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The wild life of the Vikings..........

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The Beginning of theViking Expeditions


The Viking expeditions became a serious threat to Western Europe and the British Isles at the end of the 8th century.

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says that in King Beorhtric’s days (he was King of Wessex from 786 to 802), the first Vikings arrived on the south coast in three vessels. When the King’s official representative asked them to accompany him to the King’s castle – he thought they were merchants – they killed him.

As early as in 792 King Offa of Mercia began organizing a defence in Kent against the pagans who had crossed the ocean in itinerant boats, and in the year 800 Emperor Charles the Great (Charlemagne) inspected the defences against the “pirates who infested the Gallic sea.” He had ordered these defensive measures built along the northern coast of his empire as far south as to the Seine.

 In 793, a Viking raid on Lindisfarne caused much consternation throughout the Christian West, and is now often taken as the beginning of the Viking Age. Lindisfarne is a small island off the north-coast of England, and the target was the monastery there. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records:

“In this year fierce, foreboding omens came over the land of Northumbria. There were excessive whirlwinds, lightning storms, and fiery dragons were seen flying  in the sky. These signs were followed by great famine, and on 8 June the ravaging of heathen men destroyed God’s church at Lindisfarne.”

The English scholar Alcuin from York, who was working in the Court of Charles the Great (Charlemagne), advised his fellow men to lead good lives in order to avoid further punishments from God. That was the way they considered the Viking raids. He also wrote to King Æthelred of Northumbria:

“ Bear in mind that for almost 350 years we and our ancestors have lived in this extremely beautiful country and never before has such terror appeared in Britain as we have now suffered from a pagan race, nor was it thought that such an inroad from the sea could be made. Behold the church of St Cuthbert spattered with the blood of God’s priests, despoiled of all its ornaments; a place more venerable than all in Britain is given as a prey to pagan peoples.”

In the year 795 the Vikings had sailed round Scotland and as far south west as the isle of Iona, where their rage was vent on the venerable Monastery of St Columba, and they even made it as far as Ireland.

In 799 St Philibert’s Monastery on the isle of Noirmoutier in the estuary of the Loire river was pillaged. In the following years Viking activities in Britain were quite often seen to take place simultaneously, and this also applies to raids on the Continent and the colonization of the North Atlantic islands and other areas that were more or less devoid of people. The settlement of Iceland most likely began around the year 870, the colonization of the Faroe Islands probably  somewhat earlier, while the settlers of Greenland that came from Iceland did not start until about 985. Around the year 1000 settlers in Greenland migrated to North America.

Towards the East people from central Sweden and Gothland settled on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea well before the expeditions in the West were begun, and in the course of the 9th century Scandinavian communities emerged on the south coast of the Baltic as well as in Eastern Europe. Contact was established with Byzantium and the Caliphate and expeditions were undertaken as far south as the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.      Privacy. ©   2017-21