Famous Vikings occupy an important place in the history of Scandinavia which no one can choose to conveniently ignore. It does not matter what any person thinks or feels about what they did. Yes, they conducted raids, conquest and often created havoc. Nonetheless, Scandinavia as it is today is traced to these activities that brought and captives back home.
No one can try to tell a full history of the Scandinavia without mentioning the role of the Vikings in shaping it. It is true that the Vikings story arouses mixed emotions as the Viking age. Some people may wish to only talk about the Vikings in low tones but others amplify it as being an important part of the region’s history. The Vikings operations which included trade, raids, and brutal operations among others really shaped the social and political life of Scandinavia.
The viking history
A rich history of the Vikings is found in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. It is actually in these countries where ethe Vikings set their base. They could conduct raids including captivating beautiful women then sail them as wives to the Scandinavia – this can be found in stories about why Scandinavian women are so beautiful.
In actual sense, the name Viking is just used to guise piracy. So the Viking age is a time in the past where armed men would venture out to the high seas and other parts of Europe to conduct raids. Some of these raids turned out to be dramatic and wreaked havoc across continental Europe.
Reconnecting with the Vikings
Today, Viking vibes are so strong in Norway, with Viking villages, tours, history, and museums in surprising places in the nation.
The Norwegian Vikings were considered crazed warriors. A large number of the Vikings that utilized axes in battle came from the Norwegian part, as shown by the archeological evidence. The first evidence is that the Norwegians were considered the best sailors and builders.
The other pieces of evidence are that for a long period, the Norwegians remained pagans as compared to the Swedes. Besides, Norwegians are the bravest of the three Viking types. Lastly, Norwegians are the most adventurous and pioneering as compared to Danes and Swedes.
The Viking Age
A brief travel in Norway will expose to you some the captivating rich historical heritage as well as several visible Vikings traces and ruled the nation between AD800 to AD 1066. The Viking era started with Lindisfarne monastery around AD793, and it ended with the Stamford Bridge Battle around 1066. During that time, the English army was successful in repelling the Viking invaders who King Harald Hardrada led.
The Vikings established challenging social institutions and oversaw the introduction of Christianity in Scandinavia. This left a great mark in the history of Europe through exploration, colonization, and trade.
Norway’s Viking Kingdoms
Norway as it is today has witnessed a great transformation shaped by the Vikings, new trends and recent discoveries. Around the 9th century, the nation was made of small individual properties, holds, and kingdoms. Approximately, there were about nine small kingdoms, which occupied most of the Viking territory. Some of the kingdoms include Rogaland, Vestfold, and Kattegat.
The Locations of the Vikings
The Vikings were mainly in the oceans. The reason is that much of the population stayed in the coastal areas to fish and farm. Due to this, there were a few towns and cities until later in the Viking age.
Skiringssal was considered the largest population center, which was the home of about 500 Norsemen. It was the Viking’s sacred place and trade center in Norway.
The famous Viking leaders in Norway
The Vikings were Scandinavia’s inhabitants from the 8th century to 11th century. The Viking leaders includes Erik the Red who funded the Norse settlement in Greenland to Harald Hardrada the last prominent Viking leader.
Erick the Red
Erick was the founder of Greenland First Norse Settlement.
Born in Norway, Erick the Red was also known as Erik Thorvaldsso; a nickname which he earned as a result of his hot temper and red hair. The father was initially banished from Norway since he had killed someone, and this made him move with his family to Iceland.
In Iceland, Erik was also accused of manslaughter that resulted in his exile. After leaving the place, he sailed to an unexplored island and landed in Greenland with the aim of enticing the future settlers. After several years, he came back to Iceland, where he prepared a fleet of about 25 ships, and it carried colonists to Greenland.
During the peak, the colony of Greenland had about 5,000 residents. After the death of Erik, the Norse communities in Greenland went on before they were abandoned in 14th to 15th centuries. It is because of this that there is a mystery in the disappearance of Norse Greenlanders. The other factors that might have contributed to their disappearance are reduced trade opportunities and a cooling climate.
He was born in the lifestyle of Viking. He participated in several bloody raids in Europe since he was 12 years old. Erik was the many sons of the first king of Norway, Harald Fairhair. This made him learn that violence is the efficient way for one to distinguish himself as a Viking community.
He was the grandson of Harald Fairhair, who was the first king during that time to unite Norway. After the death of his father, he was raised in Norway, and in 991, he led England’s Viking invasion that ensued Maldon’s Battle victory. After that, England paid Vikings with the aim of preventing future attacks for some time.
