A Conversation for The Vikings - Why They Did It
Lost in Scotland Started conversation Jul 3, 2000
What iff, after a successful and peaceful trading trip to Miklagaard (Istanbul nowadays), the fellows decided that they had grown bored of rowing and sailing day in and day out, and that they wanted to have some fun to break off the monotony. So, they stop by somewhere on the French or British coast line and bash some locals butt.
Why did they do it?? They were bored!
The Apprentice Posted Jul 3, 2000
An 'ongoing epidemic of Scandinavian boredom' seems unlikely to satisfy the questions about why the raiding went onb for so long. The pressure of resources and dwindling trade seem a little more manageable as answers, with boredom as a possible reason for some of the more gruesome assaults - like the notorious 'Blood Eagle' . It is also likely that later raid occurred because they were on a roll - Viking was proving to be a profitable activity with great potential as a supplement to the general economy.
 The process of slicing open the target's back then splitting ribs and pulling back the poor individuals lungs. Very uncomfortable.
Lost in Scotland Posted Jul 3, 2000
The vikings did the Blood eagle on their victims? Gruesome. I thought they just killed, robbed and raped, not mutilated and tortured.
BUt as I've said before... I've been proven wrong.
Oh, and the boredom thing was just a thought...
Adz Posted Jul 3, 2000
Maybe they were initially bored, but then it became the highlight of the trip rather than just an excursion. They might have thought that beating up people was more fun than trading.
Bucephalus Posted Jul 3, 2000
Do we claim the cause of nasty things that happen today is boredom? With the exception of a few very, very sick people, I think not. Why should the vikings have been much different?
Besides, it doesn't seem to be the brightest thing.
"I say, would you care to accompany me on a brief excursion up the river? I hear there's an excellent little monastary just begging for a nip of excitment."
"Jolly good idea old chap, what with being 1000 miles from our nearest friend, lost in hostile territory and all, and truly, I have absolutely nothing to do between now and tea."
"I'll pick you up just after a spot of lunch then. Cheerio and all that, what?"
Personally I'd need just a little bit more motivation before I go on a killing spree.
Rojo Habe (48-1+2-7) Posted Jul 3, 2000
Actually, boredom can be quite a valid cause of all manner of vandalism and petty violence. D'you think young people hang around on street corners smashing bottles on the pavement because they really wouldn't rather be doing something else?
"Going to the gig tonight?"
"Nah, although I have the time and I can affored it, I really think my time's better spent standing here spitting at old ladies and writing 'F**K' in huge letters on this here wall. thanks all the same".
Some people stop at that, but go to the next stage: do a bit of mugging and get away with it, probably gives you a sense of power. Whoops! I think we killed this one. Never mind, we never got caught, fancy nicking a car and torching it?
I'm sure people were no different a thousand years ago. Add to that the fact that taking what you want is more profitable than paying for it (and proves to your mates that you're hard), and it's not difficult to see why it caught on.
Wolfman, Zaphodista :X (soon to be Zarquon again, or maybe not) Posted Jul 3, 2000
I just want to say congratulations Bran on finally getting this thing approved, and glad to see the editors didn't butcher it too badly. I already stated my "glory, adventure, and riches" theory in the original article so I think I'll sit this round out.
Bran the Explorer Posted Jul 3, 2000
I'm not particularly convinced that the boredom issue is a big one for this type of activity. The raiding was seasonal, i.e. only done at the times of the year when the seas were not too big (late spring to early autumn). This was also the time of the year when those non-career Vikings would have had to get their farming underway. So, the raiding would have been carried out with a view that there were tons of things to also be doing at home. If they were bored, it would have been more likely to have been in winter, and this is not when raiding occurred (this is confirmed in numerous contemporary annals). Things might have changed in the later Viking period when the raiding was more like invasion, under the auspices of Danish and other kings, or pretenders, such as Svein Forkbeard and Cnut.
The evidence for the blood-eagle sacrifice is fairly scanty and not contemporary to the Viking period. This is not to say that they did not do it, but rather that it is not described by any one who would have actually seen it happen. Thus, I lean on the side of caution here ... and the monastic annalists would have had a vested interest in making the Vikings appear blood-thirsty. But on the other hand, the later Viking sagas, that were written by their descendents, are also pretty gruesome ... so who knows.
The chaps coming back from Constantinople didn't travel via the Mediterranean and Atlantic coast, but rather a corridor of rivers (eg. Dneiper) from the Baltic through Novgorod and Kiev to the Black Sea and thence to Constantinople (and the reverse for the return trip). This was not easy going in places, and raiding on the way was not as safe nor necessarily profitable as mercenary work at the destination.
