Why did the Vikings raid?

The Vikings greatly terrorized and raided several territories across medieval Europe for several centuries. While they were often seen as pirates, they were also traders, farmers, colonizers, and the first European explorers of the North Atlantic. But, why exactly did they raid? Read on to find out!

Why did the Vikings raid

Why did the Vikings raid?

During the Viking age, raids were frequent, violent and destructive, and raiding was an important part of Viking life and interactions. The Vikings often carried out their raids during the summer months because it was safer and crossing the sea from their original homeland in Scandinavia was more convenient then. They would then spend the rest of the year cultivating land, taking care of their animals, and interacting with their families.

All the Viking raiding parties featured a small number of boats known as longboats because of their long and narrow shape. Additionally, the boats had carved figures towards the front such as serpents or dragons. These longboats were designed in a way that the Vikings could land straight on a beach and race straight up to their target and back when they are ready to leave. Small boats carried a maximum of 40 men and slightly bigger boats carried about 100 men. The Vikings relied on surprise attacks to avoid resistance from villages and monasteries that often prepared for war.

Primarily, they raided to steal gold from established monasteries and to capture people as their slaves. The Vikings would then sell all the things they got to purchase everything they wanted. Aside from that, they raided to show how brave they were, because bravery was an important attribute in Norse culture/religion. At the beginning of the Viking age, they would raid different territories and return to their homelands.

As time went by, they raided to acquire land for settlement. They would carry their families along with them, raid, and then create permanent settlements in the lands they had raided. Some of their main settlements were seen in Scotland’s islands and coastal regions, Lerwick, Stornoway, and Dingwall.

Vikings invade Britain

Why did the Vikings invade Britain?

Viking raids started in June of 793 CE in the small island of Lindisfarne, off the northeast coast of England. The main reasons why the Vikings invaded Britain was because;

  • Anglo-Saxon England was RICH

First things first, the Vikings wanted to accumulate as much wealth and as many material possessions as possible. Britain was the best place to do this because it had several lucrative trade centers and successful businesses. Any time they spotted riches, they would invade the territory and ensure that they get the most of it before moving on to the next town.

  • Wealth was easily accessible by the sea

Among the major things that the Vikings prioritized was convenience. Everything they ever wanted from Britain was located near the coast. Additionally, all the exceptionally wealthy targets that they raided had close proximity to the sea making it easy to raid.

  • They wanted to take advantage of Britain’s fertile land

As they carried out their raids, they learnt that Britain offered lands that could be cultivated easily. For this reason, most Viking warriors traveled to Britain with their families and clansmen to settle and cultivate the land.

  • They were greatly encouraged by their religion

Religion played a significant role in the Viking raids. By the time that the Vikings attacked Lindisfarne, the Norse god Odin was the supreme god in the Scandinavian religion. He was the god of military victory, war, and battle and was consulted for wisdom and knowledge. The Vikings believed that Odin would reward them if they died in battle and they would be sent to Valhalla, where they would feast and drink to honor their martial skills as they prepared for the end of the world. Based on this train of thought, the Norse religions encouraged the raids in Britain as the Vikings were after immortality and were trying to secure a place in Odin’s elite army at the Ragnarok (the battle at the end of the world).

  • They were in search of new land

According to several historians, the Vikings left their homes because their original homelands were completely overcrowded. There wasn’t enough good land for everyone to share, they needed a place for their families and they needed to make their living elsewhere.

Viking first raid

Viking first raid

The first Viking raid was carried out on 8 June 793 on the small Northumbian island of Lindisfarne. Several Norse longboats landed on the island with intention of grabbing monastery riches. The Vikings stole treasures, murdered monks, and destroyed religious relics. They were very brutal and the inhabitants of Lindisfarne were terrified and shocked at the Viking activities. This marked the beginning of the Viking Age.

The Anglo-Saxon monasteries were the vest pick for Viking raids because they had nearly all the treasures that the Vikings sought after. The Vikings at the time were pagans, so they had no second thoughts about desecrating sacred sites and getting rid of the monks. Also, the religious communities couldn’t really resist the plundering of their treasures.

Thereafter a new crew of Vikings landed on the British Isles in 789, however, their main intention was to trade peacefully. Even so, there was sporadic violence. The minute the 3 ships of the Norsemen landed on the coast of the Kingdom of Wessex, they murdered one of the king’s officials. This attack, however, did not match the brutal attack on Lindisfarne monastery that destroyed nearly everything and took several lives.

The attack was never forgotten and it spread a lot of fear and panic across all the Anglo-Saxon Christians in Europe. In memory of the Anglo-Saxon attack, the Anglo-Saxon‘s residing in Lindisfarne carved the scenes of bloodshed onto a stone grave marker and named it the ‘Viking Domesday Stone’. Aside from that, many scholars and neighbors claimed that the raiders were sent by God as vengeance on the immoral people of the kingdom of Northumbria. While this raised a lot of fear among other Christian communities, the Vikings raids continued across Europe until the 11th century.

Viking Jewelry