Who were the Vikings? Many people think of the Vikings as an ethnic group, but is that true?
In this post, you can get a better idea of who the Vikings were and where they came from.


The Vikings, renowned for their seafaring courage and undoubted ferocity in battle, were Nordic warriors who raided across Europe during the 9th to 11th centuries. Plaguing coastal communities with surprise attacks from their oceangoing vessels, they left a lasting impression on European history – driven by overcrowded conditions at home as well as vulnerable targets abroad. The Vikings were a fierce people, made up of chieftains and clansmen who sought adventure overseas. Back home they farmed their own land but at sea, they built longships to explore the coasts of Europe in search of riches – both material wealth as well as fame through battle.

Their fearless determination led them to become renowned warriors and earned them notoriety across the continent where tales foretold stories of burning, pillaging raids carried out by these víkingr pirates. Drawing from the Baltic lands to Russia, and far-reaching conquests over land and sea, Vikings were distinguished by their ability to traverse vast distances. In particular, Swedes are thought responsible for many territorial expansions while Norwegians primarily colonized places such as the Faroe Islands and Iceland through nonmilitary means. It is fair to say that these seafaring Scandinavians made an immense impact on the rest of the world.

who were the vikings


In the late 8th century, England was threatened by Viking raids which escalated in severity when Ragnar Lothbrok’s sons led a force to conquer East Anglia and Northumbria before drastically reducing Mercia. The most famous of these attacks happened on Lindisfarne (Holy Island) in 793 where it since has become known as one of history’s first major violations against Christianity.

After a long battle, Alfred the Great of Wessex and his forces were finally able to establish a truce with the Danish invaders in 878. This treaty acted as an official recognition that England had largely been conquered by Denmark; however, this did not stunt Wessex’s spirit. With undying zeal, Alfred’s son Edward continued on their mission for reconquest soon after and managed to repel new Viking armies from 892-899.

King Canute of Denmark conquered much of England in the 10th century, controlling old Mercian and East Anglian territories before his death. However, shortly after 980CE more raids on English soil occurred leading up to its integration into the Danish Empire under King Canute. The Viking raids of the 10th century had a lasting impact on England and its people.

Despite some areas being restored to their former peaceful state by 1042, names such as Danelaw remain in place even today – a reminder of the Scandinavian conquests which drastically altered social structure, dialects, and name-giving traditions. Who were the Vikings then? They were a bunch of seafaring savages, but is that really all that can be said about them?


Although we often think of Vikings as barbaric warriors, it’s important to note that our perspectives on them are likely biased. The stories and accounts written by their victims were likely exaggerated, not giving us a perspective on the Vikings and their culture. The Vikings were a society governed by laws and regulations, where those who followed them with honor could expect respect while rule-breakers faced public shame. To settle disputes the Vikings had something called a ‘þing’ (pronounced Thing) which was a way for citizens to speak their case in front of a selected group of judges. The Thing was not limited to the Scandinavian nations but was believed to be practiced in many places in northern Europe.

Who were the Vikings? Well, they were savage raiders but also law-abiding citizens and as if that was not enough they also created modern democracy. Ancient Greece may be credited for the beginnings of democracy, but it was actually Vikings who were some of its earliest adopters. Their influence helped shape modern-day democratic principles that are held in high regard even today. The Norse Thing system was democratic in the sense that it gave all free men the right to speak and to be heard. The Thing was a unique community gathering, which also allowed females to have their voices heard. To ensure fairness each session would be led by a law speaker who retained records of all prior rulings for reference.


When the topic is Who were the Vikings? it is important to not dwell only on the savage and barbaric conquests. The Vikings were not the only people raiding and pillaging through history but it was a different time with different values. Yes, they were savages but it is important to remember, that their true impact on the world was made through trading.

Their commercial trading routes spread from Vinland and Greenland all the way to Baghdad and Byzantium, strengthening international connections to build a new economic power after Rome’s decline. But it was not only their trade routes that made the Vikings seem ahead of their time. It was also the vessels they used to travel these vast distances.

The Viking longships were the most modern types of vessels of their time and were also believed by many, to be ahead of their time. It’s widely known that Vikings used their legendary longships to launch raids – mighty vessels with fierce dragon-head carvings. But these were far from the only ships ridden by brave Norsemen.

They also made use of well-crafted cargo boats for transporting goods and supplies during longer voyages. No matter the task at hand, Viking seafaring prowess provided them a powerful edge over other civilizations. Therefore one must conclude that the Viking’s legendary ships were a major part of their success both when it came to raids but also when it came to trading.

who were the vikings traders


Most historians agree that the Viking Age ended when Harald Hardrada was defeated at Stanford Bridge in 1066, but does that mean that the Vikings just disappeared out of existence? Of course not. The Vikings continued their lives after Harald’s death and defeat and their ancestors can be found all over the world primarily in modern-day Scandinavia. Most might argue that the Vikings are long gone, but that is only the case if you are not aware of the true meaning of the word Viking. There was never an ethnic group of people called Vikings. Víkingr is the name of an occupation, not the name of a nation or a people. To understand why the Vikings never left nor disappeared it is very important to understand the definition.

The word Víking is a feminine word and it means a raid or a pillage expedition. The masculine word would be Víkingr which defines the people who participate in the above-mentioned raid or expedition (-ingr is a suffix meaning belonging to a group). The plural word would be Víkingar and the term to Fara í Víkingu meant to go on Víking. Now we have the definitions in place it becomes clear, that the Vikings never left nor disappeared they just stopped going Víking. The people in modern-day Scandinavia are still “Vikings” in the sense that they are the descendants of those who went Víking together with a multitude of people all over the world that also shares the ancestrial DNA with the Scandinavian people in modern times.


The Vikings left a lasting legacy on literature, language, and beyond. From influential sagas to the countless words borrowed into modern English from Old Norse, these intrepid seafarers changed our cultural landscape in ways that still reverberate today – making them truly timeless adventurers of both pen and sword. They impacted not only words but also the names of cities and places all over Europe, especially in the UK and Ireland. City names that end with -thorpe, -toft, and -by are often a good indication of Viking influence. The impact and influence in modern-day Scandinavia are obvious since that is where the Vikings originated from. Not only have the cities kept their names – many landmarks remain untouched to this day.

It is fair to say that the Vikings left a massive impact on modern-day societies in the western world. Who were the Vikings that they would leave such a massive legacy behind them? Well, they were mere farmers and traders, but shaped by a violent society they became skillful and feared warriors too. From words to names of cities and places all over Europe, landmarks and runes stones in Scandinavia, the Vikings generally achieved what they most desired – to make a name for themselves and be remembered for thousands of years into the future of not only Scandinavia but also by the rest of the world. Who were the Vikings? The Vikings were fierce and fearless, and forever to be remembered. They were legends in the making.