The Vikings, R Chartrand, K Durham, M Harrison and I Heath

The Vikings, R Chartrand, K Durham, M Harrison and I Heath

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The Vikings, R Chartrand, K Durham, M Harrison & I Heath

The Vikings, R Chartrand, K Durham, M Harrison & I Heath

The book covers quite a range of topics, split into four main sections. We begin with a look at Viking society, covering the various ranks found in Scandinavia, the role of Women, housing, law and related topics. Next comes a look at the Hersir, the middle ranked Vikings who led the early raids. Third comes a look at the Vikings in battle, including a look at their experiences in North America. Finally a long section looks at the crucial Viking ships, the technology that allowed them to reach the outside world.

One of the strongest sections looks at Viking ships, tracing their development from the earliest known Scandinavian vessels to the last of the Long ships. This section is structured around an examination of a series of impressive archaeological survivals – starting with the Hjortspring Boat of c.350 BC. Each of these boats is used to illustrate a particular period or style of construction, and a wide range range of ship types is covered.

There is also an interesting section on the Viking voyages to North America, including a useful map showing the relationship between Iceland, Greenland and the American mainland. The Viking colonists on Greenland were closer to North American and Newfoundland than they were to Iceland, making voyages further west look very likely.

An inevitable downside of this sort of book is that the complexities of the subject tend to get smoothed over. One example here is the case of the Jomsvikings, a group of Vikings who were believed to have lived in a military community, serving as elite mercenaries. Here they are portrayed as historical fact, but this isn't necessarily the case. They may have existed, but the sources for them are much later, and might well be influenced by each other, so an initial mention of a short lived group in the earliest source became the inspiration for the later tales. There isn't space in this sort of book for a detailed discussion of the problems with the sources, but a little less certainty might be nice.

Other than that this is a good overview of the Vikings – longer and more detailed than an introduction to the subject, and with some very strong sections.

The Vikings at Home
The Viking Hersir
The Vikings in Battle
The Viking Longship

Author: R Chartrand, K Durham, M Harrison & I Heath
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 208
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2016

NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration Mary M. Connors, Albert A. Harrison, Faren R. Akins, et al.

Published by NASA Scientific and Technical Information Office, 1985

Used - Softcover
Condition: Very good -

Original Wraps. Condition: Very good -. First Edition. Octavo. 9 1/8" tall, xi + 419 pages, stiff printed wrapers. A very good minus, generally clean, neat soft cover with minor shelf wear, binding tight, BUT water damage to the last 40 pages, (rippling and light staining) which does not limit reading or use, and one page has some pen underlining.

3 Answers 3

Most probably not. Tactics of Viking warfare didn't really lend itself to cavalry combat.

Before the end of the 11th century the Vikings fought mainly on foot. Their horses were small and they had no real cavalry. Documentary sources do report horses occasionally being used by Viking leaders in battle, but more usually they served as a rapid means of transport to the battlefield, where their riders dismounted to fight. BBC.CO.UK

A description of a major Viking battle (the Battle of Maldon in 991 is accompanied by an old English poem.

The Vikings sailed up the Blackwater (then called the Panta), and Byrhtnoth called out his levy. The poem begins with him ordering his men to stand and to hold weapons. His troops, except for personal household guards, were local farmers and villagers of the Essex Fyrd militia. He ordered them to "send steed away and stride forwards": they arrived on horses but fought on foot. The Vikings sailed up to a small island in the river.

Vikings typically arrived by boat and then walked into battle. There are instances where they've used (and been buried with) horses, but the implication is that they're for transport/scouting/prestige rather than being used (and potentially wasted) in battle.

Rational thought indicates that using horses in battle, while effective with the right tactics, is extremely fatal in terms of horses being lost. Vikings didn't have a lot of horses and wouldn't have been able to transport them to overseas conquests in the numbers that would support cavalry actions.

Short Answer

Generally, there is no evidence in medieval sources for the widespread use of cavalry or horsemen in battle by the Vikings. The Vikings in Western Europe (from the late 8th century to the late 11th century) generally fought on foot. However, there are a small number of recorded cases on the continent (Francia, northern Germany) and in Ireland where cavalry or horsemen were either possibly or probably used in battle.

The use of horsemen and cavalry in battle by the Vikings over the centuries can probably be best described as sporadic at most. Also, aside from in or near Denmark, it was mostly unsuccessful.

Horses did, though, become important in raiding and probably minor skirmishes they were obtained, sometimes in large numbers, either by trading or as part of a peace settlement or by the aforementioned raids. There is also evidence of the Vikings shipping horses to England.