Thanks Zarq for your kind words.
Cheers all and thanks for this interesting debate.
Lost in Scotland Posted Jul 4, 2000
Okay, so they didn't take the Atlantic coast line to Miklagaard, but rather the scenic route over Russia. I bet that there had to have been at least someone that did a "Columbus" before they came up with the dragging of boats between rivers in Russia, and sailed the coast lines of France, Spain and the British Isles, though.
And if the raiding parties were out on the seas during farming season, wouldn't that suggest that it could very well have been boredom that sparked it? If the seasonal vikings were at home farming, the ones that didn't feel like farming were out pillaging because they couldn't come up with anything better to do.
Maybe one reason why the pillaging and raiding was done during the farming seasons and not during the rest of the year was that when the seasonal vikings that had farm plots and families and stuff were on the trips, they could calm the hotheads so that less pillaging were done?
Bran the Explorer Posted Jul 5, 2000
Some good points Lost. There may well have been an intrepid Viking getting to Miklagaard via the Atlantic - even though this is the longer route - but none are recorded. The furthest any chronicler mentions a Viking getting in the Mediterranean is to Pisa on the western side of the Italian penninsula. But who knows.
As for your other points:
You said "And if the raiding parties were out on the seas during farming season, wouldn't that suggest that it could very well have been boredom that sparked it?"
Well, the reason that they were out in this season is that this is really the only time that one can carry out ocean-going voyages in the north Atlantic (and even in the Mediterranean). The seas are just too heavy otherwise - and this is well-recorded in both later Icelandic and contemporary Christian Chroniclers - they did not sail when the seas were high. They would usually stay home in winter for this reason, and only began to "over-winter" in England for example after 850 (and thsn things started to get serious re invasions).
"If the seasonal vikings were at home farming, the ones that didn't feel like farming were out pillaging because they couldn't come up with anything better to do."
Possible, but I think it is nore to do with the reason for Viking that I said in the article, about the "heroic" ethic and the need for moveable wealth.
"Maybe one reason why the pillaging and raiding was done during the farming seasons and not during the rest of the year was that when the seasonal vikings that had farm plots and families and stuff were on the trips, they could calm the hotheads so that less pillaging were done?"
Again, I reckon it has more to do with favourable conditions for sailing.
Thanks for your interest Lost.
Lost in Scotland Posted Jul 6, 2000
Hmmm.. I think I have to say that you've shot down every angle of the boredom theory that I can think of right now. Stubborn as I am, though, I'lll still think of this theory as an interesting one and I'll keep on trying to prove you wrong somehow, just for the hell of it. Not right now, though, since your point about the seas being difficult to navigate during the different parts of the year.
If I didn't say it before, I do think this is an excellent article. Being a Scandinavian myself, kind of has me interested in these things anyways, so it's interesting to find articles about it.
Bran the Explorer Posted Jul 9, 2000
Thanks Lost - I'm flattered that a Scandinavian thinks so! Are you currently living in Sweden, or - and I may be making assumptions - are you really lost somewhere in Scotland? And if so, what was was your last known location?
Lost in Scotland Posted Jul 10, 2000
I'm a resident of Scotland at the moment (and will probably stay that way for a while), living in Greenock, just west of Glasgow, on the shores of the river Clyde. My handle here does not reflect on any geographical lostness, but rather a mental one, that I experienced as I first came here, with the strange accent, different monetary system, which still makes me think that things are a lot cheaper here, when they in fact aren't. I chose it when I first entered the country, but I kinda liked it, so I kept it.
There is a re-invasion of the country going on, involving a multitude of nationalities, including the Scandinavian countries. Instead of arriving in great numbers, trying to fight our way to power, we arrive in small numbers until we are enough to take control of our rightful domains.. Muaahahahahaha!!
Rojo Habe (48-1+2-7) Posted Jul 13, 2000
I'd lock up my daughters if I had any.
Maolmuire Posted Sep 2, 2000
I'm almost certain I did see a contemporary account of th'oul blood eagle thing in a book whose name eludes me for the moment- something like 'Eyewitness to History'. It was filled with contemporary eyewitness accounts of some rather strange and disturbing things, from Xenophon's march of the Ten Thousand to the present day. As I recall it was carried out on two hapless individuals who had been condemned to death for something or other (going too easy on the raping and pillaging I suppose) and who decided to die this way to show what real men they were. They were staked out on the ground and their ribs hacked through close by the spine with hatchets and their lungs were pulled out like wings. Hence blood eagle. Nice.
