Pourquoi les Vikings ont envahis l’Europe ?

Why did the Vikings invade Europe?

From the end of the 8th century and during the whole of the 9th century , England and France lived under the threat of the Vikings . Not to mention the rest of the countries of the continent. Nordic warriors invade parts of Europe , such as Normandy. And plunder many others.

But then why and how did they try to establish themselves on the rest of the European continent?

On board their longships, the Vikings set out to discover new lands from the year 787 AD . And it is to the British Isles that they go first, after crossing the North Sea. As the years go by, the motivations for their raids evolve.

Europe as a trade route for the Vikings

Trade Viking Invasions

The first reason that can be given for Viking raids is undoubtedly commercial . Whether they are Swedes, Norwegians or Danes, these peoples of the north all have in common cold regions as a place to live. Winters are long and harsh. Crops and animal husbandry are in this sense very complicated throughout Scandinavia .

To remedy this, the peoples of the north build boats and cross the seas to trade and thus improve their quality of life . Throughout Europe, the Viking peoples set up trading posts (example Hedeby ).

It was first of all the Scandinavian coasts that the Vikings traveled aboard their longships, in search of fur or slaves. Then they move away towards England , Iceland , then towards the countries of the south of Europe . They bring back spices and wine, but also crockery.

Viking Jarl Ring

First of all very pacifists, the Vikings realize as the years go by that it is sometimes easier to conclude a haggling with a blow of the sword . At sea, they become pirates. On the mainland, they become real looters. Then they colonize lands to settle there, cultivate and raise their animals.

Vikings in search of some wealth

plunder vikings

The desire to get rich was undoubtedly part of the great motivations of the Viking invasion. In search of fortune, the warriors of the north become true experts in plunder . They therefore storm the religious buildings and their treasures. Capture important figures and demand ransoms.

The search for treasure also happens further north for the Vikings. Towards Iceland and Greenland they go in search of walrus ivory , which they get from the animal's tusks. Used both for the manufacture of jewelry , games or other precious objects , ivory was highly sought after by the continentals of the time. This is partly why the Vikings seize it as a business.

The desire to expand the Viking kingdoms

Viking Invasions Map

When the Viking raids began, all of Scandinavia was made up of small kingdoms . A little too small, perhaps, for the tastes of some Vikings, since their desire quickly comes to enlarge them.

Both in Denmark and Norway, internal wars appear in the 9th century . The kings are struggling to impose themselves and succession crises are emerging. Everything is then good to gain power and prestige. And for this, the raids prove to be a real asset , both financially and in terms of popularity . The younger sons of the nobility, meanwhile, could then take advantage of it to build their kingdom and make a fortune elsewhere.

The Vikings, more generally, want to discover the world and settle in new territories. They explore many countries and many islands. Then they end up colonizing Iceland around the year 875 . As well as Greenland in the 10th century .

The Vikings colonize Normandy and Paris

Viking Invasion Paris

In France, the Vikings first colonized Paris . They besieged the city in the year 885 , and this until 887 . The siege is lifted following the payment of a tribute by the Emperor Charles the Fat, who also authorizes them to plunder Burgundy.

Then it was in Normandy that the Vikings then settled, after agreement with Charles the Simple in the year 911 by the Treaty of Saint-Clair-Sur-Epte. The Vikings left a culture and a language there.

The Viking invasion as a response to Christianization

Viking Christianization

The Christianization of the Nordic peoples began in the 8th century . It was at this time that the first evangelistic missions took place. In the year 725, the bishop of Utrecht tried to convert the Danes, in vain. In the year 822, the whole of Scandinavia was proclaimed a land of mission . For the Christian Church, the Catholic religion is not yet present enough.

For some researchers, it is therefore not impossible that the Viking raids were in fact a response to the attempt by the Catholics to Christianize their people.

For the writer Rudolf Simek , "the rise of Christianity posed a threat in itself" to the Nordic peoples. One of their first raids is also on the monastery of Lindisfarne , "which constituted a political and ideological threat to Scandinavia" , still according to the writer. If the Vikings loot the building, they also burn it after killing the monks who were there.

Can we then speak of a religious hatred of the Vikings towards Christians ? Maybe. This assumption could in any case explain the buildings and people targeted by Viking looting: churches, monasteries, abbeys, priests and monks, nuns.

But reasons for the Viking invasion in Europe, there are dozens. Among the oldest: the scarcity of women to marry in Scandinavia. Otherwise the rise of Scandinavian demography . Be that as it may, these many reasons are still hypothetical today, even if some seem more justified than others.

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