If we adopt the more common (and broader) definition of 'Vikings' to mean

those people from the area covered by the modern Nordic countries of Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden in the historical period c. 800–c. 1100

Source: K. Holman, ‘Historical Dictionary of the Vikings’ (2003)

then we have one possible example in an area of northern Germany originally inhabited by Saxons:

The final conquest of Saxony in 804 [by Charlemagne] inevitably attracted Danish interest. The Saxon population of an area beyond the Elbe was removed into Frankia, and the vacated lands given to the Abrodrites. 'At this point', say the Royal Annals, 'Godfred king of the Danes came with a fleet and with all the cavalry of his kingdom to Schleswig on the Danish-Saxon border.’ ….Godfred's Danes then attacked the Abodrites and forced them to pay tribute.

Source: J. Nelson, ‘The Frankish Empire’. In P. Sawyer (ed), ‘The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings’ (1997)

However, our problem here lies in the interpretation of the manuscript. Eric Petersen, in 'Norsemen in the Viking Age', has a different view: he interprets the phrase 'and the whole equitatus of his kingdom' to mean "'chiefs with horses' rather than 'horse brigade', or cavalry'.

Where the Danes got their horses from is uncertain, but cavalry may have been used again by Harold Bluetooth (died 985 or 986) when fighting the Germans:

To what extent taller horses for mounted combat were introduced in Scandinavia from the Continent is yet uncertain. Importation is however most likely especially in the second half of the tenth century, when King Harald (certainly with cavalry) fights back against German troops in southern Jutland. An earlier importation of taller horses already in the ninth century cannot be ruled out completely.

Source: Stefan Brink, Neil Price, 'The Viking World' (2008)

Medieval sources in Francia also suggest the use of horsemen in battle on at least two occasions in the 880s. In both these battles (Saucourt in 881 and Montfaucon in 888), Viking losses were reportedly heavy, though the numbers are no doubt exaggerated by the author, Abbo Cernuus. On Saucourt, Petersen (citing Abbo) notes that the loss of 9,000 mounted men did not deter the Vikings from quickly acquiring more horses. Later,

On 24 June 888, Odo [king of West Frankia] engaged the Northmen at Montfaucon with a small army and Abbo relates that he killed 10,000 horsemen and 9,000 footsoldiers.

Source: L. A. Morden, 'How Much Material Damage did the Northmen actually do to 9th Century Europe?' (PhD thesis, 2007)

Despite these apparently heavy defeats, horses were still seen as highly desirable for swift raiding, though there do not appear to be any further mentions of the use of horses in battle. Perhaps the Vikings had learnt their lesson, that it was 'rash' for

recently mounted sailors to take on Franks trained from boyhood in combat on horseback

Another (rare) example of Vikings fighting on horseback (an elite force) comes from Ireland:

Despite the fact that they fought mostly on foot, the Vikings also occasionally fielded cavalry, as at the Battle of Sulcoit in Ireland in 968.

Source: René Chartrand, Keith Durham, Mark Harrison, Ian Heath, 'The Vikings Voyagers Of Discovery And Plunder'

The ships used in early sea voyages made transporting horses impossible in practice, and raids were carried out on foot. Later, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle notes that Vikings brought horses across to England on several occasions. They also obtained locally large numbers of horses for raiding. In 866

The Chronicle’s account of the East Angles making peace with these unwanted arrivals says that the Vikings took up winter quarters there, adding significantly that, ‘they were supplied with horses’. Asser, basing his account on West Saxon sources, adds: ‘almost the whole army was supplied with horses’.

Source: M. Whittock, H. Whittock, 'Viking Blitzkreig 789-1098'

In summary, there is no doubt that horses became an important part of the Vikings' military capability but, for them, horses were primarily a means of swift transport and sudden raiding rather than to be used as an effective cavalry force.

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Three authors

Reference list/Bibliography

Kelly, N, Rees, R & Shuter J 1998, The 20th century world, Heinemann Library, Oxford.

In-text referencing


Kelly, N, Rees, R and Shuter J (1998, p. 6) declare that there was conflict in some part of the world in almost every year of the twentieth century.

There was conflict in some part of the world in almost every year of the twentieth century ( Kelly, N, Rees, R & Shuter J 1998, p. 6).


Kelly, N, Rees, R and Shuter J (1998, p. 6) declare that "in almost every year of the century there has been war in some part of the world. "

"In almost every year of the century there has been war in some part of the world " ( Kelly, N, Rees, R & Shuter J 1998, p. 6).

