A brief introduction of the Vikings of Scandinavia
Vikings were natives of Scandinavia without any doubt. Scandinavia is a subregion of Northern Europe that comprises of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. During Viking age (800 AD-1050 AD) modern Scandinavian countries Denmark, Norway and Sweden didn’t exist but homeland of Vikings was anyways in the territory of these Scandinavian countries only.
Portrayal of Vikings as pitiless raiders and plunderers
The Vikings have been mostly portrayed as invaders, predators, barbarians and as one-dimensional warriors with raiding and plundering as only accomplishments. It is undeniable fact that Vikings conducted violent destructive attacks but it is also true that their image of pitiless raiders and plunderers was disproportionately magnified by their victims.
First recorded raid of Vikings
First recorded raid of Vikings carried out in 793 AD was dramatized by Anglo-Saxon cleric Alcium of York. Describing this attack on monastery of St Cuthbert on Lindisfarne Alcium wrote, “church was spattered with the blood of the priests of God, despoiled of all its ornaments… given as a prey to pagan peoples.” Later Christian chroniclers and writers also didn’t let any opportunity to demonise Vikings go in vain.
Vikings were great traders and explores and not mere raiders and plunderers
Despite attempts to dismiss Vikings as mere raiders and plunderers Vikings are today regarded as great traders and explorers. They reached the shores of North America five centuries before Columbus reached Caribbean islands. Their reach extended to so far east that they got access to Russian rivers and Caspian Sea.
Homeland of Vikings
As stated above, homeland of Vikings was Scandinavia but Scandinavian countries Denmark, Norway and Sweden didn’t exist in Viking era (800 AD-1050 AD). Homeland of Vikings had almost no towns and was overwhelmingly rural. Majority of people earned a measly living through agriculture or by fishing along the coast. By 7th and 8th century AD shipping technology had advanced to the extent that boats were now not solely powered by oars but also by sails. This made navigating coastal and inland waters and landing on beaches easy.
Why Vikings became habitual seafarers?
What precisely was the compelling factor that convinced bands of men to follow their local chieftain across the North Sea in long ships is not clear. It is possible that families started facing difficulties to eke out a living due to subdivision of plots caused by localised overpopulation and due to this reason people opted to become seafarers. Political unrest and news of riches present in trading settlements of further west brought by merchants may have also motivated people to take to sea. Perhaps all three reasons became motivating factors for people to become seafarers.