1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Viking

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VIKING. The word “Viking,” in the sense in which it is used to-day, is derived from the Icelandic (Old Norse) Víkingr (m.), signifying simply a sea-rover or pirate. There is also in Icelandic the allied word víking (f.), a predatory voyage. As a loan-word víking occurs in A.S. poetry (vícing or wícing), e.g. in Widsith, Byrnoth, Exodus. During the Saga Age (900-1050), in the beginning of Norse literature, víkingr is not as a rule used to designate any class of men. Almost every young Icelander of sufficient means and position, and a very large number of young Norsemen, made one or more viking expeditions. We read of such a one that he went “a-viking” (fara i viking, vera i viking, or very often fara, &c., vestan i viking). The procedure was almost a recognized part of education, and was analogous to the grand tour made by our great-grandfathers in the 18th century. But the use of víkingr in a more generic sense is still to be found in the Saga Age. If the designation of this or that personage as mikill víkingr or rauða víkingr (red viking) be not reckoned an instance of such use, we have it at all events in the name of a small quasi-nationality, the Jómsvíkingr, settled at Jómsborg on the Baltic (in modern Pomerania), to whom a saga is dedicated: who possessed rather peculiar institutions evidently the relic of what is now called the Viking Age, that preceded the Saga Age by a century. Another instance of such more generic use occurs in the following typical passage from the Landnámabók (Sturlabók), where it is recorded how Harald Fairhair harried the vikings of the Scottish isles—that famous harrying which led to most of the settlement of Iceland and the birth of Icelandic literature:—

“Haraldr en harfari herjaði vestr am haf . . . Hann lagði undir sig allar Sudreyjar. . . . En er hann fór vestann slogust i eyjernar vikingar ok Skotar ok Irar ok herjuðu ok ræntu viða” (Landn., ed. Jónsson, 1906, p. 135).

It is in this more generic sense that the word “viking” is now generally employed. Historians of the north have distinguished as the “Viking Age” (Vikingertiden) the time when the Scandinavian folk first by their widespread piracies brought themselves forcibly into the notice of all the Christian peoples of western Europe. We cannot to-day determine the exact homes or provenance of these freebooters, who were a terror alike to the Frankish empire, to England and to Ireland and west Scotland, who only came into view when their ships anchored in some Christian harbour, and who were called now Normanni, now Dacii, now Danes, now Lochlannoch; which last, the Irish name for them, though etymologically “men of the lakes or bays,” might as well be translated “Norsemen,” seeing that Lochlann was the Irish for Norway. The exact etymology of víkingr itself is not certain: for we do not know whether vík is used in a general sense (bay, harbour) in this connexion, or in a particular sense as the Vík, the Skagerrack and Christiania Fjord. The reason for using “viking” in a more generic sense than is warranted by the actual employment of the word in Old Norse literature rests on the fact that we have no other word by which to designate the early Scandinavian pirates of the 9th and the beginning of the 10th century. We cannot tell for the most part whether they came from Denmark or Norway, so that we cannot give them a national name.

“Normanner” is used by some Scandinavian writers (as by Steenstrup in his classical work Normannerne). But “Normans” has for us quite different associations. And even those who have preferred not generally to use the word “vikings” to designate the pirates and invaders, have adhered to the term “Viking Age” for the period in which they were most active (cf. Munch, Det Norske Folks Historie, Deel I. Bd. i. p. 356; Steenstrup and others, Danmarks Riges Historie, bk. ii. &c.). At the same time, the significance which the word “viking” has had in our language is due in part to a false etymology, connecting the word with “king”; the effect of which still remains in the customary pronunciation vi-king instead of vik-ing, now so much embedded in the language that it is a pedantry to try and change it.

