Origin of the vikings:
IV Millennium B.C., the coat of ice that cover Europe Septentrional begin to go back, the new lands going to transform in forest. The nomads who live in these territories walk between the Norwegian fiords, the Danish islands and the Swedish rivers and lakes. They try to find new lands for hunt and begin to adventure in sea inside using dismantle and lights canoes. They work with the ambient around them, so use the wood and the stones. They going to change the habits and begin to work in agriculture, domestic the reindeer who give them meat and good skin. The population going to growth and continue with the hunt and fishing ( is important the diet of fishes and seafood). In the third millenium with the arrived of the metallurgy (bronze, gold) the quality of live going to be better.
The fallen of the Roman Empire permit the expansion of some Asiatic and Europeans civilizations, one of them going to be the Scandinavian. One Danish king going to do maybe the first raid in Occident Europe. It is preparing the Viking period; the vikings begin to have commercial relations in Europe most in Great Britain and the Baltic zone.
Born of Sweden, Norway and Denmark:
When the vikings begin their first attacks they are one only village who speak the same language ( antic Nordic), they have the same heroes and the same gods. Sweden born at the beginning of the S.VII by the union of the two villages: the Götar and the Svear. The Svear was a big maritime empire with a prosperous trade. At the final of the S IX Norway was divided in little villages difficult of govern, the king Harald unify the territories. Of Denmark is difficult to know when constituted one kingdom but the historians coincide in was a strong kingdom since unmemorable times.
EXPANSION AND CONQUEST OF VIKINGS:
In the first years of the IX century the population in Scandinavian countries began to growth based principously for the best conditions climatic that origin a best agriculture and best aliments. The territory is going to be small for the habitants, other factor important for explain the expansion can be the Scandinavian tradition in this years. Their society use to obligate at the young people to find their own live in other lands, or condemn the criminals to travel a new worlds. Other important topic for explain the big number of expeditions is the fact that the Scandinavian society was very interesting and passion for travel and find new worlds. For all those things the vikings going to travel for all Europe and conquests a new lands.
The conquests of the Norwegians:
The influence of the Norwegians we can divide in two parts: The South (Europe); and the West ( Greenland and North America). In Europe also we can see the conquest of Ireland and the attacks in Europe. In the West we can see the conquest of Iceland, Greenland and the expeditions in North America.
The conquest of Ireland:
Since the first moments the Norwegians vikings made settlements in the desert regions of the north of Scotland (the Shetlands, The Oakland and the Hebrides). The coasts of these regions are used like bases for a progressive expansion in Ireland and the Mann Island. In this way in the 790 aprox. the vikings attack convents in Ireland and the islands of the North. the vikings attacks are based mostly in the surprise factor. Their drakkars appears in the horizon and some men down in earth and attack the monasteries, stile the silver and precious metals, the animals and some men that then going to be sale like slaves. In 839 one viking float with Thorgisl in the head of the group arrived in the north of Ireland, but this time not going to be for attack some places, going to be for conquest the Island. The viking army had an enormous success, and the vikings going to create Dyflinn (Dublin) and Thorgisl going to be named king. Some years after on 851 the vikings Danish going to conquest the island. Since this year until 1000 the Norwegians and the Danish going to fight for the control of the island. Finally Boroimbe going to expulse the vikings and going to be named king of Ireland.
Raids in Europe Continental:
Many are the raids of the Norwegians in Europe, in 843 they heist Nantes, in the mouth of the river Loire, soon arrived in the center of France and made sure the route of the salt, they settle in the island of Groix, in the northwest of the mouth of the river Loire. In 844 heist Cadiz and Sevilla in the south of Spain, and in the X century assault Santiago de Compostela and Lisboa. Also can be possible the contact of the Norwegians with the north of Africa, that can be prove for the Arabs coins that they going to bring to Norway.
The conquest of Iceland:
On 815 one viking expedition to came from Faeroes Islands, arrived in Iceland and settle there. After this first settle, a big migration going to move to Iceland. 10.000 vikings arrive in the island between 870-930. Expelled without difficult the Irish who live there. In Iceland they going to find a very good conditions of live, good vales for the agriculture, forest with wood, good place for the livestock, sea with fishes and important quantity of iron.
During the first years the vikings the island have one group of vikings, but with the increase of the population the island going to divide the territories in four. The four territories down the government of the General Meeteing (Althing), that meeting couldn´t avoid the fights between the clans of the different parts of the island.
The Icelanders going to commerce with Europe, but with the big increase of the population the resources going to be scarce and the habitants had to find new lands (30.000 in 930 - 60.000 the next century).
The conquest of Greenland:
On 982 Erik the Red going to be accused for one crime in Iceland, have to go of the Island. Going to travel towards the west and found one land that other viking saw in other travel. Erik went deep in the island and found fertile vales, with that discovery came back to Iceland and told about the new land that he saw, they called “green lands”. Many settlers going to do the new travel to Greenland, 25 ships began the trip, but only 15 arrived in the great island. The settlers made two settlements one in the west and the other on the east of the island, Soon going to know that the island didn't provide the resources that they needed. Around the year 1000 the population could be 30.000 habitants, that small society going to survive five centuries.
