also a reliable source of armament. It can be assumed that they did not list the minimum armament in full, but that the rest of the armament for contemporaries emerged from the armament listed.

The armament was different depending on the status. But according to the Gulathingslov § 309 every man should have a broad ax or a sword, a shield and a spear, and for every rowing place should put a bow with twelve arrows.

The Hirðskrá , the law of allegiance from the 13th century, is also instructive in this context . The members of the entourage were in peacetime a sword, a buckler , a spear and an iron hood wear, in time of war but the full armor, additionally a tank skirt or a breastplate required. The Hirðskrá relies on earlier laws, according to which the quality of the armament was dependent on rank.

In the early Viking Age, weapons were a symbol of the free man. He regularly wore them outside of the house. Tacitus already stated: Nihil neque publicae neque privatae rei nisi armatae agunt. And in verse 37 of the Havamál it says:

Vápnum sínum Skal
-a maðr velli á
feti ganga framar,
því at óvíst er at vita,
nær verðr á vegum úti
geirs of þörf guma.

Nobody deviates from his weapons
One step in the open field:
Nobody knows on the way how soon
He will need his spear.

In ancient times, weapons were aimed at fighting on foot. Before the fight, the riders dismounted. In Denmark there was already fighting on horseback at the beginning of the 12th century. Only later did the cavalry become the most prestigious branch of arms, although it was probably not used in Norway and Iceland.

Initially, weapons were also carried at thing meetings. Approval of resolutions was indicated by striking swords on shields or raising swords or axes (vápnatak). Later this type of consent was replaced by a show of hands and the vápnatak only signified the end of the thing meeting. The land law of King Magnus Håkonsson prohibited in its provisions on the thing ride in I, 5, 1 the carrying of weapons at the thing meeting.

For details of the armament see Arms (Viking Age) .


The fight on the water

Early depiction of sea warriors. The red shields indicate Danes.

You don't like to fight in water. Hand-to-hand combat was hardly possible and only a few men could be allowed to fight at the same time. Because you mainly fought Steven against Steven and rarely went alongside, as this would not have allowed rowing. When one was near the shore, one preferred land fighting. It is reported from the Sognschlacht that the opponents Jarl Håkon and King Røgnfeld drove their fleets to Sogn , but went ashore there and fought a regular battle on a staked battlefield. The ships were mainly used as an escape route after a lost battle. In addition, no naval battle is reported that was fought on the open sea. Rather, they all took place in calm waters, i.e. behind the archipelago or in the fjord. The number of ships in a fleet is only given very high in the times that are only known from oral tradition: 180 ships on both sides in the battle against the Jomsvikingers. Wherever eyewitness reports are based on the description, the number is always below 50, an average of 30 ships.

One never fought under sails, but put down the mast beforehand. At that time it was the custom, if one wanted to have a sea battle, to tie the ships together and fight from the bulwark deck on the bow. Since the side wall above the ship's floor was not very high, a large contiguous fighting area was created, which enabled the fighting crew to move quickly along the front. It was maneuvered by rowing on the outside of the outer aisles. The main tactical task of getting the ships into the most favorable position therefore fell to the helmsman. It was therefore the task of the top management (König or Sysselmann) to determine the right people for this task. The importance of the helmsman also results from the fact that these are often mentioned on the main ships of a battle.

About the dispute between Jarl Håkon and Ragnfrød it is said: "They fought from the Stevenschanzen, as they did back then." Þorbjörn Hornklofi wrote about such a sea battle: "Brno's birds flew / a lot in Skögul's games [...]" is "Brno's birds" the Kenning for arrows, "Skögul" a Valkyrie and "Sköguls games" are the battle. In the sea battle stones, arrows and spears were the most important weapons. More details can be found in connection with the battle between Jarl Håkon and the Jomsvikings. He supposedly had 180 ships.

"Skipa þá hvárirtveggju sínu liði til atlögu. Var í miðju liði merki Sigvalda jarls; þar í mót skipaði Hákon jarl til atlögu; hafði Sigvaldi jarl 20 skip, en Hákon jarl 60 skipa. Í liði Hákonar jarls váru þessir Höfðingjar: Þórir hjörtr af Hálogalandi, annarr Styrkárr af Gimsum. Í annan fylkingararm var Búi digri ok Sigurðr, bróðir hans, með 20 skipum. Þar lagði í móti Eiríkr jarl Hákonarson 60 skipa ok, með honum þessir Höfðingjar: Guðbrandr hvíti af Upplöndum, ok Þorkell leira, víkverskr maðr. Í annan fylkingararm lagði fram Vagn Ákason með 20 skipum; en þar í mót Sveinn Hákonarson, ok með honum Skeggi af Yrjum af Upphaugi ok Rögnvaldr or Ærvík af Staði, með 60 skipa. "

“Both parts ordered their army to attack. In the middle of the Jomsburg ship line-up was the banner of Jarl Sigvald. Jarl Håkon directed his attack there. Sigvald had 20 ships, but Håkon had 60. In the army of Jarl Håkon were leaders Þorir Hirsch von Helgeland and Styrkar von Gjemse. On one wing of the sea warriors from Jomsburg stood Bui der Starke and his brother Sigurd with 20 ships. Jarl Erich Håkonsson had compared them with 60 ships, and the commanders under him were Gudbrand the White from the Oberland and Þorkel Leira, a man from Vik. On the other wing of the enemy, Vagn Akisson had positioned himself with 20 ships, but opposite him Svein Håkonsson and with him Skeggi from Ophaug on Örlandet and Rögnvald from Ervik on a city with 60 ships. "

- Heimskringla. Ólaf's saga Tryggvasonar. Cape. 43. (Story by Olav Tryggvason chap. 40.)

The fleets were thus divided into three independent units. A detailed description of the course of the fight follows:

"Jómsvíkingar Höfðu skip stœrri ok borðmeiri, en hvárirtveggju sóttu hit djarfasta. Vagn Ákason lagði svá hart fram at skipi Sveins Hákonarsonar, at Sveinn lét á hömlu síga undan ok hélt við flótta. Þá lagði þannug til Eiríkr jarl, ok fram í fylking móti Vagni. Þá lét Vagn undan síga, ok lágu skipin sem í fyrstu Höfðu legit. Þá réð Eiríkr aptr til liðs síns, ok Höfðu þá hans menn undan hamlat, en Búi hafði þá höggvit tengslin ok ætlaði at reka flóttann. Þá lagði Eiríkr jarl síbyrt við skip Búa, ok varð þá höggorrosta hin snarpasta, ok lögðu þá tvau eða þrjú Eiríks skip at Búa skipi einu. Þá gerði illviðri ok él svá mikit, at haglkornit eitt vá eyri. Þá hjó Sigvaldi tengslin ok sneri undan skipi sínu ok vildi flýja. […] Sigvaldi jarl reri í brott með hálfan fjórða tog skipa, en eptir lá hálfr þriði togr. […] Í þessarri atsókn géngu upp Eiríks menn á skip Búa, ok aptr at liptingunni at Búa. Þá hjó Þorsteinn miðlangr til Búa um þvert nefit ok í sundr nefbjörgina; varð þat allemikit sár. Búi hjó til Þorstein's utan á síðuna, svá at í sundr tók manninn í miðju. "

