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Viking Expansion – The Serpent-Riders – Extra History – #1

Viking Expansion – The Serpent-Riders – Extra History – #1


It begins with screaming and blood. A house by the sea, somewhere in Norway Inside the screaming of one becomes the screaming of two. The baby is a boy. They wrap him in soft wool. His parents are no one special, No scald will sing of his deeds and history will not remember his name. His family are not lords or warriors. Yet, he and people like him will spread Scandinavian influence From Constantinople to Western lands unseen by Europeans, For this village prizes one skill above all others. The father takes his newborn son and lays him in a crib; a crib shaped like a boat. *Intro music* Between the eighth and the tenth centuries, a startling event occurred in northern Europe. Throughout the whole of Scandinavia, men and women took to the Seas with the intention to raid, settle and trade with new lands. Within three centuries, they would trade goods in Constantinople, build the city of Dublin, establish a dynasty in France, found a kingdom in England and give Russia its name. And famously, this Viking expansion would culminate in a series of voyages that left settlements on Iceland, Greenland and briefly North America. Medieval Scandinavians achieved this through superior technology, flexible tactics and business savvy, but surprisingly also without central leadership or even a common vision. Instead it was a distributed effort where groups of adventurers struck out into Europe’s waterways in search of profit, power and fame. And in this series, we’ll chart the most successful of those efforts and how they changed the face of Europe But before we get to that, let’s take a look at Scandinavian society, Specifically what motivated medieval Scandinavians to take to the waves and, once they did, why were they so successful? That question of motivation is actually tough to answer One school of thought holds that overpopulation or climate change led to resource scarcity and food shortages Causing Scandinavians to seek out new lands or, at least wealth to buy land back home. Others say the consolidation of political power and Scandinavian society (Basically the rise of powerful kings) created a class of displaced warrior nobles looking to recapture wealth and status Still others point out that by the eighth century Europe had finally begun to recover from the collapse of the Western Roman Empire Complex trade and monetary systems were on the rise meaning that after centuries of existing via the barter system people in Europe finally had goods that were, well actually worth stealing Moreover, these new luxury goods were portable. After all, Vikings weren’t going to cross the North Sea and sack an English port just to steal all of its cows. Silver and precious stones though, those were easy things to loot. But in all likelihood, There was no single event that drove the Viking expansion. The evidence points to a combination of factors that convinced Scandinavians to strike out with the sail and the sword. As to why they were so successful, for that, Let’s go back to the same house we visited earlier. The child who lay in the boat-shaped crib is now 13 and getting ready to accompany his father to sea. His is a nautical family. The house he grew up, indeed every house in the village is shaped like an upturned ship. They live on the coast of Norway with the North Sea on one side and a great ridge of mountains Known as the keel on the other as a boy He learned to sail small craft in the sheltered fjords fishing and ferrying passengers But this will be his first time sailing to foreign lands. He is well-prepared. Years of helping his mother handle farming and livestock have made him strong and village leisure activities have reinforced the importance of physical fitness He spends his summers in wrestling contests mock sword fights boxing and foot races Unusually for a medieval European he can swim for several miles in the depths of winter He spends his time playing music listening to and reciting poetry matching wits over board games and drinking Vast quantities of mead this isn’t all fun and games though these games songs and tales weigh nothing cultural comforts that can be carried across the world while taking up no cargo space and Under his boat roofed haul heavy with snow he learned how to exist in a small space with other men for months at a time without descending into violence When the village needs to build or repair a boat, He assists the craftsman selecting Greenwood and learning how to cut with the grain to give the timber strength Boatyard elders work him until he memorized each angle and spar of the clinker style construction forming mental blueprints of the craft Now if he and his crew are wrecked on a foreign Shore they can build a new boat from memory But now his training is over he and his father set off in their vessel armed not with swords but with furs, honey, and walrus ivory They are not Vikings in fact very few Scandinavians were and Viking is actually a verb to go on a raid is to go Viking and a person who goes Viking is a Viking er, but the boy and his father are not Vikingrs and their ship is not one of the famous long ships They sail akun are a trading vessel that is shorter and wider than its warlike cousin It has decks and a hold that can carry 30 to 40 tons But a draught of only 5 feet meaning it can navigate even shallow rivers Its keel keeps it steady during the crossing to the British Isles and as it navigates its first storm the boy no longer has to wonder why skaldak poems refer to ships as serpents the Flexible hull twists in the water bending where other ships would break the Navigator shows the boy how to orient himself on the open sea how to chart by the Stars and look for telltale signs of Land in cloud formations and passing birds, they count oar strokes to determine their speed. They average around five knots Respectable but under optimum conditions. The thinner flat-bottomed long ships can make three times that speed They pull into the long port at their destination the Kingdom of Dublin a trade city founded by Norwegian Vikingrs There standing on deck the boy sees foreign people for the first time their dark haired and dark eyed men and women Standing on the shore chained together with iron manacles Irish slaves The boy learns to barter fur and ivory for human beings and sets off on the next leg of the journey These Irish will fetch a good price at the emirate of Cordoba Muslim Spain where merchants offer silver coin from the Middle East in exchange for human cargo Usually traders only handle one leg of the trade But the boy’s father is savvy alongside silver in the Arab territories They barter for pottery and glass in what is now Germany and silver jewelry with the Franks In the Mediterranean, they buy spices and a Persian leather their shallow-draft ship can navigate most major rivers in Europe and Most major cities are built on rivers and at times they meet up with the great long ships the Vikingrs The first time the boy fears the fierce captain with his iron helmet and sword But he soon learns that fellow Scandinavians are also open to trade sometimes his father swaps supplies for looted items and at other times he takes silver in exchange for Intelligence about the lands. They’ve just visited were there guards at the port a monastery Did they cite any army camps or cavalry along the shore? At other times they give fellow Scandinavians a wide berth. Not everyone can be trusted over the years the boy learns that people in trading ports consider all Scandinavians the same the Irish call them the dark and fair foreigners and the Franks refer to them as North men Though their crews hail from Norway the English see no distinction and refer to all Scandinavians as Danes But the Scandinavians themselves see a great deal of difference the Norwegians and Danes often feud. After all, geography often shapes culture and there’s little similarity between mountainous Norway and the flat river lands of Denmark The Swedes largely control trade into the waterways of Eastern Europe and dislike others encroaching on their territory At times a great leader might unite a coalition of war bands from different places But it was tempting fate for a Norwegian trader to pull up alongside an unfamiliar Danish longship In time the boy became a man. He learned his father’s trade well and married He too would lay his sons in a boat shaped crib and take them to sea teaching them to barter in the trading ports and once even taking them on a risky venture to the lavish markets of Constantinople, the man was not rich though full of profit a lifetime of trading on the sea also exposes a family to loss storms, bad investments and raids by fellow Scandinavians blunted his fortune Long voyages make for rocky marriages and after 20 years his wife declared divorce Claiming half his property. He accepted this and remarried his former wife had after all followed the law When he died, he could not be buried in the lavish style of the wealthy Lords instead his sons dug him a simple grave and filled it with his favorite possessions and to Mark the spot to honor the man who had crossed the ocean and exchanged goods across the world They laid him to rest inside a ring of stones a ring Shaped like a boat

