Vikings in many books is used as a synonym of the Scandinavians or Norsemen of the period of the dark ages. Logan (1992) stated that the word Viking had a meaning of raider or adventurer. The Vikings were also called pirates because they were adventurous sea- robbers who plundered all countries which they could reach by sea (Harren, 2007). Smith (2004) says “it is applied to those individuals who set out on raiding expeditions in quest of plunder and adventure, temporarily leaving behind them their employment as farmers or the like” (p. 3).To the Christianized, sedentary Frankish, Anglo Saxon and Irish chroniclers, the first Vikings seemed to be murderous demons that had appeared out of nowhere, and this was the romantic reputation that they have retained in the popular memory (Smith, 2004). Through the Vikings theory the whole of the Scandinavia proved that archaeology was more reliable source of knowledge than the unsympathetic and incomplete reports made by the Vikings victims and enemies (Smith, 2004).
According to Smith (2004) the homelands of the Vikings or Norsemen were found in Scandinavia which in present day is Denmark, Norway and Sweden and on the islands of the Baltic Sea. Logan (1992) also established that it was from the northern European peninsulas that the Vikings came. He also noted that “overpopulation limited opportunities at home and a worsening of the climate have all been suggested as the reasons for the overseas expansion that ushered in the Viking Age about 800 A.D” (p.5). The Vikings according to Smith (2004) were fearless sailors, even braving the treacherous North Atlantic in Open ships, hence it was said that the Vikings true home was the sea.
In addition, Smith (2004) continues to say that by 1851 the Vikings were already occupying parts of England, and their success there was being assured by the division of the territory among the rival dynasties of Wessex, Mercia, East Anglia and Northumbria. He continues to say that by the end of the ninth century the Vikings had colonized the Faeroe Islands and they were settling in Iceland by about 860. According to Smith (2004) that island which had been scarcely populated earlier, was soon full of prosperous farms with sod-built houses (p. 18). Therefore this illustration shows that such a farmhouse was being established by the Vikings. Smith further noted that during the same century the Vikings were also settlings in Ireland (Dublin, Cork and elsewhere) and at York in Northern England.
Vikings as a Threat to the Progress of Western Civilization
On the other hand Logan (1992) states that the phrase which noted that there was no evidence that it was ever added to the monastic litanies leads us to conclude the hostile treatment which was given to the Vikings by historians. The historians thus said the Vikings proved a temporary threat to the progress of western civilization. Logan (1992) also established “that they were said to belong to the periphery of events, far removed from the central events of the ninth, tenth and the early eleventh centuries” (p. 15). According to his research Logan (1992) stated that the Vikings were like the Magyars and the Moors, irritants, negative and destructive, hostile to France, the historical center of Europe at that time.
The Viking civilization of the north, vibrant, untamed, and raw, had a strong and unmistakable impact on much of the rest of Europe and on lands across seas and oceans (Logan 1992). He continues to say that “while Charlemagne was receiving the imperial crown in the year 800, the Vikings were harassing the coasts of England, Scotland, and Ireland and at the time they were setting up bases in the Orkneys and the Western Isles” (p.16). He also outlined that within a hundred years of the death of Charlemagne the Vikings had set up kingdoms in Ireland, in the North and east of England, and in Russia as well as an overseas settlement in Iceland. Logan (1992) further determined that it was important to note that the Vikings were united by links stronger than those of politics and frequent human commerce Logan (1992). They shared a common language, a common art and a common religion.
Furthermore, Logan (1992) established that runic inscriptions of the eight to the tenth centuries which have been found in widely distant places which were occupied by the Vikings show sameness of language. The spoken language used by the Vikings differed from the written language and dialects of spoken language were inevitable (Logan 1992). He continues to say that these were normal differences found in any language which was living and used to communicate human needs and feelings. Logan (1992) further noted that “the Vikings in Vinland and the Vikings at the Volga Bend would have been intelligible to one another but later it was noted that there were distinct language characteristics of Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Iceland” (p. 22).
