FOVI In the Footsteps of the Vikings

In the Footsteps of the Vikings
History and Travel Portal

Travel trough the Europe following the ancient Vikings' routes!
Look at the MAP! Find your town in the map and use the link to go straight to the location!
About... Viking game and history travel portal: The Vikings once travelled in wide areas of Europe, Asia, and even America. So more and more cities and municipalities will be shown in FoVi portal by the time. Enjoy travelling In the Footsteps of the Vikings! It's free thanks to our sponsors. The viking learning game will be released spring 2012.

More about the Vikings:

2. A time of flux

There are certainly many reasons why people are on the move. So why did the Vikings suddenly appear in so many different places?

Here some suggestions:

Adventure: without an adventurous mind the Vikings would hardly have entered on the extensive excursions they did.

Economy: They did not only raid, they also traded.

Power and pretence: In the 9th century a state formation process started in what is now Norway. Before that the big families or clans had, on an equal footing, handled their joint affairs at gatherings called things. Now, some big families started conquering the other families. This was the case with Harold Shockhead. “Harold, son of Halfdan Swarthy, was heir after his father. He had bound himself by this vow, not to let his hair be cut or combed till he were sole king over Norway, wherefore he was called Harold Shockhead.” This we are told in Egil’s saga.

Many Vikings were more or less forced to leave their country because they had got on bad terms with the king or other powerful men. “[M]any fled abroad from this tyranny, and much waste land was then colonized far and wide, both eastwards in Jamtaland and Helsingjaland, and also the West lands, the Southern isles, Dublin in Ireland, Caithness in Scotland, and Shetland. And in that time Iceland was found. (Egil’s saga p. 3)

3. How it started

The Vikings ‘wrote history’ during the 9th to 12th centuries. This was a period of great popular movements. The Roman Empire laid in ruins and the folks that had been subdued by the Romans fought among themselves not only for a living space, but also for power and pretence. This is a sad trait in the human species, as it makes so many innocent people suffer. The Vikings were no exception to this. They could be extremely violent. They thus partook in much violence that local populations were submitted to along with Muslims and Hungarians. It was a depressive sight. Towns laid in ruins or enfeebled. The cultivated land had equally suffered disastrously, often being reduced to desert. (Bloch, p 39) These invasions so permeated the time that reflections of them are to be found both in legal enactments and in prayers. So for example, a rural lease from the area around Lucca, dating from 876 provided for the payment of rent to be suspended 'if the heathen nation should burn or lay waste the houses and their contents or the mill" (Bloch, p 41) Prayers might go like this: "Eternal Trinity...deliver thy Christian people from the oppression of the pagans" (Provence); "from the savage nation of the Northmen, which lays waste our realms, deliver us, O God" (northern Gaul); 'against the arrows of the Hungarians, be thou our protector' (Modena) (Bloch, p 41) To the anxiety of the time also contributed constant wars between different warriors and big men who strove towards domination in the own kinship group. (Anderson, p 98) ) “

4. The forgotten history

The Vikings are well known for their impressive ships and their raids. But they did so much more, that is not properly remembered.

One way of giving the Vikings wider publicity is to arrange exhibitions over the traces they have left in the places where they were. You are the one to arrange these exhibitions, and you will also be the curator.

In addition to being an archaeologist and a curator, you almost have to become a detective, to unravel the Vikings’ ‘forgotten’ history. Why was it forgotten? This is something you will find out when following in their footstep. Here a hint. At one point the Vikings became called Normans. By then they changed many of their habits, and here is a glimpse of perhaps their greatest achievements – in the Kingdom of Sicily

“Under the Norman ruler Roger II (1112-1154), Palermo the capital of the Kingdom of Sicily, was the largest and most cosmopolitan city in the West. It was the granary for North Africa, and the largest supplier of silks and silk fabrics to the European continent. It was foremost in astronomy, geography, and other sciences, drawing heavily on the intellectual resources of the Moslem world and, through it, on those of the East, including possibly China. Its medical school at the University of Salerno was the best in Europe. Literature and learning at the royal court at Palermo combined the best of the Latin, Arabic, and Greek traditions. French poetry and Arabic poetry was read, and Plato, Euclid, and Ptolemy were translated into Latin. The palaces and cathedrals of twelfth-century Sicily, combining the Norman Romanesque style of architecture with Byzantine mosaic art, remain among the greatest artistic treasures of Europe.” (Berman, Law and Revolution p. 413).

Vikings’ did all this!

6. Starting from home

But let’s start by looking at what the Vikings’ life looked like at home. The Vikings are also called the Northmen because they came from the north of Europe, from what is now Norway, Denmark and to some degree they also came from Sweden and Finland, and from Iceland, which was a land where they settled: We will hear more about Iceland, when we follow our Viking heroes Kveldulf and Egil* in the Egil Skallagrimson’s Saga, or Egil’s saga for short.

