Most Famous Vikings and their Legacy
Who are the Vikings?
The Vikings are Scandinavian tribes from Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland. They are known for their business knowledge and military success. History holds back their violence, their savagery and the destruction of numerous monasteries and abbeys.
They spoke in Old Norse and the name Vikings came from Old Norse Vika which means adventurers. This name would mean "Adventurers of the sea".
Reasons for the expansion of the Vikings
One of the main reasons for their expansion is their population growth. The latter pushed them to seek new territories to colonize. The German law in action also pushed the cadets into exile for the status of king of lands and lands.
According to experts, the expansion began on 8 June 793 with the looting of the monastery located on the English island of Lindisfarne. During the latter, they fill holds, slaves, precious metals, works of art, etc.. This expansion stopped in 1066 when Harald Hardrada said that the Ruthless died at the Battle of Stamford Bridge.
The legacy of the Vikings
The Vikings made expeditions that took them east of Baghdad, west of North America and south of England to France and Africa.
They left a material legacy of many armoury and navigation works. They have also developed legends, gods and an art of speech that inspire cinema and the literary universe.
The Names of Famous Viking Warriors
The Viking series brought to the fore the Scandinavian tribes that marked Europe from the 8th to the 11th centuries. While England has been one of the main theatres of their combat agility, they have also demonstrated their ability to extend beyond Europe's borders.
- Name: Bjorn 1er
- Nickname: Björn Järnsida (Björn Ironside)
- Dates: ~840, Sweden - 880, Sweden
- Son of: Ragnar Lodbrok and Lagertha
- Children: Refil and Erik II
- Function: King of Sweden and Uppsala from 860 to 880 and legendary founder of the Munsö dynasty
Björn Ironside Tumulus on Munsö Island, Lake Mälaren, Sweden. The tumulus is crowned by a runic stone and expeditions against France (notably in Gascony) and England, as far as the Mediterranean.
With the complicity of another great Viking chieftain, Hasting, he skirted the French coast, descended to Galicia, crossed the Strait of Gibraltar (859), followed Morocco, and ventured as far as the Balearic Islands.
He took part in raids in the South of France, Narbonne and Nîmes. He went up the Rhône river by burning Valence, then the Isère river where at Romans, at the end of their raid, leaving from their base camp in Camargue, he destroyed the Collegiate Church of Saint-Barnard.
Thereafter, Björn followed Hasting to Italy, notably to Luna, which was taken in the 860s.
Tolerance of Christianity in its states, although Christianity only really triumphed in Sweden after the middle of the 11th century.
- Name: Egill Skallagrímsson
- Dates: ~ 910, in Borg - 990, in Mosfell
- Son of: Grím le Chauve (Skallagrím) and Bera
- Children: 2 deceased sons, Thorgerd, Thorsteinn
- Function: Scalde
Portrait of Egill Skallagrímsson in a manuscript of the 17th century Egils SagaBetween an eventful life and a poetic work, Egill would have had a dual nature, inherited from his double ancestry: on the one hand the frank and open character of the Vikings, on the other hand the dark and taciturn nature of the Lapps. He is impetuous, vengeful and eager for wealth, but he is also a loyal friend, a shy lover and a devoted father.
Murderer of King Eirik's son with a Blood Axe (Erik I).
He cursed the king by carving a magical rune inscription on a pole.
Later, it sank off the coast of Northumbria (England) and fell into the hands of Erik (around 948). He managed to save his life by composing Höfud-slausn, a long poem to Erik's praise in monorimic verse, in one night. Another long poem of praise in memory of his friend Arinbjörn (Arinbjarnarkarkvid-a) is attributed to him.
After the death of two of his sons, Egill locked himself in his bed and wanted to starve himself to death. His daughter persuaded him to write a poem. This is how he composed the Sonatorrek lament ( "Irreparable loss of threads") around 961. The poem is also a family portrait in which he mourns the death of his parents. Driven by his desire for revenge, the scald began by cursing Odin before bowing down and praising the god for giving him such a poetic gift. When he finishes the poem, Egill returns to the normal course of his life.
He reached an advanced age and, having become blind, composed a lament about his old age.
Eric with the Bloody Axe
- Name: Éric Iᵉʳ (Eirik, in Norwegian)
- Nickname: Bloody Axe (A Latin text describes him as fratris interfector (brother killer) and it is possible that the "bloody" component of his nickname refers to the fratricides he committed.)
