Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia


Danes, Eastmen, Norsemen, Ostmen, Rus, Swedes, Varangians

The Vikings were a seafaring people from Scandinavia – Norway, Sweden and Denmark – who raided and traded throughout Europe from the sixth to the eleventh centuries.

They were skilled warriors and sailors, known for their longships. which were the fastest and most maneuverable ships of their time. In the sixth century, the first Viking raids began, and the raids had a significant impact on Scandinavia. They led to the decline of the small kingdoms, and they helped create a more unified Scandinavian culture. They raided a big part of Europe, including France, Germany, and Russia.

The Vikings were a complex and diverse group of people. They were skilled warriors, traders, and explorers. They were also skilled farmers, craftsmen, and artists. They had a profound impact on the development of Europe, and their legacy can still be seen today in the languages, cultures, and histories of the countries they visited.


In England, the Vikings raided the coastal settlements and monasteries of Northumbria, Mercia, and East Anglia. Lindisfarne dates back to the seventh century, when it was founded in the year 635 by the Irish monk Saint Aidan. In 793 AD, the monastery was raided by the Vikings, which was a devastating blow to the monastery.

In 865, they captured the city of York and established a Viking kingdom there. The Vikings ruled York for over 50 years, and they had a significant impact on the culture and language of the region.


The Vikings who settled in parts of Ireland, particularly in the eastern and southern regions, were known as the Ostmen or Eastmen.

The Ostmen began to establish settlements in Ireland, particularly in areas such as Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, and Wexford, during the ninth and tenth centuries. These settlements became significant trading hubs and developed into thriving Norse-Gaelic communities, characterized by a fusion of Norse and Gaelic cultures. The Vikings founded Dublin in 841, and the settlement became a major Viking stronghold and trading center, known for its economic prosperity and cultural exchange.


In Wales, the Vikings raided the coastal settlements and monasteries of the south and west. They also established a few small Viking kingdoms, such as Gwynedd and Dyfed. The Vikings ruled Wales for over 100 years, but they never had the same level of impact on the country as they did on England or Ireland.


In the late eighth century, the Vikings arrived in Scotland. As at other places, they raided coastal settlements and monasteries, including the Hebrides, the Clyde estuary, and the Firth of Forth. They were skilled warriors, and they fought against the Gaels, Picts, and Anglo-Saxons. In the ninth century, the Vikings conquered the kingdom of Dál Riata and established the kingdom of the Northern Isles. The Northern Isles included Caithness, Orkney, Shetland, and the Isle of Man. The Vikings ruled the Northern Isles for over 300 years, and they had a significant impact on the region’s culture and language.

They built fortified settlements, known as brochs, and they established trading posts throughout the country. The Vikings had a mixed impact on Scotland. They were feared for their raids, but they also brought new technologies and ideas to the country. They introduced new farming methods, improved shipbuilding, and developed a sophisticated system of trade. The Vikings eventually left Scotland in the eleventh century. They were driven out by the Scottish king, David I, who brought the country under unified rule.

The terms “Norsemen” and “Vikings”

The term “Norsemen” is a general term used to refer to the Scandinavian peoples of the Viking Age. The term “Norsemen” refers to the “people from the north” – so people from Norway, Denmark and Sweden are considered Norsemen. The term “Viking” means “to go a-viking,” or to go on a raid. In short, not all Norsemen were Vikings, but all Vikings were Norsemen. It was in the Middle Ages that the term viking came to mean a pirate or raider from “the north.”

Other terms

The Vikings have been referred to by several names in historical sources and modern discussions. Besides Norsemen and Vikings, here are some other names.

The Vikings from Denmark were often referred to as Danes. Denmark was one of the major Viking homelands, and Danish Vikings played a significant role in the Viking Age’s historical events. They were active raiders who targeted various regions of Europe, including Britain, France, the Low Countries, and Ireland. They carried out swift and surprise attacks on coastal towns and monasteries, amassing wealth and slaves. The Danes established a significant presence in eastern and northern England, which became known as the Danelaw.

The term Norse is a broad and commonly used term to describe the people, culture, and languages of the Scandinavian region, which includes present-day Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. They conducted raids, trade, and settlement activities across a vast area, including the British Isles, continental Europe, the Mediterranean, the Baltic region, and even as far as North America (Vinland).

Vikings who settled in parts of Ireland and Scotland – particularly in the regions around Dublin, Waterford, Wexford, and Limerick – became known as Norse-Gaels. These Norse-Gaels assimilated with the local Gaelic population and adopted Gaelic customs and language.

This term refers specifically to Vikings from Scandinavia who settled in Ireland, particularly in the coastal regions and cities. The term Ostmen is derived from the Old Norse word austmaðr or eystra menn, both of which means “east men,” “men from the east,” or “easterner.” The Ostmen established several major settlements along the Irish coastline.

Vikings who settled and traded in the region of what is now Russia were reffered to as Rus, Rus’ people or Rus’ Vikings, which is thought to be the origin of the name Russia. The Rus originated primarily from the eastern parts of Sweden. One of the most important and well-known settlements was the trading post of Staraya Ladoga.

The Swedish Vikings were, like the Danes, active in Viking activities, including raiding, trading, and settling in various parts of Europe. They participated in Varangian expeditions to the Baltic, the Volga River, and the Black Sea. One of their major centers was Birka, an important trading town located on Björkö Island in Sweden.

The term Varangians specifically refers to Vikings from Scandinavia who traveled eastward and established trade routes and settlements in areas such as present-day Russia and the Byzantine Empire. The Varangian Guard, an elite Byzantine military unit, was composed of Norse warriors.

See also
Vikings |