6 – They Were a Unified People
The âVikings’ weren’t actually a unified group. They were never a nation nor did they possess a unified army. They were disparate groups of warriors, merchants and explorers led by their own chieftains. Vikings from Denmark and Norway would not go exploring together for example. During the so-called Viking Age, the land that makes up Norway, Sweden and Denmark were made up of a collection of tribes and they often fought against one another when they weren’t busy exploring and plundering.
In fact, the term âViking’ is a term used to describe an overseas expedition. For these Scandinavians, they would take time out from tending the farm to go for âa Viking’. Some historians claim the word comes from the term vikingr which means âpirate’. In reality, the term used to describe these raiders would be âNorsemen’ (man of the north) if you are looking for accurate historical context.
To make things a bit more complicated; there is a difference between Old East Norse (from where dialects of Danish and Swedish emerged) and Old West Norse (from where dialects of Faroese, Norwegian and Icelandic emerged). The âWest’ Norse colonized Greenland, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Iceland. The âEast’ Norse conquered most of Southern Britain which led to the establishment of Danelaw; they also conquered modern day Normandy in France.
The Vikings were also extremely adept when it came to adapting to the societies and cultures of other nations; even ones that they conquered. Those who elected to settle down overseas typically gave up speaking Old Norse and spoke the language of the natives. In Ireland they spoke Irish, in Normandy they spoke Anglo-Norman and in Sicily, they spoke Sicilian.
Some Sources and Further Reading: