This category has the following 4 subcategories, out of 4 total.
This category has the following 4 subcategories, out of 4 total.
1. Viking Age arms and armour – According to custom, all free Norse men were required to own weapons, as well as permitted to carry them at all times. Indeed, the Hávamál, purported to be sage advice given by Odin, states Dont leave your weapons lying about behind your back in a field, you never know when you may need all of sudden your spear. As war was the most prestigious activity in Viking Age Scandinavia, beautifully finished weapons were an important way for a warrior to display his wealth, a wealthy Viking would likely have a complete ensemble of a spear, a wooden shield, and a sword. The very richest might have a helmet, other armour is thought to have limited to the nobility. The average farmer was likely limited to a spear, shield, some would also bring their hunting bows to use in the opening stages of battle. The bow and arrow was used both for hunting and in battle and they were made from yew, ash or elm. The draw force of a 10th-century bow may have reached some 90 pounds force or more, a yew bow found at Viking Hedeby, which probably was a full-fledged war bow, had a draw force of well over 100 pounds. Replica bows using the dimensions have been measured to between 100 and 130 pounds draw weight. A unit of length used in the Viking age called a bow shot corresponded to what was measured as 227.5 m. Illustrations from the time show bows being pulled back to the chest, rather than to the corner of the mouth or under the chin, arrowheads were typically made from iron and produced in various shapes and dimensions, according to place of origin. Most arrowheads were fixed onto the shaft by a shouldered tang that was fitted into the end of a shaft of wood. Some heads were made of wood, bone or antler. Evidence for eagle feather flights has been found with the feathers being bound, the end of the shaft was flared with shallow self nocks, although some arrows possessed bronze cast nocks. The historical record indicates that Vikings may have used barbed arrows. The earliest find of these relics were found in Denmark, seemingly belonging to the class based on the graves in which they were found. The spear was the most common weapon of the Scandinavian peasant class, throwing spears were constantly used by the warrior class, despite popular belief, it was also the principal weapon of the Viking warrior, an apt fit to their formations and tactics. They consisted of heads with a blade and a hollow shaft. The spear heads could measure between twenty and sixty centimetres with a tendency towards longer heads in the later Viking age, spear heads with wings are called krókspjót in the sagas
2. Berserker – Berserkers were champion Norse warriors who are primarily reported in Icelandic literature to have fought in a trance-like fury, a characteristic which later gave rise to the English word berserk. These champions would often go into battle without mail-coats, berserkers are attested to in numerous Old Norse sources, as were the Ulfhednar. The English word berserker is derived from the Old Norse words ber-serkr meaning a bear-shirt i. e. a wild warrior or champion of the heathen age, however its interpretation remains controversial. The element ber- was interpreted by the historian Snorri Sturluson as bare and this word is also used in ber-skjaldaðr that means bare of shield, or without a shield. Others derive it from the preferred berr, and Snorris view has largely abandoned. Its values included self-reliance, self-control, strict training, able to perform feats with weapons, later, the coming of Christianity would transform the religious element into the chivalrous knight and the animal totems into heraldic devices. Three main animal cults appeared in the martial arts, the bear, the wolf. The bas relief carvings on Trajans column in Rome depict scenes of Trajans conquest of Dacia in 101-106 AD, the scenes show his Roman soldiers plus auxiliaries and allies from Romes border regions, including tribal warriors from both sides of the Rhine. There are warriors depicted as bare-foot, bare-chested, bearing weapons, scene 36 on the column shows some of these warriors standing together, with some wearing bearhoods and some wearing wolfhoods. Two relevant images are depicted below, along with two associated woodcuts made two later in 1872. It is proposed by some authors that the berserkers drew their power from the bear and were devoted to the bear cult, the bodies of dead berserkers were laid out in bearskins prior to their funeral rites. The bear-warrior symbolism survives to day in the form of the bearskin caps worn by the guards of the Danish and British monarchs, the Royal Life Guards. In battle, the berserkers were subject to fits of frenzy and they would howl like wild beasts, foamed at the mouth, and gnawed the iron rim of their shields. According to belief, during these fits they were immune to steel and fire, when the fever abated they were weak and tame. Accounts can be found in the sagas and this expression berserk most likely arose from their reputed habit of wearing a kind of shirt or coat made from the pelt of a bear during battle. The bear was one of the animals representing Odin, and by wearing such a pelt the warriors sought to gain the strength of a bear and the favor of Odin. To go berserk was to hamask, which translates as change form, in this case, one who could transform as a berserker was typically thought of as hamrammr or shapestrong. they built and shaped more like trolls than human beings. This is generally interpreted as the band of men being hamrammr, wolf warriors appear among the legends of the Indo-Europeans, Turks, Mongols, and North American Indians
