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Viking History Timeline

Posted by Sons Of Vikings on

This is a chronology of some of the leading people and events of the Viking Age. It is by no means comprehensive but only offers some sense of structure for this dynamic period in human history. Please note that exact dates are notoriously difficult to pin down during the 'Dark Ages,' so some of the dates here are approximate and based on mainstream scholarly consensus. Spellings of names and places also vary based on transliteration and sources.

  • 540-790 – The Vendel Period in Scandinavia, a time of change and rebuilding that provided the cultural and economic foundations of the Viking Age.
  • 740 – The massive legendary Battle of Bravellir was fought between Harald Wartooth, King of Denmark, and Sigurd Hring, King of Sweden. Sigurd won and became King of Denmark and Sweden. The battle is celebrated in numerous sagas and recorded in the Gesta Danorum. It is depicted as an apocalyptic battle between many tribes and heroes. If these stories are accurate, the Battle of Bravellir sets the stage for the Viking Age.
  • 750 – The magnificent double ship burial at Salme, Estonia, indicates Viking activity in the Baltic and the East.
  • 750 – The trade settlement of Ladoga was founded in Eastern Europe by Vikings. This would be an early step towards the emergence of the Norse-Slavic Rus confederation.
  • 789 - First recorded Viking attack on England.
  • 793 – Infamous Viking sack of Lindisfarne (Northumbria, modern England) marks the beginning of the Viking Age. From this point on, Viking activity proliferates and gathers speed.
  • 795 – First recorded Viking attack on Ireland.
  • 795, 801, 806 – The abbey of Iona off the coast of Scotland sacked by Vikings.
  • 799 – The rich domain of Aquitaine in France attacked by Vikings.
  • 800 – Charlemagne builds coastal defenses against the Vikings.
  • 800-830 - The iconic Oseberg Viking ship burial of a Queen and (possibly) a Princess.
  • 810 – Frisia (in modern-day the Netherlands) ravaged by the Viking sea king, Godfred.
  • 814 – The death of Charlemagne and the partitioning of his Empire amongst quarreling heirs. Vikings would take great advantage of this political discord.
  • 834 – Historians note a change in Viking activity around this year from smaller-scale raids to larger, longer-term movement of armies. After a generation or two of success, the Vikings began to reach full momentum.
  • 836-839 – Viking sea king Turgeis led 60 ships through the river systems of Ireland, causing great destruction.
  • 838 – “Rhos” merchants from Constantinople are recognized as Swedish Vikings when they come to the Carolingian court. This is the first known use of the word “Rus” and a clear association between the Russian/Ukrainian/Belarusian forbearers and Vikings.
  • 840-845 - Vikings build a longphort fortification at the “Black Pool” near Ath Cliath in Ireland. This becomes the city of Dublin, a center of Viking activity for the next 200 years.
  • 841 – Rouen (the capital of the future Normandy in France) attacked by Vikings.
  • 844 - Viking raid Lisbon, Seville, and the coast of Spain but find the Moors there too well organized for them to make a lasting incursion. Evidence of trade with Spain after that.
  • 845 – Vikings besiege Paris and are paid 7,000 pounds of silver to call off their attack and go fight someone else instead. This led to a pattern of such "Danegeld" payments by the French, which would amount to almost 10% of their GDP over the next decades. It is possible that the 845 siege of Paris was led by the legendary Ragnar Lothbrok.
  • 845 – The first mention of Vikings and Irish working together and intermarrying. These would become the Norse-Irish and would play a large role in Irish history over the next centuries.
  • 845-846 – Several major Irish victories against the Vikings.
  • 848-851 – In retaliation for the repulsed Frankish invasion of Jutland (845-847), a major Viking offensive was launched along the Rhine River in modern Germany. Vikings attacked Cologne, Verdun, Aachen, and numerous other sites before eventually being repulsed by Frankish forces.
  • 848 – Kenneth McAlpin unites the Picts and the Scots, largely in response to Viking aggression in Scotland.
  • 851 – Danish Vikings land in Ireland and join forces with the Irish to dominate the island. 
  • 851-856 – Olaf (Amlaib) and Ivar (Imar) established a Viking kingdom emanating from Dublin. Olaf and Ivar were said to be brothers, though they may have just been cousins or other kindred. The kingdom lasted for almost two centuries and often crossed the water to York and parts of England/Scotland. This Ivar is often thought to be Ivar the Boneless, who would later invade England. The Ui Imar ("descendants of Ivar") clan would control many of the emerging cities in Ireland and would play a major role in the history of the region.
  • 859-865 – Bjorn Ironside and Halfdan lead an estimated 60 ships in raids throughout France and the Mediterranean.
  • 860 - Rus Vikings first attack Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey), the seat of the Byzantine Empire.
  • 862 – Novgorod (in modern Russia) was founded by Rurik, a Rus chieftain thought to be from Sweden. Rurik was the progenitor of the Rurikid dynasty that would rule the Rus for hundreds of years.