“The sea warriors (Jomswikinger) had larger ships and the side wall was higher, but the attack on both sides was extremely brave. Vagn Askisson pushed so hard on Svein Håkonsson's ship that the ship rowed backwards and almost fled. Jarl Erich rushed there and into the battle line on Vagn. Vagn rowed back now, and his ships were back where they had first been. Now Erich returned to his battle line, where his people had meanwhile gone back, since Bui had cut the connecting ropes and was about to drive them completely to flight. Jarl Erich lay down on the long side of Bui's ship, and now a very bitter hand-to-hand fight with cutting weapons broke out, and two or three ships of Erich attacked one Buis. Suddenly bad weather broke out and a hailstorm that made each grain weigh an ounce. Now Sigvaldi cut the connecting ropes and wanted to flee. […] Sigvaldi now rowed away with 35 ships, and only 25 remained behind. […] With this rush, Erich's men climbed onto the raised rear deck where Bui was standing. Then Þorsteinn Mittlang met Bui on the nose and he broke his nose. That put a huge wound, but Bui struck the Þorsteinn in the side, so that the man was cut apart in the middle of the body. "

- Heimskringla. Ólaf's saga Tryggvasonar. Cape. 44, 45. (Story by Olav Tryggvason ch. 41.)
Dragon ship as it was imagined around 1900. From the Nordisk Familjebok .

The description of the sea battle at Svolder shows further details: The ships only rowed against the enemy after they were tied together. At the special order of the king and against the warning of the standard bearer on the stern, the "Long Worm" was pushed forward by the amount of its excess length so that its stern was on the same line with the neighboring ships. This means that the bow of the neighboring ships was tied to the ship's side. This means that the stems of ships of unequal length were usually tied. The ships were usually tied tightly together in groups of four or five. The crew on the entrenchment deck of the "Langen Wurms" pulled the opposite ship with grappling hooks. This means that without such a measure, the ships opposite would not touch each other. So you fought with bows and arrows and with spears. It was only when they were approached that they fought with cutting weapons. But you didn't go on the opposing ship. You only did that when you went alongside the enemy ship. That was a parallel fighting style that was used in the battle of Svolder Jarl Erich with his ship "Eisenbart". This way of fighting is also reported by Olaf Haraldsson during his first war voyage against Vikings in the Baltic Sea: “Olaf had a much smaller crew but larger ships. He put his ships between some sea cliffs so that it was impossible for the Vikings to lay down to attack. But then he and his men threw grappling hooks at the enemy's ships closest to him, pulled them towards him and cleaned them up from the crew. ”This expression“ clean up ”is usually used when a ship is laid alongside and one with a hand weapon jumps on the enemy ship. The cliffs prevented Viking ships from lying on both sides at the same time. Another very detailed eyewitness account of a sea battle is from the Battle of Fimreite . The use of stones plays an important role there.

As in the land fight, a banner was carried on the king's ship, which was carried in front of him when he boarded another ship. The king's self-portrayal also played a role here: Olav the saint's flagpole in the battle of Nesjar was gilded, as the eyewitness Sigvat reports.

The fight on land

When there was a dispute with individual bonds, especially in the case of revenge, the usual tactic was to go to his courtyard at night, surround it and set it on fire so that everyone burned in it.

"Eitthvert kveld gekk Hárekur til skips með húskarlalið sitt og hafði nær átta tigum manna. Reru þeir um nóttina og komu er morgnaði til bæjar Grankels, slógu þar hring um hús, veittu þar síðan atgöngu, lögðu síðan eld í hús. Brann þar Grankell inni og menn með honum en sumir voru úti drepnir. "

“One evening Harek went aboard the ship with the band of his servants, and he had almost 80 men around him. They rowed through the night and in the early morning they came to Grankel's residence and closed a circle around his homestead. Then they attacked there and set fire to the house. In this now Grankel and his housemates had to burn, but some were still killed outside. "

- Heimskringla. Ólaf's saga helga. Chap 169.

During the war, people formed a battle formation. In the story of Halfdan the Black it is said that when the enemy army advanced, he set up his men in battle order, without this being described in detail. The same is said about the dispute between Erich Blutaxt and his brothers Olafs and Sigrød in Tðnsberg: “When he came to Tønsberg, Olav and Sigrød went with their army to a hill in the east of the city and there they set up their army in battle order . ”The ritual is mentioned at the battle of Fredøberg between Hakon the Good and the Erich sons. These had come by ships from Denmark. "King Håkon sent a message to them and asked them to go ashore, saying that he had marked out a battlefield for them at Rastakalf with hazel branches." This is one of the few battle descriptions with details. The Erich sons were numerically superior. Håkon therefore has his army line up so that they cannot be surrounded. Then a ruse is reported: They took ten warriors with ten banners and let them go around the enemy behind a hill. There they went up and, since one could only see the banners, the enemy army took them for a large band of warriors, so that they fled from the supposed superior force.

During the war, one knew different formations that could be used in the battle between two large combat groups. On the one hand there was the formation of a closed phalanx or a shield wall in which the lance was used. Here the main force was in the middle and on the two wings there were smaller groups to encircle the enemy. The death of the leader would have ended a battle immediately, which is why he had to be protected by a "shield castle" behind which he was the reference point of the army with his banner and coordinated the actions. A well-known formation was the "boar head", a wedge formation behind which a deeply staggered square formation was set up and was called caput porci by the Romans . According to Saxo Grammaticus, Odin showed the Danish hero Harald the art of raising an army for battle:

Eberkeilformation by Saxo Grammaticus how they Stephanus Johannis Stephanius presented

"Cujus eventum Haraldo oraculis explorare cupienti, senex principuæ magnitudinis, sed orbus oculo obvius extitit, qui hispido etiam amiculo circumactus Othinum se dici, bellorumque usu callere testatus, utilissimum ei centuriandi in acie exercitus documentum porrexit. Jussit igitur ut terrestribus bellum copiis editurus, universam aciem in tres turmas divideret, mediam vero viginti virorum numero reliquis poorectiorem extenderet; qum etiam in coni sive pyramidis acunen digerens, alarum recessus utrinque secus discretis ambagibus obliquaret. Cujuslibet vero turmæ seriem hac ratione contexeret, ut a duobus frons inchoans, consequentibus locis unitatis duntaxat incrementa reciperet: & quidem in secunda linea tres, in tertia quatuor, eodemque modo posterius ordinandos, consequentita congressione statueret: donecus idruemetis ten s coniunctionis extremitas alas æquaret: cornu vero quodlibet denis ab eo ordinibus formaretur. Post has item turmas instructam iaculis iuventutem admittat; a cuius tergo grandævorum cohortem adhibeat, quæ labantes sociorum vires veterana quadam virtute firmaret. Deinde funditorum alas gnarus locorum supputator annecteret, qui post sodalium agmina consistentes eminus hostem tormentis incesserent. Post quos cujuslibet ætatis aut ordinis homines absque conditionis æstimatione passim ascisceret Cæterum postremam aciem ternis, ad instar primæ, cornibus interstinctam similique graduum prportione digestam explicaret, cuius tergum superiori conjunctum obstum agmini, ipsetum aversæ "

