‘Vikings‘ is the collective name for many different seafaring marauders, mainly from Norway and Denmark, who crossed the North Sea seeking wealth, slaves and fertile land. Due to their horrific treatment of soft targets, they gained a reputation as barbarians. Their incursions into Britain and elsewhere gave rise to the history-book’s ‘Viking Age’ of c.750-1100.
They first came knocking in 789 on England’s south coast, whence they scarpered after murdering several members of the reception committee. In 793 they went north to the ‘holy’ island of Lindisfarne in Northumbria and there committed the brutal slaughter of defenceless monks and pillaged the monastery’s treasures. Although some believed this was God’s punishment for the monks’ lax servitude, it set the scene for further invasions of English, Scottish and Irish territory throughout the 9th century.
The city of York was base camp for their ‘Great Heathen Army’ and the north seemed to suit them best, with their animal-hide and fur clothing and their apparent love of skiing! It is said that they took pride in their blonde or red hair and beards, had an appreciation of art and gave women some rights. However, they culled disabled infants deemed to be a burden on their community.
(Image [cropped]: alh1 at Flickr.com / CC BY-ND 2.0)