Vikings book

I really enjoyed ɼhildren of Ash and Elm' by Neil Price. Lots of really interesting history about the pre-Viking era explaining how they ended up as the hairy booze cruise boys we know and love.

Mathias Nordvig just did a review of that book actually

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman is great

I found Gwyn Jones "A history of the Vikings" to be a decent read though it is obviously dated now (think it has been 35 years since the 2nd edition). It is probably the one that really put me on the path along with Penguin collections of the Icelandic Sagas.

I know what you mean by dated, but it's so dense and with so many footnotes to sources I don't think it can be beat.

Heimskringla is a collection of Icelandic sagas about the first kings of Norway written about 1000 years ago. It is peak Viking age shit. One of the sagas even talks about the battle of Stamford bridge which is said to be the battle that ended the Viking age.

I need to read that book again. but goddamn do I love the movie.

I really liked The Viking World by James Graham-Campbell. It has lots of pictures.

I’d recommend The Vikings: Voyagers of Discovery and Plunder (Chartrand, Durham, Harrison, and Heath). It covers history, exploration, and warfare. The book includes many photos of antiquities/ material culture, as well as illustrations by Angus McBride.

The Vikings by Magnus Magnusson (Bodley Head/BBC 1980) – accompanied a TV series, it was also updated by the author

Viking - Hammer of the North by Magnus Magnusson (Orbis 1976)

The Hammer and the Cross by Robert Ferguson (Penguin Books 2010)

A Brief History of the Vikings by Jonathan Clements (Robinson Books 2009)


Jomsborg is often thought to be identical with the present-day town of Wolin (also Wollin) on the southeastern tip of the isle of Wolin in northwestern Poland, probably located at Srebrna Góra hill north of the town. [2] In the Early Middle Ages, modern Wolin was the site of a multi-ethnic emporium (then known as Jumne or Julin). [5] The Nordic sagas use "Jómsborg" exclusively, while medieval German histories use "Jumne" or "Julin", with the alternate names, some of which may be spelling variants, "vimne", "uimne", "Jumneta", "Juminem", "Julinum", "uineta", "Vineta" and "Vinneta". [6]

In 1931/32, Pomeranian historian Adolf Hofmeister (1883-1956) suggested, through comparison of the events reported by the different chronicles, that all these terms describe the same place, which is at or near the modern town of Wolin. [6] However, this is by no means universally accepted Professor and historian Steven Fanning writes: "The Trelleborg-type fortresses of Denmark have been taken to be actual examples of Jómsborg-style camps of such warriors and Wolin in Poland was believed to be the actual Jómsborg. However, all such attempts to locate Jómsborg or encampments of the Jómvikings have failed, leading many to doubt that Jómvikings ever existed outside of literature." [7] According to Władysław Filipowiak there are several dated sources which attest to the presence of a company of armed Vikings at the end of the 10th century in Wolin, who may have been installed there as mercenaries by the Polish king Bolesław the Brave. [8]

Other theories see Jomsborg in the northwest of nearby Usedom island, on lands now submerged. [9] The small islands in this area are remnants of a long stretch of land between Usedom and Rügen, which fell victim to storm floods in the early 14th century. [10] Suspected locations in this area are the Veritas grounds between the petty islands of Ruden and Greifswalder Oie, and the Peenemünde shoals. [9] While Viking Age jewelry has been found at the site, archaeological evaluation of these theories has not yet been possible. [11]

According to the Knytlingasaga and Fagrskinna, Jomsborg was built by the Danish king Harold Bluetooth (910-985/86) in the 960s. [2] [12] The Jomsvikinga Saga mentions Danish Viking Palnatoki as its founder. [2] [13]

In medieval records, Jomsborg is described as a fortress with a harbour. [2] [12] The harbour was overseen by a stone tower mounted with catapults, built on an arch spanning over the harbour entrance which could be closed by an iron gate. [2] [12] According to the oldest records, the harbour had space for three ships, [12] later records give a capacity of up to 360 ships. [2] [12]

According to the Heimskringla, Jomsborg was destroyed in 1043 by Dano-Norwegian king Magnus the Good. [14] The fortress was burned down, and many of the inhabitants were killed. [14] [15]

The Jomsborg Vikings (Jomsvikings) were composed of selected warriors, adhered to a special codex, and were loyal only to their leader. [13] Most records list as jarl of Jomsborg, Sigvald(i), son of petty king Strut-Harald of then Danish Scania. [13] Sigvald died some time before 1010. [16]

