Mobility, knowledge, skill and the element of surprise. Those are some of the answers to how the Vikings seem to have won all their battles.
Viking researcher Else Roesdahl answers the question about why Vikings were so superior in battles in this article (in Norwegian).
“Archeological findings and written sources show that Vikings didn’t always win their battles,” she says. “Viking mass graves show that some raids went terribly wrong.”
Surprise attacks were important
Vikings did manage to raid villages, churches, monasteries and cities and one of the main reasons was their surprise attacks. Especially at the beginning of the age of Vikings, the element of surprise was incredibly important.
The Vikings also had a well-developed intelligence service so they knew exactly when and where to strike, according to Else Roesdahl. She uses the attack on Nantes in 843 as an example. Vikings attacked the French city just when it was filled with large crowds of people celebrating John the Baptist.
The Vikings didn’t always go back to Scandinavia for the Winter but would stay in Europe and attack when the opportunity came. That meant knowing more about the locals and therefore striking when the opportunity arose.
They would use inner conflicts and make their move when a country or a city was weakened by political unrest.
The men and women from the north were heavily armed and very skilled as it was a requirement for all men to learn how to handle their weapons, even if they were farmers and never planned on going to war.
It was also to their advantage that dying in battle was considered an honor and not something to fear.
Read a Viking romance
The Vikings were much more complex than just the raiding wildmen they’re usually portrayed as. This is why I’m so fascinated by them.
You can read my story about Borghild and Eivind–and the battle of Holmgang she challenges him to–in my romance The Challenge.
It’s part of the anthology Kissing and other Scandalous Pastimes. All proceeds from Kissing and other Scandalous Pastimes go to breast cancer research!