Arrival in America:
On the year 992 the Erik's the Red son Leifr, left Greenland in direction west, he tried to find news settlements with wood short in Greenland. At the first Leifr arrived in glacial lands, the coast Labrador. Go to the south and found Terranova, where stayed the winter. Came back to Greenland and told the story about the new lands. Thorvald went to find new lands and the first arrival the vikings had to fight against the natives “Skraelings” (uglier men). Years after, 1020, other viking with 170 men, traveled to America with the intention of settle there, began to commerce with the natives, but the troubles with them came and the vikings came back to Greenland and forgot the new world, a too hostile land.
The conquests of the Danish:
Since the final of the VIII century the Danish going to attack England and the east of the Caroling's empire. Charlemagne and Luis “the pious” achieved expel them. So we can divide the expansion of the Danish in two parts: the expansion for the French territories (the raid to Paris, the born of Normandy and the conversion to the cristianism); in other hand were the raids in England (conquest of Great Britain and expeditions in Mediterranean, the arrival of the defeats).
The raid to Paris:
Since the 834 the Danish began their expansion for Europe. The Vikings went up the river Elba and assaulted Hamburg, in France a lot of French villages are assaulted and the king Carlos the bald couldn't do nothing for stop the Danish. The Vikings went up the river Sena and arrived in Paris, one small city fortify, defended per 200 men, because the king went to fight to Italy. The Danish are maybe around 30.000. The first days the fire devastated the city, but the endurance of the soldiers is hard. During one year the Danish couldn't enter in the city. After one year the Vikings could navigate for the river Sena and plundered the rest of France. Left in Paris some men to keep the siege of the city. On 886 arrived in the city the king Carlos the bald to try liberate the city, But he doesn't manage to conquer definitely them, and allows them to continue navigating and to attack Burgoyne, city that didn't want to recognize it as king. Finally, Carlos the Bald is eliminated as king, for not being capable of doing out them Vikings Eudes that had resisted during the siege turns into new king. But France has remained divided in small kingdoms. Eudes is a king of the western Francs.
The birth of Normandy:
Thanks to their long assaults, the Vikings finish for be establishing along the low course territory of the river Seine. Rollón is his chief. The new French king yields Normandy to Rollon , doing that this one meets obliged to defend it; This way, the new French king has managed to install the whole army of Vikings, who has established in Normandy, among the center of France and the possible futures attack Vikings. So the Vikings turn into farmers and turn into the Normans.
Rollón helps to Eudes, also called Carlos the Simple one, in his struggle against the duke of Burgoyne Raül. Nonetheless, it is the latter who wins and overthrow to Carlos as king of the Francs and seizes the opportunity for attacking Normandy. But the Vikings defended violently and even counterattacked, making sign the peace and gaining some lands more. The Vikings Normans, approximately 5.000, mix with the French population. Many of these turn to the Christianity being able to marry women Francs. Those who once would be Vikings and now they are Normans do of Normandy the most important and powerful state of the Christian west. Since we will see later on they will conquer England.
The conquest of the Great Britain and the expeditions for the Mediterranean Sea:
The assaults against the great island began in the year 835. After expelling to them Vikings Norwegians they have free route. For thirty years they devastate the south and the center of the Anglo-Saxon territory, after to go up the river Tamesis. At the end of the IX century occupy the principal cities: York, Nottingham, London and Cambridge. But the English leader, Alfred of Weesex, is a great warrior and resists; the year 886, even, recovers London and a good part of the south of the country. The year 899, after his death and with the arrival of more Danishes, the English began to lose his efforts.
On the other hand, in the year 859, the Viking Hastein leaves his refuge in England directing a fleet of 60 drakkars. They go on the south, coming to the strait of Gibraltar, it crossing and plundering Algecires. Besides, he attacks the coasts of Morocco and in the year 860 he leads his ships against Luna, city that situated to the north of Rome in Italy.
Arrival of the defeats:
At the end of the IX century, the whole territory understood among the north of Yorkshire and Tamesis is controlled by the Danishes Vikings. But the first years of the X century are years of defeats for them. The Norwegian Vikings proceeding from Ireland attack the north, while on the south, the king English king Eduardo harasses the "Danelag", Danish territory. For if this was small, the same Denmark is assaulted by the Swedish. In the year 927, Eduard wins to the Danish troops and recovers York. The Vikings Danishes, cornered in Danelag, meet obliged to be allied by the English men for defending itself from the common enemy: the Norwegians. They managed to refuse the Norwegians and returned to fight between them, arranging the king English Aetherld the year 1002 the execution of all the Danishes established in England.