“Harald now wanted to ask the oracle how the war would end. But on the way he met an old man, strong in battle, but one-eyed and with a shaggy coat, who called himself Odin. He was well versed in the art of war and gave him some particularly useful advice on how to prepare his army for battle. If he was to fight a land battle, he advised him to divide his entire order of battle into three parts, each of them twenty in number, but the middle one he should set up in a sharp formation 20 men further forward than the others, like a wedge or a pyramid so that the front lines slope backwards in a curve on each side. He should set up each of these departments in this fighting position in such a way that two men are at the head, and from there each row grows by one man, i.e. three in the next link, four in the third, and so on the next lines. He should let the following rows grow to the same extent, until they are level with the outer units. Each point should consist of ten rows. Behind these departments he should put young men with javelins and behind them old warriors, who support their comrades with their old, experienced manliness when their strength slackens. Behind it are supposed to be rows of slingshots that can bombard the enemy with projectiles from their position and behind their comrades. Behind it he should place men of all ages and ranks regardless of class. At last he should set up the rear troops in three points like the front units in appropriate positions. But they should turn their backs on the front units and cover them backwards, turning their front in the opposite direction. "

- Stephanus Johannis Stephanius : Saxonis grammatici Historiæ Danicæ libros XVI. Sorø 1645, p. 138 f. = VII, 10, 6.

The use of this order of battle is nowhere explicitly mentioned. But since it was already known to the Romans, it must have been used. In Old Norse literature it is called svinefylkingen (pig formation). Where it is mentioned, it is described somewhat differently: A wedge-shaped center with a shield castle, as overlapping shields in the foremost row, and behind it the shields above the head against arrow fire. In addition, the wings were not so deeply staggered in width. The Flateyabók describes Sigmund Brestsson's battle line-up in a battle in the Baltic Sea region: Sigmund and his friend Tore at the front, three behind them, five behind them. That was 10 men in three rows. Next to it were the wings.

But they were flexible and formed other battle orders as required. Before the Battle of Stamford Bridge, King Harald chose the following line-up because of the expected armored riders:

"Síðan fylkti Haraldur konungur liði sínu, lét fylkingina langa ok ekki þykkva. Þá beygði hann armana aftur á bak svo að saman tóku. Var það þá víður hringur og þykkur og jafn öllum megin utan, skjöldur við skjöld og svo fyrir ofan, en konungssveitin var fyrir innan hringinn og þar merki. Var því svo fylkt að konungur vissi að riddarar voru vanir að ríða á riðlum og þegar aftur. Nú segir konungur að hans sveit og jarls sveit Skal þar fram ganga sem mest þarf ‚en bogmenn vorir skulu og þar vera með oss en þeir er Fremdstir standa skulu setja spjótshalana sína í jörirum eðina en setha oddfana í jörir eðina en setha oddfana þeirum oðe ðeir brj ð rþeur brj er næstir standa setji þeir sína spjótsodda fyrir brjóst hestum þeirra '. "

“Then King Harald set up his army in order of battle. He made the line of battle long but not tight. Then he bent the two wings backwards so that they butted together. They formed a wide circle tightly and evenly all around outwards, shield by shield, and just as further inwards. The royal band, however, stood outside the ring. There was the banner, and there were chosen people. At another place stood Jarl Tosti with his band. With him was the second banner. The king had chosen this order of battle because he knew that the knights would come in groups and go back again. Now the king ordered that his division and that of the Jarl should proceed where it was most needed, but the archers should also accompany us. But those who stand further ahead should push their spear ends into the ground and put the spear on the knights 'chests when they ride against us, but the very foremost should point their spearheads against the chest of the horses.' "

- Harald's saga Sigurjarsonar chap. 89.

About the beginning of a battle one learns for the Norwegian area: When the battle lines now met, there was a bitter and grueling battle. But when the men had fired their spears, swords were swung. The battle began with the war calls, arrow shots and spear throwing. Arrows were shot and spears thrown throughout the fight. As quoted in the armament chapter, "arrows and spears like snowflakes" fell even at the end of the fight. And the skald Erich Schalenklang speaks of an "arrow thunderstorm" and of "ger rain". The description of the Battle of Stiklestad describes the procedure somewhat more precisely: “Those who stood in the foreground struck with their swords, those who initially struck behind them with their spears, but all those who were further back threw spears, shot arrows, or threw them with stones and hand axes or with other throwing weapons. "

Nevertheless, it is often described that the fighters threw off their armor immediately before the close combat. The poem by Eyvind skáldaspillir about the struggle of Hákon the good with the Erich sons has already been quoted. The text goes on to say: "King Håkon (the good) fought with such courage that he was far ahead of the army without a helmet and a well."

Bridles, spurs and stirrups were also found in the graves of riders. But they were evidently reserved for the upper classes of society. Lances as a thrust weapon have also been found in the graves of riders from the younger Viking Age. In the Scandinavian sources, however, nothing is reported about the use of horsemen on their side in a fight, but in the enemies and in the Anglo-Saxon and Frankish sources (see the article Vikings ). The riders were used by the Norwegians for reconnaissance and the rapid transport of people. For reasons of space, horses were not brought along on the looting trips, but were recruited locally.

Education and art

Little is known about the level of literacy in the early Viking Age. But a poem by Jarl Rögnvaldr Kali in the Orkneys has survived from the 12th century:

Tafl emk ǫrr at efla,
íþróttir kank níu,
týnik trauðla rúnum,
tíð er bók ok smíðir,
skríða kank á skíðum,
skýtk ok rœk, svát nýtir;
hvártveggja kank hyggja:
harpslǫ́tt ok bragþǫ́ttu.

Nine arts are familiar to me:
I am good
at board games, I am seldom wrong about the runes I
can read, work iron and wood, Glide
across the country on skis, Draw a
bow, row to
my heart's content, Practice my mind in both arts
Den Lai write poetry and play the harp.

If he prides himself on this, not all of it will have been common property, and from this it is difficult to draw any conclusions about general education in the 9th century. Nevertheless, one seems to have enjoyed the language very early on. After all, the runes appear around 200, but are not used for literature. But in the 11th century it can be assumed that reading skills will become more widespread. How people from different regions spoke to one another is not known. There is some evidence that Norrøn was something of a lingua franca of the whole area. Danish and English were not particularly different at the time, and a mixed language soon developed after the immigration of the Danes. In the Orkneys and Shetlands , the local language was completely replaced by Scandinavian, and the Norn dialect developed , which lasted for a long time. Harald Hårfagre sent his son Maguns to the court of Alfred the Great to be educated . He will be able to communicate there. The skald Egil Skallagrímsson writes before King Æthelstan of Wessex. He must have understood the poem too, because he gave him two boxes of silver for it. The skald Gunnlaugr ormstunga Illugason stood before King Olof Skötkonung of Sweden in a poetry contest. It can be assumed that the king understood the poems. In the Völsunga saga it says:

"Reginn hét fóstri Sigurðar og var Hreiðmarsson. Hann kenndi honum íþróttir, tafl og rúnar og tungur margar að mæla, sem þá var títt konungasonum, og marga hluti aðra. "

“Regin was the name of Sigurd's foster father and was the son of Hreidmar. He taught him knowledge, board games and runes, and to speak in various languages, as was then appropriate for the sons of kings, and various other things. "

- Völsunga saga chap. 13.