100 thoughts on “Viking Expansion – The Serpent-Riders – Extra History – #1”

  1. In a house by the sea, somewhere in Norway, a baby is born. History will not remember his name, and no skald will sing of his deeds. His family are not lords or warriors, yet he—and people like him—will spread Scandinavian influence from Constantinople to western lands unseen by Europeans. For this village prizes one skill above all others.
    The father takes his newborn son and lays him in a crib—a crib shaped like a boat.

  2. The Vikings hated the Christians due to the actions of king Charlemagne and the horrendous acts of cruelty he had committed in years past against their kind in an effort to convert them from paganism to Christianity.

  3. That was actually amazingly interesting. Probably moreso than if you had picked some well known historical figure. Sure, the Norwegian you talked about was made up, but the parts of his life are realistic and quite probably were close to what at least a few of them lived.

  4. "It begins with screaming and blood".
    That is so fucking metal.

    Also, they make boats sound pretty cool.
    It's like if I, an argie, took so much pride in raising cows that I wear their leather to feel protected by the cows, I drink their milk to grow as strong as the cows, I feed the cows so I can gain their favour, I eat their meat so I increase my power thanks to the cows, and I drink mate from their horns so I get my energy from the cows (yes, people empty the cow's horns and use them to drink mate).

  5. It is not accurate to show the Constantinople trader at 1:09 as looking like a Middle-Easterner, as he would be ethnically Greek, and likely of specifically Thracian Greek stock, making him closer to the complexion of a modern day Greek or Italian.

  6. Well, you are not allowed to mention the medieval warm period, modern global warming alarmists don't like the fact that this implies there were climate changes like the one we experience now and that they meant prosperity for the continent. Seriously, look at IPCC charts, they almost erased this MWP from the new ones, it still remains on the old ones.

  7. OMG You have no idea how happy it makes me to have someone talk about the Irish Slave Trade. Every time I bring it up I get called a bigot, or that "It never happen" I can't thank you enough!

  8. This is soo good! but please! Stop calling it the middle ages, the Middle ages in norway didn't officially start until 1030 AD after the battle of Stiklestad

  9. I can watch 10 minute history and get the jist of something, then I can watch your series, and get a little bit more details. I love it!

  10. Just imagine what they could have done with arms! Don't get me wrong, telepathically guided hands could be pretty interesting, but for rowing, you need proper arms.

  11. this as to be one of my favorite ones. not because its the most interesting thing in the world but the way its told.

  12. 4:55 …still today an important characteristic for crews on e.g. submarines or astronauts on a Mars-mission…!

  13. It's a bit like the modern society. We live in boxlike flats, that are part of boxlike houses, we drive in boxlike busses and trains to our workplace, sit in boxlike cubicles and work on boxlike computers, and when we die, our family is putting us in boxlike coffins.

  14. This is what I love about this channel. No matter what they did, every society is simply laid out before you so that you can simply learn. Not all Scandinavians were Vikingr, they were mainly tradesmen. After all, it's far easier to buy and sell than to just try and knock over the nearest town where someone will die.

  15. I'm worldbuilding for my D&D campaign, and occasionally I wonder just how much STUFF is floating around (literally) in the form of trade. Having an accurate picture of just how much ONE family's ship can carry is incredibly useful data to have. Thank you for your hard work!

  16. This video totally explains that constant urge to kill myself, as I'm both Norwegian & Danish, ancestry wise.

  17. this was a missed opportunity for the narrator to dress as Dovahkin. Why did they do away with the original narrator anyway?

  18. I really love this kind of anthropological reconstruction. Stories of what life could have been like for a common person are so fascinating, even if they are bound to be oversimplified and paint with a broad brush.

  19. Swedish pagan's marching ashore forge in Valhalla by the hammer of Thor out from Asgard the Vikings ship sail never to turn back again

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