We may fairly reckon the “Viking Age” to lie between the date of the first recorded appearance of a northern pirate fleet (A.D. 789) and the settlement of the Normans in Normandy by the treaty of St Clair-sur-Epte, A.D. 911 or 912.[1] For a few years previous to that date our chief authority for the history of the piracies and raids in the Frankish empire fails us:[2] we know that the Norsemen had a few years before that date been driven in great numbers out of Ireland; and England had been in a sense pacified through the concession of a great part of the island to the invaders by the peace of Wedmore, A.D. 878. Although, outside the information we get from Christian chroniclers, this age is for the people of the north one of complete obscurity, it is evident that the Viking Age corresponds with some universal disturbance or unrest among the Scandinavian nations, strictly analogous to the unrest among more southern Teutonic nations which many centuries before had heralded the break-up of the Roman empire, an epoch known as that of the Folk-wanderings (Völkerwanderungen). We judge this because we can dimly see that the impulse which was driving part of the Norse and Danish peoples to piracies in the west was also driving the Swedes and perhaps a portion of the Danes to eastward invasion, which resulted in the establishment of a Scandinavian kingdom (Garðaríki) in what is now Russia, with its capital first at Novgorod, afterwards at Kiev.[3] This was, in fact, the germ of the Russian empire. If we could know the Viking Age from the other, the Scandinavian side, it would doubtless present far more interest than in the form in which the Christian chroniclers present it. But from knowledge of this sort we are almost wholly cut off. We have to content ourselves with what is for the greater part of this age a mere catalogue of embarkations and plundering along all the coasts of western Europe without distinctive characteristics.

The Viking Raids.—The detail of these raids is quite beyond the compass of the present article, and a summary or synopsis must suffice. For all record which we have, the Viking Age was inaugurated in A.D. 789 by the appearance in England on our Dorset coast of three pirate ships “from Haerethaland” (Hardeland or Hardyssel in Denmark or Hördeland in Norway), which are said in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle to be “the first ships of the Danish men” who sought the land of England. They killed the port-reeve, took some booty and sailed away. Other pirates appeared in 793 on a different coast, Northumbria, attacked a monastery on Lindisfarne (Holy Island), slaying and capturing the monks; the following year they attacked and burnt Jarrow; after that they were caught in a storm, and all perished by shipwreck or at the hands of the countrymen. In 795 a fleet appeared off Glamorganshire. They attacked Man in 798 and Iona in 802. But after this date for the lifetime of a generation the chief scene of viking exploits was Ireland, and probably the western coasts and islands of Scotland.

The usual course of procedure among the northern adventurers remains the same to whatever land they may direct their attacks, or during whatever years of the 9th century these attacks may fall. They begin by more or less desultory raids, in the course of which they seize upon some island, which they generally use as an arsenal or point d'appui for attacks on the mainland. At first the raids are made in the summer: the first wintering in any new scene of plunder forms an epoch so far as that country or region is concerned. Almost always for a period all power of resistance on the part of the inhabitants seems after a while and for a limited time to break down, and the plunderers to have free course wherever they go. Then they show an ambition to settle in the country, and some sort of division of territory takes place. After that the northerners assimilate themselves more or less to the other inhabitants of the country, and their history merges to a less or greater extent in that of the country at large. This course is followed in the history of the viking attacks on Ireland, the earliest of their continuous series of attacks. Thus they begin by seizing the island of Rechru (now Lambay) in Dublin Bay (A.D. 795); in the course of about twenty years we have notice of them on the northern, western and southern coasts; by A.D. 825 they have already ventured raids to a considerable distance inland. And in A.D. 832 comes a large fleet (“a great royal fleet,” say the Irish annals) of which the admiral's name is given, Turgesius (Thorgeis or Thorgisl?). The new invader, though with a somewhat chequered course, extended his conquests till in A.D. 842 one-half of Ireland (called Lethcuinn, or Con's Half) seems to have submitted to him; and we have the curious picture of Turgesius establishing his wife Ota as a sort of völva, or priestess, in what had been one of Ireland's most famous and most literary monasteries, Clonmacnoise. Turgesius was, however, killed very soon after this (in 845); and though in A.D. 853 Olaf the White was over-king of Ireland, the vikings' power on the whole diminished. In the end, territory was—if by no formal treaty—ceded to their influence; and the (Irish) kingdoms of Dublin and Waterford were established on the island.