At around 994, Olaf, as well as his friend Sweyn Forkbeard, Denmark’s king, launched England’s raid, and they considered themselves Danegeld. In 995, Olaf invaded Norway, where he was made the king after Hakon the Great, its ruler, was killed. As the king, he forced his followers to be Christians as Norwegians were initially pagans.
Harald Hardrada was the Last Prominent Viking Leader.
He was born in 1015 in Norway. As a teen, he fought the Stiklestad battle that was waged in 1030 by Olaf Haraldsson, his half-brother (king), who was exiled in Norway. The reason is that he was trying to return power. The forces of Olaf were defeated, and he was killed while Harald was sent to exile.
Later, Harald travelled to Constantinople, where he joined the prestigious Varangian Guard, Byzantine emperor. After he became wealthy with the well-equipped military, he came back to Scandinavia around the 1040s. At that point, he designed an alliance with a person who claimed the Danish throne, Sweyn Estrithson.
Harald formed an alliance so that he could combat the king who ruled Norway, King Magnus. Later he abandoned the partnership since he was made a Norwegian co-ruler. After the death of Magnus, he got full control of the throne.
He won most of the battles, and even in 1064, he made peace and gave up his Denmark claims. Later he decided to focus on England, and he invaded it for two years, where he won the Fulford Gate battle. Later, Harold Godwinson, the new king of England, wiped the army of Harold during the Stamford Bridge Battle, where he was killed.
It lies in the North of Trondheim, and it is the place where Olav Haraldsson lost his battle. Besides, it is a great museum, which is dedicated to the history of Viking.
In July, Stiklestad usually hosts their Olsokdagene. The festival is usually rich in food, trade, storytelling, and reenactments. It does make people feel that they are Viking kings. The museum has exhibits that give the people the chance to taste Norwegian life.
The Viking Farm at Avaldsnes
It is where Olav Tryggvason drowned wizards. It shows the way everyday Vikings lived. One can rent the Viking houses to get experience.
The famous Viking leaders in Denmark
The Danish Vikings were also known as the Danes, and they are believed to be the most politically organized as compared to the Swedish and Norwegian Vikings. Danes were the strongest among the Norsemen, both in terms of military and political power. Besides, the Danish Vikings were the first people to convert to Christianity at the end of the 9th Century.
Gorm the Old
Gorm the Old was the first to call himself Danish King, and he was also the first to utilize ‘Denmark’s name for the nation he reigned for from 936 CE until he passed on in 958 CE. Gorm ruled from Jelling, and in honoring his wife Thyra, he made the oldest Jelling Stones.
Gorm is King Harthacnut’s son. He was considered old as he was the head of the traditional ancestral of the Danish Monarchy. He was older as compared to the other monarchs, and since he lived so long, Gorm was blind when Canute, his son, was killed. His sons included Knut, Toke, and Harald Bluetooth.
Harald Bluetooth is the Danish who converted the Danes to Christianity through the miracles shown to him by Poppa, a cleric. The miracles included the routine holding of a red-hot iron bar, and it did burn because of the faith of Poppa. However, in a real sense, he converted, as he wanted to challenge the German invasion who were already Christians. It means that it would be difficult for him to justify the Christian kingdom attack.
Even though the Danish conversion is considered his greatest accomplishment, he was an effective ruler. He improved the infrastructure of his nation and also solidified treaties and contracts with the neighbors. Unfortunately, the conversion made Sweyn Forkbeard overthrow him and take overpower. Harald was nicknamed Bluetooth as he had a dead tooth that was blue. Ericsson, a Swedish Telecommunication Company, chose the name because of his Viking age. Besides, the founders believed that he had the capacity to unite individuals in peaceful negotiations.
Sweyn Forkbeard was Denmark’s ruler from 986 to 1014 after taking the throne from his father by claiming that he was horrible. In 1013, he became the first Danish King of England. Sweyn was a pagan, and he oppressed the Christians and even went further to expel the German bishops from Zealand and Scania.
Sweyn built an alliance with the king of Sweden against Olaf Tryggvason, Norwegian King. Besides, he lost the claims of Norway in 964 after his defeat against the German army. Olaf’s defeat made Norway and the Western Baltic Sea to be divided by the winners. He went ahead and raided England, of which he was declared the king in 1013 but died just five weeks of ruling.
Cnut the Great
He was a fierce Danish ruler who ruled England by conquering a large part of Northern Europe. He ruled England from 1016 to 1035. He is also remembered for becoming the king of Norway, Denmark, England, and parts of Sweden. His father was vein ‘Forkbeard’ who became England’s king in 1030.