After this slaughter, Svein, king of Denmark, took terrible reprisals and the year 1009 conquers the island obtaining a Danish victory. His successor, Knut the Big one, expels the English dynasty Wessex. But after his death, the year 1035, his children allow that his success should be uselessly and the Danishes are not late in leaving Great Britain. From that moment, the Danish expeditions were going to be less important. The Danish influence in the Great Britain finished in the year 1069, when group of warriors Vikings felt down under the assaults of the Norman army commanded by Guillermo Conquering, duke of Normandy.
The Swedish and the Orient route:
In the IX century, the Rus, since one was naming in Finn the Swedish, there are imposed the Slavonic tribes, which are in a rich and immense, but totally untid country. To explain the expansion of the Swedish we it can divide in three parts: “The establishment of the empire of Kiev ",” The routes from Sweden up to the Byzantine Empire “and the “assault to Constantinople ".
The establishment of the empire of Kiev:
Towards ends of the IX century, the Swedish Viking Rurik takes the city of Novgorod, to the east of the current Finland. Kiev, city that situated some to the south of Novgorod and to which it is possible to come navigating the river Dnepr, turns into core of communications among the north of Russia and the Byzantine Empire. Oleg, successor of Rurik, advances for the Dnepr and occupies Kiev; his power includes, then, the territories understood among Novgorod and Kiev. That last city, the new capital of the empire of Oleg, turns, in a little time, into one of the most prosperous cities in as for trade, art and culture. Oleg gives the orders to construct ships of war to cross the river up to the Black sea.
The routes from Sweden up to the Byzantine Empire:
The routes that the Swedish vikings have to cross to come to the Byzantine Empire are long, hard and dangerous. They have to cross the Baltic Sea up to the Gulf of Finland. Suddenly, go up the river Neva, that already presents series difficulties like for example rapid and the dangerous rocks that precede the lake Ladoga, before coming to the current Leningrad. Some merchants establish there, but those who decide to continue have to go up the river Volkov that leads to the lake Ilmen, but especially to the commercial city Novgorod. Continuing on the south, they have to go up recontrol the river Lovat. Realizing a transport for land, on trunks of wood, the Rus come to the top course of the Dnepr or the Volga. The first river facilitates the access to Byzantium, while the second one ends to the sea Caspian Sea, providing a link with the caravans of camels proceeding Bagdag's. Other used itineraries, but less, for the Swedish are, for example, to follow the Vístula, which spends for current Warsaw, up to the Dniester and by means of this one up to the Black sea, or to mend the Dvina, which spends for current Riga, and to come to the top course of the Dnepr.
It is necessary to say, also, that the Vikings place defensive camps along his routes to defend them from possible assaults, since also they strengthen the centers of sale.
The assault to Constantinople:
How I had said before, Oleg gives the orders to construct a fleet for going down up to the Black sea; in the year 907, Oleg is in Constantinople directing 80.000 men distributed in 200 ships. An enormous army, but the way is blocked to them to the Byzantine capital. Then, the Vikings raise their ships and put wheels; when the winds are favorable, they throw themselves full speed against Constantinople. Byzantine, scared, accepted a commercial deal and pay an important tax.
The Viking expansion did not end here, and in the year 963, Sviatoslav, free of Oleg, conquers the big Khan and the Bulgarian tribes to the Danube. Unfortunately for the Swedish, his leader is murdered to hands of the warlike nomadic invaders proveniences of the steppes of Central Asia. Vladimir, son of Sviatoslav, expels of the zone the invaders and consolidates the Russian increasing empire. It is at the time when the emperor of Byzantium, in the year 988, proposes to the master of Russia marriage with his sister, in exchange for his conversion to the Christianity, Vladimir agrees for political reasons. Under threats of death, he forces his subjects to turn like he, thing that is done massively. The Greek orthodox priests travel in great number to Russia. Thus, the Scandinavians fuse with this new culture. The relations with Sweden, the former mother land, are minimal. In the year 1040, Ingvar, the Great Traveler, goes at the head of 30 ships, from Sweden towards the Moslem Central Asia, but he dies the following year in Syria. His death marks the end of a glorious epoch for the Swedish Vikings, marks the end of their brilliant expansion.
ECONOMY OF THE VIKINGS
The Vikings were principally farmers, though also they were going fishing and hunting. All the products that they were obtaining thus were using them so much for own consumption as to trade and to be able to obtain like that other necessary products. The trade, it was one of their big activity and it is about that more it is possible to speak. Also we will speak, about the agriculture and the fishing.
The Vikings commerce with quite types of freight goods:
The Swedish Vikings commerce with all kinds of products: they import species and silk of East by means of the Russian rivers, gold of the Danube, weapon of the kingdoms Francs, and jet of England and wines of the valley of the Rhine. They, on the other hand, export especially slaves, fish, honey and skins (leather). Iceland, on his part, has to import wood due to the poverty of his forests, as also wine, food, copper and iron; it sells the wool of their sheeps, skins(leather), falcons, and fish. Norway and Greenland, besides, export ivory of walrus. The Greenlanders, on their part, were trading with alive bears in exchange for food, which it was what they were lacking.