This brief sketch may be taken as the prototype of viking invasion of any region of western Christendom which was the object of their continuous attacks. Of such regions we may distinguish five. Almost simultaneously with the attacks on Ireland came others, probably also from Norway, on the western regions (coasts and islands) of Scotland. Plunderings of Iona are mentioned in A.D. 802, 806. In the course of a generation almost all the monastic communities in western Scotland had been destroyed. But details of these viking plundering are wanting. On the continent there were three distinct regions of attack. First the mouth of the Scheldt. There the Danes very early settled on the island of Walcheren, which had in fact been given by the emperor Louis the Pious in fief to a Danish fugitive king, Harald by name, who sought the help of Louis, and adopted Christianity. After the partition of the territory of Charlemagne's empire among the sons of Louis the Pious, Walcheren and the Scheldt-mouth fell within the possessions of the emperor Lothair, and in the region subsequently distinguished as Lotharingia. From this centre, the Scheldt, the viking raids extended on either side; sometimes eastward as far as the Rhine, and so into Germany proper, the territory assigned to Louis the German; at other times westward to the Somme, and thus into the territory of Charles the Bald, the future kingdom of France. In the event toward the end of the 9th century all Frisia between Walcheren and the German Ocean seems to have become the permanent possession of the invaders. In like fashion was it with the next district, that of the Seine, only that here no important island served the pirates for their first arsenal and winter quarters. The serious attacks of the pirates in any part of the empire distant from their own lands begin about the time of the battle of Fontenoy between Louis' sons (A.D. 841). The first wintering of the vikings in the Seine territory (A.D. 850) was in “Givoldi fossa,” the tomb of one Givoldus, not far from the mouth of the river, but no longer exactly determinable. Their first attack on Paris was in A.D. 845: a much more important but unsuccessful one took place in A.D. 885-87, unsuccessful that is so far as the city itself was concerned; but the invaders received an indemnity for raising the siege and leave to pass beyond Paris into Burgundy. The settlement of Danes under Rollo or Rolf on the lower Seine, i.e. in Normandy, dates from the treaty of St Clair-sur-Epte, A.D. 912 (or 911).

The third region is the mouth of the Loire. Here the island point d'appui was Noirmoutier, an island with an abbey at the Loire mouth. The northmen wintered there in A.D. 843. No region was more often ravaged than that of the lower Loire, so rich in abbeys—St Martin of Tours, Marmoutiers, St Benedict, &c. But the country ceded to the vikings under Hasting at the Loire mouth was insignificant and not in permanent occupation.

Near the end of the 9th century, however, the plundering expeditions which emanated from these three sources became so incessant and so widespread that we can signalize no part of west France as free from them, at the same time that the vikings wrought immense mischief in the Rhine country and in Burgundy. The defences of west France seem quite to have broken down, as did the Irish when Turgesius took “Con's half,” or when in A.D. 853 Olaf the White became over-king of Ireland. Unfortunately at this point our best authority ceases, and we cannot well explain the changes which brought about the Christianization of the Normans and their settlement in Normandy as vassals, though recalcitrant ones, of the West Frankish kings.

For the viking attacks in the 5th (or 6th) territory, our own country, the course of events is much clearer. As a part of English history it is, however, sufficiently known, and the briefest summary thereof must suffice. That will show how in its general features it follows the normal course. The first appearance of the vikings in England we saw was in A.D. 789. The first serious attacks do not begin till 838. The island of Sheppey, however, was attacked in 835, and in the following year the vikings entrenched themselves there. The first wintering of the pirates in England was on the contiguous island of Thanet in A.D. 850. The breakdown of the English defences in all parts of the country save Wessex dates from 868: in Wessex that occurs in 877-88 . But the position is suddenly recovered by Alfred in 878, by the battle of Aethandune, as suddenly though not so unaccountably as it was later in West Francia. As Rollo was to do in 912, the Danish leader Guthorm received baptism, taking the name of Aethelstan, and settled in his assigned territory, East Anglia, according to the terms of the peace of Wedmore. But the forces which Alfred defeated at Aethandune represented but half of the viking army in England at the time. The other half under Halfdan (Ragnar Lodbrog's son?) had never troubled itself about Wessex, but had taken firm possession in Northumbria.

The six territories which we have signalized—Ireland, Western Scotland, England, the three in West Francia which merge into each other by the end of the 9th century—do not comprise the whole field of viking raids or attempted invasion. For farther still to the east they twice sailed up the Elbe (A.D. 851, 880) and burnt Hamburg. Southwards they plundered far up the Garonne, and in the north of Spain; and one fleet of them sailed all round Spain, plundering, but attempting in vain to establish themselves in this Arab caliphate. They plundered on the opposite African coast, and at last got as far as the mouth of the Rhone, and thence to Luna in Italy.

