What ancient culture do you feel most curious about? Imagine you live in that time.
Man there are so many different ancient cultures I would love to experience. After thinking it over I went with the Vikings. I have been hooked on a couple different Viking shows lately. I want to read all I can on them. If you can recommend any non-fiction or closely accurate historical fiction on Vikings I would appreciate it.
From the little I have researched so far it seems like women in the Viking era were pretty bad ass. Life was obviously rough between 800 AD – 1066.
Men did the hunting, fighting, trading and farming, while women’s lives centered around cooking, caring for the home and raising children. The majority of Viking burials found by archaeologists reflect these traditional gender roles: Men were generally buried with their weapons and tools, and women with household items, needlework and jewelry.
But women in Viking Age Scandinavia did enjoy an unusual degree of freedom for their day. They could own property, request a divorce and reclaim their dowries if their marriages ended. Women tended to marry between the ages of 12 and 15, and families negotiated to arrange those marriages, but the woman usually had a say in the arrangement. If a woman wanted a divorce, she had to call witnesses to her home and marriage bed, and declare in front of them that she had divorced her husband. The marriage contract usually stated how family property would be divided up in case of a divorce.
Though the man was the “ruler” of the house, the woman played an active role in managing her husband, as well as the household. Norse women had full authority in the domestic sphere, especially when their husbands were absent. If the man of the household died, his wife would adopt his role on a permanent basis, singlehandedly running the family farm or trading business. Many women in Viking Age Scandinavia were buried with rings of keys, which symbolized their roles and power as household managers.
Some women rose to a particularly high status. One of the grandest burials ever found in Scandinavia from that period belonged to the Oseberg “queen,” a woman who was buried in a sumptuously decorated ship along with many valuable grave goods in A.D. 834. Later in the ninth century, Aud the Deep-Minded, the daughter of a Norwegian chieftain in the Hebrides (islands off northern Scotland) married a Viking king based in Dublin. When her husband and son died, Aud uprooted her household and organized a ship voyage for herself and her grandchildren to Iceland, where she became one of the colony’s most important settlers.
Were there female warriors in Viking Age society? Though relatively few historical records mention the role of women in Viking warfare, the Byzantine-era historian Johannes Skylitzes did record women fighting with the Varangian Vikings in a battle against the Bulgarians in A.D. 971. In addition, the 12th-century Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus wrote that communities of “shieldmaidens” dressed like men and devoted themselves to learning swordplay and other warlike skills, and that some 300 of these shieldmaidens held the field in the Battle of Brávellir in the mid-eighth century. In his famous work Gesta Danorum, Saxo wrote of a shieldmaiden named Lagertha, who fought alongside the famous Viking Ragnar Lothbrok in a battle against the Swedes, and so impressed Ragnar with her courage that he sought and won her hand in marriage.
Most of what we know about women warriors in the Viking Age comes from literary works, including the romantic sagas Saxo called upon as some of his sources. Female warriors known as “Valkyries,” who may have been based on shieldmaidens, are certainly an important part of Old Norse literature. Given the prevalence of these legends, along with the greater rights, status and power they enjoyed, it certainly seems likely that women in Viking society did occasionally take up arms and fight, especially when someone threatened them, their families or their property.
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