The administration and the unions in the malls:
The malls were submitted to a jurisdiction that was forcing them to protect the merchants inside the enclosure of the city, law that was applied by a representative of the king, that in addition, he was collecting the taxes. Thus, the royal officials were occupying a place increasingly important in the administration of the city. The merchants try to limit the influence of the royal power on their business and finance, or, to have more freedoms: to obtain it, they create associations or unions entrusted to protect them commercial. These organizations have, also, the function to replace to the family of the merchants, often in other lands; this way, the members of the unions join to drink and to amuse their self or for ritual meetings.
The Vikings sign commercial agreements:
In the year 873, an embassy of Denmark appears in the court of Luis Germanic to sign an agreement, according to which the merchants of both countries might cross the borders for being able to buy and sell in peace. This one is an example of the commercial agreements between Scandinavian and other kingdoms. The Vikings use the silver as currency of change: they calculate the value of the objects in relation with the weight in silver. In addition, they fuse jewels with this material. Nonetheless, the Scandinavians do not reject the foreign coins that circulate along their markets: simply they weigh and know this way what value they have in relation with his their own coins of silver. In the middle of the century X, the Vikings coins start assembling them, or, to saving. The merchants Vikings, especially the Swedish who were more merchants among three nations Vikings, they realize the buy or sale of products forthwith, but sometimes they meet obliged to surrender to the local customs. One of them, for example, is that of the mute trick that is specially original: the merchant Viking deposits in a been agreed place his commodity, together with a drawing from which it expects for the change; later he has to go and not return until several hours later and matter then the articles deposited by the old settlers or his own products if there has no been agreement.
The Scandinavian malls:
Two very important malls are Birka and Hedeby.
Placed in the island Björkö to the lake Mälaren, not very far from the current Stockholm, Birka is one city strengthened governed by a representative of the king. Nearby there is a fort where soldiers lodge Vikings entrusted to guard over the safety of the market. Inside the enclosure, there are several docks, which are small channels that enter to the city and where the ships could come out safely. During the winter, the waters of the lake freeze and the shipments come to the port in bobsled. Birka is a rich and prosperous city, but not only is it a place of trade: also handcrafted products are made as for example pearls of crystal or of glass, famous in the whole Sweden. Birka, so resplendent during the IXth and beginning of the X, it loses importance slowly towards ends of this century. Hedeby, on Jutlàndia's east coast, begins as a small center without importance that is rapidly annexed in Denmark. About the year 900, it is recovered by a Swedish king. Besides mall, it is, as Birka, a handcrafted center where there are made objects of glass and jewels done with amber that later are exported. Hedeby prospers enormously during the X century, but it started declining as Birka in the century XI, until it is devastated by the Norwegian Harald Severe.
Besides the big malls like Birka and Hedeby, every settlement has his local superette. These markets supply all the Scandinavian peoples (villages). In them, the Vikings interchange their products agrícoles and handcrafted products by means of the barter.
Most of the Vikings was farmers, included those who were traveling towards Western Europe or the seas of the north. The principal cereals cultivated in the Scandinavian farms during the age Viking were the barley, the rye, the oats, and in Denmark, besides, wheat. Other cultivated products were the pea, the beans and the cabbages.
Several excavations have demonstrated that the Vikings already were using several technologies of culture, since for example of working the land before sowing, and therefore, that were in use ploughs. Already there were in use, also, other tools like sickles and spades.
The Vikings villages were surrounded with fields of culture, but also they were placed near fields for shepherding, since the baby of animals also was important for the Vikings. There were growing up cows, sheep, goats and horses, all of them used so much for obtaining meat and milk as for the transport.
In Norway, concretely, there were cultivated, near the coast where the temperatures are more moderate, fruit-bearing trees. Nonetheless, the agriculture in this country has never been too important and very little lands are cultivated. In Denmark, where the lands are drier, and in Sweden, where the lands of limestone are fertile, the agriculture was important enough.
In some places of Scandinavia - especially along the Norwegian coasts - the fishing developed role more important than the agriculture for the economy of the Vikings villages. They have found several tools of fishing that try that they were going fishing with nets and harpoons. Also there have been proved that already were hunting seals and walruses in the waters of the north. They were taking advantage very much of the skins and, in case of the walruses, the ivory that was much estimated in the whole Europe in that epoch. In Norway, the hard clime was inciting the Vikings to be established on the coast to fish whales. Besides, Norway was exporting big quantities of fish became of the oceans The Atlantic and The Arctic. A part of this fish, it was consumed in the same villages complemented by marine birds. In Sweden it was fished very much, but not so much marine mammals like seals and walruses. In Denmark it was fished of everything, fished in general and mammals.
