Sample essay topic, essay writing: Vikings - 1589 words
The Viking age has long been associated with unbridled piracy, when freebooters swarmed out of the northlands in theirlongships to burn and pillage their way across civilized Europe. Modern scholarship provides evidence this is a gross simplification, and that during this period much progress was achieved in terms ofScandinavian art and craftsmanship, marine technology, exploration, and the development of commerce. It seems the Vikings did as much trading as they did raiding. The title 'Viking' encompasses a wide designation of Nordic people; Danes, Swedes, and Norwegians, who lived during aperiod of brisk Scandinavian expansion in the middle ages, from approximately 800 to 1100 AD. This name may be derivedfrom the old Norse vik(bay or creek). These people came from what is now Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, and had a self-sustaining, agricultural society, where farming and cattle breeding were supplemented by hunting, fishing, the extraction of iron and the quarrying of rock to make whetstones and cooking utensils; some goods, however, had to be traded;salt, for instance, which is a necessity for man and cattle alike, is an everyday item and thus would not have been imported from a greater distance than necessary, while luxury items could bebrought in from farther south in Europe.
Their chief export products were, iron, whetstones, and soapstone cooking pots, these were an essential contribution to a trade growth in the Viking age. The contemporary references we have about the Vikings stem mainly from sources in western Europe who had bitterexperiences with the invaders, so we're most likely presented with the worst side of the Vikings. Archaeological excavations have shown evidence of homesteads, farms, and marketplaces, where discarded orlost articles tell of a common everyday life. As the Viking period progressed, society changed; leading Chieftain families accumulated sufficient land and power to form the basis for kingdoms, and the firsttowns were founded. These market places and towns were based on craftsmanship and trade. Even though the town dwelling Vikings kept cattle, farmed, and fished to meet their household needs, the towns probably depended on agricultural supplies from outlying areas. They also unfortunately did not pay as much attention to renovation and waste disposal as they did to town planning, asevidenced by the thick layers of waste around settlements. In contemporary times the stench must have been nauseating. Trade, however, was still plentiful, even in periods when Viking raids abounded, trade was conducted between WesternEurope and the Viking homeland; an example of this being the North Norwegian chieftain, Ottar, and King Alfred of Wessex. Ottar visited King Alfred as a peaceful trader at the same time as Alfred was waging war with other Viking chieftains
Theexpansion of the Vikings was probably triggered by a population growth out stepping the capacities of domestic resources. Archaeological evidence shows that new farms were cleared in sparsely populated forests at the time of their expansion. Theabundance of iron in their region and their ability to forge it into weapons and arm everyone setting off on raids helped give theVikings the upper hand in most battles. The first recorded Viking raid occurred in 793 AD, the holy island of the Lindisfarne monastery just off the Northeast shoulderof England was pillaged, around the same time, there are recorded reports of raids elsewhere in Europe. There are narrativesof raids in the Mediterranean, and as far as the Caspian Sea. Norsemen from Kiev even attempted an attack onConstantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Unfortunately, in the picture handed down to us in written accounts, theVikings are portrayed as terrible robbers and bandits, this is strictly a single sided view; and, while the above statement isprobably true, they had other traits as well. Some of their leaders were very skillful organizers, as evidenced by the fact thatthey were able to establish kingdoms in already-conquered territories.
Some of these, such as the ones established in Dublinand York did not survive the Viking period; Iceland, however, is still a thriving nation. The Viking Kingdom in Kiev formed the basis of the Russian Empire. The remains of fortresses dated to the end of the Viking period, have been found in Denmark; the fortresses are circular andare divided into quadrants, with square buildings in each of the four sections. The precision with which these castles were placed indicates an advanced sense of order, and a knowledge ofsurveying techniques and geometry in the Danish Kingdom. The farthest westward drive occurred around 1000 AD, when people from Iceland or Greenland attempted to plant roots in the North coast ofNewfoundland in North America, however, conflicts arose between these colonists and the indigenous Indians or the Eskimos, and the colonists gave up. Eventually, the Vikings plundering raids were replaced by colonization; in the north of England, place names reveal a largeViking population, farther south in Britain, an area was called The Danelaw. The French king gave Normandy as payment to a Viking chieftain so that he would keep other Vikings away.
At theend of the Viking age, Christianity was widely accepted in the Nordic countries. It replaced a heathen religion, in which gods and goddesses each had power over their domain; Odin was their chieftain, Thorwas the god of the warriors, the goddess Froy was responsible for the fertility of the soil and livestock; Loki was a trickster and a sorcerer and was always distrusted by the other gods. The gods haddangerous adversaries, the Jotuns, who represented the darker side of life. Burial techniques indicate a strong belief in the afterlife; even though the dead could be buried or cremated, burial gifts werealways necessary. The amount of equipment the dead took with them reflected their status in life as well as different burial traditions. A clue to the violent nature of Viking society, is the fact thatnearly all the graves of males included weapons.
A warrior had to have a sword, a wooden shield with an iron boss at its center to protect the hand, a spear, an ax, and a bow with 24 arrows. Helmets with horns, which are omnipresent in present day depiction's of Vikings have never been found amongst relics from theViking period. Even in the graves with the most impressive array of weapons, there are signs of more peaceful activities;sickles, scythes, and hoes lie alongside of weapons; the blacksmith was buried with his hammer, anvil, tongs, and file. Thecoastal farmer has kept his fishing equipment and is often buried in a boat. In women's graves we often find jewelry kitchenarticles, and artifacts used in textile production, they were also usually buried in boats. There are also instances of burials beingconducted in enormous ships, three examples of this are: ship graves from Oseberg, Tune, and Gokstad, which can be seen atthe Viking ship museum at Bygdoy in Oslo. The Oseberg ship was built around 815-820 AD, was 22 meters (72 ft.) long andits burial was dated to 834 AD. The Gokstad and Tune ships were constructed in the 890's, were 24 meters (79 ft.) and 20 meters (65 ft.) in length, respectively, and were buried right after 900 AD. In all 3 a burial chamber was constructed behind the mast, where thedeceased was placed to rest in a bed, dressed in fine clothing, ample provisions were placed in the ship, dogs and horses weresacrificed, and a large burial mound was piled on top of the vessel; there are even instances in which servants, who may or maynot have chosen to follow their masters in death, were sacrificed also.
Some ship-graves in the Nordic countries and inWestern European Viking sites were cremated, while the large graves along the Oslofjord were not. There are remnants ofsimilar graves in other locations and it seems to have been standard practice to include sacrificed dogs and horses, fineweapons, some nautical equipment such as oars and a gangplank, balers, cooking pots for crewmembers, a tent and often fine imported bronze vessels which probably held food and drink for the dead. Their sea-going vessels were very seaworthy, as has been demonstrated by replicas which have crossed the Atlantic in moderntimes. The hull design made the ships very fast, either under sail or when oars were used. Even with a full load, the Gokstad ship drew no more than 1 meter (3.3 ft) of water, which means itcould have been easily used for shore assaults. The ships were made to be light-weight and flexible, to work with the elements instead of against them; they were built on a solid keel, which together with a finelycurved bow, forms the backbone of the vessel.