The Vikings fought battles with swords, spears, axes, bows and arrows. All freemen were expected to own weapons – local chiefs were meant to provide their men with weapons What do you think were their most commonly used weapons??? The main offensive weapons were the spear, sword and battle-axe, although bows and arrows and other missiles were also used.
The spear was the most common weapon used by a Viking. Why would it have been most common, think about how it might have been made!! Quite heavy. Why? With an iron blade on a wooden shaft, often of ash and 2 to 3m in length. It was used for both thrusting and throwing. The blades varied in shape from broad leaf shapes to long spikes. Skilled spearmen are said to have been able to throw two spears at once using both hands, or even to catch a spear in flight and hurl it back with deadly effect.
The seax, or sax, was universal in Northern Europe. Carried and used by the Viking tribes, From small knives with 3-4 inch blades always single-edged. The original version of this large knife served from camp work to cutting work, on shipboard, and for fighting if a sword or axe was not available. The wood grip is studded with brass tacks, for a very secure and comfortable grip. The blade is etched on both sides, flat ground, and capable of taking and holding a razor sharp edge.
Swords were very costly to make, and a sign of high status. The blades were usually double-edged and up to 90cm, or a little over, in length, but early single-edged sabres are also known. They were worn in leather-bound wooden scabbards. Early blades were pattern-welded, a technique in which strips of wrought iron and mild steel were twisted and forged together, with the addition of a hardened edge. Later blades bore inlaid makers' marks and inscriptions, such as INGELRII or ULFBERHT. Viking craftsmen often added their own elaborately decorated hilts, and many swords were given names, such as Leg-biter and Gold-hilt.
Long-handled battle-axes might be used instead of swords, particularly in open combat. The famed, double-handed broad axe is a late development, typical of the late 10th and 11th centuries. But as the owner could not hold a shield at the same time, he would take cover behind the front line of warriors, rushing out at the right moment to hew down the enemy.
REMIND THE CLASS THAT VIKING HELMETS ARE UNLIKELY TO HAVE HAD HORNS ON THEM!!! TELL THE STORY OF THE FARMER FAKING ANTIQUITY AND OF THE IDEA THAT THE HORNS WERE INVENTED TO ROMANTICISE OR DRAMATISE OPERA. They protected themselves with round wooden shields THAT WERE UP TO 1METRE ACROSS!!! SHIELDS WERE MADE OF WOODEN BOARDS AND HAD A CENTRAL HOLE FOR AN IRON HAND GRIP COVERED WITH A STEEL ‘BOSS’ FOR HAND PROTECTION. SHIELDS WERE PROBABLY LEATHER COVERED. VIKING SAGAS TELL OF SHIELDS PAINTED WITH SIMPLE PATTERNS, OR WITH MYTHOLOGICAL SCENES AND HEROES. AROUND THE YEAR 1000 KITE SHAPED SHIELDS WERE INTRODUCED (DRAW ONE ON THE BOARD AND ASK WIF THE CLASS THINK THIS WAS A BETTER DESIGN AND WHY? – MORE PROTECTION FOR THE LEGS) WHAT DO YOU THINK THEY USED AS ARMOUR?!?!? – reindeer hide is thought to have been used by some Vikings as armour CHAIN-LINK ARMOUR MAY HAVE BEEN WORN BY SOME, BUT ONLY BY THE MOST IMPORTANT MEN AS IT WAS VERY EXPENSIVE AND TOOK A LOT OF TIME TO PRODUCE. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT VIKINGS USED LAYERS OF CLOTHES AND ANIMAL HIDE TO PROTECT THEMSELVES.
THINK OF THE BRITISH ARMY TODAY, IS IT DISCIPLINED? IS IT THERE?!? THE VIKINGS HAD NO PROFESSIONAL STANDING ARMY, TACTICS AND DISCIPLINE WERE PROBABLY QUITE BASIC VIKINGS DID NOT FIGHT IN REGULAR FORMATIONS AS ARMIES WOULD TODAY, ALTHOUGH BONDS OF LOYALTY BETWEEN MEN AND THEIR LORDS WOULD HAVE GIVEN THEIR ARMIES SOME COHESION. WEAPONS TRAINING BEGAN IN YOUTH IN HUNTING, SPORTS AND RAIDING. YOUNG WARRIORS WISHED ALWAYS TO FIGHT IN THE ARMED SERVICE OF A FAMOUS VIKING – WHY? – HE HOPED TO BE REWARDED WITH WEAPONS AND FAME OF HIS OWN. A VIKING LEADER WOULD HAVE TO WAGE WAR OFTEN TO KEEP HIS STATUS AND, MAINTAIN POWER AGAINST HIS RIVALS AND KEEP HIS FOLLOWING. In preparation for battle the younger warriors would draw up in line, with their shields overlapping in a 'shield-wall' for better protection; their chiefs were well defended by a close bodyguard. The older veterans formed up in support behind them. Battle then began by throwing a spear over the enemy line to dedicate them to Odin, it is said, and this was followed by a shower of spears, arrows and other missiles. If this was not enough to decide the outcome, each side then attempted to break through and rout the opposition, capturing or killing their leaders if possible. The experienced commander knew that the best way to achieve this was by forming a wedge of 20 to 30 warriors, with its point towards the enemy line in what was known as the svinfylking, or 'boar formation', and then charge, hoping to break through by sheer weight of numbers. The famous 'berserks', whose name suggests they wore bearskins, may have fought in groups, and believed that Odin, the god of war, gave them both protection and superhuman powers so they had no need of armour. They would work themselves into a battle frenzy so intense it is said they bit on the edges of their shields, and could even ignore the pain of wounds.
Berserkers (or Berserks ) (Swedish: Bärsärk ) were Norse warriors who wore coats of wolf or bear skin and who were commonly understood to have fought in an uncontrollable rage or trance of fury, hence the modern word berserk . A Horizon Book on Vikings claims that some chieftains would hold their berserkers in reserve during a battle. Once a portion of the enemy line appeared to tire or weaken, the chieftains would send the berserkers charging into the enemy ranks to hopefully open a break and even panic the enemy. The book also claimed that while on sea voyages close to land, berserkers were sometimes asked to go ashore to find objects on land to wrestle or bash to give vent to their fury.
Activity1. What was the most popular Viking weapon?2. What weapon do you think was the most deadly, and why?!?3. What length was the Viking spear?4. What was the most expensive Viking weapon?5. Who owned swords?