Vikings- Civilised or Not?

June 26, 2017 Religion

Vikings- Civilised or Not? Vikings; expert traders, craftsmen, raiders and warriors, came from the area known as Scandinavia. Scandinavia is a region in Europe which the Vikings lives and dominated. It consists of Norway, Sweden and part of northern Finland. They were masters of the sea with their great navigation and marine technology. Tools of which they used to raid plunder and slaughter the civilisation of far lands, separated by great and vast seas. Vikings are often portrayed as ruthless, savage beast like warriors who plundered and killed mercilessly.

But these were one sided stories from the views of the monks and priest of which the Vikings raided. Though it does have some truth b ehind it, it does not mean that they were uncivilised people. What they didn’t know was that the Vikings had a well structured society, equal rights, master of navigation, expert traders, had advanced technology, were great explorers and even had their own religion. All signs of a great, civilised and advanced society. The Vikings had a well structured and civilised society. In each society it was split into three main groups or status: jarls, karls and thralls.

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Jarls were the highest ranking of all three statuses consisting of kings, chieftains, noblemen and landowners. In these groups there were obviously even more ranks with the king and the chieftain being leaders of their society. Karls were ranked in the middle and made up the majority of the Viking society. They consisted of: freemen; any one who could choose who they were working for, and women. In this status there was equal right between freemen and women because Viking society were fair, equal and a place where sex didn’t really matter.

Another reason to support that Vikings were civilised. Lastly, were the ‘Thralls’ ranking lowest of the three. These consisted of the slaves and slaves only. Most families own about one or two slaves. The slaves were often people captured during plunders that weren’t killed. The Vikings had advanced technology compared to other civilisations at the time. The basis of their technology was their naval fleet. These consisted of longships and knarr; a Viking ship that was often used for merchant purposes. These ships were skilfully crafted using timber, mainly oak.

The long-ship is characterised as a graceful, long, narrow, light wooden boat with a shallow draft hull designed for speed. It had no deck which allowed more room for rowers/oarsmen. It would have had a maximum knot range from 5-10 nautical miles per hour. These features allow it to travel across vast bodies of water, such as the Atlantic Ocean, with ease. It also allowed them to travel into narrow rivers and spring surprise plunders and attacks on the people living near there. This was the most effective tool and was the core of their success.

The other ship is the ‘knarr’ this boat is similar to the long ship but is used for merchant and trading. It was wider and had less rowers to provide space for goods. The Vikings were able to travel great distances thanks to their technology. Their boats allowed them to travel vast oceans such as the Atlantic. To do so they must have had great navigation systems, which they did. They had been able to crate a compass using the sun and the shadow it cast. They would also drop objects into the water and count how long it takes to row past it. This would determine their speed.

They also knew that the earth was spherical. Thanks to their expert navigation they were able to find new lands and places to trade or plunder. They were also expert traders and it was a main priority. They would often trade for fur or spices as it was rare or scarce in Scandinavia. Scandinavia was cold and there are less variety of plants and animals. They would have to leave and plunder before winter to avoid the cold and the ice which would stop them in their tracks. They were also expert in exploration. As stated before their technology and navigation contributed to this.

But they also explored new lands because of the harsh climate of Scandinavia. Scandinavia is a cold snowy place which is unsustainable for farming. There is a lack of vegetation and animals. Over all Scandinavia is almost impossible to survive without good trading and exploring. So by exploring, the Vikings might able to find more fertile land to live and/or plunder. Either way it would improve the living conditions of the Viking society. So they had a good reason to plunder and kill; survival. Vikings were polytheist meaning they believed in multiple gods and goddesses.

Their gods included Odin, Thor, Hel, Frey, Freya and Loki. They believed in heaven and hell. Their gods would live in Asgard which could only be entered via a rainbow bridge called Bifrost. They believed that the gods were devided into two separate families; Asar and Vanir. Odin a the most important god, being the father of all gods and all. Odin had two ravens called Valhalla, a hall in Asgard, was the home of the gods. Odin has two birds named Thought and Memory which would watch voer the world for him and report everything they see. Thor was another powerful god. He was the god of thunder and war.

He was the only god strong enough to defeat the giants that live in Jontunhiem. Loki was the god of fire thieves and mischief. Like fire he was useful but dangerous. The Vikings also believed in supernatural creatures such as land spirits and fylgiurs. Land spirits where spirits they would bring good luck in farming, hunting and fishing. They also had protective properties that would protect animals and families. Fylgiurs were spirits that follow a person around all their life and guarded them from accidents and danger. If a human was to see their fylgiur then they were about to die.

The Vikings would hold feast and pray to statues in honour of the gods and their ancestors. The y believed that the gods would give them good fortune or luck if they made sacrifices. So they held rituals which were animal sacrifices. Though a lot of their religion and legends have passed away because they did not write a lot down in records. Most of their religion and legacy was told orally and passed on from generation to generation. This process slowly distorted their beliefs and religion as it would change bit by bit as it gets passed on by each person.

Some adding on parts some taking off parts. In conclusion the Vikings were a very civilised society, even though they were seen as barbarians. They had everything from navigation to religion. They had good structured society, technology, navigation, exploration, trading, religion and this life style was able to survive for centuries. They raided monasteries, plundered towns and destroyed villages for the simple reason of survival. This was all a necessity to survive. They did it to develop their society, keep their families alive and live another day.

They even had laws and punishments, as a civilised society should. They followed a religion, like a civilised society. They had ranks and statuses, also present in a civilised society. Their technology was far superior then any other at that time, primary evidence that they were smart and advanced. Their ability to navigate and explore areas as vast as they did shows their skills in craftsmanship and technology. All of which as evident in a civilised society. Therefore, I conclude that the Vikings were a civilised society because they have all the qualities of a civilised society and even more.


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