Vikings

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TeeDee

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My knowledge of History isn't great and I know we have some very knowledgeable people here , so can you help the me with the following.

Vikings - were they exceptionally skilled warrior class that Hollywood seem to make them out to be ? or were they more Opportunistic raiders that simply had hit'n'run tactics nailed down whilst scavenging the coast line ( mainly ) .


If they were a skilled Warrior cast which weapons did they mostly favour?

Were they actually skilled with a Bow?

Much of my Knowledge of Vikings comes from such historical spot on accurate productions as 13th Warrior , Northmen & Kirk Douglas and his eyepatch in the classic The Vikings.
 
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Wander

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Firstly, it's fair to say there was more to the Vikings (we'll look aside the debate on the name for the time being) than just fighting.

Secondly, their fighting prowess.
If you read the Anglo Saxon Chronicle you'll find the Vikings, in pitched battle against an organised foe, lost as much as they won. Against unarmed and unprepared monks and peasants, they did very well.
It seems this is where most of their reputation stems from - to use modern parlance, they waged a terrorist war. And from this, their reputation for ferocity and deadliness stems.
The kingdom of Yorvik lasted less than a hundred years.

From archaeological excavations, you'd assume the spear was the most common weapon. Hollywood and TV like to portray them as axe-wielding fanatics charging forth savagely. But they would have used the same battle tactics of other armies of the period - the shieldwall.
Though swords and axes are also found in graves (like they are for other peoples of the time).
As for the bow? Yeah, they used them, but there's nothing to say they were particularly skilful with the bow. A few sagas and legends, but nothing 'historical'. Again, the same could be said for other armies of the period.

The real success for the Vikings came in their ability to assimilate and adapt. That;s where you should be looking for an explanation for their success.
 
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TeeDee

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Firstly, it's fair to say there was more to the Vikings (we'll look aside the debate on the name for the time being) than just fighting.

Secondly, their fighting prowess.
If you read the Anglo Saxon Chronicle you'll find the Vikings, in pitched battle against an organised foe, lost as much as they won. Against unarmed and unprepared monks and peasants, they did very well.
It seems this is where most of their reputation stems from - to use modern parlance, they waged a terrorist war. And from this, their reputation for ferocity and deadliness stems.
The kingdom of Yorvik lasted less than a hundred years.

From archaeological excavations, you'd assume the spear was the most common weapon. Hollywood and TV like to portray them as axe-wielding fanatics charging forth savagely. But they would have used the same battle tactics of other armies of the period - the shieldwall.
Though swords and axes are also found in graves (like they are for other peoples of the time).
As for the bow? Yeah, they used them, but there's nothing to say they were particularly skilful with the bow. A few sagas and legends, but nothing 'historical'. Again, the same could be said for other armies of the period.

The real success for the Vikings came in their ability to assimilate and adapt. That;s where you should be looking for an explanation for their success.

Thank you - not the Spartans of their time then.
 

Broch

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The Viking era is not my strong point TBH - we do have our own Viking specialist if you want to PM Wayland though.

From what I've read recently they have now decided that there was less blood and more talk - yes they could get a bit rowdy and some incursions were bloody but to assume all were would be like us judging all football spectators by the yobs that cause trouble.

However, you really need to discuss this with an expert :)
 
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TeeDee

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The Viking era is not my strong point TBH - we do have our own Viking specialist if you want to PM Wayland though.

From what I've read recently they have now decided that there was less blood and more talk - yes they could get a bit rowdy and some incursions were bloody but to assume all were would be like us judging all football spectators by the yobs that cause trouble.

However, you really need to discuss this with an expert :)
Happy to get a balanced and varied series of opinion - If Wayland wants to offer his opinion I'm most definitely listening.

:)
 

Wander

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Thank you - not the Spartans of their time then.
No, but I don't think anyone seriously thinks they are.
Truth is, we'll never know for sure. So it just becomes a case of argument and counter argument.
Choose your favourite point of view.
For me, the best evidence about their military success is to look at primary sources and if you do that you find they weren't that invincible militarily.
I did once go through the Anglo Saxon Chronicle to see how often they won/lost against an organised force - it really is a roughly 50/50 split. And ultimately they lose.
That says enough to me.