THE CULTURE OF THE VIKINGS:
The ships and the naval construction:
A strong dependence of the trip and the maritime transport led the Vikings to turning into skilful builders of ships and excellent navigators. His ships were changing from his ships of war long billiard cues, squeezes and of few back-stitches, up to (even) more robust that the settlers of the northwest brought for the seas of the north, and the most robust merchant ships of load. On the other hand, also there are constructed different ships of fishing, ferryboats, and other types of ships for the trips of interior.
The hulls are constructed on a long and deep keel, which was forming the skeleton of the ships; a keel was going on this one to support the base of the mast. The sterns bow finely and, in the most prestigious ships, the prows were finishing in heads of dragoons or spirals with metal accessories. The helms were like enormous oars subjected to the starboard of the stern and handled by the helmsmen by means of a cane.
To promote the ships, both the candles and the oars were used, and sometimes two sew simultaneously. The genius of the Vikings was to know to use these two systems of navigation, since every system needed a type of certain hull. Besides, the Vikings invented the mast of candle on that it could put and be extracted.
Skills of navigation:
Without magnetic compass, letters of navigation and any other instrument, the Vikings were using environmental methods of navigation to be orientated. There was in use a type of navigation, based on the calculations of the course and the successful speed. The directions were calculated by means of the sun and the stars, as also the wind direction and the surge. The speeds were calculated simply using their own experience. On the other hand, the Vikings, expert navigators, knew the signs of change of time, of wind, and the indications of land beyond the horizon. All these skills were used also by the former Chinamen, the Phoenicians and the Greeks. Nonetheless, there are several theories that affirm that the Vikings already were using some type of compass, some say one of solar type, others the similar one to the invented one for the Arabs, the kamal.
Navigation in land:
The rivers went for the excellent Vikings routes of penetration to the interior of the continents. If the waterfalls or the rapid ones were preventing the advancement, they were lowering the mast, were placing the oars in and were transporting the ship for firm land up to the following navigable river. To obtain it, they were making roll the craft on trunks of tree.
The Viking religion is polytheistic and according to the beliefs Vikings, the gods reside to Asgard, which is like the Olympus in the Greek mythology. Asgard is a fortress to the center of which an ash-tree grows always green named Yggdrasil, the roots from which come up to the hell. It branches are so high that they cross the sky.
The Vikings gods:
The religion of the Vikings is composed by three big gods, who reign Asgard: Thor,
Odín and Freyr. We meet, so, a polytheistic comparable religion in a general area, to the Hindu.
Odín is the supreme god, dominator, god of the wisdom, of the war, or more exactly of the victory. It does not take part, in the battles since he is a strategist, the trickery and the force uses. The people Viking imagines it riding on any part of the world on a horse of eight legs named Sleipnir. While he does it, two ravens escort it, one of them is Hugin, representative of the thought, and another Munin, representing the memory. This fact symbolizes that the intelligence complemented with the recollection is tied to the power.
Thor means "thunder", first-born of Odín, travels for the sky in a car dragged by bucks, provoking a big gale similar to that of a storm. He defends the men of the threat of the giants, since also of the cold and of the hunger, possesses a hammer and a mace of short handle, symbol of the lightning. He is the god most wanted by the humble people. He has a kingdom named Thrúdvangar and his palace is called Bilskirnir.
Finally, Freyr, god of the fertility, is good and generous. His sister, Freyje, goddess of the beauty, is a head of the Walkíries. The Walkíries, warlike virgins' daughters of Odín, have been sent by this one to judge the value and the force of the soldiers Vikings. When a battle finishes, they accompany the heroes died in the combat up to the Wahlhalla, which supposes the eternal happiness of this people. The name of these warriors wants to say literally " those who choose those who have died ", for the reason commented previously. For the Wahlhalla, palace of five hundred forty doors, Odín waits for his daughters and for his warriors deaths. Here they all have a happy life, fighting by daytime and amusing their self in the night eating meat of the wild boar Saehrimnir, which after being eaten every night, revives on the following day. In the same way, the warriors, however much they fight never die, since they get up intact.
About these gods there is all kinds of secondary divinities, from elfs up to geniuses who reincarnate, often, souls of deceased.
The Vikings and their relations with their gods:
The gods protect the family, the goods and their honor, but also they protect the state, to the warrior and to the peasant. They help the king to support the peace and make the crops more propitious. For the Vikings, the gods are like companions, even it might say teachers. In other hand, they have rights and duties. The people are totally ready to venerate them; in exchange, they wait for remuneration and if this one does not come they get angry and can manage to kill the intermediary, or the priest.
The rites include, of natural form, inside the occupations of the daily life: the fact of seeing how his animals die, for the peasant, already is an act of worship, as also the fact that a warrior tries to conquer a territory or that a head of the family that wants to see the progress of it. Nonetheless, the most important religious act is the collective act, which takes place outdoors in the meadow, or in the clear one of the forest, near a spring or a great rock. There is not known the existence of any building of worship. On the other hand, the Vikings were venerating a trunk of tree of enormous size that they were identifying as universal column that bears the weight of the world: this tree is the Yggdrasil.
