Norse seafarers raid distant lands when farmland begins to dwindle in Scandinavia.

THE NORSE PEOPLE

Scandinavian Peninsula

The cold and inhospitable peninsula in Northern Europe is initially home to few tribes. The rugged region is a mixture of fjords, mountains, tundra, icy lakes, and archipelagos.

North Germanic Chiefdoms

375-575 CE: Some Germanic tribes migrate northward and establish many chiefdoms among the fjords and mountains of Scandinavia. A Northern Germanic dialect emerges on the peninsula.

Warrior Culture

The rugged terrain and cool climate of Scandinavia limits farmable land. As populations grow, North Germanic tribes skirmish over fertile land and develop a warrior culture.

Old Norse

700s: The North Germanic language evolves into Old Norse. The Norse create runestones by carving a runic alphabet known as Younger Futhark into boulders. They are often memorials to their dead.

Scandinavia derives from Germanic and may mean Dangerous Water Lands. It may also relate to an old Norse goddess named Skadi.

Norse and Norsemen are English terms meaning North and Northmen. The Norse of the time would refer to themselves by their local tribal name.

Summer Activities

The Norse engage in summer sports such as wrestling, mountain climbing, stone lifting, and swimming. These develop into official competitions.

Winter Activities

The Norse ski and ice skate during the winter, both for leisure and means of travel. They also play a hockey-like game with a bat and ball, which is called knattleikr

Skalds

Poetry is popular in Scandinavian culture. Poets speak about the deeds of his king and beliefs of the people. They become known as Skalds, a word that may mean voice or shout.

Board Games

Board and dice games become a common Norse pastime. Evolving from an earlier Germanic game, Tafl is a popular chess-like game. Tafl simply means board in Old Norse.

Norse Seafarers

Travel and trade is easier by water than by land in rugged Scandinavia. Norsemen develop significant seafaring skills. Seafood, such as whales and walruses, becomes an important source of food.

Norse Ships

The Norse design versatile ships for sailing rivers, fjords, and coastal waterways. Some can navigate the open sea and explore distant lands. They make a strong warship known as a longship.

Seafaring Culture

The Sea and sea vessels become the centerpiece of Norse culture and religion. Funerals take place at sea and Norsemen are sometimes buried with their ship and weapons.

Maelstroms

The Norwegian Sea off the western coast of Scandinavia is home to many maelstroms; whirlpools. The Moskstraumen is one of the largest whirlpool systems in the world. 

Maelstrom is derived from Moskstraumen and means Grinding Sea.  

The Swedes

The western coast of the Baltic Sea is inhabited by the Swedes; a name which may mean One’s Own. They descend from a powerful Germanic tribe that the Romans called the Suiones

Emergence of Sweden

South-eastern Scandinavia,west of the Baltic sea, becomes known as Svealand, which means Land of the Swedes. The southern region has a milder climate and has higher population levels.

Lake Mälaren

Svealand has many long rivers and lakes. Lake Mälaren is a 120 KM long freshwater lake that connects to the Baltic Sea and becomes a popular lake to sail further inland.  

Birka

A popular trading center emerges on the island of Björkö in Lake Mälaren. It grows to a population of up to 1000 people; one of the earliest urban centers in Scandinavia.

The Danes

Norsemen tribes on the Jutland Peninsula in Northern Europe are known as the Danes. Their territory becomes known as Denmark, which may mean Borderland of the Danes.

King Harald Wartooth

Harald Wartooth of Denmark is King of Zealand, the largest island in the Jutland Peninsula. He proceeds to conquer additional territory in Denmark and Sweden.

King Sigurd Hring

Harald’s half-brother, Randver, becomes king of the Swedish territory However, Randver dies during a raid in Britannia and his son, Sigurd Hring, becomes king.  

Battle of Brávellir

An aging King Harald Wartooth fears he will not die in battle and enter Valhalla. King Sigurd agrees to fight his uncle in a great battle on the plains of Brávellir. Harald dies during the battle.

The writings for King Wartooth and the Battle of Brávellir emerge much later and their historicity is debated.

NORSE MYTHOLOGY

Old Norse Religion

The Germanic-descended Norse religion believes in many gods and goddesses. They include hammer-wielding Thor, one-eye Odin, trickster Loki, guardian Heimdall, and the goddess of death Hel.