There were marriages between Norwegians and Irish in the upper class. The extensive networks between the families from different countries suggest that they spoke Norrøn in addition to their native language. On the other hand, on commercial trips, an interpreter was often part of the ship's crew. Swedish and Slavic, on the other hand, had no relationship whatsoever, so that a mixed language could not arise. Rather, the Varangians appropriated the Slavic language with Swedish loan words.


The ornamentation of the Viking Age was part of an artistic tradition that continued throughout Northwest Europe. The main motifs were zoomorphic and were used to decorate objects of everyday use, especially jewelry and weapons. From the end of the 7th century onwards, foreign influences in Scandinavian art were quickly, and often almost unrecognizable, incorporated into an independent local art. These zoomorphic ornaments are summarized under the designation Germanic animal style .


The best-known works of Scandinavian poetry are the scald poetry and sagas , which were written down long after the Viking Age, but the essential elements of which go back to oral and rudimentary written records from the Viking Age. They were later mostly written down in Iceland, but also in Norwegian centers of power. Where the unusually sudden flowering of literature came from is one of the riddles of Scandinavian literary history. The fact that the tradition came from Denmark with the fishing to England and from there to Iceland would be a possibility given the Beowulf . In the Franconian and Anglo-Saxon areas, the Annalistik ( Anglo-Saxon Chronicle ), which had existed in Ireland for some time, flourished again and was also widely used in Iceland. If the tradition almost exclusively speaks of Icelandic skalds, this may also be due to the selective tradition.


Ansgar's cross in Birka

Ansgar and Rimbert had already started their missionary work in the 9th century in the most important junctions on the trade routes Haithabu , Ripen and Birka . This was at the time when the Viking trains were still swelling, to which Adam von Bremen also attributed the lack of continuity of the mission to these missionaries. The (Swedish) Viking rule on the Schlei seems to have worked as a bolt, because only after the victory of Henry I over the Swedes and Danes on the Schlei, a missionary, Archbishop Unni , set out again , who was killed in Birka in 936. On the other hand, the Scandinavians came into contact with Christianity in many places on their long-distance journeys, which must have led to a relativization of their own beliefs. The local cult was not resumed in the Danelag, at least no place name testifies to it. The beginning of the final missionary work for the whole of the north can be set for the second third of the 10th century. For Denmark, Harald Blauzahn's baptism was the decisive turning point. Not only the Jellingstein bears witness to this , but also the redesign of the sanctuary of King Gorms , a large building stone triangle with a rune stone in the middle and Queen Thyres' burial mound at the end, into a churchyard. A number of missionary bishops, including the Danish nobleman Odinkar the Elder , endeavored to Christianize with varying degrees of success. He is said to have also worked in Skåne and on the islands. In Sweden, Sigtuna became the Christian center of Svealand . The connection between the Varangians who have become Christian in Rus and their old homeland, to which the marriage of Olof Skötkonungs Ingegerd's daughter and Grand Duke Jaroslav I is a testimony, led to the influence of Christianity in Sweden, which was shaped by the Eastern Church. The rune stone custom in the middle of the 11th century was influenced by Christianity there quite early. In contrast, in Denmark at the time of Sven and Knut, only one fifth of the stones had Christian characteristics. Västergötland's stones at the same time, on the other hand, are already one-third Christian, while the less recent material in Östergötland is half to almost two-thirds. Almost two thirds of the stones in Småland from this period are also Christian.

The man's virtues remained unaffected. They are praised with the same words on pagan and Christian rune stones: Generous, efficient, good landlord (or farmer), without falsehood, wordless, wise in his speech (probably at the Thing meeting), skillful and agile. Even the thirst for revenge survived Christianization on the rune stones.

The introduction of Christianity led beyond the pure change of faith to a profound change in the political landscape. The kingship became a divinely legitimized central power. The new tasks of legislation and jurisdiction grew to him. At the same time a new power arose alongside the king, which was controlled by Rome, which had to lead to hard disputes over competence. The consolidation of kingship went hand in hand with the weakening of the local chiefs. Since the chief power still derived its legitimation from the clan and the ancestors according to the pagan model, it was not pagan mythology, but pagan cult practice that was rigorously suppressed. King Olav (the saint) bloody suppressed the sacrificial feasts in mars.