What we found in the case of the Irish raids, that at first they are quite anonymous, but that presently the names of the captains of the expeditions emerge, is likewise the case in all other lands. In Ireland, besides the important and successful Turgesius, we read of a Saxulf who early met his death, as well as of Ivar (Ingvar), famous also in England and called the son of Ragnar Lodbrog, and of Oisla, Ivar's comrade; finally (the vikings in Ireland being mostly of Norse descent) of the well known Olaf the White, who became king of all the Scandinavian settlements in Ireland. In France, Oscar is one of the earliest and most successful of the invaders. Later the name of Ragnar (probably Ragnar Lodbrog) appears, along with Weland, Hasting and one of the sons of Ragnar, Björn. Farther to the east we meet the names of Rurik, Godfred and Siegfried. In the eastern region the viking leaders seem to have been closely connected with one of the Danish royal families, the kings of Jutland. The practical though short-lived conquest of England begins under Ivar, Ubbe and Halfdan, reputed sons of Ragnar, and is completed by the last of the three in conjunction with the Guthorm above mentioned. This is, of course, what we should expect, that larger acquaintance gives to the Christian chroniclers more knowledge of their enemy. Precisely the same process in a converse sense develops the casual raids of early times into a scheme of conquest. For at the outset the Christian world was wholly strange to these northmen. We have, it has been said, hardly any means of viewing these raids from the other side. But one small point of light is so suggestive that it may be cited here. The mythical saga of Ragnar Lodbrog is undoubtedly concerned with the Viking Age, though it is impossible now to identify most of the expeditions attributed to this northern hero, stories of conquest in Sweden, in Finland, in Russia and in England, which belong to quite a different age from this one. In the Christian chronicles the name of Ragnar is associated with an attack on Paris in A.D. 845, when the adventurers were (through the interposition of St Germain, say the Christians) suddenly enveloped in darkness—in a thick fog?—and fell before the arms of the defenders. In Saxo Grammaticus's account of Ragnar Lodbrog, this event seems to be reflected in the story of an expedition of Ragnar's to Bjarmaland or Perm in Russia. For Bjarmaland, though it gained a local habitation, is also in Norse tradition a wholly mythical and mythological place, more or less identical with the underworld (Niflhel, mist-hell). So it appears in the history given by Saxo Grammalicus of the voyage to Bjarmaland of one “Gorm the old.” It “looks like a vaporous cloud” and is full of tricks and illusions of sense. We see then that in virtue of some quite historical misfortune to the viking invaders connected with a mist and with a great sickness which invaded the army, the place they have come to (in reality Paris) is in Scandinavian tradition identified with the mythic Bjarmaland; and later, in the history of Saxo Grammaticus, it is identified with the geographical Bjarmaland or Perm. (Saxo Grammat., Hist. Dan. p. 452, Gylfaginning (Edda Snorra); Acta SS. 18th May and 11th Oct.; Steenstrup, Normannerne, i. p. 97 seq.; Keary, The Vikings in Western Christendom, pp. 162, 260.)

No example could better than this bring home to us the strangeness of the Christian world to the first adventurers from the north, nor better explain the process of familiarity which gradually extended the sphere of their ambition. The expedition which we have made mention of took place almost in the middle of the 9th century, and exactly fifty years after the effective opening of the Viking Age. But after this date events developed rapidly. It was fourteen years later (in A.D. 859) that Ragnar's son Björn Ironside and Hasting made their great expedition round Spain to the Mediterranean. In 865 or 866 came to England what we know as the Army, or the Great Army, whose first attacks were in the north of England. Five kings are mentioned in connexion with this veritable invasion of England, and many earls. Their course was not unchequered; but it was only in Wessex that they met with any effective resistance, and the victory of Ashdown (871) put no end to their advance; for, as we know, Alfred himself had at last to wander a fugitive in the fastnesses of Selwood Forest. Much was retrieved by the victory of Aethandune; yet even after the peace of Wedmore as large a part of the land lay under the power of the Danes as of the English.

