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Vikings

VIKINGS

From the 750s to the 1050s, the Vikings were warriors, pirates, and traders from Scandinavia who employed the most sophisticated naval technology of the time in Northern Europe to launch extensive raiding and trading expeditions stretching west to Canadian Labrador and east to the Caspian Sea.

Vikings (called Rus in the Arabic and Varangians in the Greek sources), primarily from Sweden and the Isle of Gotland, first entered European Russia in small groups in search of trade and tribute in the second half of the eighth century. By the ninth century, the Rus had established a complex commercial network stretching from the Baltic to the Islamic Caliphate. By the tenth century, the Rus extended this network southward to the Byzantine Empire via Kiev, continuing the eastern trade through intermediaries on the middle Volga in Volga Bulgaria. Also by the tenth century, the Vikings traveling through Russia had entered the service of the Byzantine Emperor (tenth through twelfth centuries) and helped found the first East Slavic kingdom, Kievan Rus.

The Russian Primary Chronicle relates that in 862 the Viking Rurik and his kin were invited by Slavic and Finnic tribes to come and rule over them, after which they developed a system of tribute that encompassed northwestern Russia, Kiev, and its neighboring tribes. The Chronicle' s account is substantiated by finds of Scandinavian-style artifacts (tortoise shell brooches, Thor's hammer pendants, wooden idols, armaments), and in some cases graves, found at Staraya Ladoga, Ryurikovo Gorodishche, Syaskoe Gorodishche, Timerevo, and Gnezdovo. These sites were tribal and commercial centers and riverside waystations, typical of those found along trade routes used by the Rus, most notably that of the Volga Route to the Islamic Caliphate and the Route to the Greeks along the Dnieper.

In contrast to Viking activity in the West, which is characterized primarily by raiding and large-scale colonization, the Rus town network and subsequent tribal and political organization was designed for trade. Subject tribes living along river systems supplied the Rus with the furs, wax, honey, and slaves that they would further exchange for Islamic silver (especially dirhams), glass beads, silks, and spices in southern markets. The Rus expansion into Byzantine markets began in earnest in the early tenth century, with Rus attacks on Constantinople in 907, 911, and 944, which resulted in trade agreements. By the end of the century, in 988989, Vladimir I (ruled 9801015), a quarter Viking through his father Svyatoslav, had married into the Byzantine royal family and converted to Byzantine Christianity, thereby laying the foundation for the Eastern Slavic relationship with the Greek world.

The tenth century marks the high point of Viking involvement in the East. Much of the Scandinavian-style jewelry found in European Russia and a majority of the Scandinavian-style graves date to the second and third quarters of the tenth century. Vladimir I and his son Yaroslav the Wise (ruled 10191054) enlisted Viking mercenary armies in internecine dynastic wars. In the eleventh century, however, the Viking foot soldier armies had become obsolete as the Rus princes were forced to adapt to another enemy in the south, the Turkic nomads who fought on horseback. The defeat of Yaroslav's Viking mercenaries by a nomadic army at the Battle of Listven (1024) is indicative of this trend.

See also: gnezdovo; kievan rus; normanist controversy; primary chronicle; route to greeks; vladimir, st.; yaroslav vladimirovich

bibliography

Franklin, Simon, and Shepard, Jonathan. (1996). The Emergence of Rus, 7501200. London: Longman.

Noonan, Thomas S. (1997). "Scandinavians in European Russia." In The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings, ed. Peter Sawyer. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pritsak, Omeljan. (1981). The Origin of Rus'. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute.

Stalsberg, Anne. (1988). "The Scandinavian Viking Age Finds in Rus: Overview and Analysis." In Bericht der Römisch-Germanischen Kommission 69. Mainz am Rhein, Germany: Philipp Von Zabern.

