Their homeland was the territory that includes today's Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, and from there, the great journey started. The first Viking invasion happened on the territory of today's England in 793 AD, and this attack is considered the beginning of the Viking Age.
Their journey continued, and it included territories of today's Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, northern Germany, part of the Netherlands, and also Spain, Italy, and Portugal, in the western part of Europe. The northern part of Europe included today's Iceland, Faroe Islands, and the Baltic countries. However, that wasn't all.
The Vikings also traveled on to Greenland and Canada, making Vikings the first Europeans to reach the territory of North America. They stayed there for some time, in the Newfoundland area, which they called Vinland, and attempted to make a settlement there.
Another direction they took was the one towards Eastern Europe – the countries along the rivers of Dniepr and Volga, where Vikings were on a very important trade route to reach Constantinople and the Caspian Sea.
The people of the eastern countries called the Vikings "Varangians," which is the name that can be found in some historical sources that talk about Vikings invading that specific part of Europe.
Sagas and other historical resources
Written in Old Icelandic, one of the versions of Old Norse, sagas were one of the resources used to find information about the Viking Age. Prose texts describe historical events, mostly focusing on history and family history, so they represent a valuable source.
Covering the area of Iceland and the situations the settlers had to face, they are only one of the several sources scientists take into account when they research the Viking Age. Others include different scripts, texts, and similar written traces made and left by those who encountered Vikings.
One of such historical sources, also marking the beginning of the Viking Age, is the text in "The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle," which described the raiding of the Lindisfarne monastery in 793 AD.
Viking expeditions also focused on countries along the rivers of Dniepr and Volga. Illustration: Erik Mclean / Pexels
There are different theories regarding the end of the Viking Age; however, the 11th century AD is the point in history agreed and accepted by the most. The establishment of Christianity in Scandinavia, which happened in the 11th century, and also the defeats in the battles and failed attempts to invade the countries of the western part of Europe (Ireland, England, and Scotland), together with the establishment of the royalty, i.e., royal families in Scandinavia, resulted in the end of the Viking age.
According to some historical sources, the Viking Age might even be marked to have lasted until the 15th century AD, since Orkney and Shetland belonged to the king of Norway until that time.
What made Vikings expand?
Vikings were probably motivated by a bundle of different factors to start expanding. One of the reasons might be that they experienced a sort of a "baby boom" right before the beginning of the Viking Age.
Hence, the lack of agricultural resources in combination with a harsh climate made it impossible to provide enough food for the growing population. Thus, they set off to acquire what they needed.
Another reason, or motive, according to some theories, is that they were attracted by the richness and the urbanism of the expanding and growing towns in the western part of Europe, particularly those in England and Scotland.
The wealth seen there and the wealth gained through either pillaging or trading pulled Vikings further to the eastern part of Europe and even further, to the Byzantine Empire, in search of exotic textiles, spices, and other things.
Better and milder climate, in comparison with what they had in their own homeland, could also be one of the factors Vikings felt attracted to the new territories. The weather was mostly stable and temperatures more moderate, which resulted in better harvests.
The seas were calmer, with hardly any ice, unlike back home, so fishing conditions were excellent - another attraction factor.
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