The saga starts with Kveldulf who is Egil’s grandfather. We are told that he was a man so tall and strong that none could match him, and in his youth he roved the seas as a freebooter. When he married Salbjorg he settled on his estate. “Wealthy he was both in lands and chattels; he took baron’s rank as his forefathers had done, and became a great man. It was told of Ulf that he was a great householder; it was his wont to rise up early, and then go round among his labourers or where his smiths were, and to overlook his stalk and fields, and at times he would talk with such as needed his counsel, and good counsel he could give in all things, for he was very wise. But everyday as evening drew on he became sullen, so that few could come to speak with him. He was an evening sleeper, and it was commonly said that he was very shape strong. He was called Kveldulf.”

Kveldulf and Salbjorg had two sons Thorolf and Grim.

When Thorolf was twenty years old, he made him ready to go a harrying. Kveldulf gave him a long-ship so he could go ‘a harrying’. This he did with Eyvind and Aulvir ” they roved the seas in the summer, and got them wealth, and had a large booty to divide. For several summers they were out roving, but stayed at home in winter with their fathers. Thorolf brought home many costly things, and took them to his father and mother; thus they were well-to-do both for possessions and honour.” (p. 1)

7. Norway takes shape

In the saga we learn how Norway is formed. “Harold, son of Halfdan Swarthy, was heir after his father. He had bound himself by this vow, not to let his hair be cut or combed till he were sole king over Norway, wherefore he was called Harold Shockhead.”

“So first he warred with the kings nearest to him and conquered them, as is told at length elsewhere. Then he got possession of Upland; thence he went northwards to Throndheim, and had many battles there before he became absolute over all the Thronds. After that he purposed to go north to Naumdale to attack the brothers Herlaug and Hrollaug, kings of Naumdale.” …..

This is how they looked at the situation. “Then will the same need be upon you as was upon us, to guard your wealth and liberty, and to try everyone from whom you may hope for aid. And I now offer myself with my forces against this tyranny and wrong. But, if you make the other choice, you must do as the Naumdalesmen have done, and go of your own will into slavery, and become Harold’s thralls. My father though it victory to die a king with honour rather than become in his old age another king’s subject. Thou, as I judge, wilt think the same, and so will others who have any high spirit and claim to be men of valour.’”

Next spring king Harold went southwards along the coast with a fleet, and subdued firths and fells, and arranged for men of his own to rule them. Earl Hroald he set over the Firthfolk. King Harold was very careful, when he had gotten new peoples under his power, about barons and rich landowners, and all those whom he suspected of being at all likely to raise rebellion. Every such man he treated in one of two ways: he either made him become his liege-man, or go abroad; or (as a third choice) suffer yet harder conditions, some even losing life or limb. Harold claimed as his own through every district all patrimonies, and all land tilled or untilled, likewise all seas and freshwater lakes. All landowners were to be his tenants, as also all that worked in the forest, salt-burners, hunters and fishers by land and sea, all these owed him duty.

Harold wanted Kveldulf to join him. He did not agree to this but offered his son Thorolf to join him if he wanted. So he did, but Thorolf met his death in the service of the king. Now the king approached his brother Skallagrim with the same request, to which Skallagrim answered: ’It is well known how far superior to me was Thorolf in every point, and he got no luck by serving thee, O king. Now will I not take that counsel; serve thee I will not, for I know I should get no luck by yielding thee such service as I should wish and as would be worthy. Methinks I should fail herein more than Thorolf.’

The king was silent, and his face became blood-red. Aulvir at once turned away, and bade Grim and his men go out. They did so. They went out, and took their weapons, and Aulvir bade them begone with all haste. He and many with him escorted them to the water-side. Before parting with Skallagrim, Aulvir said: ’Kinsman, thy journey to the king ended otherwise than I would have chosen. I urged much thy coming hither; now, I entreat thee, go home with all speed, and come not in the way of king Harold, unless there be better agreement between you than now seems likely, and keep thee well from the king and from his men.’ (p. 24) CONTINUES... (to the beginning)

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2012-09-18 Multi-language support by Google Translate removed, at least temporarily.

2012-05-04 Loviisa sponsors Fovigame. An agreement signed.

2012-05-02 New news available! Look at the left beneath!

A Viking Treasure found in Gotland, Sweden

A bronze vase, with thousands of silver coins, has been found in Gotland island, outside the east coast of Sweden. The treasure is exceptionally large for its age. Archaeologists consider whether it was ment to be a safety deposit or perhaps a purse for the afterlife. More...

BEAR TOOTH - an Archaeological Exhibition in the Museum of Loviisa, Finland

The museum's prehistoric exhibition is open from April 22 to September 30, 2012, and presents Loviisa region Stone Age and Iron Age discoveries as well as dwellings. The exhibition includes tools, arrowheads, jewelry and ceramics.

Loviisa sponsors Fovigame. An agreement signed 2012-05-04.


"Vikings" as TV Series from MGM and HISTORY Channel.

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