2007 Bob Parrish

"From the fury of the Norsemen, O Lord, deliver us."  On 8 June 793 the
monastery at Lindisfarne, on the east coast of England, was raided by
Norwegian raiders.  According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, "In this year
fierce, foreboding omens came over the land of Northumbria.  There were
excessive whirlwinds, lightening storms, and fiery dragons were seen flying in
the sky.  These signs were followed by a great famine, and on June 8th of
the same year, the ravaging of heathen men destroyed God's church at
Lindisfarne."  Although there was an earlier Viking raid in 787, the
destruction of the Lindisfarne monastery is generally accepted as the
beginning of the 200-year-long "Viking Age."

Plunderers and Raiders

The Vikings or Norsemen (literally, "men from the north") were fearsome
warriors who originated in Scandinavia and raided the coasts of Britain,
Ireland and mainland Europe as far east as the Volga River in Russia.  This
was possible because of the Viking's longships which were designed for speed
and agility and equipped with oars as well as sails.  The longship, sometimes
referred to as a "dragon ship," had a long narrow hull and a shallow draft
which allowed it to sail up rivers and raid far inland from the coastlines.  It
was also extremely seaworthy and the Vikings were able to cross the Atlantic
and explore the coast of North America.

In their longships the Vikings struck terror throughout the British Isles and
Europe with their violent and destructive raids, with religious monasteries
and churches as favorite targets because of the wealth contained in them.

Settlers

Vikings are most often portrayed as violent savages wading ashore from
their dragon ships, killing the local people and burning their homes and
churches.  While that very definitely happened the Vikings also came as
traders and settlers.

A common theory holds that the Viking homelands were overpopulated and
as a result many Scandinavians migrated to, among other places, the
British Isles and Northern France.  Whatever the reason, Vikings established
permanent colonies and founded such cities as Dublin, Wexford, Waterford,
Cork and Limerick in Ireland.  A large part of northern and eastern
England was a Viking kingdom called "Danelaw."

Somewhat surprisingly the Vikings did not absorb the local people, but
rather were themselves absorbed.  As time went by the Vikings became
virtually indistinguishable from the people among whom they settled.

A small note:  Vikings never wore horned helmets!  Helmets with horns or
wings were invented in the last 150 years or so by dramatists and producers
of (particularly) Wagnerian operas.
 
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2008 NTDWA