See also

Name of the rune stones in the footnotes


  1. De Danskes Kultur i Vikingetiden (Danish Culture in the Viking Age), 1873.
  2. Askeberg p. 129.
  3. ^ Kaufhold, Roesdahl.
  4. So Horst Zettel.
  5. Brather p. 81.
  6. As an extreme example, Régis Boyer: The Pirates of the North. Life and death as a Viking. (2001) apply. After discarding all sources as untrustworthy, he writes over 350 pages about the Vikings, without any indication of the source.
  7. Brøgger p. 273.
  8. a b Roesdahl p. 38.
  9. ^ Wilson p. 62.
  10. In the Ólafs saga helga chap. 141 mentioned in the course of the persecution of refugee men.
  11. Rígsþula stanzas 8, 10 ( on Völuspá.org )
  12. a b translation by Simrock.
  13. Svanberg p. 28 ff.
  14. Svanberg p. 32.
  15. ^ Information board in the Viking Museum in York
  16. Böldl p. 699.
  17. Svanberg p. 38. f.
  18. Roesdahl p. 40.
  19. This and the following can be seen from the display boards in the Lindholm Høje Museum in Aalborg in the Limfjord.
  20. a b c translation by WH Vogt and Frank Fischer.
  21. a b c d e translation by Felix Niedner.
  22. A regional rule - for example the one in Gudme - must have existed much earlier, otherwise the first construction of the Danewerk cannot be explained
  23. Svanberg p. 70.
  24. Runeinnskrifter fra Uppland (U) 668: “Stærkar and Hjörvarð had this stone built after their father Gæiri, who was west of Tinglið. God help his soul. ”Then a cross.
  25. Svanenberg p. 62 f.
  26. Þorstein's þáttr stangarhöggs (The story of Thorstein Stangenhieb) chap. 5: “Svá er mér farit”, kvað karl, “sem þeim, er ekki eigu undir sér, ok verðr heitum heimskr maðr feginn.” (“I'm like those,” said the man, “who have nothing to lose. Also, only the fool is happy about promises. ")
  27. Sigurðsson 2008, p. 19.
  28. Sigurðsson 2008, p. 30.
  29. Sigurðsson 2008, p. 31.
  30. Heimskringla. Ólaf's saga helga. Cape. 37.
  31. Heimskringla. Hákonar saga góða. Cape. 3.
  32. Heimskringla. Ólaf's saga Tryggvasonar. Cape. 16.
  33. Þorbjörn Hornklofi in Heimskringla, Harald's saga hárfagra. Cape. 16.
  34. Heimskringla. Ólaf's saga helga. Cape. 35.
  35. a b Sigurðsson 2008, p. 22.
  36. Sigurðsson 2008, p. 24.
  37. a b Sigurðsson 2008, p. 21.
  38. Upplandslagen from 1296, kununx balker X § 66: Nu biufler konongr lifl [= lið = royal suite ] ok leflung [= leðung = peasant army] ut. biuz ut rofl [= róð = rowing and warrior team] ok ræt [= reþ = ship's equipment]. One can assume that the term róð already had this meaning 200 years earlier.
  39. Neveu (1992) S. 80th
  40. ↑ Display board in the Viking Museum in York.
  41. Heimskringla. Ólaf's saga helga. Chapter 23.
  42. ^ Régis Boyer: The pirates of the north. Life and death as a Viking. Stuttgart 1997, p. 62. Boyer does not say how he knows the ideals of the pre-Christian Scandinavians, since as a supporter of the so-called “radical source criticism” he rejects almost all sources.
  43. ^ For the conditions in Sweden, Nevéus (1992) p. 80.
  44. a b c Nevéus (1992) p. 81.
  45. When Skarastadgan is a log of the westgötischen Justicar that the contents of a Royal Decree of Magnus Eriksson reflects that he has adopted at its Königsumritts, and the decisions of the country Things. (Dieter Strauch: Medieval Nordic law until 1500. A source study. De Gruyter 2011, ISBN 978-3-11-025076-3 , p. 102 fn. 684. Gösta Hasselberg: Den sk Skarastadgan och träldomens upphörande i Sverige. In: Västergötlands Forminnesföreningens Tidsskrift. Vol. V, 3 (1944), pp. 72-80.)
  46. Steinsland / Sørensen p. 71.
  47. Steinsland / Sørensen pp. 71 f., 79
  48. Sigurðsson (2007) p. 90.
  49. Sigurðsson (2007) p. 86.
  50. Sigurðsson (2007) p. 95.
  51. Sigurðsson (2007) p. 93.
  52. Sigurðsson (2007) p. 94.
  53. Claus Krag, Vikingtid og rikssamling 800 - 1130 Oslo 1995 p. 57.
  54. ^ Rudolf Simek: The Vikings. CH Beck Knowledge series. CH Beck Munich, 6th edition, 2016, p. 100.
  55. Oliver Grimm: Großbootshaus - center and rule. Central square research in northern European archeology (1st - 15th century) . de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2006, ISBN 3-11-018482-6 , p. 88.
  56. Anders Hultgård: Seers . In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde , Volume 28. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-018207-6 , pp. 113–121; here: p. 118.
  57. ^ Rudolf Simek: The Vikings. CH Beck Knowledge series. CH Beck Munich, 6th edition, 2016, p. 101.
  58. ^ Heiko Steuer : horse graves . In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde , Volume 23. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-017535-5 , pp. 50–96; here: p. 90.
  59. a b c d Andreas Winroth: The Vikings. The age of the north. Klett-Cotta Stuttgart, 2016, p. 222.
  60. ^ Rudolf Simek: The Vikings. CH Beck Knowledge series. CH Beck Munich, 6th edition, 2016, p. 100.
  61. Claus Krag: Vikingtid og rikssamling. 800 - 130. Oslo 1995, p. 50.
  62. Jan de Vries. Old Norse Etymological Dictionary Leiden 1977 p. 386.
  63. Claus Krag: Vikingtid og rikssamling. 800 - 130. Oslo 1995, p. 52.
  64. Claus Krag: Vikingtid og rikssamling. 800 - 130. Oslo 1995, p. 54.
  65. Claus Krag: Vikingtid og rikssamling. 800 - 130. Oslo 1995, p. 54.
  66. Andreas Winroth: The Vikings. The age of the north. Klett-Cotta Stuttgart, 2016, p. 225.
  67. Andreas Winroth: The Vikings. The age of the north. Klett-Cotta Stuttgart, 2016, p. 223.
  68. Claus Krag: Vikingtid og rikssamling. 800 - 130. Oslo 1995, p. 56.
  69. ^ Rudolf Simek: The Vikings. CH Beck Knowledge series. CH Beck Munich, 6th edition, 2016, p. 100; “Geirmund married Gerlaug when she was a girl, they had a son before Geirmund drowned and the son died. Then she married Gudrik and they had children, but only one girl survived, her name was Inga. She married Ragnfast von Snottsta, then the latter died and her son died and Inga inherited her son. Then she married Eirik [he must have died too]. She died there, and Geirlaug inherited her daughter Inga. "
  70. Sigurðsson (2007) p. 91.
  71. ^ Rudolf Simek: The Vikings. CH Beck Knowledge series. CH Beck Munich, 6th edition, 2016, p. 99.
  72. Horst Zettel: The image of the Normans and the Norman incursions in West Franconian, East Franconian and Anglo-Saxon sources from the 8th to 11th centuries. Fink, Munich 1977, pp. 203, 275.
  73. To the following: Erik Gunnes: Norges Historie Bind II Rikssamling og kristning . Oslo 1976, p. 266.
  74. To the previous: Erik Gunnes: Norges Historie Bind II Rikssamling og kristning . Oslo 1976, pp. 296-298.
  75. Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson u. a .: A female Viking warrior confirmed by genomics. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, September 8, 2017. doi: 10.1002 / ajpa.23308 = .
  76. ^ Judith Jesch: Let's Debate Female Viking Warriors Yet Again. In: . September 9, 2017, accessed September 17, 2017 .
  77. Davide Zori in November 9, 2017. Accessed January 8, 2018
  78. a b Andreas Winroth: The Vikings. The age of the north. Klett-Cotta Stuttgart, 2016, p. 191
  79. Andreas Winroth: The Vikings. The age of the north. Klett-Cotta Stuttgart, 2016, p. 190
  80. Andreas Winroth: The Vikings. The age of the north. Klett-Cotta Stuttgart, 2016, p. 308
  81. So it says in chapter 77 of the Brennu Njáls saga: At this moment Thorbrand Thorleiksson jumped on the wall and cut through Gunnar's bowstring. [...] He said to Hallgerd: "Give me two strands of your hair. You and mother twist it into a bowstring for me. ”“ Does anything depend on it? ”She asks. “My life depends on it,” he says, “because they will never get their hands on me as long as I can use the bow.” “Then now is the time,” she says, “to remind you of the slap, [ that you gave me once]. It doesn't matter to me whether you defend yourself for a shorter or longer time. ”(" Saga von Brennu-Njáll "in: Isländer Sagas I, Frankfurt 2011, translated by Karl Ludwig Wetzig). Pp. 449-814, 601.
  82. Else Mundal "Sagaliteratur" in Odd Einar Haugen (Ed.) Old Norse Philology. Norway and Iceland. Berlin 2007, pp. 341 - 390, 386 f.
  83. From the manuscript of the Icelandic magic book Galdrakver. I Ljósprentun Lbs 143 8vo, II Textaútgáfa. Landsbókasafn Íslands, Reykjavík 2004, ISBN 9979-800-40-2 (I-II), p. 197 (Icelandic - Danish - English - German).
  84. Vatnsdœla saga, chap. 12.
  85. Note p. 213 ff.
  86. Quotation from Zettel, p. 215.
  87. Svanberg p. 33.
  88. Svanberg p. 34.
  89. Havamál. Translation of Simrock.
  90. Sigurðsson (2007) p. 83.
  91. Annales fuldenses for 882
  92. This is the end of the Pope's letter of confirmation for the establishment of the Archdiocese of Nidaros.
  93. Sigurðsson 2008, p. 32.
  94. Falk (1912) p. 5.
  95. Ruprecht p. 165.
  96. [1] of July 11, 2013, accessed on November 7, 2019
  97. Jankuhn p. 25 ff.
  98. Adam von Bremen, Book 4, Chapter 21.
  99. Ruprecht p. 31.
  100. DR 66: Gunnulfr ok Eygautr / Auðgautr ok Áslakr ok Hrólfr travelsu stone þenna eptir Fúl, félaga sinn, he varð […] dahðr, þá konungar bôrðusk. Gunnulf and Eygaut, Asgaut and Áslek and Rolf placed this stone after Fúl, their félagi, it was […] killed when the kings were fighting.