It is from this time that we discern two distinct tendencies in the viking people. While one section is ready to settle down and receive territory at the hands of the Christian rulers, with or without homage, another section still adheres to a life of mere adventure and of plunder. A large portion of the Great Army refused to be bound by the peace of Wedmore, made some further attempts on England which were frustrated by Alfred's powerful new-built fleet, and then sailed to the continent and spread devastation far and wide. We see them under command of two Danish “kings,” Godfred and Siegfried, first in the country of the Rhine-mouth or the Lower Scheldt; afterwards dividing their forces and, while some devastate far into Germany, others extend their ravages on every side in northern France down to the Loire. The whole of these vast countries, Northern Francia, with part of Burgundy, and the Rhineland, seem to lie as much at their mercy as England had done before Aethandune, or Ireland before the death of Turgesius. But in every country alike the wave of viking conquest now begins to recede. The settlement of Normandy was the only permanent outcome of the Viking Age in France. In England under Edward the Elder and Aethelflaed, Mercia recovered a great portion of what had been ceded to the Danes. In Ireland a great expulsion of the invaders took place in the beginning of the 10th century. Eventually the Norsemen in Ireland contented themselves with a small number of colonies, strictly confined in territory around certain seaports which they themselves had created: Dublin, Waterford and Wexford; though as the whole of Ireland was divided into petty kingdoms, it might easily happen that the Norse king in Ireland rose to the position—not much more than nominal—of over-king (Ard-Ri) for the whole land.

Character of the Vikings.—Severe, therefore, as were the viking raids in Europe, and great as was the suffering they inflicted—on account of which a special prayer, A furore Normannorum libera nos, was inserted in some of the litanies of the West—if they had been pirates and nothing more their place in history would be an insignificant one. If they had been no more than what the Illyrian pirates had been in the early history of Rome, or than the Arabic corsairs were at this time in southern Europe, the disappearance of the evil would have been quickly followed by its oblivion. But even at the outset the vikings were more than isolated bands of freebooters. As we have seen, the viking outbreak was probably part of a national movement. We know that at the same time that some Scandinavian folk were harrying all the western lands, others were founding Garðaríki (Russia) in the east; others were pressing still farther south till they came in contact with the eastern empire in Constantinople, which the northern folk knew as Mikillgarðr (Mikklegard); so that when Hasting and Björn had sailed to Luna in the gulf of Genoa the northern folk had almost put a girdle round the Christian world. There is every evidence that the vikings were not a mere lawless folk—that is, in their internal relations—but that a system of laws existed among them which was generally respected. The nearest approach to it now preserved is probably the code of laws attributed to the mythic king Froði (the Wise) and preserved in the pages of Saxo Grammaticus. It contains provisions for the partition of booty, punishments for theft, desertion and treachery. But some of the clauses securing a comparative liberty for women appear less characteristic of the Viking Age (cf. Alexander Bugge, Vikingerne, vol. i. p. 49). Women, indeed, did not take part in their first expeditions. In the constitution of the Jómborg state and again in that of the eastern Vaerings (a Scandinavian body in the service of the East Roman Empire) we see a constitution which looks like the foretaste of that of the Templars or the Teutonic Knights. Steenstrup thinks the code cited by Saxo may be identical with the laws which Rollo promulgated for his Norman subjects. In any case, they fall more near the viking period than any other northern table of laws. A certain republicanism was professed by these adventurers. “We have no king,” one body answered to some Frankish delegates. We do read frequently of kings in the accounts of their hosts; but their power may not have extended beyond the leadership of the expedition; they may have been kings ad hoc. On the other hand, the whole character of northern tradition (Teutonic and Scandinavian tradition alike) forbids us to suppose that any would be elected to that office who was not of noble or princely blood. They were not entirely unlettered; for the use of runes dates back considerably earlier than the Viking Age. But these were used almost exclusively for lapidary inscriptions. What we can alone, describe as a literature, first the early Eddic verse, next the habit of narrating sagas: these things the Norsemen learned probably from their Celtic subjects, partly in Ireland, partly in the western islands of Scotland; and they first developed the new literature on the soil of Iceland. Nevertheless, some of the Eddic songs do seem to give the very form and pressure of the viking period.[4]

