Vikings – A History In Numbers

“Heathen men made lamentable havoc”

Detail from an illustration in Life, Passion and Miracles of St. Edmund, King and Martyr, c.1130

Above: Detail from an illustration depicting the invasion of England by Danes under Hinguar and Hubba, from Life, Passion and Miracles of St. Edmund, King and Martyr, c.1130, probably created at the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds.

AD 793–1066 – the period of activity in Britain known as The Viking Age; the time of military, trade and territorial expansion.

Did You Know?

The name of Viking is believed to derive from ‘vikingr’, an Old Norse word meaning ‘pirate’.

789 – the year in which Viking ships beached at Portland Bay.

787 – the year given for this event in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle; this was an author error.

3 – the number of Viking ships that landed at Portland – it is unknown whether this was the result of attempted piracy or error.

Never before in Britain has such a terror appeared.– Alcuin of York (c.735–804), English scholar, writing to Ethelred, King of Northumbria, about the attack on Lindisfarne.

08 June 793 – the date on which the Vikings sacked the island monastery of Lindisfarne, marking the beginning of the Viking age.

794 – the year in which Vikings attacked the island of Iona.

Heathen men made lamentable havoc in the church of God in Holy-Island, by rapine and slaughter.– Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

795 – the year Vikings began raids on Ireland, initially along the northern coast. Viking kingdoms were established in Dublin, Limerick and Waterford, and later, in Wexford and Cork.

30 – the approximate number of distinct, independent kingdoms in Norway around AD 800, the many fjords and mountains of the Norwegian landscape creating natural boundaries between them.

Did You Know?

In the early 10th century some Viking kings of Dublin ruled over both Dublin and Northumberland at the same time.

802 – the year Vikings once again attacked Iona, this time burning the abbey to the ground and slaughtering many of the brethren there.

Did You Know?

Although Vikings are commonly viewed as bloodthirsty, barbaric and violent, this is quite likely due to the fact that the primary record of these years comes from their victims, the British and French clergy. The Vikings themselves were unable to write.

The Norsemen were not just warriors, they were farmers, artists, shipbuilders, and innovators.– Ingmar Jansson, Professor of Archaeology, Stockholm University, 2004.

865 – the year of Viking forces conquered East Anglia and Northumbria. Mercia was reduced in size.

878 – the year in which a truce was agreed with Alfred the Great, who had resisted these attacks and kept Wessex.

886 – the year in which Alfred the Great agreed a treaty with the Vikings, under King Guthrum, to divide England into Wessex (under Alfred), and the East Angles (under Guthrum).

892 – the year in which the Vikings began fresh attacks on Wessex.

7 – the number of years these attacks continued, until 899, with Alfred remaining victorious.

October 899 – the month in which Alfred the Great, king of Wessex, died. His son Edward the Elder succeeded him, and commenced a conquest to recapture areas of England under Viking control.

c.900 – the approximate date that Viking settlers entered Iceland. They also moved into Greenland, and made unsuccessful attempts to found colonies in North America. Viking settlements were also established in the Orkney Islands, Faroe Islands, Shetland Islands, Hebrides and Isle of Man.

Did You Know?

Iceland had no pre-historic era in human history, being colonised for the first time by the Vikings.

924 – the year Edward the Elder died.

930 – the year in which a parliament was established (in Iceland?).

954 – the year in which Eadred conquered Northumbria.

959 – the year Edgar took over the ruling of England.

14 – the number of years after taking over control of England that Edgar was formally crowned king of England.

973 – the year Edgar was crowned king of England, at Bath.

6 – the number of kings who agreed to serve under Edgar, including the kings of Gwynedd, the Scots, and the Strathclyde Britons.

975 – the year Edward the Martyr became King of England, succeeding his father Edgar.

978 – the year Edward, king of England, was murdered at Corfe Castle in Dorset. A popular belief is that followers of Edward’s half-brother Æthelred may have been responsible. With Edward’s death, the young Æthelred – then aged around 10-13 years of age – became king.

980 – the year the Vikings launched fresh raids on England.

Did You Know?