- Dates: 885, Norway - 954, Cumbria (United Kingdom)
- Son of: Harald I of Norway, nicknamed the Beautiful Hair
- Children: Ragnvald, Gamle (Gorm), Guttorm, Harald II of Norway, Ragnfred, Erling, Gudrod, Sigurd Sleva, Ragnhild
- Function: Second King of Norway (931, then King of the Viking Kingdom of York (948 to 949 and 952 to 954)
King Erik's penny to the Bloody Axe, YorkExpedition to Bjarmeland, in northern Russia today in 920.
Conquests along the Dvina River from 930 onwards. He looted the small commercial port of Permina.
Married Gunnhild, daughter of King Gorm (Denmark).
King of Norway in 931, following his father Harald I. He beheaded his eighteen brothers, except for one then in England, Håkon I. The latter dethroned Eric two years later.
Departure to Orkney and then to the Viking kingdom of York in northern England at the invitation of local Vikings.
Dethroned by Olaf Kvaran, Viking King of Dublin, then restored.
Died in action at the battle of Stainmore ( Westmorland) against the troops of Magnus, the son of Olaf Kvaran, in 954.
Erik the Red
- Name: Eirikr Thorvaldson
- Nickname: Erik the Red (Eiríkr Rauði in Norwegian). This nickname would have been given to him because of the red colour of his hair and beard.
- Dates: 940 or 950 in Jæren (Norway) - 1003 or 1010 (at ~60 years old) Greenland
- Son of: Thorvald Ásvaldsson, Åsvald Åsvaldson
- Children: Leif Erikson, Þorvald (Thorvald) and Þorsteinn (Thorsteinn) and a daughter: Freydís
- Function: Explorer
Portrait of Erik the Red from Arngrímur Jónsson's Gronlandia (1688)Banishment of Iceland for murder
Foundation of the first settlement in Greenland, which was later narrated in the Saga of Erik the Red.
Back in Iceland after three years of exile exploring the eastern coast of Greenland, he prepared for the colonization of the lands he had discovered.
Foundation of the town of Qassiarsuk in southern Greenland with 450 settlers, where Thjodhild, his wife, built a church. The sanctuary, as well as a Scandinavian house, have been rebuilt on the edge of Tunulliarfik Fiord in the heart of Greenland.
Supreme Chief of Greenland where he remained until his death following an epidemic.
- Name: Freydís Eiríksdóttir
- Dates: 970 (probably in Iceland) - Unknown (probably in Greenland)
- Origin: Iceland or Greenland
- Daughter of: Erik "the Red" Thorvaldsson
- Children: Snorri
- Function: Explorer
Freydís Eiríksdóttir, Saga Museum of ReykjavikExpedition to Vinland led by Thorfinn Karlsefni where she distinguished herself as a fearless warrior. Facing the Amerindians, she ripped off her clothes, exposing her chest and hitting it with her sword while screaming. The natives, frightened by this vision of a pregnant warrior with bare breasts screaming warily, immediately fled and the battle ended.
New expedition to Vinland. Freydis had all the survivors of one of the expedition's ships that had sunk and killed 5 unarmed women with an axe herself executed for the sole purpose of preserving her own ship's rations.
Another expedition accompanied by her husband and in partnership with two Icelandic brothers named Finnbodi and Helgi. The latter and their crew were massacred on Freydis' orders following a quarrel.
Return to Greenland where her brother Leif, refusing to sentence her to death for her crimes, punished her with exile.
Late death (no specific date) and natural death.
- Name: Harald Sigurdsson
- Nickname: Harald Hardrada (Harðráði in Norwegian, "The Ruthless")
- Dates: ~1015, Ringerike (Norway) - September 25, 1066
- Son of: Sigurd Syr
- Children: Maria, Ingegerd, Magnus, Olaf Kyrre
- Function: King of Norway
Battle of Stiklestad where Harald, then fifteen years old, distinguished himself on the battlefield, but was seriously wounded, while his half-brother, King Olaf Haraldsson, died.
Fled to northern Norway, then Sweden and finally the Rus' of Kiev in 1031 where Grand Prince Yaroslav the Wise appointed him captain of his troops.
Departure for Constantinople in 1033 or 1034 where Harald joined the Varangian Guard.
Return in Rus' in the second half of 1042, during which Harald married Elisabeth, daughter of Iaroslav the Wise and granddaughter of the Swedish king Olof Skötkonung.
