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Vikings

Were they actually barbarians?

What Is a Barbarian?
In order to know if the vikings were barbarians, we have to first know what makes someone
a barbarian and if the vikings fit that description.
According to several sources, a barbarian is often described as;
(2,3)A brutal, unorganized or savage person, who is nomadic and without culture or education.

Were They Nomadic?


Most barbarians were nomadic, meaning they never fully settled in one place, but
were vikings this way?(8)I believe they were, Vikings came from three countries of
Scandinavia; Denmark, Norway and Sweden. They settled down in many different
areas. The vikings mostly settled in parts of Britain such as Scotland and eastern
England, and for 500 years they ruled north of Scotland, the Orkney, Shetland
isles and Hebrides, the islands of the west coast. So it depends on how you look
at it, the vikings were nomadic in a way because they spread out and reallocated
in different countries, so they settled in those countries.

What Was Their Religion?


One factor showing that vikings were not barbarians is shown in their religious
culture. The Viking age was a period of considerable religious change in
Scandinavia, and in the beginning, almost all of the Vikings were pagans.
(5)Vikings always worshipped their gods in open air, they would usually worship in
natural places, for example; by large rocks, unusual trees or by a waterfall. The
most important gods/goddesses were Odin, the god of knowledge, magic, poetry
and war, Thor, the god of thunder and protection, and Freya, the goddess of
fertility, love, marriage and growing things. They worshipped many gods, so it was
no problem for them to accept Christianity next to their other religions. So later
after settling in England, in 1000 CE Christianity became more important to them.

Did They Have a Common Culture?


Although the vikings were not all under the rule of one leader, but instead were
part of several small groups under the rule of different leaders, vikings did in fact
share a similar culture between them. They were pagans and worshipped many
gods which likely brought them closer together for sharing a similar belief. We
rarely hear about viking arts but often hear about their craftsmanship of weapons
and ship building which are both considered art and a very big part of their culture.
(7)

Did The Vikings Have an Education?


Vikings did not get a school education. Instead they would learn the things their
parents, grandparents, siblings or friends would teach them. They didnt need to
know math or science, knowing how to farm, craft or trade would be way more
useful knowledge to them.(1)The old vikings would tell stories and pass on
knowledge to the viking children that would teach them valuable lessons, which
would help them learn important skills for a viking. A viking child would learn from
living.

Were They Organized?


Yes they were, this is shown in their military strategies and craftsmanship. An
example of this would be their tactic called the shield wall were the soldiers
would work together to erect a wall by stacking all their shields on top of each
others and put their spears through the gaps pointing outward, much like the
roman phalanx. The Vikings were known for setting up colonies in the areas that
they defeated through battle or ambush attacks. Their raids were often organized
by royal leaders, and the leaders would be at the front of the battle as they
acquired their position by their skill. Another great example would be their
organisation in building ships.(6)Working together to make the longboats that were
so successful.

Where Did The Idea Come From?


Yes the vikings raided villages, and killed women and children while doing so. But
they dont exactly fit the description of being a barbarian. So why did we all think
that they were? One reason could be that the information we got about them was
written by the people they pillaged, and they tried to make them look bad. They
lived in a bloody time, where the people of the countries they would raid were also
very ruthless themselves.(4)Another reason could be because of the branch of
viking berserkers who were known to ingest some type of drug which would cause
them to become like rabid animals, complete feats of superhuman strength and be
nearly undefeatable. Wherever the idea came from what we now know about
vikings, tells us that not all of them were actually barbaric or savage.

Bibliography
1-http://www.legendsandchronicles.com/ancient-civilizations/the-vikings/viking-children/: Education
2- http://www.thefreedictionary.com/barbarian : Barbarian Definition
3- http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/barbarian : Barbarian Definition
4-http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/viking-berserkers-fierce-warriors-or-drug-fuelled-madmen001472 : Viking Berserkers
5- http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/vikings/religion_01.shtml : Religion
6- http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/primaryhistory/vikings/vikings_at_sea/ :Boats
7- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikings
8- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_Age
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