  101. DR 279: Saxi setti stone þenna eptir Ásbjôrn, sinn félaga, Tó [f] a / Tó [k] a son. Sá fló eigi at Uppsôlum, en vá með hann vápn hafði. (Saxi placed this stone after Ásbjörn, his félagi, Tofi Toki's son. He did not flee near Uppsala while he had weapons.)
  102. DR 330: […] "usti" ok Gunnarr […] steina þessa eptir […] [ok] […] bjôrn, félaga sín [a]. Þeir drengjar váru v [íða] [ón] eisir í víkingu. ([…] Usti and Gunnar put these stones after […] and […] björn, their félagi. The drengir were (far around) fearlessly on Viking.)
  103. Ruprecht p. 70.
  104. Anonymous Þulur, 13. Manna heiti, 7 - Þul Manna 7III: Innhýsingar, / aldaþoptar, / sessi ok máli, / serlar og fylgðir, / þá eru félagar / ok frændr saman, / vinr, einkili, / verðung, halir. (People under one roof, old friends, fellow rowers and interlocutors, comrades in arms and henchmen, these are félagar , and relatives together, friend, shipmate , the court company, men).
  105. Hávamál stanza 52: Mikit eitt / Skal-a manni gefa; / often kaupir sér í litlu lof, / með halfum hleif / ok með hellu keri / fékk ek mér félaga. (The gift does not always have to be great. Often one acquires with little praise. Half a loaf, a sip in the cup, probably won me the félaga.)
  106. U 391: Frísa gi [ldar] […] þessar eptir Albóð, félaga Slóða. Kristr hinn helgi hjalpi and hans. Þorbjôrn risti. (The Frisian Guild [...] this after Albóð, Slóðis félagi. May the holy Christian help his soul. Þorbjörn scratched.)
  107. Ruprecht p. 72.
  108. Ruprecht p. 32.
  109. a b Ruprecht p. 33.
  110. ^ A. Bugge cited in Ruprecht p. 34.
  111. Ruprecht p. 36.
  112. ^ Translation after Felix Niedner.
  113. Brøgger p. 206.
  114. According to the slip on pp. 14-25.
  115. ^ PA Munch: Det Norske Folks History . Kristiania 1851. Otto Lauffer: The stages of development of the Germanic culture. Environment and folk custom in old Germanic times. In: Hermann Nollau: Germanic resurrection . Heidelberg 1926. Andreas Heusler: Old Germanic morality and way of life.
  116. ^ JM Strinnholm: State constitution and customs of the old Scandinavians . Hamburg 1839. George Macauly Trevelyan: History of England . Munich 1947. G. Authén-Blom in the Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde. Keyword: Aristocracy - Norway .
  117. ^ M. Depping: Histoire des éxpeditions maritimes des Normandes et de leur établissement en France au Xe siècle . Paris 1844.
  118. Heinrich Mitteis: The state of the high Middle Ages. Basics of a comparative constitutional history of the feudal age. Weimar 1962, p. 96 should have been the last representative in science.
  119. Extensive references from the literature are listed in Zettel, pp. 14-16.
  120. Jørger Bukdahl: Danish Heroic Legends. In: Buckdahl u. a. (Ed.): Scandinavia Past and Present. From the Viking to the Absolute Monarch. Arnkrone 1959.
  121. Individual references in Zettel, p. 18. As an example August Nitschke: Observations on the Norman education in the 11th century. In: Archiv für Kulturgeschichte XLIII Heft 3 (1961).
  122. ^ Dudo of Saint-Quentin: De moribus et actis primorum Normanniae ducum libri tres. In: Migne patrologia latina 141. Col. 610-738.
  123. ^ Ernst Moritz Arndt: Additional hours . Leipzig 1826, p. 26 ff. Johannes Steenstrup: Normannerne. Vol. 1. Copenhagen 1876, p. 258 ff. Further literature in Zettel p. 19.
  124. Walther Vogel: The Normans and the Franconian Empire up to the founding of Normandy (799-911). Heidelberg 1906. Further references in Zettel p. 20.
  125. Marc Bloch: La societé Fodale . Paris 1949. Holger Arbmann: The Vikings . London 1962. Ulrich Noack: Nordic early history and the Viking Age. Munich-Berlin 1941. Felix Genzmer: Germanic seafaring and sea sailing . Munich 1944. More at Zettel p. 21 f.
  126. Further authors at Zettel pp. 22–23.
  127. JA Warsaae: The prehistory of the north according to simultaneous monuments. Hamburg 1878. Further authors at Zettel pp. 23–24.
  128. Diplomatarium Norvegicum (volumes I-XXI)
  129. ^ David Hume: The History of England from the Invasion of Julius Caesar to the Revolution in 1688. Bd. I. Basel 1789.
  130. ^ Leopold von Ranke: Weltgeschichte Vol. VI. Leipzig 1885, p. 11 and French history mainly from the 16th and 17th centuries . Vol. I Leipzig 1876.
  131. Egils saga chap. 40
  132. Zettel warns p. 221 expressly and rightly against a blanket and undifferentiated Viking term.
  133. a b Sarnowsky p. 223.
  134. Frostathingslov VII, 8, 9.
  135. Note on p. 102.
  136. Scheibelreiter p. 160.
  137. Scheibelreiter p. 340.
  138. ^ Gregory of Tours VII, 28.
  139. ^ Gregory of Tours VII, 35.
  140. Scheibelreiter p. 348.
  141. ^ Gregory of Tours VIII, 30.
  142. Qualiter nos hoc tempore victuriam obtenere possumus, quia ea quae patres nostri secuti sunt costodimus? Illi vero aeclesias aedificantes in Deum spem omnem ponentes, martyres honorantes, sacerdotes venerantes, victurias obtinuerung gentesque adversas, divino opitulante adiutorio in ense et parma saepius subdiderunt. Nos vero non solum Deum non metuemus, verum etiam sacra eius vastamus, ministros interficimus, ipsa quoque sanctorum pignera in ridiculo discerpimus ac vastamus.
    (How can we men of this age win victory if we do not keep what our fathers observed? They built churches, put all their hopes in God, worshiped the martyrs and honored the priests; thus they won victories and often subjugated enemy ones Peoples thanks to God's help with sword and shield. We not only do not fear God, but also devastate his sanctuaries, kill his servants, and even loot and destroy the relics of the saints to scorn and mockery.)
  143. Sed quia omnia, quae gloria vestra profert, recta veraque esse consentur, quid faciemus, quod populus omnes in vitio est dilapsus omnique homine agere quae sund iniqua delctat? Nullus regem metuit, nullus ducem, nullus comitem reveritur; et si fortassis alicui ista displicent et ea pro longaevitate vitae vestrae emendare conatur, statim seditio in populo, statim tumultus exoritur .. et in tantum unusquisque contra seniorem saeva intentione crassatur, ut vix credat evadere, si tardius silire nequiverit.
    (But even if we consider everything you say, glorious sir, to be true and right, what should we do when the whole people are depraved and everyone has their desire to do what is wrong? King, nobody the duke, nobody the count; and if this perhaps displeases one of us and he tries to improve it for the sake of your well-being and long life, an uproar and indignation immediately ensues in the people.)
  144. Note on p. 59.
  145. Hrabanus Maurus: De rerum naturis seu de universo . Jean-Paul Migne ( PL 111) Sp. 442.
  146. ^ Alcuin: Letters. In: Monumenta Germaniae Historica . Epistolae IV. No. 19, p. 43.
  147. Note on p. 60.
  148. Ruprecht p. 50.
  149. DR 334 in Skåne also reports a train to the north, although it remains open whether it is Sweden or Norway: "Faðir had these runes chiseled after Assur, his brother, who died in the north on Viking."
  150. Heimskringla. Saga Hákonar góða. Cape. 8th.
  151. DR 29: "[...] put this stone after [...] his brother. He found death on Gotland. Thor consecrate these runes. "
  152. U 258: “Gunnar and Sassur had this stone built after Gæirbjörn, their father, the son of Vittkarl in Svalunæs (?). Norwegians killed him on Knorr Asbjörns. "
  153. N 102 from Ringerike in Buskerud : “Out and about, and without drying towels and food, you can get to the wasteland in Vinland's ice cream. Evil suppresses happiness when you die early. ”Another translation brings:“ […] you get into cold wind ice in East Greenland. ”The word óbygd denotes East Greenland .
  154. ^ Translation by Werner Trillmich .
  155. Ruprecht p. 85 f.
  156. Ruprecht p. 88.
  157. Ruprecht p. 90.
  158. ↑ The fact that coastal robbery was a problem up to 1100 is evident from the Eiríksdrápa Markús Skeggjasons about Erik Ejegod (1095–1103): Str. 6: víking hepti konungr fíkjum (The Viking suppressed the king drastically) and Str. 22: hilmir lauk við hernað olman / hauðr Eydana skjaldborg rauðri (The ruler sealed off the land of the island Danes with a red shield castle against wild plundering).
  159. Ruprecht. 86.
  160. ^ Wilson RGA p. 59.
  161. Lebecq, RGA keyword Friesenhandel , Vol. 10, pp. 69–80.
  162. Askeberg p. 7.
  163. ^ Wilson p. 60.
  164. The Angelsaxon Chronicle for the years 920 and 921.
  165. The Angelsaxon Chronicle for the years 894 and 906.
  166. The Angel Saxon Chronicle to the year 918th
  167. Wilson p. 60 f.
  168. VG 20: “NN set up the stone after Gormar, his son. He was slain in England. ”And VG 61:“ Tola placed this stone after Geir, her son, a very respectable drengr, who was killed on the western voyages with Viking. ”They are believed to be older than Kunt's undertakings.
  169. Svanberg p. 22; DR 266: “Nafni erected this stone after his brother Toki. He found death in the west. ”Sö 166 (probably from the 990s):“ Grjutgarð, Æinriði, the sons, did this after their bold father. Guðver was westward in England, received a share in the Danish tribute and manly attacked castles in Saxony. "
  170. Krag p. 18.