Heidi M. Sherman

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Vikings

Vikings, Scandinavian warriors who raided the coasts of Europe and the British Isles from the 9th cent. to the 11th cent. During the Neolithic period the Scandinavians had lived in small autonomous communities as farmers, fishermen, and hunters. At the beginning of the Viking Age they were the best shipbuilders and sailors in the world; they later ventured as far as Greenland and North America (see Vinland). At the height of the Viking Age, the typical Viking warship, the "long ship," had a high prow, adorned with the figure of an animal, and a high stern (see ship). It seated up to 30 oarsmen and had an average crew of 90. Its square sails were perpendicularly striped in many colors, and the entire ship was vividly painted and elaborately carved. On both sides of the ship hung a row of painted round shields. This is the most familiar Viking ship; the many other types varied according to purpose and period. Among the causes that drove the Vikings from their lands were overpopulation, internal dissension, quest for trade, and thirst for adventure. Many local kingdoms came into existence in Scandinavia, and from them stemmed the kingdoms of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. The Vikings' religion was paganism of the Germanic type; their mythological and heroic legends form the content of Old Norse literature. The Viking Age ended with the introduction of Christianity into Scandinavia, with the emergence of the three great Scandinavian kingdoms, and with the rise of European states capable of defending themselves against further invasions. Many Vikings settled where they had raided. The Scandinavian raiders in Russia were known as Varangians; their leader Rurik founded the first Russian state. Elsewhere the Vikings came to be known as Danes, Northmen, Norsemen, or Normans.

See T. D. Kendrick, A History of the Vikings (1930, repr. 1968); J. B. Brondsted, The Vikings (new tr. 1965); G. Jones, A History of the Vikings (1968, repr. 1973); P. Foote and D. M. Wilson, The Viking Achievement (1970); O. Klindt-Jensen, The World of the Vikings (tr. 1971); P. H. Sawyer, The Age of the Vikings (2d ed. 1972); W. W. Fitzhugh and E. I. Ward, ed., Vikings: The North Atlantic Saga (2000); R. Ferguson, The Vikings (2009); G. Williams, The Viking Ship (2014); G. Williams et al., ed., Vikings: Life and Legend (museum catalog, 2014); A. Winroth, The Age of the Vikings (2014).

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Vikings

Vikings Scandinavian seaborne marauders, traders and settlers, who spread throughout much of Europe and the North Atlantic region in the 9th to 11th centuries. The Viking expansion seems to have been caused by rapid population growth, and consequent scarcity of good farming land, as well as the desire for new sources of wealth. It was made possible by their advanced maritime technology, which enabled them to cross n European waters in a period when other sailors feared to venture out of sight of land. They were in many respects more advanced than other European peoples, notably in metalwork. Although they first appeared in their ‘longships’ as raiders on the coasts of nw Europe, later groups came to settle. Swedes, known as Varangians, founded the first Russian state at Novgorod, and traded via the River Volga in Byzantium and Persia. Danes conquered much of n and e England. Norwegians created kingdoms in n Britain and Ireland, founding Dublin (c.840) and other cities; they also colonized Iceland and established settlements in Greenland. A short-lived settlement, Vinland, was established in North America by Leif Ericsson in c.1003. In the early 10th century, the Vikings settled in Normandy. Anarchic conditions in 10th-century Scandinavia resulted in the formation of larger, more powerful kingdoms, and Viking expansion declined. It renewed in a different form with the conquest of England by King Sweyn of Denmark in 1013 and the Norman Conquest of 1066.

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"Vikings." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 18 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Viking ornament

Viking ornament. Style of ornament produced in Scandinavia and in Scandinavian colonies from C8 to C12, consisting of interlacing elements linked to zoömorphic forms in continuous complex designs. For architectural purposes there are three main styles: that featuring S-shaped intertwined animals, with bodies of even, ribbon-like form (Jelling(e) style —mid-C10); that employing semi-naturalistic animals and birds as well as dragon-like forms, with influences from Anglo-Saxon and Ottonian decoration (Ringerike style—C11); and that with extremely stylized animals, ribbon-shaped animals, and snakes, any animal-heads or -feet being reduced to elongated terminals, forming figure of eight and intertwining multiloop lacertine designs of great complexity (Urnes style—later C11). The Urnes style influenced Celtic, Hiberno-Romanesque, and Anglo-Saxon designs. A good example of Ringerike Norse or Viking ornament of the Ringerike type is the carving on the south doorway of the Church of Sts Mary and David, Kilpeck, Herefs. (c.1140–5). Mingled with Celtic motifs, Viking ornament recurred in Art Nouveau design.

Bibliography

Glazier (1926);
O. Jones (1868);
Lewis & and Darley (1986);
Jane Turner (1996);
Tschudi-Madsen (1967)

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