Bearded, violent without reason and winners when they wanted to subdue those around them. This is one of the most popular image that comes to mind when talking about vikings.
But were they really very violent and did they really wore helmets with horns ?
The viking era was between the 9th and 11th centuries. In this time the viking culture had a significant impact on Europe, Asia, Africa and even America. Vikings could easily sail in the areas they knew and they commanded respect on every territory they conquered.
Let’s take a look at a few viking myths and see if they are really true or not.
They wore helmets with horns
There is no clear evidence that vikings wore helmets with horns as supporting evidence was not found until now. But we are sure they wore helmets for protection. Wearing a pair of horns on their heads during battle would not have been very efficient. The plates on helmets in Sutton Hoo and Vendel suggests that viking warriors decorated their helmets with protuberant similar to horns, which were actually birds peaks.
The current belief that vikings were helmets with horns originates from the 19th century, however Richard Wagner’s work fueled our imagination. Carl Emil Doepler costume designer was the first to create a viking helmet with horns.
They were a group named “Vikings”
Viken was the main commercial region in Norway, so most likely this is why. The word “Viking” later became synonymous with “naval expedition” or “naval raid” and started to get a verb function. Individually or in groups, when the viking word was used it referred to leaving the home land during warm summer months.
Contemporary writers do not use the word “viking” to refer to a group of people. Actually they refer to people from the North or pagans.
Vikings were very violent
Vikings got their place in history through raids on vulnerable establishments. Alcuin of York wrote to Bishop Higbald: ” Never such terror happened in Britain because now we suffered from a pagan raid. Pagans shed the blood of saints and stepped on their bodies in the template of God”.
There is clear evidence that vikings were violent. Countless skeletons with the weapons that killed them were discovered. Although some vikings are worthy of their name, others lived in peace, worked the land, did trade and settled the lands.
They took what they wanted and moved on
Evidence from Scandinavia points to the fact that many vikings robbed the places they visited. But many decided to stay there. One of the first and biggest viking settlements was in Dublin.
They were pagans
It is said that history is written by the victors, but in this time, the history of Vikings was written by Christians. Although there are few documents about the viking religion, most of the information available describe vikings as being pagans. But the information is not backed up by archeological discoveries of Scandinavian texts. The Viking religion was structural and it was based on stories. Mythology was also transmitted orally. Vikings did not practice religion in temples but they did funeral ceremonies and they had sacred rivers.
They mistreated women
Viking societies were mostly governed by “jarls”. The society was mostly military, in which strong men were appropriated however wise and viking women could occupy ruling positions. Women played an important role in Viking societies. They were the protectors of the family when the men were out sailing. There is proof that some women were even trained to become military leaders.
They were bearded and dirty
Many combs, tweezers, blades were discovered in viking settlements which suggests that they – or some of them at least – were careful of the way they looked. Vikings also had a very good diet that included a lot of fish. Archeological evidence suggests that vikings used to eat bears, salmon and trout.