Vikings were Norse seafarers, mainly speaking the Old Norse language, who during the late 8th to late 11th centuries, raided and traded from their Northern European homelands across wide areas of Europe, and explored westwards to Iceland, Greenland, and Vinland.

Facilitated by advanced sailing and navigational skills, and characterised by the long ship, Viking activities at times also extended into the Mediterranean littoral, North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Following extended phases of exploration Vikings plundered Constantinople in 860. The city was the largest the Vikings knew of and it is not so strange that the Vikings referred to the city as Miklagard (The Great City). The great wealth of the city soon made it a tempting prey for the Northerners, though because of the size of the city the Vikings quickly decided to go into the service of the emperor Basil II. In 988 he established his own Viking-guard known as the Varangians. Hagia Sofia still has a dateless evidence of Vikings attendance – on one of the columns you can still read “Halvdan was here” etched in the marble in Runic symbols.

The warfare and violence of the Vikings were often motivated and fuelled by their beliefs in Norse religion, focusing on Thor and Odin, the gods of war and death. In combat, it is believed that the Vikings sometimes engaged in a disordered style of frenetic, furious fighting known as berserkergang, leading them to be termed berserkers. So as war was the most prestigious activity in Viking Age Scandinavia, beautifully finished weapons were an important way for a warrior to display his/her wealth and status.

Military culture dominated Viking society and this was reflected in the wide range of laws and regulations which overlooked Viking social life. These laws extended to the construction and maintenance of shields as well which Vikings considered a vital part of their battlefield gear. The most common type of shield used by the Vikings was the round shield.

Shields were large and well constructed and shield walls were common on the battlefield. The shield wall or “skjaldborg” was a main formation in which accomplished Viking warriors would create a line of interlocked shields and thrust spears at adversaries.
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15-18 November, 2018.
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Viking Katalog

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