Iceland and Greenland are located at high latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere and they face each other across the sea. Though Iceland is considered one of the five Nordic countries while Greenland belongs to North America, both of them were once colonies of Vikings and played important roles in Viking age. Viking civilization experienced from prosperity to decline during 8CE to 14CE on these two islands. It is very possible to find out the reasons for Viking’s ups and downs through studying the histories of Iceland and Greenland’s development.
Based on the foregoing purpose, this paper will present the histories of the beginnings and the endings of Viking civilization in both Iceland and Greenland. Then it will try to find out the reasons for the differences in final results through comparing and contrasting the ways by which Vikings lived their life. These ways are categories into four aspects: politics, economy, culture and diplomacy.
Vikings’ settling down in Iceland and Greenland were important reflection of Viking expansion and they caused Viking civilization to extend on these two islands. Vikings were people from Scandinavia. For many reasons, such as the authoritarian policies of Harald Fairhair (Paine, 2013), the geographical features that lacking of lands for agriculture but having abundant trees for shipbuilding, Vikings were forced to expand into the sea. The two locations’ providing Vikings with lands undoubtedly provided them more chances for surviving.
As Jared Diamond (2005) said, “when immigrants from overseas colonize a new homeland, the lifestyle that they establish usually incorporates features of the lifestyle that they had practiced in their land of origin”; since the time for Viking’s settling down on these two islands were different, it caused Viking Civilization on these two islands to develop by following different examples. According to Paine (2013), Iceland was founded by Ingόlf Arnarson in 874. He built up his own homestead at Reykjavík and gained vast lands, which stood for the real beginning of the colonial era of Iceland (Jingyi Yu, 2007). Viking civilization in Iceland developed basing much on the style of the society in mainland Europe, on Scandinavian Peninsula. From the record of Greenland Saga, Erik the Red sailed to a new island after he was banished from Iceland and he named it as “Greenland” in order to attract new settlers. The history of Greenland began in 985AD, when Erik the Red and his followers built up his farm in the eastern settlement (Jingyi Yu, 2007). When Vikings began to settle in Greenland, Viking civilization had been developing in Iceland for about one century which was seemed to run well. Therefore, Viking civilization in Greenland developed under the guidance of the one in Iceland society.
The living of Vikings on Iceland and Greenland can be summarized into four aspects which have already been mentioned. The politics aspect will mainly focus on the social systems. Since Iceland...