It's a bit like the English longbow and the Hundred Years War.
As the British we always hear about Agincourt (and maybe Crecy and Poitiers). And we are led to believe the longbow was supreme and the English gave the French a bloody good hiding.
This looks aside the number of battles when the French carved the English longbowmen to pieces and, of course, the French ultimately won the Hundred Years War. So much for the invincibility of the longbow.

Ditto the Vikings.
 
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Toddy

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They had 'issues' at home.
They opened up iron mines, and from that iron they produced farm tools. You can open up a great deal more land using a metal shod plough than you ever will using a wooden foot plough.
So, within three generations they had more arable land= more food=more children surviving to adulthood and healthier older adults too= population explosion and land hungry young men.
They traded, they raided, they traded some more, they settled, and it's noticeable that they were settled on what is now submarginal land in areas like the Lake District, not the best land, the stuff that the locals weren't likely to dispute much (I walked and dug sites in the area, the Viking farmsteadings were all highish and poor land)
In time they became integrated.
In Scotland's western isles they married into the local hegemony and it created what the Scots call Galgael. The foreign Gael.
The first two generations we have pagan graves (grave goods, etc.,) then only Christian burials.
So, grandpa might have been a viking but you're a local kind of thing.

Their trading though, and it wasn't always benign, they were known slavers, reached right down to Arabia. Christianity slowed down that trade eventually.

First European expansion I suppose :)
 

TeeDee

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Their trading though, and it wasn't always benign, they were known slavers, reached right down to Arabia. Christianity slowed down that trade eventually.

First European expansion I suppose :)
Didnt know that. I knew there was a massive slave trade to the Middle East. Whom did they ( the Vikings ) enslave and trade
?
 

Toddy

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Everybody they blooming well could :)

From 'criminals' within their own society, to the people they raided, to prisoners of war. The very word, slave, comes from their use of captured slavonic people.
Here we know they enslaved monks (look up eunuchs/christian/monks) people like the Britons they captured after the seige of Dunbarton rock in the Clyde, folks from raiding parties, etc., etc.,
 

TeeDee

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Everybody they blooming well could :)

From 'criminals' within their own society, to the people they raided, to prisoners of war. The very word, slave, comes from their use of captured slavonic people.
Here we know they enslaved monks (look up eunuchs/christian/monks) people like the Britons they captured after the seige of Dunbarton rock in the Clyde, folks from raiding parties, etc., etc.,
Thank you.
 

Paul_B

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There's a slightly political comment on reddit, please delete if wrong, which a person said Americans should be more viking. The other person said, ok women should hold the purse and a few other points about how it wasn't a dominant, Male culture the first person was thinking.

My view is the norsemen were not what was portrayed on screen. One documentary described the origins of the normans as north men from Scandinavia that worked their way round the coast of Europe to what is now France as mercenaries. Once in France they learnt the European politics and kind of assimilated and took over through political scheming than hard power. If true I think that's how large swathes of Britain now has viking blood in it's people. The growth that causes your little finger to bend involuntarily is supposedly one very good indicator of viking assimilation in your ancestry.

My Scandinavian ancestry comes from more modern times so I have possibly very little of the viking genetics in my family.

Truth is there's probably viking blood in everyone just like there's probably Celtic, angle, Saxon, etc in there too. More than likely a bit of every European possibly from wider afield too. Mongrel Europe for sure. ;)
 
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Broch

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Truth is there's probably viking blood in everyone just like there's probably Celtic, angle, Saxon, etc in there too. More than likely a bit of every European possibly from wider afield too. Mongrel Europe for sure. ;)
That's a myth. The Western British stayed very insular from most migration from the East. Current DNA studies are re-writing people migration history especially 'invasions' of Britain. A very large number of people from Western Wales, Scotland and the whole of Ireland have near 100% Neolithic DNA - (actually there's about 10% Mesolithic but that was brought over, it's not from the original Mesolithic peoples).

