First of all, we should determine the “real Vikings.” The point is that “Viking” is the name of the profession. The profession of severe Nordic sailors, which for three centuries were spreading terror on coastlands of Europe, North Africa, Middle East, and almost everywhere not far on foot from a longship moored in a bay. While robbing, killing, and raping drew the first charts, they were the first Europeans visited North America and improved the idea of sailing at all. And the main thing about Vikings: they never wore horned helmets!
The origins of such funny and educating occupation are hidden in the territories they settled. Woody highlands with plenty of bays called “fiords”, blown by cold and strong northern winds created hostile circumstances to agriculture (they could be sown, but the results were poor).
According to this, there were a lot of bonds (non-noble free man) on a relatively small peninsula with the only few efficient ways to feed himself, his wife, his mistress, and a bunch of kids from both:
- Timely extermination of excessive kids or exile them to live sole and independent (which is almost the same);
- Ability to correctly hold an axe and a sword to forcibly take away something needed;
- Communication skills allowing a creating a band of savage (actually, they were far not less civilized than arrogant Europeans) bullies and take them on a search of the better fate, lands, or just for getting a drink with Odin.
For the last described way, they started to build the most strong and fast ships of that time, containing 40 men on average. The first time Vikings appeared in Europe was in 793 at the British island called Lindisfarne. At first, the main targets of invasions were monasteries (silver, gold, and potentially obedient slaves gathered in one place) and the main tactic was “hit and run.” Gradually, their ambitions grew up and ninth century became a century of massive Viking-rush with systematic capture and occupation of robbed territories.
Their Favorite Entertainments
- Tours. Vikings were one of the best sailors of that time and really loved traveling (also stealing and killing together). They conquered the Black, White, Caspian, Mediterranean, Norwegian seas and even the Atlantic Ocean on wooden boats. These guys sailed mainly with the aim of rob and fight but sometimes geographical discoveries happened (Greenland, America, and others);
- War. Severe Norsemen loved not only severe campaign but a severe war. Victory in severe battles was ensured not only with inborn severity – they had unique units such as longships or berserks and unique tactics;
- Weapons and armors. The most popular weapons were axes and lances. Axes were relatively cheap and useful – you can fix your boat with it, cut down some trees or break someone’s skull. More rich individuals could afford swords and chainmail. Shields were nothing but expendable material;
- Torture and executions. They were virtuoso at this and practiced such things as heimnar (cutting off legs and arms as a punishment), bloth (animal and human sacrifices), dropping babies onto spears (what is more, own babies. Was set only in case of hungry times or inability to feed a baby and only if a baby was born 2-3 days ago). There are also legends about such executions as “blood eagle” (separating ribs from spine and “opening” it like eagle wings, for more fun unprotected lungs could be salted) and “a walk around tree” (Victim’s belly is cut, guts are released and nailed to the sacred tree or stone and victim is forced to walk around it). However, these methods were not confirmed.
Some More Vikings Features
Except being great sailors and warriors, Vikings were good at trading. Progressive ships availability let them commit long and profitable trips. The other reason is that Vikings objectively evaluated their strength and realized that not every city can be invaded. However, quite often they combined business with pleasure and used trading ships for scouting.
To distinguish namesakes, Norsemen used nicknames describing, as usual, individual character features or outstanding acts. The most pathetic were: Selvie The Skulls Crasher, Eiric The Bloody Axe, Bjorn The Ironsides etc. Also, nicknames described outward (Ragnar Shaggy-Breeches, Harald Grey-Skin) or silly accidents of childhood (Cod-Devourer, Nose-in-porridge).