Besides the common language shared by the Vikings, they also shared a common art. According to Logan (1992) art historians try refine our knowledge of Viking art and thus they distinguished six different styles. These styles included Oseberg, Borre Jelling, Mammen, Ringerike and Urnes (Logan, 1992). He thus commented that the surviving examples of these styles represent only a small fraction of the artistic output of the Viking period. The Vikings art was an applied art found principally on wood and stone and to the lesser extent on metal. Such examples according to Logan (1992) have been found in places as far removed from one as Oseberg in Norway where there are the fine wood carvings of the ninth century royal burial ship.
Logan (1992) noted that the eruption of the Vikings out of their homelands in the late eight and early ninth centuries remains a puzzling historical phenomenon (p. 24). He continues to say that the numbers involved was more than 790s Norwegians who were attacking the eastern and even the western coasts of Britain. The Danes on the other hand were between 800 and 810. Without the ships the Viking expansion would have been unimaginable (Logan, 1992). Also he continues that “without the knowledge of navigation their ships would have been of limited use” (p. 28).
A Profound Effect of Vikings on Frankia and England
In his research Sawyer (1997) established that by 870 there were profound changes in Frankia and England but in 862 Charles king of West Frankia began to defend the heart of his kingdom. These changes encouraged many Vikings to concentrate on England instead of Frankia (p. 11). As a result most several Viking leaders joined forces in the hope of winning status and independence by conquering England which then consisted of four kingdoms. These attempts succeeded for only two kingdoms, but for several years after 870 the Viking army made determined but unsuccessful efforts to conquer Wessex and between 876 and 880 its leaders began to grant estates in the conquered areas of their principal followers Sawyer (1997). Because of these the Viking colonists had a profound effect on dialects and place-names in the area in which they settled. Sawyer (1997) indicated that their influence on the farming vocabulary and field names confirms that many of the Vikings were indeed farmers. (p. 11)
Hinds (1998) say that during the Viking Age Scandinavia absorbed many influences from other countries and conversion to Christianity brought the religion into the mainstream of European culture (p. 66). He also continues to that even well into the twentieth century, rural Scandinavian families lived very much as their Viking ancestors did (Hinds, 1998). For example fishing boats were built with the same techniques that was been used in the construction of the great Viking ships. Hinds (1998) also continue to say that much of the Viking legacy in Scandinavia is embodied in the words people in those Scandinavian countries use every day. As a result a great number of place names from that period have survived to the present day. He also says that the modern Swedish, Danish and Norwegian languages are all descended from Old Norse (Vikings). Hinds (1998) therefore said that “it was the old Viking conviction that although fate was inescapable, people could face their destiny in such a way that their honor will long be remembered” (p. 69).
The Vikings earned many kinds of fame as raiders, merchants, settlers, lawmakers, smiths and poets. This according to Hinds (1998) was because of their “bravery, creativity, steadfastness and independent spirit” (p. 69). Modern Danes thus as noted by Hinds celebrate their Viking heritage at a festival where they dress as their ancestors did and recreate battles and other aspects of the Viking society (1998).
Hinds (1998) continued to say that the Viking Age lasted for nearly three centuries from 793 to 1066. Hinds thus said that “during this time Scandinavians played a greater role in the world community than at any other time in history” (p. 60). The Viking’s impact on Europe was both direct and indirect because they supplied luxury goods such as furs and walrus ivory to the upper classes (Hinds, 1998). On the other hand Hinds (1998) established that Viking raids prompted many coastal communities to move inland to be safer from attack by sea.
In conclusion Haaren (2007) noted that the Vikings had several characteristics which made them adventurous. Firstly Haaren notes that “the Vikings were a terror to all their neighbors, but the two regions were they suffered most from their attacks were the Island of Britain and that part of Charlemagne’s empire in which the Franks were settled” (p. 49). He also notes that the Vikings sailed up the large rivers into the heart of the region which is now France and captured and pillaged cities and towns.
Haaren (2007) determined that the Vikings were the first discoverers of the continent on which we live although they were not aware that they found a great unknown continent. Another distinct characteristic of the Vikings was that they had many able Chieftains such as Rollo the Walker who commanded seven hundred ships in 885 from the harbors of Norway to sail up the river Seine to capture the city of Paris (Haaren, 2007). These characteristics enabled the Vikings to colonize most parts of Europe and also as a result influenced their culture and history backgrounds.