The Vikings, whose heyday extended from A.D. 800 to 1100, lived in countries we know today as Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. This period is known as the Viking Age. The Vikings were both a warrior and farming society. They were the first Europeans to land in America. Viking comes from the word Vikingr, meaning he who travels by sea. They are sometimes thought of as barbarians and also known as the Northmen or Norsemen. The Vikings earned their name, and the bad reputation that went with it, because in Old Norse, the word Viking meant “pirate”, a reference to their raiding and pillaging of settlements across Europe at the turn of the ninth century. Vikings traveled to, raided, and traded with Spain, Italy, North Africa, Russia, Jerusalem, and the Byzantine Empire.
The Vikings were great seamen, traveling far and wide. The first recorded Viking raid took place in A.D. 793. In that year, bands of Viking warriors looted and destroyed a well-known monastery on the small island of Lindesfarne, off the east coast of England. The slaughter of innocent victims shocked all who heard of the raid. After that, Viking attacks increased steadily. Viking raiders took whatever they could find, from precious gems to fine fabrics to human beings- young men and women to sell them as slaves. People who resisted the raiders were killed. Some rulers paid the Vikings to go away. This protection money was called Danegeld. This tactic proved successful. Charles the Simple, King of West Franks, ended the Viking raids in 911 by giving Normandy to the Vikings. To go “A-Viking” meant to go raiding. For a Viking warrior raiding was a way of winning glory and riches. Ireland was one of the earliest targets of the Vikings. Between A.D.795 and 830, they raided nearly every town in Ireland. On Easter Sunday, March 28, A.D.845, Paris fell to the Vikings. The Viking leader Ragnarr demanded 7000 pounds of silver from King Charles the Bald to stop the fighting. In A.D. 869, a Viking army led by Ivarr the Boneless invaded East Anglia in England and killed King Edmund because he refused to give up his belief in Jesus Christ. Europe feared the Vikings for three centuries. Viking warriors believed that only two things lasted forever: honor and glory in battle. So, when called upon, they were ready to fight and determined to win. The sword was the most highly cherished weapon. The weapon most closely identified to the warrior was the battle-axe. The Vikings were the only fighters across Europe to use an axe. Viking warriors were also skilled archers, using bows and arrows in battle. The warriors could shoot at a target 250 meters away. A warrior’s clothes were designed to allow him to fight without anything getting in the way. The most feared warriors of all were berserkers. Screaming loudly when they attacked, they moved in a mad frenzy of rage. Some Vikings who were in the King’s army had an extra piece of protection. It was wire mesh covering called a birnie or chain mail. It was heavy, very time-consuming to make and expensive to buy but helpful in a battle. The Vikings became