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Why Are The Vikings So Popular?

Why Are the Vikings So Popular?

For those who study the Vikings professionally, there is an intrinsic fascination that drives their desire to study the Viking Age in the same way that others are drawn to ancient times, the medieval period, or even contemporary history. Yet, the Vikings’ popularity also manifests itself in popular culture, and has captivated a wide audience for nearly two centuries. From Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, a 19th century opera based on Norse and Germanic mythology, to today’s Vikings on the History Channel, the Vikings have captivated the imaginations of people across the world. This brings up an intriguing question: Why…

The Viking Raid At Lindisfarne: Who Attacked The Monastery?

The Viking Raid at Lindisfarne: Who Attacked the Monastery?

It was an event that shook the Christian world to its core. So traumatic was its destruction that historians have agreed it should mark the official beginning of the Viking Age, even though it was not the first violence the British Isles experienced at the hands of the Vikings. The anglo-saxon chronicle records ‘terrible portents’ to the events at Lindisfarne in 793 A.D. Located on Holy Island in the far north of England, it is written that the monastery saw powerful storms on the eve of the Vikings’ arrival. Who attacked Lindisfarne? The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes, “793. Here terrible portents…

Do You Use The Word Viking Correctly?

Do You Use the Word Viking Correctly?

A contentious issue that has long plagued both the study of Vikings and the place of Vikings in popular culture is the proper, accepted usage of the word Viking itself. Language matters, and how a person uses language greatly affects their worldview and how they perceive people, objects, and concepts. It is no surprise, then, that there are a growing number of people who are dismayed by today’s liberal use of the word Viking to describe a great number of things that it originally did not. Here I will attempt to clarify the origins of the word Viking, its usage…

How Did The Vikings Treat The Elderly?

How did the Vikings Treat the Elderly?

One would not be remiss for thinking that the elderly were few and far between during the Viking Age. Historical estimates for the average life expectancy in Dark Ages Europe are extremely low, something around 30 years, and so the issue of the elderly and how they were treated at the time has somewhat been ignored. Recent scholarship, however, has discounted the concept of average life expectancy because it was heavily skewed by child mortality rates. We’ve since learned that once an individual made it to adulthood, they stood a fair chance of making it to their golden years. So…

Swedish Vikings: Who Were The Rus?

Swedish Vikings: Who Were the Rus?

As I explained in my previous blog about the difference between the Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish Vikings, we know the most about the Danes because of the breadth of primary sources written about them by Frankish and English Chroniclers. Archeologically speaking, the Scandinavian culture of the time was distinct and fairly homogenous, although it diverged into distinct groups by the end of the Viking Age. Yet for all we know about the Danes, there is far less information on their Swedish cousins called the Rus who, despite how little we know about them at the outset of the Viking Age, left…

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