Returned to Norway in 1046 to claim the throne and that of Denmark.
King of Norway in 1047
Battle of Nisa in 1062 to seize Denmark which finally led him to make peace with Sven II in 1064.
Last great Viking expedition (300 ships and 9,000 men) to England where Harald made landfall in the Shetland, then the Orkney Islands where he left his wife and daughters. It then skirted the coasts of Scotland, ravaged the Cleveland district, set fire to Scarborough, climbed the Humber and then its tributary, the Ouse, and landed at Ricall, about fifteen kilometres south of York, around September 1066.
Harald died during the battle of the Stamford Bridge on September 25, 1066. The Norwegian survivors were able to hold on to 24 of the 300 ships that had arrived.
Repatriation of Harald's body to Norway a year later, and burial in Nidaros, his capital (now Trondheim).
- Name: Ivar Ragnarsson
- Nickname: Ivar the Bone (Ivarr inn Beinlausi in Norwegian), King Berserker
- Dates: ~ 794 - 872 or 873, in Dublin (Ireland)
- Son of: Ragnar Lodbrok
- Function: King and berserker
Expedition to England in 855 with his brothers Halfdan and Ubbe Ragnarsson to loot in the East Anglia region before quickly reaching a compromise with the East Angels.
Capture of York in 856.
Conquest of the Danelaw in 865.
Departure for Dublin around 869 after Ivar left the command of the Danish Grand Army in England to his brothers Ragnarsson Halfdan and Ubbe.
Died of illness in Ireland after 870.
N.B.: Ivar Ragnarsson is widely identified with Ivarr or Ímar king of Dublin, the founder of the Uí Ímair dynasty, or House of the Ivar.
- Name: Leif Erikson ( Leifr Eiríksson in Norwegian, Leifur Eiríksson in Icelandic)
- Dates: ~ 970, probably in Iceland - between 1019 and 1025, probably in Greenland
- Son of: Erik the Red
- Children: Thorkell
- Function: explorer and jarl of Greenland
Leif eirikson discovering America through Christian KrohgFirst trip to the Hebrides and then to Norway, to the court of King Olaf Tryggvason who convinced him to convert to Christianity and take a priest to Greenland, which deeply displeased his father, a pagan who had succeeded in establishing his domination over the colonies.
Discovery around the year 1000 of the new world he described as follows:
Helluland is a rocky and desolate land, probably Baffin Island or northern Labrador.
Markland is a low, wooded coast, almost certainly the southern part of present-day Labrador.
Vinland could be the current site of Bay St Lawrence north of Cape Breton in Nova Scotia, only serious archaeological excavations of this site (which have never been undertaken before) could confirm or invalidate it. There is still doubt about the name Vinland or "wine country" given by Leif to this place which he would have very temporarily colonized because of the discovery of bunches of grapes by his adopted father Tyrkir.
Chief of Greenland after his father's death, he no longer went on an exploration trip but still had to deal with the case of his half-sister Freydis, guilty of blood crimes with his crew during a last trip to Vinland.
- Name: Ragnar Lodbrok (Ragnarr Loðbrók in Norwegian)
- Nickname: Ragnarr with hairy sharks
- Son of: Sywardus Ring
- From Lagertha: Fridlev Ragnarsson, 2 anonymous girls, Björn 1st Côtes-de-Fer.
- From Thora Borgarthiort: Rathbarth, Dunwat, Sigurd Snake Eye, Agner killed in a war against Eysteinn Beli, Ivar, Halfdan 1st.
- From Suanlogha: Regnald, Witherc, Eirik Vindhatt.
- From Hesbern's daughter: Ubbe.
- Function: Semi-legendary King of Sweden and Denmark
In her commentary on the Danish Gesture, Hilda Ellis Davidson notes that the account of the legend of Ragnar in Book IX of the Gesture seems to be an attempt to bring together under the reign of a single king, Ragnar, the events recounted in the confused and contradictory accounts to which the columnist had access. This is why many of the actions attributed to Ragnar in the Gesture can be attributed, under the authority of other sources, to other personalities, some of whom are historically more credible.
Ragnar Lodbrok thrown by the Anglo-Saxons into the snake pit by Hugo Hamilton,1830Fighting in Sweden against two giant snakes (or dragons) whose fiery breath was ravaging the country. Ragnar protected himself from their venom by putting on long-haired beast skin brains (hence his nickname).