  171. U 343/344 (a pair stone): "Karsi and [...] had this stone built after Ulf, their father. God help his spirit and the mother of God. But Ulf has received Danegeld three times in England. That was the first that Tosti raised, then that of Þorkætil, then that of Knut. ”Tosti's Danegeld is added to the first 911 payment. For the interpretation of the names see under Danegeld .
  172. ^ Wilson p. 64.
  173. DR 345: “Sigref had this stone erected after Forkunn, the father of Knut's husband Asulf. God help his spirit. ”And DR 337:“ Svæin and Þorgot made this kumbl after Manni and Svæni. God help her soul well. But they are in London. "
  174. Stone N 184 from Evje ( Aust-Agder ) from the time shortly after 1015: “Arnstein erected this stone after Bjór, his son. He fell in the army [líð = army] when Knut attacked England. "
  175. SM 29: “U .. erected the stone after Þorgeir, his father. It ended in England. ”After the cross on the stone he was a Christian. VG 187 shows with a cross that Christians are also meant here: “Gæiri put this stone after Guði, his brother. He died in England. "ÖG 59:" [...] Björn and Asbjörn erected this stone after Vigfast, their father. He found death in England, Hælga's son. "
  176. SM 5: “Gaut set this stone after Kætil, his son. He was least of all a villain among people. He lost his life in England. ”And ÖG 111:“ Væring built the stone after Thjælfi, his brother, the drængr. He was with Knut. "
  177. The already mentioned stone SM 42 with a cross.
  178. Wilson RGA Vol. 26 143.
  179. Sheehan
  180. Ruprecht p. 51.
  181. ^ Richter p. 93.
  182. ^ Gregory of Tours III, 3.
  183. Sawyer (2000) p. 17.
  184. Einhardi vita Karoli chap. 14: Frisiam quoque atque Saxoniam haud aliter atque suas provincias aestimabat. (He also saw Friesland and Saxony no differently than his provinces.)
  185. Askeberg p. 6.
  186. In the Ólafs saga helga chap. 131 describes a dispute between fellow passengers on a Viking train over the distribution of the booty. It was about a valuable collar that Karli had removed from the idol Jómali and that the head of the entire company now claimed for himself. Then Karli said: “King Olav owns half of all the booty that I win on this trip. I have now given him the collar. "
  187. Hans F. Haefele (Ed.): Scriptores rerum Germanicarum, Nova series 12: Notker der Stammler, Deeds of Emperor Charlemagne (Notkeri Balbuli Gesta Karoli Magni imperatoris) Berlin 1959, pp. 77-78 ( Monumenta Germaniae Historica , digitized version )
  188. "After the death of the emperor [ Charlemagne ], the empires that had obeyed his command, since they lacked a legitimate heir, break away from their association in parts [...] each one prepares to get a king out of the Inner to choose. ”(Regino von Prüm, Chronica to 888.)“ Many little kings in Europe or in the empire of Charles rose up. Berengar made himself king in Italy, but Rudolf decided to keep Upper Burgundy for himself like a king; Louis, Boso's son, and Wido resolved to have Belgian Gaul and Provence like kings; Odo claimed the land as far as the Loire and the Aquitaine province. According to this, Ramnulf wanted to be considered king. ”(Annales Fuldenses for the year 888) after Hageneier p. 80.
  189. Svanberg p. 22.
  190. On a silver neck ring from Troms in the Tromsø Museum is the inscription N 540: "We drove against Friesland's men and shared the booty."
  191. Ronart p. 30.
  192. Claus Krag p. 17.
  193. Sö 65: “Inga built this stone after Oleif, her heir. He plowed eastward with the stern and died in the land of the Lombards. "And Upplands Runeinnskrifter (U) 141:" Gudlaug had the stones erected after Holmi, her son. He died in the Langobardland. "
  194. Svanberg p. 22 f.
  195. Askeberg p. 10.
  196. Vita Anskarii chap. 30th
  197. Nerman p. 18 f.
  198. Nermann S. 92, the 103rd
  199. ^ Nerman p. 113.
  200. ^ Nerman p. 110.
  201. N 62 (2nd half of the 11th century): "Engli built this stone after Þórald, his son, who was killed in Vitaholm [near Kiev], between Vitaholm and Garða."
  202. VG 181: “Kofi built this stone after Olaf, his son, a very respectable Drengr. He was slain in Estonia. Hvirðr chiseled the stone. "
  203. This is how Ruprecht p. 133 interprets the stone VG 184: “Gulli built this stone after his wife's brothers, Æsbjörn and Joli, very respectable Drengir. They found death in the warband in the east. "
  204. U 356: “Ragnfrið had this stone built after Björn, her and Kætilmund's son. God help his spirit and the mother of God. He fell in Virland. And Asmund scratched. ”And U 533:“ Sigruð had the stone built after Anund, her son. He was slain in Virland. "
  205. SÖ 39: “Hermoð had chiseled after Bergvið, his brother. He drowned in Livonia. "
  206. U 582: “Björn and Igulfrieð erected this stone after Otrygg, their son. He was slain in Finland. "
  207. VG 178: "Agmund built this stone after Æsbjörn, his relative and NN after her husband. And he was Kolben's son. He found death in Greece. ”Picture here
  208. SM 46 from around 1050: “[…] made this kumbl (monument) after Svæin, his son. It ended in the east in Greece. "
  209. DR 108: "Tosti, the blacksmith Aswiðs, built this stone after his brother Tofi, who died in the east."
  210. Ög 81 (beginning of the 11th century): “Þorgerð erected this stone after Assur, her uncle. He perished eastward in Greece. ”On the back it continues:“ Gulli had five sons, a good man. Asmund fell at Fyris, a fearless fighter. Assyria ended with the Greeks in the east, Halvdan was slain on Bornholm, Kari at […] and Boï is dead. "
  211. Sö 148: “Þjuðulf, Boï, they set up this stone after Farulf, their father. It found its end in Garðaríki. ”And the already mentioned stone Sö 171.
  212. Ruprecht p. 27.
  213. Hávamál verse 73
  214. ^ Verse 75. Genzmer p. 144; Gutenbrunner p. 85
  215. Heimskringla. Harald's saga towards hárfagra chap. 18 about the battle of Hafrsfjord.
  216. Falk (1914) quoted on p. 2 Sternberg: The attack weapons in the old French epic . Marburg 1886, p. 15: "An armorer spends 12 years cleaning the steel of three swords."
  217. In the Þiðreks saga, Velent cuts a blade, mixes the chips with flour and uses it to feed his poultry. Then he glows the feces of the poultry and forges a splendid sword. The often described hardening of swords by immersion in blood or animal poison is probably due to this, as in Beowulf's sword hunting. (Falk 1914, p. 3)
  218. Falk 1914, p. 8. Königsspiegel chap. 38. and Rudolf Meissner's translation (1944) fn. 176.
  219. In Frostathingslov V, 7 the raising of arms in the Thing Assembly is mentioned as a sign of approval. So also Tacitus: Germania , 11 and Grágás in the addendum on the law of the Icelanders in Norway.
  220. Heimskringla. Ólaf's saga Tryggvasonar. Cape. 18 and more.
  221. Brøgger p. 270.
  222. Heimskringla. Harald's saga hárfagra. Cape. 11 and the Ólafs saga Tryggvasonar. Cape. 103.
  223. Heimskringla. Harald's saga hárfagra. Cape. 11.
  224. Brøgger p. 273 considers the numbers to be poetry.
  225. Heimskringla. The story of King Olav the Holy Cape. 50.
  226. Heimskringla, Hálfdanar saga svarta. Cape. 4th
  227. Heimskringla. Harald's saga hárfagra. Cape. 43.
  228. Heimskringla. Hákonar saga góða. Cape. 24.
  229. Falk, hæropstilling p. 77.
  230. See also the translation by Paul Herrmann
  231. Possibly it was the Bravoll battle, of which Saxo Grammaticus in his Gesta Danorum 8th book chap. 4 Explanations of the first nine books of the Danish history of Saxo Grammaticus , 8th book chap. 4 reports to such a formation: At Bruno, Haraldi loco aciem statuere iussus, cuneo frontem molitur, Hetham vero in dextero latere locat, Haconem laevo praeficit, Wisnam aquiliferam facit. (On the other hand, Bruno was given the task of setting up the order of battle instead of Harald; he formed the front meeting into a wedge, placed the Hetha on the right side, the Hako as commander on the left, and the Wisna as the standard bearer. German translation )
  232. Falk, hæropstilling p. 81.
  233. Falk, hæropstilling p. 80.
  234. Heimskringla. Hákonar saga góða. Cape. 30th
  235. a b Heimskringla. Ólaf's saga helga. Cape. 226.
  236. Heimskringla. Harald's saga grafeldar. Cape. 6th
  237. Heimskringla. Hákonar saga góða. Cape. 6th
  238. Svanberg p. 36 f.
  239. Capelle p. 41.
  240. Rǫgnvaldr Jarl, Lausarvisur 1
  241. ^ Translation by Boyer, p. 271.
  242. Roesdahl p. 25.
  243. Egils saga chap. 55.
  244. ^ Adam of Bremen I, 60.
  245. Ruprecht p. 93.
  246. ^ Adam of Bremen II, 26.
  247. Ruprecht p. 95. The fact that missionary work was also carried out by the Eastern Church in Scandinavia is reflected, for example, in the Grágás Islands, where the official acts of Orthodox and Armenian clergy are discussed. Church buildings of Byzantine style in Sigtuna (St. Olov) and Visby (St. Lars and the Holy Spirit Church around 1220) also bear witness to this.
  248. Ruprecht 95.
  249. U 1028: Ásbjôrn ok […] [l] andi (?). Guð sviki þá, he hann sviku (Ásbjörn and […] God betray him who betrayed him), similar to SM 92. At the church of Sjonhem (Gotland) there is a stone with the text in translation: “Rodvisl and Rodälv built them Stones after their three sons, this one after Rodfos. He was maliciously murdered by the Wallachians (Romanians) on a trip abroad. God help the soul of Rodfos. God destroy those who corrupted Rodfos. "