Norse Cosmology

The Norse believe that there are Nine Worlds held together by a colossal ash tree called Yggdrasil, which may mean Odin’s Gallows. The gods, known as the Aesir, live in Asgard.

Norse Creatures

Yggdrasil and the Nine Worlds are inhabited by creatures such as dwarves and elves. It also includes a dragon called Nidhogg and greedy troll-like creatures known as the Jötunn.

The First Humans

Odin and two other gods create the first two humans from driftwood. The male is named Ask, which means ash tree. The female is named Embla, which may mean elm tree.

Germanic and Norse mythology heavily influenced J.R.R. Tolkien writings in the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and related writings. His work in turn influenced much of modern fantasy.

Midgard

Humans and the earth are located in the middle of Yggdrasil. The realm known as Midgard, which means Middle Earth. A great wall protects the realm from the Jotunn from Jotunheim.

Valhalla

Great warriors that perish in combat may be chosen by Odin and escorted by Valkyries to his majestic hall. Valhalla means Hall of the Slain in Old Norse.

Hel

Hel is an underworld beneath Yggdrasil and it is overseen by Loki’s daughter, a giant goddess who is also called Hel. It is another place for the dead. Hel means the concealed place.

Ragnarok

The warriors in Valhalla prepare for an apocalyptic great war in which the world will be shattered, but emerge renewed. Ragnarok might mean Final Destiny of the Gods.

The English word hell is likely derived from Norse hel. However, hel wasn’t necessarily a negative place in Norse religion.

Our knowledge of Norse Mythology is mostly known from later Icelandic writings. It likely evolved and varied in each Norse tribe.

VIKING RAIDS

Seafaring Expeditions

Norse populations flourish, but farmland is very limited in the rugged terrain of Scandinavia. Many Norse go on trading, pirating, or raiding expeditions beyond their peninsula.

The Vikings

The Norse excel at switching rowers every sea mile to maintain an incredible rowing speed. Their rowing skill becomes known as Víkingr, which may be how the raiders acquire their name.

Viking Weapons

Free Norse men are required to own weapons and are permitted to carry them at all times. The quality of their weapons and armor reflects their status. The lower cost axe is the most common weapon.   

Berserkers

Vikings ingest hallucinogenic mushrooms and large amounts of alcohol to enter a berserker-state. The frenetic and furious shock troops disorient their enemies in combat. 

Berserker likely means Bear-Shirt. It may be related to bear worship and the belief that they are fighting with the frenzy or spirit of a bear.

Contrary to popular belief, there is little evidence that Vikings wore horned helmets. They were also well-groomed and clean.

Christian Expansion

Christianity continues to spread throughout Western Europe. Christian territories begin to impose taxes and trade restrictions on non-Christian traders, including the Vikings.

Trading Mishap

Viking trading ships arrive on the shores of Britannia. A royal official attempts to forcefully bring the traders to the king’s manor and pay the trading tax. The official is promptly killed.

Christian Incursions

Some Christian merchants refuse to trade with the Vikings unless they convert. Meanwhile, Christian armies encroach into Scandinavia and attempt to force religious conversion.

The Lindisfarne Massacre

793 CE: Vikings, possibly in retaliation for trade restrictions and conversions, attack a monastery on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. They kill all the monks and burn down their abbey

The Lindisfarne Massacre marks the official beginning of the Viking Age.

The Northern Islands

Two major island groups are located off the northern coast of Scotland. They feature 26 major islands and are inhabited by the Celtic-descended tribes known as the Picts.

Viking Conquest

The Northern Islands are about 300 km west from eastern Scandinavia. Vikings can row to the islands within 24 hours. They gradually conquer the islands and assimilate the Picts.

Raids of Scotland

The Vikings establish bases in the Northern Islands and use them as a launching point for raids against the Scottish mainland. Coastline populations begin to move inland. 

Kingdom of the Isles

Vikings conquer the islands on the western coast of Scotland and establish a Norse kingdom. They intermarry with the local Gaelic population and the Norse-Gael culture emerges.

The Northern Islands become known as Orkney and Shetland.

