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What They Didn’t Teach You About the Vikings


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When we think of the Vikings, we think of brutal men and women who pillaged town after town in search of wealth and land expansion. However, there’s actually a lot more to the Vikings than what our 6th grade teachers taught us in school. Here are several interesting facts about the Vikings you probably didn’t know.

No Unified Viking Group

Vikings didn’t acknowledge other Viking factions. In fact, there’s little evidence that Vikings actually called themselves “Vikings.” This is a blanket term that refers to all Scandinavian groups and individuals who participated in the overseas expeditions and expansions. In the prime of the Viking Age, the lands we know now as Denmark, Sweden, and Norway were led by tribe chieftains that often got into heated battles with one another.

No Horned Helmets

It’s true that the Vikings wore headgear during their expeditions, but horned helmets are a complete fabrication, historically speaking. This style of headgear came about in the 19th century with painters depicting barbaric Viking clans sporting the most ferocious equipment imaginable. There’s also a possibility that artists drew inspiration from Ancient Greek and Roman characters who did don horned helmets, though these were more for ceremonial purposes.

Slave Trade

The stories of violence in Viking expeditions across Europe are, for the most part, true. While burning villages to the ground, Vikings would often capture women and young men. These thralls were then transported and sold to Europe and the Middle East as slaves.

Viking Men Enjoyed Farming

While it’s true that Viking had scythes with them most of the time, these weren’t used for claiming the souls of unfortunate victims, but rather for farming. In fact, a majority of Viking males didn’t participate in pillaging other people’s lands and stealing their wealth. Most of them were content with staying at home and tending to rye and oat gardens for certain parts of the year. Vikings also domesticated cows, pigs, and sheep on their farms to provide enough food to support their small families.

Viking Women Had Basic Rights

By modern standards, getting hitched at the young age of 12 is seen as barbaric and downright gross, but in the Viking Age, it was common for pre-teens to tie the knot. The wives would stay and tend to the household while their husbands sailed across the seas in search of land and wealth. As old-fashioned as this might seem, Viking women had a lot more rights than other women during that period. Provided they weren’t concubines, they could inherit property from their husbands, ask for divorce, and get their dowries back if their marriages ended.

Viking Berserkers

The term “berserker” comes from the Nordic word, which refers to a champion-like warrior who engaged in battle while in a trance-like fury. This trance was most likely caused by excessive alcohol or drugs in their system that would numb the pain and keep them fighting until the end. Berserkers would wear different clothing to set them apart from common warriors. Their animalistic howling before the battle would send any foe running for the hills.


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