A golden disc bearing the name of Harald Bluetooth and Jomsborg appeared in Sweden in autumn 2014. The disc, also called the Curmsun Disc, is made of high gold content and has a weight of 25,23 gram. On the obverse there is a Latin inscription and on the reverse there is a Latin cross with four dots surrounded by an octagonal ridge. The inscription reads: "+ARALD CVRMSVN+REX AD TANER+SCON+JVMN+CIV ALDIN+" and translates as "Harald Gormsson king of Danes, Scania, Jomsborg, diocese of Aldinburg". [17]

It is assumed that the disc was a part of a Viking hoard found in 1841 in the Polish village Wiejkowo near the town of Wolin by Heinrich Boldt, the maternal great-great-grandfather of Hollywood actors and producers Ben Affleck and Casey Affleck. [18] [19]

The location of Jomsborg has been a topic of debate for centuries. In the autumn of 2019 a new historical chronicle was found called Gesta Wulinensis ecclesiae pontificum [da] , and this chronicle, apart from giving various information on the Jomsvikings and Jomsborg, also tells about the location for where Jomsborg once was to be found. The existence of the chronicle had been known since 2014 by a number of references that the rector from the parish of Groß Weckow (now Wiejkowo) made in the 1840s and 1850s in his notebooks, but the chronicle itself was unknown until a translation of the complete chronicle was found in 2019. The Swedish archaeologist Sven Rosborn has visited the location and confirms, that it both matches the descriptions of Jomsborg from the various sagas and chronicles and that various things that could be found on the surface of the location seem to match the period of time in which Jomsborg existed. The relevant parts of Gesta Wulinensis ecclesiae pontificum will be made available in a new book, that could be published in 2021 or perhaps later. [3] [4]

Гакі (конунг свеїв)

Гакі [1] , Гаке, Гако (давньосканд. Haki, ? — близько 402) — легендарний конунг в Уппланді у 400—402 роках. Про нього згадується у скандинавських саґах про Інґлінґів, Вельсунгів, «Тула про імена», «Дії данів».

Був норманом або гетом. Син Гамундра [en] . Гакі був відомим морським вікінгом. Він часто ходив у походи зі своїм братом Гаґбардом [en] , але іноді самостійно. Саксон Граматик повідомляє про похід Гакі до Ірландії. Втім це вважається малоймовірним, напевне він ходив походом (можливо з данами) до Британію, де на той час влада Західної Римської імперії була номінальною або вже римські війська залишили провінцію.

Згідно з «Діями данів» Гаґбарда було вбито іншим вікінгом Сіґардом. Гакі помстився за смерть брата, але через деякий час Сіґвальд, син Сіґарда [en] , прогнав його зі своєї землі. Гакі в походах зумів накопичити значні статки.

Одного разу, зібравши велике військо, Гакі відправився війною до Світьода (східного Свеаланда). У його війську було 12 вікінгів, зокрема легендарний вояк Старкад Старий. Гакі зійшовся з військом конунга Гуґлейка на полях Фюрі (південніше Старої Упсали). У бою Хуглейк та обидва його сини були вбиті, а відомі вояки Свіпдаґ і Ґейґад. Після цього Гакі став конунгом свеїв.

Гакі панував над свеями 3 роки. Весь цей час його люди ходили в походи і збирали багату здобич. Коли вікінги Гакі пішли в черговий похід, небожі Хуглейка — Йорунд і Ерік при підтримці Гудьога, конунга Голуґаланду [en] вдерлися до його володінь. Дізнавшись про повернення Інґлінґів, багато народу приєдналося до них. Битва між братами і невеликим військом Гакі сталася на полях Фюрі. Гакі бився дуже завзято, вбив Еріка і зрубав стяг братів. Йорунд зі своїм військом втік на кораблі.

Проте Гакі отримав у бою такі важкі поранення, що відчув швидку смерть. Він велів навантажити свій бойовий човен мерцями і зброєю, відправивши його у море. Він велів потім закріпити годувало, підняти вітрило й розвести на човні багаття зі смолистих дров. Вітер дув з берега. Гакі був при смерті або вже мертвий, коли його поклали на вогнище. Палаюча тура попливла в море, і довго жила слава про смерть Гакі .

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Comments or corrections?

I recently picked up a copy of the Dux Bellorum rules and it seems like a good way of easing my way back into the hobby after a 30 year sabbatical.

I have heard good things about wargaming in 10mm and especially the ranges from Pendraken and Magister Militum.

Although I really don't care for overdoing the historical accuracy, it would be good to create something that was at least representative of the period and armies in question. I was considering pitting a Northern English army against the Northumbrian invaders. In DB army terms would this be Welsh v Saxons?

Are there any good reference guides to help decide which models to buy and then some rough idea of colours, weapons and shield designs?

