They eventually began to establish trading outposts in the lands they raided, such as Ireland and England. These outposts also served as launching points for raids. The Vikings even conquered and held some of the territory they attacked. In 839, a Danish Viking conquered Ulster in Ireland, established a settlement that would one day become the city of Dublin and crowned himself king. Over time, the small Viking raiding parties grew into armies.
During the Viking Age, the Norse had an oral culture and only rune writing existed. However, the Vikings had both law and government even without written law. All free men of the Vikings would gather in their communities to make law and to decide cases in a meeting called a Thing. Each community had its own independent Thing.
Malefactors who were tried at the Thing and found guilty were either fined, declared semi-outlaw or fully outlawed. To be an outlaw was a dreadful punishment for a Viking. That person was put outside the law, banished from society and his property confiscated. They were to receive no help, no food and no support from anyone. Besides the terrible loneliness, these people could be killed by anyone. They often fled the country and tried to settle in some other location.
Besides the proto-court of the Thing, disputes could also be settled by arbitration, where both parties would agree on an objective third party to judge between them. A dispute could also be settled by the holmgang, or duel, which was fought either to first blood or to death. If the dispute was taken to the Thing, the loser could be subjected to a fine, which would be paid to the injured party or to partial outlawry, which would last for three years or to complete outlawry as described above.
The very word LAW in English is a Viking word. The 'ting' was the Viking word for a legislative assembly and a court. A criminal was brought here to stand trial. The presumed facts of the case were established by a panel (Old Norse "kvidr") of people stating what they Thought was the truth.
A jury of 12, two times twelve or three times twelve, depending on the importance of the case, decided the question of guilt. The 'law-sayer' told the jury what the law said about the crime committed and the accused was either convicted or declared innocent by the jury.
If convicted, the criminal was either fined or declared an out-law. To be an outlaw meant that the criminal had to live out in the wilderness and no one was allowed to help him in any way, and he was free game for his enemies. They were free to do their best to hunt him down and kill him. 'Ull's ring', the sacred ring of the Norse god ULL, is supposed to have been important at trials.
The viking house reflects the society that lived in it very well. It is shaped like the viking ship with oval sides, and somewhere between 30 and 50 people living together in a house, the entire family and their slaves, and often...