Raids of Ireland

Vikings merge their efforts and form larger parties. Some fleets have 60 longships with 1500 Vikings. They increasingly raid monasteries and towns in Ireland.

Longphort Fortresses

Vikings construct fortified naval enclosures in Ireland. They are used as docks, trading posts, and launching points for deeper inland raids. They are known as a Longphort, which means ship camp.

Kingdom of Dublin

841 CE: The Vikings conquer a small Christian community on the eastern coast of Ireland. It becomes known as Dublin, an Irish name that refers to a nearby black tidal pool.

Raid of Seville

A Viking fleet raids the coast of the Iberian Peninsula. They travel the Guadalquivir river and ravage the city of Seville, but are soon expelled by a Muslim army.

The Irish call the Vikings Dubgail and Finngail, which means Dark and Fair Foreigners.

Ragnar Lodbrok

King Sigurd Ring dies and his son, Ragnar Lodbrok, becomes a king in Sweden. He becomes a respected Viking after leading several successful raids against Francia and Britannia.

Siege of Paris

845 CE: Ragnar enters the Seine river in West Francia with a fleet of 120 ships. He occupies Paris, but withdraws after being paid a large ransom by King Charles the Bald; grandson of Charlemagne.

Lodbrok’s Family

Ragnar has three wives and a large family. His sons grow up to become Vikings and include Ivar the Boneless, Björn Ironside, Ubba Halfdan, Hvitserk, and Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye.

Ivar the Boneless

Ivar is born with deformed boneless legs. Despite his disability, he grows to be extremely wise. As a master strategist, Ivar becomes a leader in the Viking raids.

Ragnar is likely a real person, but there are multiple contradictory accounts and it is difficult to separate truth from legend. The accounts may also be a mix of multiple people named Ragnar.

INVASION OF BRITANNIA

Great Viking Army

Ragnar is captured and executed in Britannia. To avenge his death, Ivar the Boneless and the other sons of Ragnar organize a massive coalition of Vikings to attack Britannia.

Old English Kingdoms

The Germanic Angles-Saxons settled in Britannia and established several kingdoms. East Anglia, Mercia, Northumbria, and Wessex become the most dominant. They speak the earliest form of English.

Great Heathen Army

866 CE: The Great Viking Army lands in East Anglia. King Edmund provides horses in exchange for peace. The English call the massive force The Great Heathen Army.

Capture of York

867 CE: The Vikings capture the Northumbrian river city of York while residents are celebrating All Saints’ Day. It is renamed Jorvik and becomes a major Viking center in Britannia.

Invasion of Mercia

867 CE: The Great Viking army invades the part of Mercia. They take shelter in Nottingham during the winter. The Vikings return to Jorvik the following year. 

Conquest of East Anglia

869 CE: The Viking army returns to East Anglia and conquers the kingdom. When King Edmund refuses to renounce Christ, he is executed and becomes known as a martyr.   

The Great Summer Army

870 CE: The Great Viking Army is massively reinforced with Vikings from Scandinavia during the summer. They prepare to invade the last independant English Kingdom: Wessex

Defense of Wessex

871 CE: King Ethelred of Wessex and his 22-year old brother Alfred attempt to mount a defense against the newly reinforced Viking army. There are heavy casualties on both sides.

King Guthrum

874 CE: Possibly due to the death of Ivar the Boneless, many Vikings come under the leadership of a Viking named Guthrum. He conquers additional territory in Mercia and Northumbria.

Battle of Chippenham

Guthrum initiates a surprise night time attack against the Kingdom of Wessex. King Alfred is forced into hiding, but assembles an army and engages in guerilla warfare against the Vikings. 

Battle of Edington

878 CE: King Alfred’s force confronts and defeats Guthrum’s Viking army near the town of Edington. Guthrum and his remaining Vikings retreat to a nearby fortress.

Peace of Wedmore

King Alfred surrounds the Viking survivors and starves them out. Guthrum is forced to surrender. The Viking king agrees to be baptized as a Christian and to return to East Anglia.

The Peace agreement at Wedmore is sometimes known as the Treaty of Wedmore. However, there was no official treaty for several more years.

Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum

886 CE: King Alfred and King Guthram establish an official treaty, which formalizes the boundaries of their kingdom. The Kingdom of Wessex is expanded to include territory from Mercia.