3. Housecarl – In medieval Scandinavia, husmän were either non-servile manservants, or household troops in personal service of someone, equivalent to a bodyguard to Scandinavian lords and kings. This institution also existed in Anglo-Saxon England after its conquest by the kingdom of Denmark in the 11th century. In England, the housecarls had a number of roles. These were well trained men who were paid as they were full-time soldiers, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle uses hiredmenn as a term for all paid warriors and thus is applied to housecarl but it also refers to butsecarls, and lithsmen as well. It is not clear whether these were types of housecarl too or different altogether, originally, the Old Norse word húskarl had a general sense of manservant, as opposed to the húsbóndi, the master of the house. In that sense, the word had several synonyms, griðmenn in Norway and Iceland, Housecarls were free men, not to be confused with thralls, to this effect, the Icelandic laws also calls them einhleypingar and lausamenn. Both terms emphasise that they were voluntarily in service of another, with time, the term housecarls came to acquire a specific sense of retainers, in the service of a lord, in his hirð, lid or drótt. In Denmark, this was also the sense of the word himthige and this meaning can be seen, for instance, on the Turinge stone, According to Omeljan Pritsak, this Þorsteinn may have commanded the retinue of king Yaroslav I the Wise. Thus, the housecarls mentioned here would be royal bodyguards, in any case, in Norway, too, housecarls were members of the kings or another powerful mans hirð. The institution of the hirð in Norway can be traced back to the 9th century, the texts dealing with royal power in medieval Norway, the Heimskringla and the Konungs skuggsjá, make explicit the link between a king or leader and his retainers. There was a fine for the killing of a kings man. Conversely, retainers were expected to avenge their leader if he was killed, sigvatr Þórðarson, a court poet to two kings of Norway, Olaf II of Norway and Magnus the Good, called the retainers of Olaf II of Norway heiðþegar, meaning gift- receivers. More precisely, Snorri Sturluson explained that heið-money is the name of the wages or gift which chieftains give and it is known from Icelandic sources that in the 1060s, the royal housecarls were paid with Norwegian coins. Six runestones in Denmark, DR1, DR3, DR154, DR155, DR296, johannes Brøndsted interpreted heimþegi as nothing more than a local variant of húskarl. Among the Hedeby stones, the Stone of Eric is dedicated by a retainer to one of his companions, Sven is probably king Svein Forkbeard. But even after the Danish kings had lost England, housecarls continued to exist in Denmark, Svend Aggesens account of the law governing Cnut the Greats housecarls in 11th century England may reflect, in fact, those governing Danish housecarls in the 12th century. But, by the end of the 12th century, housecarls had probably disappeared in Denmark, they had transformed into a new kind of nobility, whose members no longer resided at the kings court. The term entered the English language when Svein Forkbeard and Cnut the Great conquered and occupied Anglo-Saxon England, the housecarls of Cnut were highly disciplined bodyguards
4. Raven banner – The raven banner was a flag, possibly totemic in nature, flown by various Viking chieftains and other Scandinavian rulers during the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries. The flag, as depicted in Norse artwork, was roughly triangular and it bore a resemblance to ornately carved weather-vanes used aboard Viking longships. Scholars conjecture that the flag was a symbol of Odin. Its intent may have been to strike fear in enemies by invoking the power of Odin. The raven is an iconic figure in Norse mythology. The highest god Odin had two ravens named Huginn and Muninn who flew around the world bringing back tidings to their master, therefore, one of Odins many names was the raven god. It is consequently likely that they were regarded as manifestations of the Valkyries, goddesses who chose the valiant dead for military service in Valhalla. A further connection between ravens and Valkyries was indicated in the abilities of goddesses and Valkyries, who could appear in the form of birds. The raven appears in almost every skaldic poem describing warfare, to make war was to feed and please the raven. In black flocks, the ravens hover over the corpses and the skald asks where they are heading, the raven goes forth in the blood of those fallen in battle. He flies from the field of battle with blood on his beak, human flesh in his talons, two curses in the Poetic Edda say may ravens tear your heart asunder. and the ravens shall tear out your eyes in the high gallows. Ravens are thus seen as instruments of divine justice, despite the violent imagery associated with them, early Scandinavians regarded the raven as a largely positive figure, battle and harsh justice were viewed favorably in Norse culture. Many Old Norse personal names referred to the raven, such as Hrafn, Hrafnkel, the raven banner was used by a number of Viking warlords regarded in Norse tradition as the sons of Ragnar Lodbrok. The first mention of a Viking force carrying a banner is in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. There also was taken the war-flag, which they called Raven and he was the brother of Iware, he was buried by the vikings in a very big mound in Devonshire, called Ubbelawe. In the 10th century, the raven seems to have been adopted by Norse-Gaelic kings of Dublin. Many of the Norse-Gaelic dynasts in Britain and Ireland were of the Uí Ímair clan, a triangular banner appearing to depict a bird appears on a penny minted by Olaf Cuaran around 940. The coin features a roughly right isosceles triangular standard, with the two equilateral sides situated at the top and staff, respectively, along the hypotenuse are a series of five tabs or tassels
5. Atgeir – An atgeir, sometimes called a mail-piercer or hewing-spear, was a type of polearm in use in Viking Age Scandinavia and Norse colonies in the British Isles and Iceland. It is usually translated in English as halberd, but most likely resembled a bill or glaive during the Viking age. Another view is that the term had no association with a weapon until it is used as an anachronism in saga literature to lend weight to accounts of special weapons. Later the word was used for typical European halberds, and even later multipurpose staves with spearheads were called atgeirsstafir, the term is first used as a term in Teutonic sources before the Viking Age. It is not used in any Viking Age source and there are no remains from archæology which can be identified with the term, the references from saga literature are not relevant to the Viking Age but come from Iceland of the thirteenth century and later. Originally it meant most spear-like spear i. e. best spear, arguably the most famous atgeir was Gunnar Hámundarsons, as described in Njals Saga. According to the saga, this weapon would make a sound when it was taken down in anticipation of bloodshed. However, Njals saga is one of the latest and most obviously authored sagas, Viking Age arms and armour Cook, Robert Njals Saga. The Archaeology of Weapons, Arms and Armour from Prehistory to the Age of Chivalry, the Anglo-Saxon Weapon Names Treated Etymologically and Archæologically, Heidelberg 1906. The Medieval Icelandic Saga and Oral Tradition, Harvard University 2004