There's very little 'Celtic' DNA in Britain because it is now believed there was no Celtic invasion; there was a process of adopting the Celtic culture and art that makes it look like there was a movement of people but DNA study has now disproved the invasion theory.
 
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Toddy

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Do you know where to go to find the finest of 'dark ages' British craftsmanship ? gold, jewellery, bookplates, etc.?
Scandinavia.
Not traded, raided.
From anyone other than a Viking advocate there appears to be an incredible gratitude that they ended up settled and Christian within a very few generations.
They did like their stories though, their sagas (ahem, bragging) though.

Can you expand on that bit please? Its unclear what you mean.
I was told that they were very vulnerable to smallpox too. That was in my pre-archaeology days, so no idea of the veracity of it.
Little genetic quirks do follow through people though.
Like some can roll their tongues, some have curled little toes....actually that's a real bit of research. A German scientist did a lot of research on foot types and she reckons that from the shape of the foot she can tell a skelton's origins.
I have no idea where I'd find the link to that now though.

M
 
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Paul_B

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That's a myth. The Western British stayed very insular from most migration from the East. Current DNA studies are re-writing people migration history especially 'invasions' of Britain. A very large number of people from Western Wales, Scotland and the whole of Ireland have near 100% Neolithic DNA - (actually there's about 10% Mesolithic but that was brought over, it's not from the original Mesolithic peoples).

There's very little 'Celtic' DNA in Britain because it is now believed there was no Celtic invasion; there was a process of adopting the Celtic culture and art that makes it look like there was a movement of people but DNA study has now disproved the invasion theory.
True about the Celtic regions of great Britain but they're not the whole story are they, but part of our nation's history. The majority of England does not have that DNA uniqueness. It's why genetic tests you can buy to find your genetic ancestry has strong markers for Irish/ Scottish but they tend to lump other regions into one and indeed with parts of continental Europe too. Iirc my mum's bump that came with her genetic marker test had loads of information on where the markers are for. Often English ones got lumped in with swathes of France for example. Fortunately she has very clear markers for Scandinavia and England/ Wales with third being Irish/ Scottish.

Interestingly enough there's even less genetic merging within far western Irish communities I remember from a documentary where an actor fit DNA traced back to an island off the Irish coast. It was so unique that they could mark out relatives still on the island including second or thirds cousin I believe.

Aiui the situation in those Celtic regions is certainly not the UK norm. How can it be when even our nation's name comes from an area of mainland Europe? Our English language too has markers from other European areas.
 
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Broch

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True about the Celtic regions of great Britain but they're not the whole story are they, but part of our nation's history. The majority of England does not have that DNA uniqueness. It's why genetic tests you can buy to find your genetic ancestry has strong markers for Irish/ Scottish but they tend to lump other regions into one and indeed with parts of continental Europe too. Iirc my mum's bump that came with her genetic marker test had loads of information on where the markers are for. Often English ones got lumped in with swathes of France for example. Fortunately she has very clear markers for Scandinavia and England/ Wales with third being Irish/ Scottish.

Interestingly enough there's even less genetic merging within far western Irish communities I remember from a documentary where an actor fit DNA traced back to an island off the Irish coast. It was so unique that they could mark out relatives still on the island including second or thirds cousin I believe.

Aiui the situation in those Celtic regions is certainly not the UK norm. How can it be when even our nation's name comes from an area of mainland Europe? Our English language too has markers from other European areas.
Yes, but I'm not English and Britain is not England. The DNA 'uniqueness' is markedly different the further West and North you go in Britain.
 
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Paul_B

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Can you expand on that bit please? Its unclear what you mean.
It's a growth or plasma filled cyst that grows on the tendons of certain fingers causing them to curl and be unable to straighten. It's considered to be a viking genetic condition. Can't remember the name of it and my former colleague who had a few operations to deal with it isn't around to find out. He's from Duddon valley area originally which he said had strong viking influence. And that condition was a common one dealt with at furness general.

Bear in mind there's even evidence of a viking Tindwald (not spelt right sorry) in iirc little langdales and the church at was dale used viking wood carvings from viking boats in the roof structure I believe.