Revival of London

Viking raids had devastated the city of London in Mercia. Following the treaty, King Alfred begins to restore the city. The port-city becomes an increasingly prosperous center of trade. 

Danelaw

With the treaty, the Viking occupation in northern-eastern Britannia becomes official. The Vikings territory becomes known as Danelaw, which means Law of the Danes.

Anglo-Norse Language

Old Norse and Old English descend from the same Germanic language. An Anglo-Norse language emerges in Britannia and the Norse presence also heavily influences the English language.

The Vikings invading Britain were predominantly from Denmark. The Anglo-Saxons generally refer to all Vikings as Danes in their writings.

There are about 5000 modern English words and approximately 1000 derive from the Norse language. These include such words as Berserk, Ransack, Skate, and Thursday (Thor’s Day).

NORWAY, ICELAND, & NORMANDY

Norse Exploration

870 CE: Danish explorer Garðar Svavarsson explores the North Atlantic Ocean. When a storm blows him off course, he discovers a large island that is only inhabited by a group of Celtic monks.

Iceland

Norwegian Flóki Vilgerðarson sails to find Svavarsson’s island. He finds it with the help of ravens and, seeing a fjord of icebergs, calls it Iceland. Flóki is nicknamed Raven-Flóki.

Chiefdoms of Norway

Northwest Scandinavia has many mountains and fjords. About 30 chiefdoms emerged within its natural borders. The region becomes known as Norway, which likely means The Way Northward.

Chieftain Fairhair

872 CE: Chieftain Halfdan the Black rules over a few Norse clans in Norway. The ruler dies and his son Harald Fairhair succeeds as chieftain of the scattered clans.

Later tales say that the island was named Iceland to discourage overpopulation. However, this is likely a myth.

Battle of Hafrsfjord

Harald Fairhair and other chieftains fight over additional territory. This culminates in a three-way naval battle in the narrow inlet of Hafrsfjord. Fairhair emerges victorious.

Kingdom of Norway

Harald Fairhair proclaims himself king of a unified Norway. He has over 11 sons, including Eirik Bloodaxe and Haakon the Good. The sons are reckless and develop a murderous rivalry.

Norwegian Migrations

King Fairhair institutes heavy taxes and trade regulations on conquered clans in Norway. Many Norwegians migrate to the British Isles and other distant territories.

Iceland Migrations

Due to lack of farmland in Scandinavia, over 20,000 Norse migrate to Iceland. Some come from Norway to escape the rule of King Fairhair. All good land is claimed within a few decades.

The accounts of Harald Fairhair come from later Icelandic sagas and his historicity is debated.

Frankish Raids

The Kingdom of the Franks in Western Europe is weakened and fractured by a recent civil war. Vikings raid villages along the 777 km-long Seine river. The Franks call them the Nortmann.

Rollo the Viking

A gigantic Viking named Rollo establishes a community in Northern Francia. Rollo is said to be so large that no horse can carry him and he is forced to travel on foot. 

Treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte

911 CE: King Charles of West Francia establishes a treaty with Rollo. In exchange for defending the Seine river from other Viking raiders, Chief Rollo is given the city of Rouen.

Normandy

Rollo’s Vikings integrate into the emerging French culture and language. Their territory becomes known as Normandy, which means the Land of the Northman.

Rollo’s origins are obscure, though he was likely either Norwegian or Danish.

Norse and Norsemen descend from the Old Frankish word Nortmann.

BATTLES FOR  ENGLAND

King Edward the Elder

899 CE: Alfred dies and his son, Edward, becomes king of Wessex and Mercia. He builds up a robust army over 10 years and then invades Vikings territory in Britannia.

Conquest of Southern Danelaw

910 CE: Vikings retaliate by invading Mercia, but they suffer heavy casualties. King Edward reciprocates and conquers East Anglia. The Vikings now only rule over Northumbria.

King Athelstan

924 CE: King Edward dies and his son, Athelstan, becomes king of Wessex and Mercia. He proceeds to conquer Jorvik, the last remaining stronghold of the Vikings.

First King of England

Having conquered Jorvik and gained control over much of Northumbria, Athelstan becomes the first sole king of the Anglo-Saxons. Viking rule is weakened in Britannia.

