Were All Vikings Warriors?

were-vikings-warriors Credit: Anders Blomqvist/Nordic Photos/Getty Images

While there is a popular perception of Vikings as barbaric, marauding raiders, this only paints a partial image of a culture that included mothers, children, old and infirm people; in fact, as a whole, the ancient Scandinavian peoples known as Vikings mostly worked as farmers, with very few members of this society existing without some sort of connection to a farm. The marauding and raiding activities can be seen as more of a side business than a full-time job for Vikings, and even those who would participate in international trade or raiding would very likely come home to a farm. These farms typically grew grains such as oats, barley and rye in addition to vegetables such as cabbages and root vegetables.

Aside from farming, many of the people living in Viking societies lived as slaves. These slaves, known as thralls, worked as farm hands, construction workers and household staff. They were typically captured from foreign countries during raids.

It is easy to reduce ancient peoples to single activities such as raiding, and while this activity certainly characterized the Vikings in the eyes of the people who lived in fear of their raids, in actuality, Viking culture was varied and at least somewhat diverse. Sports were culturally important for Vikings, including somewhat violent sports such as wrestling and pugilism. Vikings did also engage in equitable trade with foreign peoples, meaning they did have relations with foreigners that were not violent or brutal.