In certain material possessions—those, in fact, belonging to their trade, which was war and naval adventure—these viking folk were ahead of the Christian nations: in shipbuilding, for example. There is certainly a historical connexion between the ships which the tribes on the Baltic possessed in the days of Tacitus and the viking ships (Keary, The Vikings in Western Europe, pp. 108-9): a fact which would lead us to believe that the art of shipbuilding had been better preserved there than elsewhere in northern Europe. Merchant vessels must of course have plied between England and France or Frisia. But it is certain that even Charlemagne possessed no adequate navy, though a late chronicler tells us how he thought of building one. His descendants never carried out his designs. Nor was any English king before Alfred stirred up to undertake the same task. And yet the Romans, when threatened by the Carthaginian power, built in one year a fleet capable of holding its own against the, till then, greatest maritime nation in the world. The viking ships had a character apart. They may have owed their origin to the Roman galleys: they did without doubt owe their sails to them.[5] Equally certain it is that this special type of shipbuilding was developed in the Baltic, if not before the time of Tacitus, long before the dawn of the Viking Age. Their structure is adapted to short voyages in a sea well studded with harbours, not exposed to the most violent storms or most dangerous tides. To the last, judging by the specimens of Scandinavian boats which have come down to us, they must have been not very seaworthy; they were shallow, narrow in the beam, pointed at both ends, and so eminently suitable for manœuvring (with oars) in creeks and bays. The viking ship had but one large and heavy square sail. When a naval battle was in progress, it would depend for its manœuvring on the rowers. The accounts of naval battles in the sagas show us, too, that this was the case. The rowers in each vessel, though among the northern folk these were free men and warriors, not slaves as in the Roman and Carthaginian galleys, would yet need to be supplemented by a contingent of fighting men, marines, in addition to their crew. Naturally the shipbuilding developed: so that vessels in the viking time would be much smaller than in the Saga Age. In saga literature we read of craft (of “long ships”) with 20 to 30 benches of rowers, which would mean 40 to 60 oars. There exist at the museum in Christiania the remains of two boats which were found in the neighbourhood: one, the Gókstad ship, is in very tolerable preservation. It belongs probably to the 11th century. On this boat there are places for 16 oars a side. It is not probable that the largest viking ships had more than 10 oars a side. As these ships must often, against a contrary wind, have had to row both day and night, it seems reasonable to imagine the crew divided into three shifts (as they call them in mining districts), which would give double the number of men available to fight on any occasion as to row.[6] Thus a 20-oared vessel would carry 60 men. But some 40 men per ship seems, for this period, nearer the average. In 896, toward the end of our age, it is incidentally mentioned in one place that five vessels carried 200 vikings, an average of 40 per ship. Elsewhere about the same time we read of 12,000 men carried in 230 ships, an average of 48.

The round and painted shields of the warriors hung outside along the bulwarks: the vessel was steered by an oar at the right side (as whaling boats are to-day), the steer board or starboard side. Prow and stern rose high; and the former was carved most often into the likeness of a snake's or dragon's head: so generally that “dragon” or “worm” (snake) became synonymous with a war-ship. The warriors were well armed. The byrnie or mail-shirt is often mentioned in Eddic songs: so are the axe, the spear, the javelin, the bow and arrows and the sword. The Danes were specially renowned for their axes; but about the sword the most of northern poetry and mythology clings. An immense joy in battle breathes through the earliest Norse literature, which has scarce its like in any other literature; and we know that the language recognized a peculiar battle fury, a veritable madness by which certain were seized and which went by the name of “berserk's way” (berserksgangr).[7] The courage of the vikings was proof against anything, even as a rule against superstitious terrors. “We cannot easily realize how all-embracing that courage was. A trained soldier is often afraid at sea, a trained sailor lost if he has not the protecting sense of his own ship beneath him. The viking ventured upon unknown waters in ships very ill-fitted for their work. He had all the spirit of adventure of a Drake or a Hawkins, all the trained valour of reliance upon his comrades that mark a soldiery fighting a militia” (The Vikings in Western Christendom, p. 143). He was unfortunately hardly less marked for cruelty and faithlessness. Livy's words, “inhumana crudelitas, perfidia plus quam Punica, might, it is to be feared, have been applied as justly to the vikings as to any people of western Europe. It is also true, however, that they showed a great capacity for government, and in times of peace for peaceful organization. Normandy was the best-governed part of France in the 11th century; and the Danes in East Anglia and the Five Burgs were in many regards a model to their Saxon neighbours (Steenstrup, op. cit. iv. ch. 2). Of all European lands England is without doubt that on which the Viking Age has left most impression: in the number of original settlers after 878; in the way which these prepared for Canute's conquest; and finally in that which she absorbed from the conquering Normans. England's gain was France's loss: had the Normans turned their attention in the other direction, they might likely enough have gained the kingdom in France and saved that country from the intermittent anarchy from which it suffered from the 11th till the middle of the 15th century.

