Even if you are one of the biggest fans of the top-rated TV Series, Vikings, you will find yourself with more questions than answers, especially when it comes down to where the Vikings came from. How did an entire generation of unique and the most historic beings come to be? Where did they come from, and what made them as ruthless as they were depicted to be?
Well, in this article, we’ll look at everything you need to know about the Vikings and where they came from.
But first, did you know that the name Viking is a Scandinavian name derived from Old Norse’s “Vik,” which means a bay or a creek, and Vik formed the root name for Viking, meaning a pirate.
Where did the Vikings come from?
A Viking, also known as the Norseman or the Northman, is believed to be a member of the Scandinavian seafaring warriors believed to have raided, subsequently colonizing most parts of Europe. Their pillages, plunders, raids win, and losses are believed to have taken place between the 9th and the 11th centuries. During the time, the Vikings are documented to have had a rather disruptive influence on European history.
The Vikings are said to be pagan Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish warriors, and that they would have been prompted to carry out their raids, not because of one reason, but a combination of factors ranging from overpopulation in their homes to the relatively high level of hopelessness seen in victims abroad. Driven by different needs, the Vikings would transcend into some of the most ruthless but organized raiders, traders, pirates, explorers, and colonized of the time. The Vikings are said to have traveled via sea from Scandinavia before taking control of most countries across and beyond Europe.
One of the things that stands out from the Vikings’ history is the fact that they were made of several landowning chieftains, along with clan heads, freemen, retainers, and numerous energetic clan youth (members) who would seek adventure, as well as booty in lands and settlements overseas.
Notably, the Vikings, back at home, were primarily independent farmers. It was when they were away at sea when they’d be the pillagers and raiders we all know about today. And it would appear that the Vikings and the Scandinavian countries possess substantial and practically inexhaustible surplus in manpower. The leaders also wielded a significant amount of power and authority, organizing warriors onto groups of conquering armies and bands. The Vikings seem to always have teams ready to go to war, easily negotiating the seas using their longships, as well as the mount-hit-and-run raids across towns, cities, and settlements along multiple European coasts. These individuals would burn and plunder, and also kill. A killing would earn the warriors the name víkingr to mean pirate.
Regarding the Vikings’ actual ethnicity, no one seems to know exactly who they are or where they are from. And in most cases, the ethnicity of the Viking armies would be unknown.
Interestingly, their expansion into the Baltic lands and Russia is largely attributed to the Swedes. And in the non-military colonizations based in the Faroe Islands, Orkney Islands, and also Iceland, it’s clear that the attacking Vikings were the Norwegians from Norway.
So, to answer your question regarding who the Vikings were, the perceptions of the Vikings may be inaccurate as they weren’t a race, per se, which means that the Vikings don’t have a common patriotism or ancestry, meaning that there is no specific blood-related tie that relates and connects the Vikings. However, most of the Viking’s pillaging and plundering cities are known to come from parts of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. Historical records, however, note that there were Vikings from Estonia, Finland, and Saami. Their homes of origin notwithstanding, the Vikings’ common ground, and also what set them apart from other people from the European countries include the fact that they are said to have come from uncivilized lands and that they weren’t Christian or aware of the existence of Christianity.
Reasons for the success and popularity of the Vikings
In addition to issues like overpopulation, the Vikings also seem to have opted to venture out of their homeland, looking for riches rather than land. In the 8th Century AD, for example, the larger Europe was becoming richer, fuelling the growth of trading centers like Dorestad or Quentovic, both in Europe, and Hamwic in London (Hamwic is modern-day Southhampton), as well as York and Ipswich in England.
At the time, the Scandinavian fur was highly prized across the main and new trading markets, and trade with the Europeans was successful. While selling fur, the Scandinavians also learned about the new sailing technologies, and the knowledge gained would go on to ensure significantly high growth in wealth, even as it fuelled conflicts between the European Kingdoms.
As they sought success, fertile land became an appealing option for them. The Vikings also found that these lands were controlled jealously by the Jarls of the owners of the lands (and men), also known as Earls in English. The lands were also owned and controlled by the Self-proclaimed kings who took whatever they needed from others, from the fertile lands and areas that didn’t experience too much war or war-like tendencies.
From their homes in Scandinavia, the Vikings began their earliest raid in 793 A.D. when they attached the Lindisfarne monastery located off the coast of Northumberland in North-Eastern England, marking the birth of the Viking Age. This raid kicked off with more earnestness in 865 when a warrior force that was led by Ragnar Lothbrok-Halfdan’s son – Inwaer/ Ivar the Boneless, and Ubbe (Hubba). This fuelled conquest led to the Vikings taking over the kingdoms of East Anglia, Northumbria, and the subsequent reduction of Mercia to a fraction of its initial size. After Europe, the Vikings raided the Western Seas, Ireland, and Vinland; before exploring further to France and the Carolingian Empire.
The Viking Age came to an end in 1015, fading by the 10th Century.