English occupied territory in Britannia begins to be called Englaland in some documents, which means Land of the Angles in Old English.

King Edmund

939 CE: Athelstan dies and his 18-year old half-brother, Edmund, becomes king of England. He is unable to retain Northumbria as the Vikings once again take control of Jorvik.

King Eadred

946 CE: King Edmund is killed by a thief, though some later speculate it was a political assassination. Edmund’s brother, Eadred, becomes King of England.

Erik Bloodaxe

947 CE: Vikings rebel against English rule in the city of Jorvik. They declare Erik Bloodaxe, one of the many sons of King Harald Fairhair of Norway, as king of Northumbria.

City of York

952 CE: Despite his failing health, King Eadred coordinates a raid that removes Eric Bloodaxe from Jórvík and successfully reunites England under English rule. The city becomes known as York.

UNIFICATION OF DENMARK & SWEDEN

Harald Bluetooth

958 CE: Harald Gormsson becomes ruler of several clans around the town of Jelling in Denmark. Having a darkened tooth, Harald is given the nickname of Bluetooth.

Jelling Stones

Harald, continuing to work of his father, has giant runestones carved in Jelling in memory of deceased family members. They are inside a 370 meters long Viking ship fashioned in stone.

Christianization of Denmark

965 CE: Christianity advances into Scandinavia from Western Europe. Bluetooth converts to the religion, though likely due to a peace treaty with the increasingly powerful Holy Roman Empire.

Expansion of Denmark

King Bluetooth expands his rule into Jutland and Zealand. He builds six fortresses to strengthen the defense of his kingdom. Christianity gradually spreads throughout his expanded territory.

Bluetooth technology, which was designed to unite wireless connections, is named after Harald Bluetooth. The Bluetooth symbol is derived from Harald’s initials in the runic alphabet.

Unification of Sweden

Eric of Sweden brings Swedes around Lake Malaren under his rule. He is succeeded by his son Olof Skötkonung, which begins the first royal dynasty of Sweden.

Jomsvikings

Vikings-for-hire emerge that are devoted to the Norse Gods and have a strict code of conduct. Rulers pay large fees for their service. They occupy a stronghold built by Harald Bluetooth.

Styrbjörn the Strong

Styrbjörn becomes leader of a Jomsviking order. He blames his uncle, King Eric of Sweden, for killing his father with poison. Styrbjörn attacks and attempts to usurp his rule of Sweden.

Battle of Fýrisvellir

King Eric and Styrbjörn engage in a major battle in the Swedish plain of Fýrisvellir. The king decisively defeats his nephew and his given the nickname of Eric the Victorious.

The Jomsvikings are a predecessor of religious and knighthood orders.

VIKING EXPLORATION

Medieval Warm Period

A warm period hits the Northern Hemisphere, especially in the North Atlantic. Retreating ice and snow allow humans to explore and colonize new regions.  

Erik the Red

982 CE: Following a deadly dispute with his neighbor, Erik of Iceland is found guilty of manslaughter and exiled. He is known as Erik The Red, possibly due to his fiery hair color and/or temper.

Gunnbjörn’s Skerries

Erik the Red sails west to investigate some small but legendary rocky islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. They had been discovered by a sailor named Gunnbjörn nearly 100 years earlier.

Greenland

Erik discovers a larger landmass, which he explores for his three years of exile. In order to entice settlers and sound more appealing than Iceland, Erik calls his island Greenland

The Medieval Warm Period occurred from 950 to 1250 CE. It may have been caused by an increase in solar activity, change in ocean circulation, and/or a decrease in volcanic activity.

Greenland is the world’s largest island, but 75% of land is covered in a permanent ice sheet. 

Greenlanders

Erik returns to Greenland with 14 ships and over 3,000 Norse settlers. They establish three settlements near the southwestern tip of the massive North Atlantic island.

Mysterious Land

986 CE: Icelandic trader Bjarni Herjólfsson is blown off course while traveling to visit his father in Greenland. He discovers uncharted land further west, but is only interested in reaching his destination.

