La Hiérarchie Viking (société et militaire)

The Viking Hierarchy (society and military)

How does the Viking hierarchy work?

Viking society is made up of chiefdoms, clans . In one and the same country, there can therefore be many different chiefs and clans, with different influences. These lords are followed by supporters who pay them taxes. In return , the leader must protect them . The chief, if he has a superior position, must still do everything to ensure the well-being of his people. During major famines or in winter, for example, he has a duty to share his food and his goods for the survival of all.

The Viking hierarchy, a democratic hierarchy

The Viking hierarchy follows a pyramid fashion . We find the kings at the top, then the chiefs , the free men and the slaves . The Viking hierarchy, however, operates in a fairly democratic way since the laws and procedures are discussed during an assembly where everyone is invited, apart from women and slaves. Each of the free men sits there, but all have a more or less important place according to their wealth.

This assembly is called “the thing” . It takes place once, sometimes twice, in the month. In addition to discussing laws, the assembly also administers justice.

Viking Jarl Black Gold Ring

What are the three classes of Viking society?

In the Poetic Edda, the god Heimdall is told that he spent three nights in three different households, from the poorest to the richest. The child he engenders with each of the three wives of each household will be the father of each of the three existing social classes.

The Viking hierarchy is therefore divided into three classes:

  • The Jarls
  • The Skarls
  • The Thralls

Hierarchy Viking Pyramid

Who are the jarls?

Jarl Viking

The jarls are rather the large landowners , after the kings. We find in this social class the princes or the lords, as well as the counts. The jarls are the leaders and more specifically the warlords . They must maintain the honor of their people, as well as their safety and well-being.

To stand out from others and to be a great leader, it is important to achieve prowess in battles and in business . It is also suitable to organize large banquets, with a multitude of drinks and food to impress the people. A great leader also has a worthy dwelling, fine clothes and jewelry.

And when a leader dies, does his offspring take over? Quite often, yes. Royalties can be inherited by eldest sons. On the other hand, it is impossible for a woman to take over from a man.

Who are the skarls?

Scarl Viking

The skarls are free men (also called "bondi", in the plural) and can be owners. Typically, skarls are farmers , sailors , or traders , and they make up a majority of Viking society. These free men have the right to vote and the right to bear arms .

The skarls are dressed in trousers worn over woolen boxer shorts. They also have a long tunic stopping at the knees, tightened at the waist by a belt. Sometimes their shoulders are covered with a cape. The women, on the other hand, wear a woolen or linen dress.

Who are the thralls?

Thrall Viking

The thralls are the slaves . They can be so by birth, but can also be prisoners of war or formerly free men now stripped of their rights by the courts. For example, a man who has forgotten to pay his debts can become the slave of his creditor until the day when his debt is finally redeemed.

Thralls have very few rights . It was rare, however, that they were mistreated or killed with impunity. Indeed, some Viking laws are still in their favor. The slave has the right to respect and dignity . He also has the right, sometimes, to money and time to take care of himself and his family. Because indeed, a slave has the right to marry. However, if children are born from the latter, then they also become slaves from their advent.

A slave also has the right to bear arms in battle against the enemy. If he comes to kill him, then he is rewarded with his freedom. A freedom that can also be bought. But whatever happens, it takes almost three generations for the descendants of slaves to be properly accepted and integrated into Viking society.

What are Umagis?

The umagis may themselves represent a fourth social class within Viking society. These are the old , the crippled and the sick . In short, those who cannot meet their needs alone. The umagis thus live thanks to the generosity of the clan , by the hreppr (equivalent of today's social security).

How does the Viking army (military hierarchy) work?

Viking military hierarchy

If there are social classes within the Viking society, there is not really rank as for the military society . It is the leaders who lead the raids and explorations, and, on board the longships, the free men accompany them leaving their work on dry land.

The men going on a raid are very often those in search and in need of money. During conquests, they plunder and thus bring back wealth.

Are Viking women warriors?

Sometimes women also go into battle . Evidence from the female skeleton unearthed in Scandinavia in 1878. Next to it, archaeologists found a shield, an axe, a sword and a spear. These women-warriors are called the skaldmös and, among these, we know among others the famous Lagertha .

What is the status of Viking women?

Viking Woman Status

Viking women can belong to the highest social categories as well as to the lowest, and this by descent or by marriage most of the time.

However, they have a much stronger place in society than in that of women in other Western countries at the same time. Viking women must of course perform domestic tasks, such as laundry, cooking or raising children. They are the heads of the house , not their husbands.

Moreover, when the men go on excursions, it is the women who watch over their homes, their land and the rest of the village. In addition to housework, they take their husband's place in the fields when necessary.

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