- The Vikings were people from Scandinavia. Today, these countries are known as Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Around 400 AD, they began to make frequent raids by boat into Europe, even going into the Mediterranean Sea and raiding Sicily and southern Italy. The Vikings began attacking the Atlantic coast of southern France and also the eastern coast of England.
- By 1000 AD, some of the Vikings settled in northern France, where they were called the Normans, or Northmen, and the area where they settled is still called Normandy. Here they also converted to Christianity.
- At around the same time, some Vikings sailed west to Iceland, Greenland, and even as far as Nova Scotia, Canada. Some Viking men married Native American women there. The Vikings settled in Iceland and Greenland, but only stayed in Canada for a short time, because the Inuit people there were too strong for them, and because a global cooling period
beginning about 1300 AD made the oceans too icy for their ships to sail.
- The Vikings were very good sailors. They built boats that were very long and narrow. They were called longships or dragonships, because they had giant wood carvings of dragons that were displayed at the front of the boat. The dragon was used so that people would be frightened. Each longboat could carry over 100 people.
- Many people think of the Vikings as always wearing big helmets with horns. Actually, there was one Viking helmet found in Norway, and it didn’t have any horns.
- The Vikings discovered America about 500 years before Christopher Columbus set sail.
- Leif Erickson was one of the important Viking leaders. He was the one that led the Viking sailors over to the land now known as America.
- Woman were very important members of the Viking culture. Because their men were away for long periods of time, the women were the ones that ran the household and farms. Viking woman also knew how to protect themselves, and they could pick out any man they wanted to be their husband.
- Even before the Vikings converted to Christianity, religion was a very important part of the Viking culture. Vikings worshiped a various number of Gods and Goddesses. Since the Vikings were people who were known warriors, it makes sense that their version of heaven included fighting all day. If a Viking was a good and true warrior, then they would be able to go to Valhalla, or heaven. After fighting all day long,their nights were spent eating and drinking like it was a party. This was called feasting.
- Eric the Red was another famous Viking leader. He tried to get his people to settle up North. Even though the land was crusted with ice and completely white with frozen snow, he called the area Greenland to trick others to come live there. Unfortunately, the only time there was actually anything green there was just a little by the ocean during the peak of the summer.
The Vikings were the people who came from Scandinavia (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) from about AD 700 to about 1125. This period is called the Viking Age. Vikings traveled great distances in their longships, as traders, settlers and warriors. Many of the Vikings were tall and had red or blonde hair and beards. Villages on or near any coast in early medieval Europe lived in great fear of Viking attacks. Some of the countries most affected by Viking piracy were England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany and France. See the fact file below for more information and facts about Vikings.