Between the Vikings there do not exist professional priests who devote themselves exclusively to religious tasks. To every level, the chief is at the same time the priest. Thus, the family father is forced to develop this function.
The Vikings honor their protectors up to unimaginable limits:
We have known thanks to the Mahommedan narrator Ibn Fodland, that the merchant's rus (proveniences of the Viking Sweden) adored the gods, when they were traveling the river Volga, in small islands. In that skins and slaves were landing, together with bread, vegetables, meat and their beer the “nabib”. Later they were going to a great chunk of worn out wood; of human appearance as if about a god it was treating itself. They were enumerating their offerings and their desires, with the hope that they were fulfilled. In the Viking age, the animal sacrifices were numerous, but these were not the only ones, also it had of human beings. Every New Year they were celebrated holiday of solemn and religious appearance, in that men were sacrificed to appease with the blood the rage of the divinities. Men and animals were killed to blows of axe, or hung on a sacred forest. The deaths were preceded by long banquets.
The universe of the Vikings is not homogeneous: it consists of several worlds, three or two according to the beliefs of every village. Dominated by Asgard, to the center one finds in Midhgard the residence of the men. The divine power live in Utgadhr, who is in an exterior ring. The cosmos is kept stable thanks to it backbone, a great ash-tree eternally green Yggdrasil that as woman gives life to a series of springs, birth of the big rivers. In it leaves the gods meet, managing to cross the lacteal route.
Exempting some inscriptions recorded in stone we don't have knowledge of the Viking writing of before 11th century. All their history, poems (eddes), legends (sagues) ... they have been transmitted orally by the passage of time. A few Icelandic monks wrote everything in the 13th century and this way they have come to the present day. The oral tradition was an art in the most isolated villages, the young boys with explanatory capacity were contracted by the rich ones, and were explaining continuously the big prowess's of their heroes. A few heroes who always possessed the same qualities: value, illustrious birth, audacity and vindictive character. These usurpers are a few authentic followers of the adventure, of the war and of it dangers. In it adventures they land in distant lands, conquer, plunder and marry foreign princesses; later they return to their country, where they are owners of their land and found a family. These sagues if they were spread well could manage to be a success in the whole Scandinavia.
The last hero was Harald a specialist in the war, he was to the service of the Byzantine emperor and king of Norway. He fought against the Danishes and ended up by dying to 1065, one English arrow crossed his cheast. He was the last warrior and bandit of those who for three centuries had lived with the torch in a hand and the sword in other one. With his death his surname and his lineage are ended.
Later only there survives an incomplete and deceitful legend, in which these rough warriors preserve the image of pagan and bloodthirsty barbarians; and there lose that of big conquerors and creators of a type of totally new state and of numerous commercial cities as Smolensk. But a new village with Viking blood is born and fortifies, they are the Normans been afraid in Europe, who sail along England to begin a new chapter of the history.
The conversion of the Christianity:
The raids on the Frankish kingdoms and the British Isles brought increased contact with Christianity. Although Vikings often seem to have maintained their beliefs throughout the periods of their raiding, there was considerable pressure to convert to Christianity if they wished to have more peaceful relations with the Christians. This could happen on a political level, as in the Treaty of Wedmore in 878. The treaty bound the Viking leader Guthrum to accept Christianity, with Alfred of Wessex as his godfather, and Alfred in turn recognized Guthrum as the ruler of East Anglia.
Another more or less formal convention applied to trade, since Christians were not really supposed to trade with pagans. Although a full conversion does not seem to have been demanded of all Scandinavian traders, the custom of 'primsigning' (first-signing) was introduced. This was a halfway step, falling short of baptism, but indicating some willingness to accept Christianity, and this was often deemed to be enough to allow trading.
Further pressure came as Viking raiders settled down alongside Christian neighbors. Although scholars disagree on exactly how extensive the Scandinavian settlement was in different parts of the British Isles, few people would now accept that the Vikings completely replaced the native population in any area. In particular, the settlers often took native wives (or at least partners), although some settlers apparently brought their families over from Scandinavia. The children of these mixed marriages would therefore grow up in partially Christian households, and might even be brought up as Christians. Further intermarriage, coupled with the influence of the Church, gradually brought about a complete conversion.
The peaceful co-existence of pagans and Christians is suggested by some of the coinage of Viking York. One coin type carries the name of St Peter, rather than the ruler. This seems very obviously Christian, but on many of the coins, the final 'I' of 'PETRI' takes the form of Thor's hammer, and some of these coins also have a hammer on the reverse. These coins seem to carry a deliberate message that both paganism and Christianity were acceptable.