Canute was an influential king. He united Danish and English kingdoms, where he also benefited. Apart from this, his Baltic Sea route control highly benefited the English economy and trade. He claimed Norway’s throne in 1028 after several years of conflict with the Scandinavia opponents.
Ragnar Lothbrok is a Viking warrior and farmer. However, there are inconsistencies regarding his existence. Despite the inconsistencies, history believes that he conducted several raids against the Holy Roman Empire and the British Isles during the 9th Century. According to the Old Norse story, his sons include Hubba, Inwaer (Ivar the Boneless), and Halfdan, who led the East Anglia invasion in 865.
Ragnar was the first Scandinavian to raid Britain. Besides, he was the scourge of early France and Medieval England as he raided Wessex and Northumbria kingdoms on several occasions. In avenging their father’s death, the sons invaded England.
Halfdan Ragnarsson is the Danish Kingdom founder, and he is believed to be Ragnar Lothbrok’s son, who was a famous Viking during the 9th Century. He participated in the Anglo-Saxon lands raids to the South. Together with his followers, he invaded River Tyne Mouth in 874 and participated in warfare with Britons and Picts of Strathclyde.
In 876, Halfdan distributed the York region among his men. Also, he is the father of the two kings Hróar and Helgi, who succeeded him in Denmark’s rule. Apart from this, he was the commander of the Great Heathen Army that invaded Anglo-Saxon England kingdoms from 865.
Famous Viking Sites and Museums in Denmark
- The Viking Museum at Ladby
- The Viking Fortress Trelleborg
- The Viking Ship Museum
- Kongernes Jelling
- Lindholm Hoje
- The Moesgard Museum
- Fyrkat Viking Center
- The National Museum
- The Aggersborg Viking fortress
- Bork Vikingehavn
- Land of Legends
- The Viking Museum
The famous Viking leaders in Sweden
The Swedes were initially known as Rus or Varangians, and among the three, they are the ones who remained Pagans for a long period up to the 12th Century. They ventured in discovering and pillaging new lands in the East of Dnieper and Volga rivers. Moreover, they were excellent tradesmen and explorers but not as violent as compared to the Danes and Norwegians. Their main aim was primarily to trade, and because of this, they created long trade routes around the Black Sea and to the middle East.
Björn was a Norse Viking and king of Sweden. From the 12th and 13th Centuries of Scandinavia history, Björn was the son of Ragnar Lothbrok, a Viking king. He was the first ruler in the Swedish dynasty (Munso).
In one of the adventures that he is part of, the crippled Brother Ivan the Boneless leads the gang, while Bjorn is believed to be a ferocious and capable warrior with the power of turning battle’s tide. He also took Viking warriors with him when raiding Italy, Gibraltar, France, Spain, and England. Björn was Viking king Ragnar Lothbrok’s son.
Eric the Victorious
Eric the Victorious was the first Viking king of Sweden. He won the Fýrisvellir battle at Old Uppsala after sacrificing to Odin that if he won, he would give himself for ten years. Besides, he was a monarch in 970. Eric the Victorious was the first ruler to be accepted by the Greats around Lake Vattern and the original Swedes around Lake Malaren.
Olof Skötkonung was Eric the Victorious’ son and a King of Sweden. His efforts of imposing Christianity were highly frustrated by non-Christian Swedish chieftains. Besides, he opposed the development of a strong Norwegian state, and this made him join the king of Denmark, Sweyn I Forkbeard, in a victorious war against Norway in around 999.
During his early reign, Olof led a Viking expedition to Wendland. He is also believed to be the first Swedish to be a Christian till his passing on. As compared to the predecessors who were into war, Olof is believed to be a prickly and haughty king who preferred royal sports to war.
Sigurd Ring was a king of the Swedes, as cited in the old Scandinavian sagas. His uncle Harald Wartooth gave him the leadership of Sweden. Later he tried to overthrow his uncle with the aim of taking Denmark’s crown. At last, he won the Battle of the Brávellir, which Odin is believed to have intervened by killing Harald. Moreover, he was the father of the Norse Viking hero Ragnar Lodbrok.
Famous Viking Sites and Museums in Sweden
- Birka Viking Village
- Rattvik Viking House
- Storholmen Living Village
- Stockholm Viking Museum
- Foteviken Open Air Museum
- Gamla Uppsala
- The Rök Runestone
- Stornäset Viking House
- Furudal/ Guidekullo
- Trelleborgen Fortress