  • Den ældre Gulathings-Lov. In: Norges gamle love indtil 1387 . Vol. 1. Christiania 1846, pp. 3-118. Translation: The Right of Gulathing. Exercised by Rudolf Meißner. Germanic Rights Vol. 6. Weimar 1935.
  • Edda : Olafur Briem: Eddu kvæði . Skálholt o. J. (1968) for the Icelandic citations. Felix Genzmer: Edda. Vol. 2: poetry of gods and poetry. Düsseldorf 1963.
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  • Hirdskraa. In: Norges gamle Love indtil 1387 . Vol. 2 Christiania 1848, pp. 387-450. Translation: Norwegian Law of Allegiance. Exercised by Rudolf Meißner. Germanic Rights Vol. 5. Weimar 1938.
  • Notker der Stammler : Notkeri Gesta Karoli (Notker Taten Karls). In: Sources on the Carolingian Empire History. Third part, (Freiherr-vom-Stein-Gedächtnisausgabe, Volume 7), Darmstadt 1975.
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  • Snorri Sturluson: Heimskringla. (Ed. Bergljót S. Kristjánsdóttir among others). Reykjavík 1991, ISBN 9979-3-0309-3 (for the Icelandic citations). German: Snorris Königsbuch . Düsseldorf / Cologne 1965. Vol. 1–3.
  • Steinkjer Viking trading post


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