5 – They Did Nothing but Fight & Raid
This myth suggests that Vikings did little other than raid and pillage as if their entire life revolved around plundering. While they undoubtedly pillaged, looted and murdered on their travels, it was an additional source of income rather than a way of life. A significant number of Vikings would have had farms back home which were tended to by females while the men went away for a spot of looting.
Those who returned resumed their farm duties. It is also important to note that it was a fairly small percentage of the Norse that were warriors. The rest were farmers, traders and craftsmen. They settled peacefully in a number of locations including Greenland and Iceland and were actually international merchants who traded with a number of countries.
It would be wrong to paint a soft and cuddly picture of the Vikings however. They were certainly violent at times and could slaughter and destroy with the best of them. Yet it is crucial to remember that they lived in a violent age when brutality was common on the battlefield and when invading armies were resisted by towns and cities. For example, Holy Roman Emperor (and King of the Franks) Charlemagne lived in the same age and is regarded as one of the great rulers of that era. He ordered the beheading of 4,500 Saxons at Verden in a display of brutality that matched anything the Vikings had to offer.
Perhaps the Vikings were singled out because they gleefully destroyed things of religious value such as monasteries and they also killed clerics. They did this at a highly religious age which would certainly explain the level of hatred towards them. The Vikings enjoyed a reputation for brutality which they probably exploited; especially when they found that people would flee for their lives rather than encounter them. This made it easy to plunder whatever they liked.
While they may have been hated by religious people, they also earned respect. French king Charles III allowed the Vikings to remain on land where they settled and his daughter married a Viking chief. These warriors repaid the king by fighting against other Viking invaders. Byzantine emperors used Vikings to form their personal bodyguard unit known as the Varangian Guard.