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.
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.
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.
Even nowadays, natural childbirth still instills a lot of dread for expecting mothers. Thank goodness for caesareans. Sadly, this was not a privilege that was available to Viking mothers. Historians believe that many Viking mothers aged 25 to 30 died during childbirth.
We’re not sure of the exact numbers because the Middle Ages, in general, saw a lot of women die in childbirth. In Florence during the 15th century, it is estimated that this was the cause of death for 1 in 5 women. We expect that the range would be similar among Viking women 500 or 600 years earlier in the Viking Age.
An old way of making easy money was to attack rich towns and cities and then get them to pay you to stop. These towns would pay a tribute regularly to put an end to your pillaging. Romans paid tribute to the Huns. Russian principalities paid tribute to the Golden Horde, a.k.a. The Mongols. The Franks, the English, and the Kyvian Rus also paid annual tributes to the Vikings as these fearsome raiders proved to be a painful thorn in these kingdoms' backsides.
This annual tribute was known as “Danegeld,” – which simply translated to “money to get the Vikings to back off.” While we’re pretty sure that the Vikings walked away as pleased as punch, many kingdoms must have breathed a sigh of relief when the Viking Age ended.