The Vikings came from three countries of Scandinavia: Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. In the Norse language the Vikings spoke, the name ‘Viking’ means ‘pirate’, one who goes on raids and steals from others. Find Denmark, Norway, and Sweden on the Scandinavia map below. And then study the map below it.
The Viking age in European history was about AD 700 to 1100. During this period many Vikings left Scandinavia and traveled to other countries, such as Britain and Ireland. Some went to fight and steal treasure. Others settled in new lands as farmers, craftsmen or traders.
During the Viking Age from 700 AD to 1100 AD, Vikings traveled in their boats as traders, settlers, and warriors. Many of the Vikings were tall and had red or blonde hair and beards. Villages on or near any coast in early medieval Europe lived in great fear of Viking attacks.
Three different groups of Vikings can be identified. They took three different, sometimes overlapping, routes.
- Danes raided England and Gaul and followed the Atlantic coast of Europe south into the Mediterranean to Italy.
- Swedes went eastward into the Baltic Sea. One group, called the Rus’, founded the settlement of Kiev. They called it Russland (later known as Russia).
- Norwegians raided England but preferred Ireland and Scotland. They also traveled to Greenland and about the year 1,000 AD landed at a place they called Vinland (North America).
Scholars have had changing opinions about the Vikings. Our first information was from monks. They had an extremely low opinion of the Vikings since they often raided monasteries/abbeys where monks lived. In England, the Viking Age began dramatically on June 8, 793, when Norsemen destroyed an abbey on Holy Island. Monks were killed in the abbey, thrown into the sea to drown, or carried away as slaves along with the church’s wealth. The Viking devastation of Holy Island shocked and alerted the royal courts of Europe. “Never before has such an atrocity been seen,” it was declared. More than any other single event, this attack cast a shadow on the perception of the Vikings for the next 1100 years. In the 1890s, scholars outside Scandinavia began to rethink the achievements, artistry, technological skills, and seamanship of the Vikings.
(edited from source)