The truth about the Vikings: 7 common myths that have nothing to do with reality
Usually, when it comes to the Vikings, many imagine the fierce warriors in the metal armor who can boast with long menacing nicknames. But actually it is not. In this review, we are going to debunk the most common myths about these soldiers.
1. The first myth - Scandinavians during raids called themselves the "Vikings"
Today, historians use the word "Viking" to refer to the Scandinavians-navigators, who had robbed, had explored and had inhabited most of the Northern Europe from the end of the VIII century to the middle of the XI century. But really formidable warriors never called themselves the word Viking, more than that - they do not even consider that they have one nationality.
Nobody knows exactly how the word "Viking" appeared or when it began to be used to describe the Scandinavian raiders as a whole. Historians believe that the word "Viking" is derived from the Old Norse word "vik", which means "fjord" or "Gulf" and that it belonged to the pirates, who have used these water bodies as the raider base.
2. The second myth - Vikings were excellent warriors
Many Vikings did not have any special military training and were not professional soldiers. Rather, they were ordinary farmers and fishermen, who sought to improve their well-being. If they wanted to join the group, which was sent to the raid, they had to provide their own weapons and armor. As sailors and pirates, they usually plundered coastal villages and they were not always involved in the melee.
Yet the truth in this myth is. Some Vikings were just machines of death on the battlefield. There was a sect of elite soldiers called "berserkers" who worshiped Odin - the god of war and the death. These people fought so fiercely that were falling into a trance and had not felt the wounds.
3. The third myth - The Vikings wore helmets with horns on raids
Contrary to popular belief, the Vikings actually never wore helmets with horns. In terms of archaeological evidence, preserved only one such helmet. Experts believe that the Vikings either wore protective headgear, made from leather or iron, or simply went into battle without them (only the very rich could afford to own a helmet).
A stereotype appeared in the 1840s, when the costume designer Karl Emil Depler created stage outfits, which included the horned helmets, for the "Ring des Nibelungen" epic music drama of Wagner (1848).
4. The fourth myth - The Scandinavian raiders wore chain mail and fought using the swords
Most movies and television shows portray Vikings in the heavy chain mail and fighting with swords or axes. Some Vikings really wore chain mail, but it was expensive, and often they were used only by high-status people. Northern raiders mostly wore light armor made of skin, bones, quilted fabric or animal skins.
As for weapons, only the richest Vikings used swords. Their main weapons were spears, axes, short or long, long knives, bows and arrows, as well as wooden or leather shields.
5. The fifth myth - The Vikings did not wash and were very dirty
Vikings had a rough life, but that does not mean that they had look dirty. Archaeologists have unearthed artifacts such as tweezers, combs, toothpicks and accessories for cleaning nails and ears, indicating that among the Scandinavian raiders was practiced personal hygiene. They also bathed weekly; cared for their hairstyles, the hair they had bleached with alkali and used dark eyeliner (even men).
6. The sixth myth - All Scandinavian Vikings were blond
Many blond Vikings lived in Sweden, but in Denmark were more redheads. However, explorers say, that a lot of raiders have had dark hair. Northern raiders had brought slaves from other countries and also had taken to wife the people of other cultures, and returned with them to Scandinavia. This intermingling of ethnic groups has led to the fact that the appearance of the Vikings was very different.
7. The seventh myth - Vikings were fearsome nicknames
The Viking sagas so full of characters whose notorious antics and bloody deeds provided them such nicknames as Torfinn Skulls Splitter, Haldar Infidels and Eric Bloody Ax. But not all Norwegian nicknames were terrifying enemies to heart. They often describe the characteristics or identity of the person.
For example, one soldier was given the nickname "Olivir Friend of Children", because, unlike other soldiers, he not gave during a raid of his spear stab the children. Known in the 11th century Konung of Vikings earned the nickname Magnus barelegged because he once visited Scotland and was so pleased with kilts that he returned to Norway in similar clothes.
They belonged to different peoples, but understood each other perfectly. They were united by many things: the fact that their homeland was the northern border of the land, and that prayed to the one god, and that spoke the same language. However, are stronger than all rallied these unruly and desperate people who were thirsty for a better life. And she was so strong that almost three centuries - from VIII to XI century - went down in history as the era of the Old World of the Vikings. How they lived and what did they do, also called Vikings.