Many churchmen saw the Viking raids as God’s punishment for Anglo-Saxon sins.

23 April 1016 – the date Æthelred the Unready (c. 968 – 1016), king of England, died.

1016 – the year Cnut became king of the whole of England, three years before he became king of Denmark too. Following the death of Æthelred, king of England, his son Edmund Ironside reached a truce with Cnut and an agreement to divide the kingdom between them. When Edmund himself died shortly afterwards, England became part of the Empire of Cnut. .

1000 – the year in which the Viking lands of Greenland and Iceland began to adopt Christianity.

1000 – the approximate year that Vikings arrived in the New World, landing at Newfoundland in Canada, and naming the place Vinland.

500 – the approximated number of years prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus (on 12 October 1492), that Vikings first landed in the New World.

Did You Know?

In 1960 the Icelandic sagas helped Helge and Anne Stine Ingstad to locate the L’anse aux Meadows site in Newfoundland, an 11th century Viking settlement, the only one so far found in North America, outside Greenland.

Did You Know?

Many modern scholars now believe the Viking raids abroad were motivated not by conquest but by survival, prompted by a lack of suitable farming land at home.

3,500 – the approximate number of runic inscriptions found in Sweden, mainly recorded on stone. These rune stones offer the only written monuments from the Vikings themselves, and are usually rather brief and uninformative.

3,000 – the number of Viking graves in Scandinavia’s largest Viking cemetery, Birka, near Stockholm.

Did You Know?

Slavery was widespread in Scandinavia, and slaves had no rights, being viewed much like cattle.

Did You Know?

Vikings had a well-developed and highly democratic legal system, in which decisions were reached by an open vote.

Did You Know?

Women are believed to have had significant powers in Viking culture. They owned land, managed farms, enjoyed the right to divorce, and went to war.

Did You Know?

The Vikings North Germanic language, old Norse, is the basis of the languages spoken in present-day Scandinavia.

2 – the number of ravens said to be owned by the Viking god Odin. They were named Hugin and Munin (meaning ‘thought’ and ‘memory’), and were said to fly around spying on everyone.

April 1014 – the date of the Battle of Clontarf, north of Dublin. The battle was between the the Dublin Vikings allied with the king of Leinster against the forces of Brian Bóru, the king of Munster and undisputed high king of Ireland. Brian Bóru was killed in the battle, although his army won the battle itself, thereby disrupting the political power of the Vikings in the area.

Did You Know?

The Vikings had little success in France, then the Carolingian/Charlemagne Empire, other than in Normandy. They also made occasional raids on the Mediterranean coastal areas south of France, but again, these were of no great influence.

August 1042 – the month in which Edward II (‘the Confessor’) became king of England.

06 January 1066 – the date that Harold Godwinson, earl of Wessex, was crowned king of England. He succeeded the recently deceased Edward the Confessor, who was buried the same day.

25 September 1066 – the date that traditionally marks the end of the Viking Age in England, following the epic Battle of Stamford Bridge, at which the Norwegian king Harald III failed in his invasion attempt, defeated by the Saxon king Harold Godwinson.

15,000 – the approximate size of the Saxon army.

9,000 – the approximate size of the attacking forces, a mix of Norwegian Vikings and English rebels from the earldom of Orkney (led by the the Saxon king’s brother, Tostig Godwinson).

3,000 – the number of attacking forces that arrived late into the battle.

5,000 – the approximate number of Saxon casualties.

6,000 – the approximate number of casualties amongst the invading forces, including both King Harold III and Tostig Godwinson.

Did You Know?

Although the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066 marks the end of the Viking Age in England, major campaigns continued in both Britain and Ireland into the early 1100s.

Did You Know?

During the 12th century, when English invasions were launched on Ireland, Scandinavians were still the dominant force in the country, although they were now Christianised.

Did You Know?

The Vikings reached as far as Baghdad in Asia, travelling along rivers through Russia.

Did You Know?

Some historians (notably Simek and Dumézil) believe a motive for the Viking raids could have been a response to Christian actions in pagan Scandinavia, and prompted by the Saxon Wars, which saw Pagans and Christians warring in Saxony.


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