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The Viking Raids (Warfare)

Due to their naval and military superiority, the Viking raids were very devastating to Northern Europe. The first raid occurred in the year 793 against the monastery of Lindisfarne on England's east coast. This triggered a series of events commonly related to religion "Why did God send these people against us? What have we done?".

What made these raids particularly devastating was the element of surprise. Nobody knew exactly when, where or how the vikings were going to attack next. The broad bottom of the Viking ships allowed them to land on any sandy beach without the need of a harbor or pier. Therefore, they could land virtually anywhere including places where an attack was unthinkable.

Their raids were usually against coastal villages as they very rarely marched inland. By attacking the coast, they could pillage and take the spoils of war with them to their ships for the long sail back home. Their small and fast ships removed the possibility of the defenders chasing them.

The Vikings had two beliefs that greatly encouraged raids:

First, they had a very important need to rise up the social ladder. Since they didn't believe in the afterlife, they knew that their name and reputation were extremely important to be remembered. Therefore, they had to rise above everyone else by combat. Vikings adored combat and saw it as a healthy way of life. When a Viking returned home with precious metals and slaves, he instantly gained a higher social status compared to those who stayed home.

Second, they believed their day of death to be chosen during their birth by the gods. Therefore, they could not lose anything by raiding and engaging in combat since their death was already determined. However, everything they did in life was entirely up to them and the way they would be remembered in the future was solely determined by their actions. They had nothing to lose and everything to gain by raiding and pillaging villages.

Viking raids continued intermittently until the year 1066 when King Haraldr of Norway died trying to conquer England. Norse influence over Europe declined steadily thereafter. Some say that Christianity in Scandinavia is what brought the end of the Viking Age, though a harsher winter; emerging European superpowers and the age of defensive castles is what really finished it.

Read more about the Vikings.

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