Though the Vikings weren’t known for their writing, they did have their own alphabet. And we have archaeological evidence for this, namely runestones. In Sweden alone, between 1700 to 2500 runestones were discovered, all in the Viking alphabet. Interestingly, it was the runes themselves that formed the basis of the Viking alphabet.
Germanic groups tended to use the Runic system, including the Scandinavian groups. The Latin alphabet was later introduced to these parts, but during the Viking Age, they would have used this Runic alphabet system. Fortunately, thanks to the introduction of Latin, plenty of Viking sagas were finally written down. Before, these epic sagas were shared orally.
Most of us have heard of the Vikings’ legendary passion for exploration. Thanks to their gift for shipbuilding, their longships could travel great lengths. In fact, a Viking longship could travel 200km in one day. While it might not sound like much nowadays – when we can easily travel that distance in a plane, car, or ship – that was impressive 1000 years ago.
The only problem is that longships didn’t come equipped with toilets, meaning that long journeys weren’t all that pleasant. Bearing this in mind, as disgusting as it sounds, the Vikings either were really patient, or the WC wasn’t so important to these warriors. They were hardened warriors and explorers, after all.
For a period of almost 200 years, Vikings ruled over much of England. Their territory extended over 15 shires and included London, Cambridge, York, and Middlesex. Interestingly, during this period, Viking law took precedence over Anglo-Saxon law. In 865, the first wave of Vikings came to England and established their own kingdoms.
Almost 20 years later, a treaty was created to mark out Anglo-Saxon and Viking boundaries, and for some time, the two different cultures and legal systems lived harmoniously on the British island. Peace might not have been achieved if the Vikings were made to follow Anglo-Saxon law. But naturally, competition for territory in England eventually led to tension between these two groups.
A Legendary Stronghold
The Vikings weren’t a united group of people. Different clans of Vikings interacted and competed among themselves. One Viking clan was called the Joms Vikings. What is special about these warriors is that historians aren’t sure if they exactly existed. Thanks to the Icelandic Sagas, published at the eclipse of the Viking age, and three runestones, the clan of Jomsvikings has taken on a legendary status.
Apart from being well-trained and expert fighters, what made these warriors even more legendary was their fortress, Jomsborg. It is believed that Jomsborg was built by King Harold Bluetooth in the 960s and was destroyed by a fire in 1043. Jomsborg was a stronghold that guarded a habor but its location is unknown, making historians skeptical to believe that it and the Joms Vikings ever existed.
While the Vikings had access to and used several kinds of weapons (like bows and axes), their weapon of choice was the longsword. Compared to a regular sword, the longsword was made of 18 inches (roughly 46cm) of high-quality steel. Such a quality of steel was rare in those days, making longswords a very prized asset for the Vikings.
What made these weapons even more coveted was that they were good on both the offensive and defensive. Of course, to wield such a coveted weapon, you had to be a superb fighter. And this is something the Vikings had no shortage of. Male Viking warriors typically used longswords, but now and then, you could find female warriors who fought with longswords too.