The “Vikings “never called themselves Vikings. The true origin of the name “Vikings” is not yet clear to date. Not long ago, the name “Vikings” was said to mean Scandinavian pirate or raider. Apart from these two, various names such as heathers, Danes and Northmen were used. The people of the north were never a unified group and did not consider themselves as one. They didn’t see eye to eye with their fellows from the north. The name Vikings plainly attributed to all the Scandinavians who were part of the north expeditions.
The term “viking” was used by the Norse, Scandinavians speaking the Danish Tongue to refer to the men who went raiding abroad. However, these soldiers were only referred to as “Vikings” during the time they were raiding. They were no longer identified with the term as soon as they were back. According to native literature, the people of the north identified themselves according to the regions they came from. For example, Icelanders referred to themselves as Islendingr, Danish as Danskr, Norwegian/Norse as Norroenn and Swedish as Svenskr. The language back then was way more complex than what we have today. We have come to use the word Vikings differently today to ease the complexity in their time. The word Viking to them was used to mean action/ job.
What were the Vikings called by other people?
We identify ourselves with our nationality, cultural beliefs, and values in modern society. This was somewhat different from the olden days as the information, ideas and concepts we have today were not known by our ancestors.
During the Viking Age, the people from the north had a common faith, culture and language, which differed from region to region. Despite sharing common beliefs, they were never unified as a group based on the persistent attacks, raids and severe competition that existed even within their homeland. They were split into several tribes like the Svear, Jutes, Geats and Zealanders. The Vikings grouped themselves in small tight kinship bonds that formed their societies. Research has concluded that the medieval Scandinavians had no name for themselves. Their enemies, on the other hand, had numerous names for them. They were all called Danes by the English and French. In Ireland, they were referred to as “the Foreigners”, in eastern Europe and the Mediterranean, Varangians (sworn companions) was their name, and to the Moors of Spain and the Arabs, they were known as Majus.
Why they are called Vikings?
History has had its fair share of great warrior cultures, from the Scythians, the Mamelukes, the Sarmatians, and many more. Yet only a hand full have received the attention, glory and status that the Vikings have. But why were they called Vikings? What does the term really mean? This has been a significant discussion that is yet to be settled recently. The term Vikings don’t include a particular group of people, tribe or language. As mentioned before, the term means an adventurer—someone who left their homeland as a seaborne raider.
The term Viking was both a verb and a noun. The act of leaving your homeland in pursuit of adventure and someone who departs their motherland for seaborne adventure. In the Norse tongue, the word was spelt Vikingr. The Norse people used the letter “r” at the end to signify masculinity. However, the “r” has been dropped in English transliteration in the modern world.
The most prevailing clarification of the origin of the term Vikings from the many ongoing debates is that it comes from the word Vik, a place Vikingr launched out of during their adventures. Another theory connects it to the southwestern part of Norway called Vik, where a number of Vikings came from. This does not imply that Vikings were purely from Norway as they also originated from Sweden, Denmark and many other geographical locations of Europe, making the “Vik region” ideology inaccurate.
The Vikings movement
The Vikings had travelled in what are now over 40 countries and had notable holdings in over a dozen lands within a couple of centuries of the very first raids. They quickly interacted with the various residents, and by the mid-ninth century, there was evidence of them being Norse-Irish and Norse- Slavic. There is a time in history when the Vikings became permanent residents of England and even managed to rule the region for a while. They also colonized Greenland, discovered Iceland and became ingrained in various islands in North Atlantic.
Upon reaching the foreign lands, many Vikings settled and created new societies in these places, whereas some travelled back home, taking their loot and military experience back to Scandinavia. The overflowing stream of wealth, material possessions and warriors that they brought back led to the birth of political and martial power that brought the emergence of kings such as Gorm the Old, Harald Fairhair and Harald Bluetooth.
Where were the Vikings from?
For a very long time, Vikings were considered exclusively to be from the Scandinavian countries. However, this was disputed in 2020, with new DNA research urging that the Vikings comprised people from southern Europe and far beyond. It is known that the Vikings were highly adventurers individuals and travelled a lot. They discovered new places and took the locals with them, with their consent or not, leading to integration among the European people. Despite all this, the Vikings’ culture, technology and archaeological remains are still profusely Scandinavian.
Various debates have surfaced, questioning whether it is appropriate to call Vikings “Vikings” since the term means an adventurer sea raider and was only used during the raiding period. Occupants of Scandinavia in the eighth to the eleventh century were primarily farmers and shepherds and, more often than not, stayed in their farms and tilled their land. Detractors, therefore, view the name Vikings as vague and misapplied.
During the Vikings Age, society was grouped into three major groups. Jarls were the aristocrats, Karls were the free landholders and made the bulk of the population, and thralls were enslaved people and servants. They would farm their land and tend to their animals in spring, go viking in summer in quest of wealth and status and stay inside during winter.
The Vikings go by many names- Foreigners, Northmen, Varangians and many more. They have been considered mysterious and have been highly misunderstood. However, their most significant features, such as their determination, boldness, and ethos, have significantly impacted the world’s history.