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The Vikings Essay

3520 words - 14 pages

The Vikings

The word Viking in the Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language says that the word Viking means the following. “Vi•king 1. any of the Scandinavian pirates who plunder the coasts of Europe from the 8th to 10th centuries. 2. a sea-roving bandit: pirate. 3. a Scandinavian. 4. U.S. Aerospace. One of a series of space probes that obtained scientific information about Mars.” (1)
The Vikings lived about one thousand years ago in the lands that we now call Iceland, Lapland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. To most people the Vikings were raiders that got in their longboats and sailed somewhere and then went from town to town killing and pillaging. This is not completely true, because the Vikings were also great adventurers. They set up trading links and looked for land that they could settle down make a home and have a farm. But not to say that the Vikings weren’t fierce warriors, because they were great warriors that won almost every early battle. Although they never had an empire, the King of Denmark ruled Norway and England for a brief time from 1030 to 1035.
      The Vikings had many reasons for leaving their homeland and living up to being the great adventurers that they were. One reason to leave was that the land that the Vikings were living in was becoming over populated, such that one family couldn’t own as much land, as he would like. Also the land in Scandinavia, that they lived on was very mountainous and had very little land that could be farmed. Likewise Sweden contained many forests that made it not fit for farming.
     The Viking people were divided up into different classes much like many other societies. They were divided up by how much land and money that they had. There were the “kings” that ruled over each township. Below him came the rich noblemen, or jarls. The king and the jarls were the most powerful people in a township. Then below the jarls there were the freemen or the karls, which included craftsmen, merchants, and farmers. At the very bottom of the totem pole were the slaves otherwise known as thralls.
     The majority of Vikings spent very little time away from home on raids. Instead they were at home working as farmers, growing oats, barley, rye, and vegetables, and tending to their cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats. They also kept fruits, such as apples, and nuts such as hazelnuts and walnuts in storage for the winter. Other thing of plenty where reindeer, rabbit, hare, and wild bears that were hunted, they also found cod, salmon, and trout in the Scandinavian rivers and streams. Still other Vikings worked as merchants, traveling far and wide to trade their goods. Some were even specialized craftsmen such as silversmiths, blacksmiths, and woodcarvers. But the most famous of all the skilled Viking workers was the master shipbuilders and excellent sailors.

Viking Lifestyle

     The growing population of Vikings in towns such as Birka in Sweden, Ribe and Hedeby in Denmark,...

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