Viking Age

Oseberg Ship at Museum of the Viking Age in Oslo
The Viking Age refers to the years between the late eighth century and middle to late eleventh century when the expansion of Scandinavian kingdoms, ignited by notable leaders like Ragnar Loðbrók, started as raids and continued with occupation and further expanding raids. The precise details of the early Viking Age and preceding periods are largely unknown because of the lack of written records in the Viking kingdoms, leaving most of its knowledge sporadically revealed by limited external sources. The timing was in their favor due to a number factors, such as rising wealth all across Europe, and weakened political systems like the English heptarchy which suffered persistent infighting. These campaigns ultimately led to the discoveries of Iceland, Greenland, and most notably Vinland (North America) by
Leiv Eirikson Discovering America by Christian Krohg, 1893
Leif Erickson in 986, the first known European to discover the continent.

Viking warriors were a murderous threat to everyone they came across, with a powerful and efficient navy spanning its presence all across the coasts of Europe as well as some parts of northern Africa. They targeted sites of significant wealth like cities and monasteries, taking gold and slaves with them back to the Scandinavian mainland. Success in these endeavors were so prominent that even the Catholic church was terrified of them. To address the threat posed by Vikings, the Catholic Church employed a strategy for enticing Viking leaders to convert to Christianity in exchange for giving them something they wanted. Slowly over time, this would weaken the kingdoms' drive for conquest one by one. While most cultures feared Vikings, some embraced their prowess and hired them as body guards, mercenaries, and even armies to fight for them.

Without pointing to any one series or movie, if readers are fans of any fictional TV show depicting Vikings, it is important to note that many characters and plot elements are invented or speculated, so much so that one has to assume that none of it is necessarily correct until cross referencing it. It's like saying 'cool story bro' when things get a bit too fantastical.

Ragnar & Sons
Ragnar Loðbrók was a Swedish and Danish king, son and successor to Sigurd Ring, another Scandinavian legend. It is a fact that Ragnar led raids against parts of what is modern day England and France (Francia). Everything else about him is either speculated or from conflicting sources, so not all accounts of Ragnar's life and legacy can be corroborated. Ragnar was eventually captured and executed in Northumbria under king Ælla. Although he knew that his sons would avenge his death, the nature of his capture, whether or not it was intentional is unclear. The belief that Ragnar was executed by being dropped into a pit of venomous snakes holds strong merit. He had at least five sons with his wife Aslaug, including Sigurd, Björn, Ivar, Ubbe/a, and Halfdan (Hvitserk). Some sources suggest he had more children, as shown on sites like Geneanet, although all accounts and texts differ. Ragnar's sons continued his terrifying legacy and went on to rule long after his death.

Sigurd Áslaugsson a.k.a. Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye eventually became the king of Denmark. While he was a child, the Danish king Eysteinn Beli (Östen) had killed two of his half brothers. Sigurd had convinced his brothers Ivar, Halfdan, and Björn to avenge their deaths, who did so along with their mother Aslaug. He is also said to have travelled with Ragnar to both Scotland and the Strait of Gallipoli (Hellespont) in what is modern day northwest Turkey.

Björn a.k.a. Björn Järnsida (Ironside) eventually became the king of Sweden where he and his lineage continued to rule. Prior to this, Björn led successful raids into west Francia and in Paris for years. King Charles of Francia also had other conflicts on the east side of his kingdom while Björn's raids persisted. He was so desperate to rid of Björn's army that he had hired another Viking army to drive them out of the land. However, this didn't end well for Charles when the two Viking armies joined forces instead of fighting each other. Eventually Björn left for raids against other lands all along the Mediterranean Sea.

Barbarian by The Darkness
Ivar Ragnarsson, a.k.a. Ivar Beinlausi (the Boneless) was a military genius who after Ragnar's death led Vikings into an invasion of England and Ireland with his brothers Halfdan, and Ubba. The execution of Ragnar fueled the desire for vengeance and sparked renewed interest in the invasion of the British isles. Initial attempts for revenge without Ivar had failed, giving Northumbria a grotesque overconfidence in their ability to prevail over Vikings. Ivar's arrival changed the tide of conflict dramatically, leading to the swift fall of Northumbria and the capture of king Ælla, who was then executed using the blood eagle. During his time in the British isles, Ivar was renowned for his superior combat tactics, and infamously cruel treatment and execution of Christians.

Historical Records
The Danish History of Saxo Grammaticus

Updated January 2024
Bill Liam East
Edited by Revan Rose
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