I cant help you with your question, but I can certainly vouch for 10mm from Pendraken. Great stuff.

If you can get hold of a copy of the WAB supplement it has plenty of info along the lines you are looking for.

If you are just looking for something quick, easy and cheap, then Arthur and the Anglo-Saxon wars. Artwork is by Angus McBride. link

That is really all you need.

Ospreys book is a good call but if the OP has Dux Bellorum, I believe all of the colour plates from the Osprey book are included already.

HalfMan: I went through a lot of online research, sample purchases and acquisition of books to get my armies right. They are a mix of 10mm Magister Militum and Pendraken. I will be adding some Eureka into them as well. You can find pictures of my armies on my blog: link

For Irish I used MM Irish and Welsh and Numidians, as well as Pendraken Welsh.

For Saxons I used MM Dacians, Anglo-Saxons and Vikings and PP Saxons, Anglo-Saxons, Late Romans and Vikings.

My Romano-British are entirely Pendraken Late Romans.

Send me an email: lecoqfou at gmail dot com for a list of book and online references&hellip

True but not the text and archaeological photos etc.

You might also like to take a look at the Kallistra range- these are a bit bigger than Pendraken ( billed as large 10 mm!, really 12mm+). They do Saxons and Vikings, as well as the Romano- Brits.

I have also used some figures from their Medieval Wars of the Roses range, such as " Welsh Spearman" to represent the less well equipped soldiers.
I find these easier to paint than some of the Pendraken ranges, although Pendraken do have some nice figures and I have their Wars of the Roses and Renaissance armies. I don't have Magister Militum figures for this era, but the Crimean War ones I have are distinctly bigger than Pendraken- slightly taller, but much chunkier- possibly a better match with Kallistra than with Pendraken?
As for books WAB already mentioned is good, I also like Ian Heath's Armies of the Dark Ages ( but out of print and may be hard to get), Osprey titles such as "Saxon, Viking and Norman"by Terrence Wise and David Nicolle's "Arthur and the Anglo- Saxon Wars"are useful. Tim Newark's "Warlords" has some useful pictures and a more scholarly book with helpful illustrations is " The Vikings" by Chartrand, Durham and Harrison-Heath.
I generally go for a fairly neutral palette of colours for the bulk of warriors- dyed and u dyed wool, so Browns, tans, beiges, off whites etc with the higher ranking warriors in brighter colours such as blues, green, reds etc. if you were to choose an Irish army there were, apparently, very strict rules about the colours to be worn by different classes.
Your question about a " northern English army against invaders" really suggests Saxons against Vikings, although you could go back a few centuries and have Saxons as the invaders (Sea Raider army?) against " British", which could be Romano- British, Strathclyde Britons or " Welsh". Depending on where the invaders are coming from you could have Northumbrian Saxons against Picts. Lots to choose from.
As for the rules you are looking at, Dux Bellorum are great one of my favourite sets.
Have fun!

Thanks all. Some very useful suggestions here.

Prince Albert, your blog has some great stuff. I've set my painting bar much lower than that, but there are some excellent tips.

SD47, I was thinking about the area around Saddleworth/Oldham, E Lancs./W Yorks. (where I'm originally from). According to Wikipedia was part of the Britonnic Kingdom of Elmet. They got overrun by the Northumbrian Angles in 616, which is why I thought it might be Welsh v Saxons. Perhaps it should be Romano-British v Saxons. I need to do a lot of background reading I think. I have been relying too much on my junior school history and games of Britannia!

HalfMan: I would recommend "As Told in the Great Hall": TMP link

It is am awesome resource for those interested in gaming Dark Age Britain. Lots of background history, scenarios, estimated troop numbers and deployment, etc.

Scroll down to the right and hit Dux Bellorum. You be amazed!

@HMHF- you may find this interesting re Elmet:

I think it would definitely be Romano-British types versus Saxons invading from the east. There are certainly a lot of Roman remains in the area. Not sure that Elmet extended as far as Lancashire, possibly that would have been part of Rheged or Craven, both " British" kingdoms. My sketchy knowledge of this period would suggest that there might have been Irish raids into the West of this region, and quite a lot of "civil war" between rival British tribes/groups. Should give you plenty of scope.

Some frighteningly good painting. Perhaps I should go for 3mm, where there is no real possibility of detail to show up my shoddy technique.

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  1. Ivon

    It is simply an amazing topic

  2. Zahid

    I heard this story about 7 years ago.

  3. Azriel

    Looked cool ...

  4. Nikomuro

    Thanks for the information, now I will know.

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