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Viking art of war

Updated: Sep 23, 2022


Vikings are probably the most exaggerated social group in history, starting with the horns and ending up with axes, they have been turned into a product of mass culture, on which money is easily and happily made. So let's de-glamourise this image a little and restore them to their rightful place in history - without enhancement or facelifting. Let us see them as they really were...

The old world feared the Vikings like fire and plague. Indeed, they rained down on the coastal settlements like a bolt from the blue, looting and murdering, but as quickly as they appeared so did they vanish, being aware of their own shortcomings. Their Achilles' heel were large open clashes in which they were simply no match for better-organised opponents.

Historians agree that the Vikings invading England in the ninth and first half of the tenth century formed ill-disciplined looting parties. Among other things, this is evidenced, not least that, in the spoken period the Scandinavians lost all major battles against the Anglo-Saxons: at Acleah (850 or 851), Ashdown (871), Edington (878) and Tettenhall (910). Likewise, the Viking Grand Army ravaging the lands of the Franks between 879-892 - plundered territories along the Seine mercilessly, but in major encounters, Scandinavians failed in clashes with the heavily-armed Frankish cavalry.

They fought with spear, sword and axe, and occasionally used a bow. Covering their bodies with leather jackets (later chainmail), helmets and round shields.