Paleo-Eskimos

Erik soon discovers a small group of natives that live in north-western Greenland and establish trade with them. The Vikings call them Skrælingi, a Norse word that may mean foreigner

Proto-Inuits

A third group soon migrates into northern Greenland from the east. They hunt the slow swimming bowhead whales to acquire meat, blubber for oil, and bones to create shelters.

Bjarni Herjólfsson, unknown to himself, becomes the first European to spot mainland North America.

The Viking Greenlanders established contact and trade with the ancestors of the Eskimos and Inuits. The Norse call both groups Skrælingi.

The Eriksson Expedition

Trader Herjólfsson tells Leif Eriksson, son of Erik the Red, about the land he spotted 15 years earlier. Eriksson sails westward from Greenland with thirty men to find the territory.

Vinland Discovered

Leif’s expedition finds Herjólfsson land and explores its eastern coast. They also journey down a large gulf. They name it Vinland, possibly due to the wild grapevines in one region.

Native Contact

Leif establishes contact and trade with Skraelings in Vinland. They collect timber and establish a small settlement. However, some vikings also come into conflict with the natives.

Vinland Abandoned

The Vikings eventually abandon Vinland due to lack of food sources in the harsh winter environment. However, they may have continued to import timber from the region for a time.

The Viking voyages to North America are written in ancient sagas, but they remained relatively obscure until modern times. It is likely the first interaction between Europeans and Native Americans in history.

RISE OF THE NORTH SEA EMPIRE

Norwegian Rebellion

995 CE: King Sigurdsson of Norway becomes unpopular due to taking noble daughters as his concubine. A rebellion erupts and the ruler is forced to go into hiding, but he is soon killed by his own slave.

King Olaf I

Olaf Trygvason, great-grandson of Harald Fairhair, travels from Britannia to Norway during the rebellion. The rebels soon accept Olaf as King of Norway because of his noble ancestry.

Forced Conversions

King Olaf is a Christian and builds the first churches in Norway. He is also a fanatical believer and threathens Norwegians with torture and execution if they don’t convert.

Olaf’s Naval Fortress

King Olaf acquires eleven large warships, which together look like a floating fortress. His flagship is a tall and lengthy warship known as The Long Serpent.

Controversial Marriage

1000 CE: Sweyn Forkbeard succeeded his father Harald Bluetooth as king of Denmark. Tyra, sister of Sweyn, marries King Olaf despite being pledged to Slavic King Burislav from Eastern Europe.

Battle of Svolder

King Sweyn forms an alliance with the former rulers of Norway and ambushes Olaf. A major naval battle ensues between Sweyn’s large fleet and Olaf’s small group of heavily fortified warships.

Death of Olaf

Despite inflicting heavy casualties on Sweyn’s fleet, Olaf’s naval fortress is defeated. Wanting to avoid capture, King Olaf commits suicide by jumping into the sea in his full armor.

Partition of Norway

King Sweyn divides Olaf’s territory in Norway between himself and his allies. Free from Olaf’s rule, there is a backlash against Christianity as some Norwegians return to the Norse religion.

The Battle of Svolder is the largest naval battle of the Viking Age. However, the historical sources are written much later and have contradictory details.

Danish Raids

1002 CE: Danish vikings increasingly raid England and demand large tributes from King Æthelred. Despite paying the tribute, the Danes continue to ravage the Anglo-Saxon territory.

Saint Brice’s Day Massacre

English King Æthelred retaliates by ordering the execution of Danes living in Anglo-Saxon territory. Many Danes are killed in subsequent riots, including King Sweyn’s sister.

Invasion of England

1003-1013 CE: Sweyn invades England. After 10 years of warfare, King Æthelred’s forces are defeated and the ruler is forced to retreat within the fortified walls of London.

The North Sea Empire

1013 CE: Sweyn is declared the King of England on Christmas Day. Ruling over Britannia, Denmark, and Norway, Sweyn becomes ruler of a maritime empire that spans the North Sea.

King Cnut

1014 CE: King Sweyn dies five weeks after conquering England and his son, Cnut, succeeds as ruler. However, King Æthelred launches a surprise attack and forces Cnut to retreat to Norway.

King Ironside

1016 CE: King Æthelred dies of illness and his son, Edmund Ironside, succeeds his father. Cnut and his vikings counter-attack, which forces the new English king to retreat to London.

