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The Age of the Vikings.docx

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Department
History
Course
History 2173
Professor
Barbara Murison
Semester
Winter

Description
The Age of the Vikings Introduction: th th -Period between late 8 century and the middle of the 11 century when the Normans conquered England and in the British Isles they committed the first act of pillage that we have recorded when they sacked a monastery at Lindisfarne in 793 -There may have been raids before but this date was very important -The end of the age can be considered when they accept Christianity and give us paganism but still others say it was when they became indistinguishable from other populations through marriage -Vikings were mainly from Norway and Denmark and they made and impact of the history of Western Europe as raiders in the beginning but they also carved out kingdoms for themselves across Europe and they made a reputation as skilled merchants and colonists -They brought parts of the British Isles under their control and areas north of there and they settled Iceland and they began to colonize Greenland later and they explored North America but without permanent settlements -The most adventurous Vikings reached Vinland in search of land to occupy and some of our evidence come from sagas and they say it was discovered when ships went off course and it was abut Eric the Red and he said his son discovered it and they were possibly talking about Newfoundland -L’Anse aux Meadows was a site in Newfoundland that has turf constructions very much like those in Greenland but the area already had a native population before the Vikings got there and they were very hostile -The area was a long way from friends or relatives and settlers were few at this site and the weapons were not superior enough over those of the natives to make a secure holding -The Leaf the Lucky was Eric the Red’s son and he may have got as far as the Hudson Bay and into Virginia but there is no concrete evidence for this -Eastern Europe was a place where they were active but there was not much to plunder so they focused more in Western Europe but there were furs in the East and the potential for enslaving people to make profit/tribute -They were successful in the east at times and some immigrated to northern Russia and some went further still to Constantinople which was still thriving and they had heard that the Emperor always needed people for his body guards (The Varangian Guard) and they became a part of this group -One of the most famous members of this group was Harald Hardrada and in 1066 he lost a battle against the Duke of Normandy while trying to take England before he became king -They hadthany names given to them by various groups such as Pagans, Gentiles, Danes, etc -In the 9 century it was only the English that called them the Scandinavian word Vikings which meant they were from Viking Motivation: -One suggestion was that they suffered from over population and there may have been land hunger and they would move to other areas to get all the land they could want -The first generations were craving wealth and then they would go home to spend and display their goods so it was not land motivated -Skaldic Verses say honour was also a reason for leaving home to get the spoils and Rune Stones support this -Western European sources and the Frankish source the Annals of St. Bertin say they were all sinners who brought retribution upon their selves and they said they were looking for easy money, then trade, and ultimately they wanted land to dominate other areas and many people cut their ties with their homelands to stay abroad -There were many chiefs and kings in Scandinavia and some would leave to get away from an enemy or they were exiled by someone hostile to them and some saw this as an opportunity -Later whole armies would winter far from home and they were used to this separation and they were the foundation of all the settlers -Rollo who was a Viking leader from Normandy was granted the Lower Seine Valley by Frankish kings who wanted him to stop other raiders in 911 -Other immigrants came home with their wealth and they tried to build up their status and Harald Hardrada did this and gained military prestige -Commercial links and growth of networks helped Vikings raids because they had familiarity with European ships and they adopted sails of their ships and their contact with merchants let them learn of their wealth and the potential in the east and they learned of wars going on and when to exploit -Their self confidence is always alluded to and their spirit of adventure and many kept hoards of valuable objects that they got in various ways and many coins were Arabic and from many other areas and they were made into jewellery and many of the gold works were expertly made -Another hoard was discovered in a chest near a river and it was lead lined and there were over 700 silver coins with many more gold objects and it was believed to be the loot of a Viking army from different sources like Italy, Ireland, etc Myths about the Vikings: -The Vikings have bad press and are shown as savages who appeared suddenly to attack and commit terrible crimes but this was largely made up by contemporary clerics who believed they were a punishment from God -Anglo Saxon chronicles and the St. Bertin Annals say in 841 the Danes attacked and plundered a town and took captives and they ruined the monastery and took payments to leave (this would have showed them the town’s wealth and whether they should return or not) -These accounts show them as unusually violent but the Christians were just as violent when they waged war -An example of Viking cruelty that was probably imagined by later authors is the Blood Eagle that was first recorded in the 12 century (after the Viking Age) and it might be a misinterpretation of a poem about a killing of an Anglo Saxon man by a Viking during the conquest of York -The story says that the Viking carved into the man’s back and eagle but later references show is as a ritual related to Odin where the victim’s back would be cut open, the ribs pulled out, and then the lungs as well but this is doubtful and likely an exaggeration Size and Composition of Armies: -There is exaggeration when recording raids because documents about the army have more information than on the number of ships than that of men and we don’t know how big the ships were or how many men they carried -Early Medieval sources cite round numbers which is always suspicious and often numbers were exaggerated for the sake of epic poems and Viking numbers were especially enlarged when the Christians won to make their victory even more impressive -The St. Bertin Chronicle says a Viking from Denmark sent 600 ships and if we were to assume there ere 50 men per ship the number would be so large it would be impossible for the time and they were probably fighting in war bands of 1000-2000 men and because of their raiding activity they really didn’t need large numbers most of the time but when they did foreign campaigns more men were recruited -In 865-880 Alfred was reigning over the Anglo Saxons and this period saw the Vikings take huge amounts of land but Alfred was able to save most of his territory unlike others and many works exaggerate how great he was by enlarging the number of Vikings he faced) -Great armies were in the low thousands and this was common and not overly large and the armies were raised thr
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