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Viking raiders

A re-enactment of Vikings raiding a villageA re-enactment of Vikings raiding a villageClick to play video Fierce warriors, the Vikings carried out raids across much of Europe, from England to Italy, Russia to Spain. But what made the Vikings sail across the seas to attack towns and villages? One reason may have been an increase in population in the Vikings' homelands which led to overcrowding and a shortage of farmland. Another reason is that local kings were trying to increase their power, and those who opposed this chose to go overseas to look for new land elsewhere—even if they had to fight for it. A further reason was that the Vikings were naturally adventurous, and many young warriors saw raiding as a way of gaining wealth and honour. 

Lords of the sea

Between the 8th and 11th centuries, the Vikings were lords of the sea—no other European people had such fast and strong ships. Not afraid to lose sight of land, Viking sailors would navigate using the sun and the stars. Believing they were protected by their gods—Odin, god of war, Thor, god of thunder, and Freyr, god of fertility—the Vikings sailed round the coasts of Europe, across the North Atlantic Ocean and eastwards into Russia.Viking warships at seaViking warships at sea

A Viking longship sails upstream in western FranceA Viking longship sails upstream in western France


The first known Viking attack on the British Isles was on the monastery at Lindisfarne, an island off northeastern England, in 793. It caused huge concern among the Christians of western Europe and is today seen by historians as the start of the Viking Age.

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