Normans in the Middle Ages

Normans in the Middle Ages

The Scandinavian peninsula is almost 2,000 km deep in Europe. Long ago it was inhabited by the northern Germanic tribes, which in Western Europe were called Normans, that is, “people of the North”. Of these, Danes, Swedes and Norwegians separated, who later formed their states.

Most of the Scandinavian Peninsula was occupied by forests and mountains. The land is of little use for agriculture, therefore for the Scandinavians the sea was of great importance, and their main occupations were navigation, fishing, cattle breeding and hunting.

Scandinavians knew seafaring from time immemorial. They have studied the sea routes well, and skilfully moved along the coasts with narrow and winding bays – fjords. Normans were fine shipbuilders, and their ships were then

considered the best. Since the VIII century. Scandinavians already built sailing multiclass ships, the length of which reached 20 or more meters, and the width of 4 to 5 meters. Such vessels accommodated up to 150 people. If necessary, they could be carried on their hands. The stern and nose of the ship had a pointed shape, so to change the course, it was enough just to rearrange the oars. The ship had a square sail, usually red.

The Normans themselves proudly called their ships “the horses of the sea”. The nose of the ship was decorated with a dragon or a snake cut from a tree. According to beliefs, this gave the ship a magical power, protected it from evil spirits and frightened off enemies. When the Normans pestered the shore and pulled the ship to dry land, the head of the beast was taken off so as not to anger the local gods. The inhabitants of the North gave names to the ships, treasured them and protected them. As there were no nautical charts, the Normans found their way through the sun and the stars, the shoreline.

At the dawn of the Middle Ages, the Normans lived in tribes, each headed by the Yarl, or by Konung the military leader, who had a well-armed squad. Every soldier gave him an oath of loyalty.

At the end of the VIII century. In Scandinavia there were no more than 2 million inhabitants.

However, since the beginning of the IX. of the population begins to grow. This increase, as well as the associated lack of means of subsistence, prompted the Scandinavians to attack neighboring lands. From their homes they were also driven by a thirst for knowledge and adventure. Such trips were organized and led by natives of noble families. In the VIII century. appeared a lot of “shore leaders”, landless, but brave in heart. In the spring they prepared ships and weapons, recruited a detachment of brave warriors and set off on a long voyage. Often, before sailing up, a spear was thrown and in the direction of its fall determined the path of the future campaign.


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Normans in the Middle Ages