Battle of Assandun

The war between King Ironside and King Cnut culminates in a battle in the territory of Essex. Ironside is betrayed, which allows Cnut and his Vikings to defeat the English force.

Marriage to Emma

Emperor Cnut marries a young widow of King Æthelred: Emma of Normandy. They have a son named Harthacnut. Emma and Æthelred’s sons are sent to live in Normandy.

Emma is a great grand-daughter of Rollo, who founded Normandy. Emma and Cnut had many sons from previous marriages.

King Olaf II

Olaf Haraldsson is a descendant of Harald Fairhair; the first king of Norway. While Cnut is busy in England, Olaf convinces several minor rulers to accept him as king of Norway.

Battle of Nesjar

1016 CE: King Olaf II proceeds to conquer additional territory in Norway and brings the majority of Norwegians under his sole rule. He also conquers territory in Denmark and Sweden.

Christianization of Norway

1024 CE: King Olaf II, who converted to Christianity, establishes an official religious code for his kingdom. This establishes Norway’s earliest laws and the official Church of Norway.

Battle of the Helgea

1026 CE: King Cnut ambushes and defeats King Olaf’s fleet by breaking a dam and flooding his ships. King Cnut proceeds to reconquer territory in Scandinavia. 

Olaf II was declared a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in 1164 and became the patron saint of Norway. He likely died in a peasant rebellion while attempting to reclaim his rule, though later writers claim he died in a heroic battle.

King Harthacnut

1035 CE: King Cnut dies and his son Harthacnut succeeds as ruler of the North Sea Empire in Denmark. Meanwhile, his mother and half-brothers become governors in England and Norway. 

King Harefoot of England

Harthacnut’s half-brother, Harold Harefoot, is accepted as king of England. Emma of Normandy, who was governing Wessex, is forced to flee from her step-son.

Return to England

1040 CE: King Harefoot dies. Hartacnut returns to England with a fleet of warships to reconquer his former territory, but the people quickly and peacefully accept his rule.

Edward the Confessor

1042 CE: King Hartacnut dies without children and is succeeded by his half-brother Edward; a son of king Æthelred and Emma of Normandy. The pious ruler is given the nickname of The Confessor.

The death of King Hartacnut marks the end of the North Sea Empire.

END OF VIKING AGE

King Harald Hardrada

1046 CE: Harald Sigurdsson, half-brother of King Olaf II Haraldsson, becomes ruler of Norway. He is given the nickname of Hardrada, which means Stern Ruler.

King Sweyn II

1047 CE: Sweyn II, grandson of Sweyn Forkbeard, succeeds as ruler of Denmark. Desiring to restore the North Sea Empire, King Hardrara engages in a long war against Sweyn II.

Invasion of England

1066 CE: Failing to conquer Denmark, King Hardrada aims to conquer England. He organizes a fleet of 300 longships and 10,000+ Vikings and begins to plunder the English coastlines.

Battle of Stamford Bridge

King Hardrada’s invasion culminates in a battle near the town of Stamford. Hardrada and his Vikings are slaughtered by the English, which brings a decisive end to Viking rule in England.

The Battle of Stamford Bridge, which ends the last major Viking invasion, is a common marker for the end of the Viking Age.

Christianization of Sweden

1060-1066 CE: Stenkil is a descendant of Harald Fairhair; the first king of Norway. Stenkil becomes king of Sweden and, although respectful of Norse religion, adopts Christianity for his kingdom.

Christian Kingdoms

With Christianity taking hold in Sweden, it is now the official religion of all three kingdoms in Scandinavia. Sweden, Norway, and Denmark become relatively stable kingdoms.

Norse Sagas

Norse religion dwindles as Christianity spreads. Norse poets collect and write down their Norse tales before they are forgotten. The writings of Icelandic poets become especially prominent.

End of Longships

Sea vessels are soon constructed with saws rather than axes. Longships are replaced by vessels with raised platforms, which allow archers to shoot into the low-lying longships.

The Christianization of Scandinavia also marks the end of the Viking Age.

Much of Norse and Viking history is derived from the writings of this period. As such, there is debate over the actual history in the mythologically infused tales.

EPILOGUE

The Viking Age comes to an end as the Christian kingdoms of Scandinavia enter a period of stability.