Attempts to convert Scandinavia began even before the Viking Age. The Anglo-Saxon St Willibrord led a mission to Denmark in 725, but although he was well-received by the king, his mission had little effect. The Frankish St Ansgar led a second wave of missionary activity from the 820s onwards - with the support of the Frankish Emperor Louis the Pious. Ansgar and his followers established missions in both Denmark and Sweden, with the support of local rulers, but made little impact on the population as a whole.
Archaeological evidence suggests that Christianity was adopted piecemeal in Norway, with settlements converting or not depending on whether the local chieftain converted. The same idea can also be seen on a larger scale. In the mid-tenth century Hakon the Good of Norway, who had been fostered in England, tried to use his royal authority to establish Christianity. However, when it became clear that this would lose him the support of pagan chieftains, he abandoned his attempts, and his Anglo-Saxon bishops were sent back to England.
Harald Bluetooth of Denmark was apparently more successful. His famous rune stone at Jelling tells us that he 'made the Danes Christian', and this is supported both by Christian imagery on Danish coins from his reign and by German records of the establishment of bishops in various Danish towns. This began the lasting conversion of the Danes. Although there may have been a brief pagan reaction after Harald's death, the influence of the Church became firmly established once Cnut became ruler of both England and Denmark in 1018.
Further attempts by Anglo-Saxon missionaries in the late tenth century had only a limited effect in Norway and Sweden. Olaf Tryggvasson of Norway and Olof Tribute-king of Sweden were both converted, but this had limited effect on the population as a whole. A further wave of conversion in Norway under Olaf Haraldsson (St Olaf) (1015-30) was more successful and gradually led to lasting conversion. Sweden, however, faced a pagan reaction in the mid-11th century, and it was not until the 12th century that Christianity became firmly established.
THE VIKING ART
The Scandinavian art of the Viking times was essentially decorative, with their models based on several stylized animals, though it goes to have epochs during which the motives of the plants (floors) or of the interlaced tapes became popular.
The Viking art was opened for the influence of Western Europe, but the foreign ideas were taking selectively and were adapting to the Scandinavian taste. The artistic currents lasted enough and they were following the production of jewels. An important innovation during the Viking age interfered the sculpture of stone. Previously, only decorated stones existed.
The social classes:
The society is divided in three big groups: the slaves (traells) the freemen (bondis) and the chiefs.
The slaves or they are of birth, or are prisoners of war, or are bondis condemned for the justice. Their image doesn't correspond to Viking's prototype that we all have, since they go with the shaved head and with clothes of wool without dying. In every farm there can be a score of traells, some of which have respectable positions like babysitters of the children, or the men who could manage to be managers of exploitation. Only at the end of the Viking age, when the Christianity starts fortifying to the north of Europe, appears the freedom of the slaves.
The bondis, are the owners of the land that they exploit and his social position is envious, unlike of the other European farmers. These freemen form the base of the economy, take part in the politics, have right to give justice. Theoretically they all are the equal ones, but indeed those who possess more lands and come from a more ancient family, are more respected. The free women do not enjoy so many rights as the men, but they are respected all over the world. They devote themselves to realize domestic tasks and administer properties.
As the society Viking growth, the society diversifies and appears a class of specializing craftsmen. Between them the blacksmith is most respected, since he makes the indispensable weapon for the offensive and the defensive, in this range also there are included the soldiers, the merchants, the carpenters...
The chiefs and the kings are chosen by the assembly of the Thing, their power depends on the will of the people, but they have right to apply the law that seems to them to be more suitable. The essential function of the king or of the chief consists of supporting the safety, the prosperity and the honor of the people; it plays also a religious role. Up to the arrival of the absolutist monarchies established by the Christianity, the kings do not assume any legislative power. Only the assembly of the Thing does the laws.
It is the assembly during which there take decisions that they have to see with the daily life of the Vikings. It is the unique legislative and juridical organ of the Viking society. It has different scales: to scale cantonal (as minimum in Sweden and in Denmark), the Thing is composed by all the illustrious men by fixed domicile; to provincial scale, it groups the representatives of the different zones.
The assemblies take place one or two times a month, outdoors. Every province passes his own laws and one declares with entire freedom on the offers of the king. The debates are directed by the elders and the jurists, since they are the only ones that remember the former laws that are not written.
On the other hand, the Thing does also of court. The Vikings like the judicial debates and take pleasure in prolonging them. The claimant asks for justice to the assembly of his zone, but if the case seems to be delicate it is brought to the regional assembly. For the Vikings, the judgment does not have interrogation and the defendants defend themselves to yes same. An accused has all the possibilities of being absolved, only if the people support them. The sanctions for misdemeanors are almost always fines paid for the family of the defendant to that of the plaintiff.
Since already we have said, the Thing takes charge choosing also the kings and the chiefs.
The family (oet) is the strongest core of the Viking society, in which one the honor is very important, since that of every member reverberates on that of the entire surname. Therefore the individuals are solidary between them, turn excluded from the oet it is comparable to being an exile.