Count at the court of the Danish king Hårek
Participation in the first looting of Paris in 845 with 120 ships and 5,000 Vikings.
Looting of Northumbria
Prisoner of King Ælle of Northumbria, Ragnar died having been thrown into a pit full of snakes.
N.B.: One of his favourite strategies is to attack Christian cities during religious holidays, since many soldiers were in church. He only agrees to leave his victims in exchange for a huge sum of money, and comes back later asking for more for his departure.
Rollon the Walker
- Name: Rollon ( Hrólfr in Norwegian), Robert ( baptismal name)
- Nickname: Rollon the Walker * (Göngu-Hrólfr in Old Norse). Rollon is nicknamed "the Walker" because no horse could carry his imposing stature, according to the saga of the Orcadians, or because of his many journeys (göngu would actually come from göngumadr, namely the vagabond), according to Régis Boyer.
- Dates: ~ 845 or 860 (Denmark, Orkney, Norway?) - Between 925 and 933, Normandy
- Son of: Ragnvald Eysteinsson and Ragnhilde
- Children: Guillaume 1st of Normandy and Gerloc
- Function: Jarl des Normands
Lying of Rollon, Rouen Cathedral Bannissement of Norway by King Harald to the beautiful Hair for having engaged in acts of looting in the country in 875.
Refuge with the Anglo-Saxon king Alstelmus and looting of Friesland, the mouth of the Rhine and the Scheldt.
Arrived at the mouth of the Seine in 876 or 890-905 according to others, he participated in the siege of Paris between 885 and 887, then plundered Bayeux where he married Poppa, the daughter of the Count of Bayeux Bérenger, the Bessin, Évreux.
Departure for England to rescue King Alfred his ally.
Return to 898 and raids on Nantes, Angers, Le Mans. He concluded with the Archbishop of Rouen the "pact of Jumièges" in order to spare the city of Rouen.
Unsuccessful attacks from Paris and Chartres in the summer of 911.
Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte in 911 by which the Carolingian king Charles the Simple cedes to Rollon a part of Neustrie, a land going from the Epte to the sea, base of the future duchy of Normandy, and would have granted the hand of his daughter Gisèle. In exchange, Rollon undertakes to block Viking incursions threatening the Frankish kingdom.
Baptism at Rouen Cathedral in 912 under the name of Robert, named after Duke Robert, his godfather and ancestor of the future Capetian kings, Rollon became Robert I, Jarl (Count) of Normandy.
Sharing the land between his warriors who are settling down.
Continuation of looting expeditions in Frankish territory and deterioration between 922 and 924 of relations with King Charles, which ended with the payment of a tribute to the Normans.
Breach of the peace in 924 with the looting and burning of the cities of Beauvais, Amiens, Arras and finally Noyon, which led to Frankish repression. With the intervention of Hugh the Great, hostilities ceased and the Normans returned the recently conquered lands.
Guillaume, his son, succeeded him in 927.
Death of Rollon in 925 (during the siege of the Château d' Eu, according to Richer de Reims) or around 932-933 (he would have lived another 5 years after abdicating in favour of his son).
Sven at the Forked Beard
- Name: Sven 1st
- Nickname: Forked Beard. This nickname, probably used during his lifetime, would come from his forked moustache (old Norwegian tjugeen), then particularly fashionable in England.
- Dates: ~ 960 - February 3, 1014 in Gainsborough
- Son of: Harald I and Aesa the Seamstress
- Children: Harald II and Knud I
- Function: King of Denmark and England, and suzerain of Norway
King of Denmark, Svein succeeded his father, Harald to the Blue Tooth, probably around the end of 986 or beginning of 987.
First expedition against England in 994.
Marriage with Sigrid, the widow of King Eric of Sweden.
Expeditions against England of 1003-1005, 1006-1007, and 1009-1012 in retaliation for the massacre of Danish inhabitants in England including his sister, Gunnhild, and his brother-in-law, on St. Brewers Day, November 13, 1002.
Massive invasion in 1013 in which he participated in person.
King of England after King Æthelred the Wrongdoer fled to Normandy, around the end of 1013.
Died on February 3, 1014, after only 5 weeks of rule over England. His remains were repatriated to Denmark. His son Harald II succeeded him as King of Denmark, while his young son was proclaimed by his fleet King of England under the name of Canute (Knud I).