The period in time which is generally considered the viking age is from 800 - 1050 AD. One particular event is considered the beginning of the viking age: The viking attack on Lindisfarne, the Holy Island, on the East coast of England, close to the English-Scottish border, on June 8, 793. Viking ships landed and vikings stormed up the coast to the convent and plundered the church and convent buildings and set them on fire. The vikings killed all monks they came across and took several women and children with them when they left, who became slaves and property of their captors.
Viking country was Denmark, Sweden, Norway and part of Northern Germany, specifically the town of Hedeby. At the end of the viking period, Norwegian vikings settled on Iceland and on Southwestern Greenland, in the Narsarsuaq area. Eric The Red and his son Leif The Happy are known for setting up the Brattahlid settlement across the bay from present day Narsarsuaq.
The Danish vikings went on raids and trading expeditions down the European coast and to England and Ireland and around the Baltic Sea - the capital of today's Estonia is called Tallinn, which means "Town of the Danes". They sailed down the French coast, around Portugal and Spain and through the Gibraltar Straight into the Mediterranean Sea, and along the Northern coast as far East as Miklagaard (Big City in viking language) or Constantinople, today's Istanbul, the capital of the East Roman empire at the time.
The Swedish vikings went around the Baltic region and sailed down the rivers that end in the Baltic Sea, going as far down the Volga River as the Black Sea and Constantinople.
The Norwegian vikings, who mainly came from the area around present day Trondheim, went to Iceland, Greenland, England and Ireland. Leif The Happy led a trip from Brattahlid that went on as far as Wine land, the East coast of today's America, the first Europeans to discover the American continent about four centuries before Christopher Columbus.
Why are vikings so well known, although they were relatively few in numbers and came from a part of the World which is not easy to live in?
The culture that arose in viking country was influenced by the difficult living conditions dictated by nature, the governmental system where chieftains were the rulers under the king, and the competition among the viking chieftains and their people. Add to that great trading skills - vikings were highly skilled traders with trade connections around most of their known World. Vikings were often invited to settle where they came to let the local community benefit from their trade skills. But the factor that made vikings stand out the most from the rest of Europe was their strong sense of honor and competitiveness. Death was not important to the individual, his reputation and the reputation of his family was all-important and everything. Happiness was to have other vikings remember the viking's and his family's name forever after his death because of his deeds.
The Viking Ship
Travelling in Denmark and Southern Sweden was difficult because of the vast forests that covered land, and travelling in Norway was difficult because of the mountains and fjords. How did the vikings overcome this? By using ships. The vikings used the seas and rivers as their highways, and put their towns, markets and fortresses near water, giving them easy access to the sea. This focus on the sea make the viking ships important in every aspect of their lives, and the viking ship became the technology that gave vikings their real edge. Reconstructions of viking ships today have through sea trials demonstrated how the viking ship was as or even more seaworthy and easy maneuverable than the last sailing ships that were in use before steam powered boats took over from sail ships in the 20 th. century.
Viking chieftains continuously competed with and even fought each other. Add to that the number of subjects that could be conscripted by their chieftain and the equipment that was continuously given to pay for the chieftains' protection of his populace. The chieftains commanded well trained warriors who were in return experienced tacticians, using thoroughly trained formations and excellent individual weapons skills. A channel across the island of Læsø or Laesoe was unnecessarily dug by a combined viking force under the command of a viking king at one point, presumably to train the forces of several chieftains in working together as one large force - exactly like a NATO exercise today.