Every family lives in a farm or elongated house, of an alone room of twelve meters of length, the roof of which it is a ship "volcat" born by two column rows. When some hole was taking place it was rapidly covered by seasoning and the whole roof was covered with straw. In Iceland the farms were much separated since it was predominating over the extensive ranching, therefore the villages were scanty.
The only room is communicated by the courts and by the exterior by a long corridor, which together with the thick walls of rabble, they protect from the cold. The walls do not have windows, and there is the only orifice directly communicated with the exterior for the exit of smokes. Curiously we find steam baths, predecessors of the current sauna. The Vikings were interested for supporting the healthy skin. With the years the farms were extended if the family was growing and the kitchen and the baths could be in foreign buildings.
Construction and distribution of the rooms:
The Vikings construct the houses with wood, though the stone also was in use in some zones, particularly in Norway. The basic form of the buildings was the rectangular one, sometimes with curved walls, of changeable lengths. The width was in the habit of being of less than 5 meters and was depending on the girders that were bearing the roof. These simultaneously, they were born by two column rows that they were crossing the building and were dividing it, so, in three sections, which were a central ship and two of wings tighter. Nonetheless, sometimes the columns were pressed of hands to the walls and were providing, thus, an interior uninterrupted space. In the houses where there were divisions, one of the points of the house was in use as granary for storing the culturing and was in two places at the same time in pictures for the cattle. This one was providing heat and, besides, it was sure, guarded of the thieves. Along the walls there were banks, which were serving also to work. There were no too many furniture.
The buildings of the cities were smaller than the farms, since they did not need space dedicated to storing or to the cattle. Also they had rectangular form and were divided in three rooms: the biggest was the home(fireplace), while those of the points were dedicated to the handcrafted works and to the storageIn some houses they have found ovens, though these were not too habitual and the doors of the houses could be closed with key.
In house, the women work the fabrics and the men make weapon and jars and repair them. Inside the house, apart from the oet, also there live the lovers of the bondi and his children, who are in the habit of being slaves. Everything is made inside the house constructed normally by his owner, the habitants work and decorate the iron, the wood and bones, and nobody needs anything that itself could not elaborate.
Inside the farm legends are explained, banquets are done in honor to the gods and big projects are well-considered; we can say that the unit that provides the house is fundamental for the Viking society.
THE END OF THE VIKING AGE:
The 11th century saw the end of the transition of the Scandinavian kingdoms to national states, a process that it had begun two centuries behind. The ambitious programs of urban foundation, the extension of the ecclesiastic patronage to the pagan recently turned north, and the process of civilization, developed it role in the continuous growth of the centralized power and the royalty. At the same time an expansion of the population goes to be towards more marginal lands. All these factors introduced material changes in the Scandinavian landscape at the end of the Viking period.
Therefore, the Viking culture, or the incredible and dangerous trips, the cruel conquests, the extensive commercial nets, all this rich, different, and original culture with an own personality was disappearing progressively, as Scandinavia was becoming civilized and the Christianity was establishing itself. It is possible to say that the Viking culture begins it decadence at the end of the with century.
To know the history of Europe and of our forbears, not only we have to remember the powerful Roman Empire or the educated Antique Greece. We have to know that, parallel to these big civilizations and we might say that to the opposing pole of our continent, the already known ones Vikings, probably not so Barbarian as we them believed in countries as Spain, they go to settler and to influence from the western Europe, by means of the rivers Elba, the Rhine, the Seine, the Thames or the Vístula, the oriental one by means of the Dnièper, Volga and Dnièster, up to the north of Africa or the East of America. Countries that they contribute in a very direct way to the construction of current Europe and also the most powerful economically and scientific they have Viking roots: the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden and Norway. Even if they were not as civilized as the Roman Empire and they did not have a code of laws so developed, also they had parallel narrated organizations, for example, in the statement of the War of Julio Cesar's Galias.
The current Europe owes an important part of it development to the Viking conquests, not so much in the military area, but also in the maritime experience that later contributed to the capacity of Dutches' navigation and of whom they did the biggest empire that has never existed, the Britisher.
In my own opinion this essay use to me for know more about one aspect in the Europe history, very important, that in Spain we have quiet forget.
Origin of the Vikings………………………….3
Born of Sweden, Norway and Denmark……...3
Expansion and conquests of the Vikings……………..3:
The conquests of the Norwegians…………….3
The conquests of the Danish………………….5
The Swedish and the orient route……………7
Economy of the Vikings……………………………….8:
The Viking Art.………………………………………….15:
The social classes…………………………….15
The End of the Viking Age.……………………………..18
Sawyer Brigit and Peter, Medieval Scandinavia, 1993 AND.
Sawyer Peter, Kings and Vikings, Scandinavian and Europe AD 700-1100 1982.
James Graham, Los Vikingos, Ediciones Folio 1996.
Los Vikingos Reyes de los mares, Ediciones Aguilar, 1998.