"What's the matter Knud, has life got you down...? Always look on the bright side of...."
Bran the Explorer Posted Sep 3, 2000
Thanks Maolmuire. If you can find the reference I would be eternally grateful. I wonder if there are any eastern accounts of the blood-eagle - as in, from Arabs that saw Vikings do it, like Ibn Fadlan?
What those Vikings got up to ... oy, oy, oy. (Or should that be yurgen, yurgen, yurgen?).
Lost in Scotland Posted Sep 5, 2000
I saw an episode of "Secrets of the Dead" on tv here a while back where they said that the blood eagle was performed on British soil even before the Vikings popped over for tea. I can't quite remember what that particular show focused on, if it was an excavation at Stonehenge or if it was of some big battlefield somewhere else, but I am almost positive that it was shown that the blood eagle wasn't a Viking invention, but was already in use when they arrived on the scene.
Lord Falk LeGrey Posted Oct 17, 2000
Northguardian Posted Aug 26, 2002
Uhm going over the posts, skimming mostly. Anyhow, from the research I have done trade was important. However, It has been proven that the first raids were conducted around 200 C.E. and they lasted until around approximately 1200 C.E.
Largely I beleive this was due to the fact that the Roman Empire conquered most of Gaul and Britain. Thus thier former trading partners, and food supply suffered. By 476 C.E. The Roman Empire had basically fallen. Yet the damage had been done. The Romans beleived in a little strategy called "divide and conquer". It is entirely logical to think that if ones family and tribe is at stake, the society itself could not afford to take the risk of a "No, we wont trade with you". I honestly beleive that the raids were not out of maliciousness, and laziness, but rather were out of a terrible necessity.
As for the "Blood-Eagle" That was a punishment for warriors and dangerous criminals who had commited a severe crime such as treason or collaberation. There was another type of price to be paid for treachery and deciet. It happened to a noble in France, He had hired the "Vikings" as mercinaries and refused to pay. So they seiged his stronghold and slit his nose from the nostril to the bone. Note they did not cut it off. This practice survived to the present day with the phrase "paying through the nose".
To look on them and demonify them would be to look on history with a 20th century mind, and lose a lot of the reasons behind these "cruel" actions. In order to accurately describe a people, of any region, of any philosophy, one would have to learn to think like one of them, which is not an easy task.
hope i have helped,
In the book "Vikingen, Volk van veroveraars"by Magnus Magnusson, It states clearly that "Gauls from the south invaded and taught this peaceful, agracultural society the arts of war." Lets not mention that Even the National Geographic researchers have agreed in origin the Scandinavian/Germanic races were mostly peaceful. Even at the hieght of thier era, in which they ruled by strength and fear, it is agreed that in thier own lands, albiet harsher, they were not a cruel people.
Thier culture is as rich and colourful as it is primal and powerful. They had a highly developed theology and sciences.
Laban9 Posted Jul 2, 2003
The vikings fought for glory (and wealth)!
Havent you heard of Vallhalla, the Vikings heaven.
To get there you had to die in battle, and in Vallhalla you could fight, die, dring and have sex all day, and continue the next day(doesen´t that sound wounderful).
My God, havent you´ve heard "MANOWAR" - the metal kings(in my opinion)!
Key: Complain about this post
- 1: Lost in Scotland (Jul 3, 2000)
- 2: The Apprentice (Jul 3, 2000)
- 3: Lost in Scotland (Jul 3, 2000)
- 4: Adz (Jul 3, 2000)
- 5: Bucephalus (Jul 3, 2000)
- 6: Rojo Habe (48-1+2-7) (Jul 3, 2000)
- 7: Wolfman, Zaphodista :X (soon to be Zarquon again, or maybe not) (Jul 3, 2000)
- 8: Bran the Explorer (Jul 3, 2000)
- 9: Lost in Scotland (Jul 4, 2000)
- 10: Bran the Explorer (Jul 5, 2000)
- 11: Lost in Scotland (Jul 6, 2000)
- 12: Bran the Explorer (Jul 9, 2000)
- 13: Lost in Scotland (Jul 10, 2000)
- 14: Rojo Habe (48-1+2-7) (Jul 13, 2000)
- 15: Maolmuire (Sep 2, 2000)
- 16: Bran the Explorer (Sep 3, 2000)
- 17: Lost in Scotland (Sep 5, 2000)
- 18: Lord Falk LeGrey (Oct 17, 2000)
- 19: Northguardian (Aug 26, 2002)
- 20: Laban9 (Jul 2, 2003)
More Conversations for The Vikings - Why They Did It
Write an Entry
"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."