Sources of Viking History.—These are, as has been said, almost exclusively the chronicles of the lands visited by the vikings. For Ireland we have, as on the whole our best authority, the Annales Ultonienses (C. O'Conor, Scr. Rev. Hib. iv.), supplemented by the Annals of the Four Masters (ed. O'Donovan) and the Chronicon Scottorum (ed. Henessy). Finally, The War of the Gaidhill with the Gaill (ed. Todd); Three Fragments of Irish History (O'Donovan); cf. W. F. Skene, Celtic Scotland. For England the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Annales Lindisfarnenses (in Pertz, Monumenta, vol. xix.); Simeon of Durham, Historia Dunelmi Ecclesiae. For the Frankish empire the chief sources of our information are The Annales Regni Francorum, Annales Bertiani (Pertz, vol. i.) in three parts (the first anonymous, the second by Prudentius, the third by Hincmar, A.D. 830-82). The Annales Xantenses (A.D. 876, 873; Pertz, vol. ii.) are the authorities for the northern and eastern regions, and the Annales Fuldenses (which begin with Pipin of Herestel and go down to A.D. 900; Pertz, vol. i.) for Germany. Toward the end of the 9th century the Annales Vedastini (Pertz, vols. i. and ii.) are almost the exclusive authority for the western raids. In the historians of Normandy, especially in Dudo of St Quentin, much incidental matter may be found.

References to the Viking Age in a general way are to be found in a vast number of books, especially histories of the Scandinavian countries, of which Munch's Det Norske Folks Historie (1852, &c.) is the most distinguished; J. J. A. Worsaae has written Minder om de Danske og Nord-Mændene i England, Skotland og Irland (1851), an antiquarian rather than an historical study; G. B. Depping, L'Histoire des expéditions maritime des Normands (1843), a not very critical work, and E. Mabille, “Les Invasions Normandes dans la Loire” (École des chartes bibl. t. 30, 1869). A completer work than either of these is W. Vogel's Die Normannen und das Fränkische Reich (1906). It does not, however, break any fresh ground. J. C. H. Steenstrup's Normannerne (1876-82), in four volumes, is not a continuous history, but a series of studies of great learning and value; C. F. Keary, The Vikings in Western Europe (1891) is a history of the viking raids on all the western lands, but ends A.D. 888. A. Bugge's Vikingerne (1904-6) is a study of the moral and social side of the vikings, or, one should rather say, of the earliest Scandinavian folk.

 (C. F. K.) 

  1. W. Vogel gives the former date; 912 is that more commonly accepted.
  2. The Annales Vedastini.
  3. The word garðr (fort) is preserved in the “gorod” of Novgorod.
  4. More especially the beautiful series contained in book iii. of the Corpus Poeticum Boreale, and ascribed by the editors of that collection to one poet—“the Helgi Poet.” Here vikings are mentioned by name—e.g.:—
    Varð ara ymr, ok iarna glymr;
    Brast rönd við rönd; rero víkingar.”
  5. “Sail” in every Teutonic language is practically the same word, and derived from the Latin sagulum.
  6. Steenstrup (Normannerne, i. p. 352), to get the number of men on (say) a 30-oared vessel, adds but some 20 more. This seems an unlikely limitation, throwing an impossible amount of work upon the crew, and leaving each ship terribly weak supposing a naval battle had to be undertaken—as with some rival viking fleet, even before any Christian nation possessed a fleet.
  7. Cf. Grett. S. ch. 42, Njála, ch. 104, &c., and many other sources.