We’ve looked at longships and Viking battle (and raiding) tactics.
Where did the Vikings actually travel to though? If you drew a line from Norway, Sweden or Denmark, any country you can touch (plus more) were basically settled, raided or traded with by the Vikings! Yep, they even went to America.
Their ethos was if the land was empty; settle it. If it was inhabited, trade or raid. That’s the name of the game!
Today’s post will give you a brief rundown of some of the places they went and what they did when they got there. Enjoy.
England & Scotland
England was one of the very first places to be terrorised by the Vikings, in AD 793 – at Lindisfarne. The monastery they raided still stands today and is open to the public. There, they slaughtered the monks and carried off all the valuable treasures within. The North east coast of England and to some extent Scotland was unused to foreign invaders, had very few defences but plenty of monasteries ready to be pillaged. Many were completely burnt down and destroyed.
By 860, Vikings were staying in England for the winter months and by 874 had conquered most of England by taking a large portion of Wessex after gains in Northumbria and Mercia.
Then, however, came Alfred the Great…
How many of you presumed the Normans were French, like I did until earlier this year? Just me? Oh, ok…
The name is kinda obvious, is it not? The region of Normandy was settled by Vikings from AD 911 after being ceded to the Viking Rollo by Charles III, following a series of devastating Viking raids including the siege of Paris. The conditions were a conversion to Christianity and an agreement to defend the lands from other Viking attackers.
Their descendants conquered England with William the Conqueror in 1066. So if anyone ever tells you the Vikings never fully conquered Britain, technically speaking that isn’t quite true. The Normans had adopted the French cultures and customs, however – so we’d be stretching things a little calling it a Viking invasion!
Norsemen came to Iceland in the 9th century, though they were settlers rather than Vikings – Iceland was uninhabited so there was no need for any raiding or fighting. Farmers and families arrived in their longboats from Norway, bringing the culture with them. Modern day Icelandic is the closest language to Old Norse – anybody able to read Icelandic can understand Old Norse as it was originally written.
The first settler in Iceland was Naddodd the Viking (AD 830) who discovered the land when he was blown off course en route to the Faroe Islands.
In the 10th century, South Western Greenland was settled by Vikings led by Erik the Red from nearby Iceland. Erik gave the name Greenland and established settlements along the fjords. He named it Greenland to encourage new settlers to consider following suit, though the region is mostly ice.
The settlement of Greenland was ultimately unsuccessful long term (the Norsemen had all basically vanished by the 15th century!) possibly due to decreasing temperatures – there was no word from them again after this period.
Greenland did however work as a springboard for the Vikings on their expeditions to Vinland, being between its North America location and the Viking settled Iceland.
Erik the Red’s son Leif Erikson discovered Vinland – thought to be Newfoundland, where the only permanent American Viking settlement has been discovered. The Vin part is thought to reference the fermented squashberries, gooseberries and cranberries rather than actual grapes.
There are examples of Viking conflicts with Native Americans as well as more positive examples of trade, but ultimately it looks as though the Vikings failed to establish a permanent foothold that was worth the isolation and hassle of the voyages back to Greenland and Iceland.
There are also many claims of Norse settlement in New England though none are officially recognised.