  • 860-865 – Ragnar Lothbrok invaded Northumbria, but his fleet was scattered by a storm. He was captured by King Aella and thrown into a pit of vipers to die. Ragnar's bold last words and promises of revenge have been the subject of many sagas and poems.
  • 866 - The “Great Heathen Army” invade Britain under the leadership of Ivar the Boneless, Bjorn Ironside, Ubbe, and other sons of Ragnar Lothbrok. Within a short period of time, most of the Saxon kingdoms of Britain are conquered.
  • 870-1056 – The “Saga Age” in Iceland. This is the time period starting with the settlement of the island and ending with the establishment of a bishopric in Skálaholt. It is so named because most of the Icelandic sagas (the more realistic of the Norse sagas) are set in this time period.
  • 870-871 – Ivar the Boneless leaves the Great Army and joins forces with his old friend (or brother or cousin) Olaf the White. The forces besiege Alt Clut, the capital of Strathclyde in modern Scotland, and carried off much wealth and captives back to Ireland. Ivar, "King of All the Foreigners [Vikings] in Ireland," dies in Ireland of natural causes in 873.
  • 871 - Alfred and his brother break the momentum of the Great Heathen Army at the Battle of Ashdown. Alfred becomes king at the death of his brother. The Great Army and Alfred, king of the sole remaining Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Wessex, signed a 5-year treaty, setting the boundary between Anglo-Saxon and Viking territory at the old Roman road they called Watling Street. Alfred used his 5 years to prepare for war.
  • 872 - Harald Fairhair becomes the first king to unite Norway. According to sagas and legends, it is in response to his tyranny that many Vikings leave Norway for Iceland.
  • 874 – Ingolfur Arnarson claimed the land that became the city of Reykjavík, Iceland. Though Iceland was discovered by Hrafna Floki some years before, Ingolfur Arnarson is credited as the first permanent resident. Many more soon followed.
  • 878 – Guthrum (a Danish king of the Vikings in Britain) broke a treaty with Alfred and surprise attacked the Anglo-Saxons during Christmas. So effective was the attack that the kingdom of Wessex seemed all but conquered. But Alfred and some of his men escaped to the swamps, where they continued a guerilla war.
  • 878 – A trapped Anglo-Saxon army rallied and defeated Vikings at the Battle of Edington (or Ethandun). A son of Ragnar Lothbrok (probably Ubbe) was killed in the fighting. Pressing the advantage, Alfred obtained a treaty with Guthrum (which lasted this time). The Vikings retained control of the Danelaw east of Watling Street) while Alfred retained Wessex and what was left of Mercia.
  • 879 - Kiev (Kyiv) became the center of the Rus' domains. Many scholars still refer to the Rus as the "Kievan Rus" to clarify that they are speaking of the Rus during this stage of their development.
  • 885-886 – Paris is besieged again by Vikings under Rollo (Hrolf) the Walker and Siegfried. The Parisians held out valiantly under their leader, Count Odo. Their Emperor, Charles the Fat, eventually came to relieve them – but when he saw the fury of the Vikings he paid them to go fight someone else instead of calling for battle. This act of perceived cowardice was one of the last nails in the coffin for the Carolingians in France, and Count Odo replaced Charles as ruler in 888.
  • 907 – The Byzantine Empire makes a trade agreement with Prince Oleg of the Rus to curb Viking activity in the Mediterranean. A second, more favorable agreement is obtained in 912.
  • 910 – Battle of Tettenhall/Woden’s Field between the English of Wessex and Mercia and the Vikings of the Danelaw checks Viking power in Britain.
  • 911 - The Viking chief Rollo the Walker (or Hrolf Ganger) is granted land by the Franks and founds Normandy in France.
  • 913 – Vikings raid the wealthy Abbasid cities along the Caspian Sea.
  • 922 – Ahmed Ibn Fadlan meets Rus Vikings while visiting the court of the Volga Bulgars. Ibn Fadlan’s lurid description of a Viking ship burial remains a unique eyewitness account of these customs.
  • 930 – Iceland “fully settled” with all the arable land claimed by this time. The population in 930 is thought to be about 25,000. It would grow to 50,000 by the end of the Viking Age and then up to 75,000 by the time of Snorri Sturluson (a century and a half later) before being cut in half by the hardships of the Little Ice Age.
  • 934 – Hakon the Good becomes King of Norway.
  • 936 – Gorm the Old becomes King of Denmark.
  • 937 – King Aethelstan (the grandson of Alfred the Great) defeated an alliance of Vikings, Scotts, Irish, and Britons at the Battle of Brunanburh. Many experts see this event as the moment England became a nation.
  • 941 - Rus Vikings under Prince Igor again attack Constantinople.
  • 942 – Sviatoslav becomes Prince of the Rus after Igor is killed by Slavic tribes. Olga reigns as regent for about 20 years, beginning with a series of decisive victories that unite the Slavs along the Dneiper and Volga under Rus rule. Sviatoslav becomes known as Sviatoslav the Brave.
  • 954 – Eric Bloodaxe, the intermittent king of Norway sometimes and Northumbria (Northern England) at other times, died in battle fighting other Vikings.
  • 958-986 – Reign of Harald Bluetooth, whose runestone at Jelling claims "won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian.” The truth was probably messier than that, but by all indications, Harald was a powerful and effective ruler.
  • 960 – Founding of the Jomsviking brotherhood, elite Viking mercenaries who operated out of their fortress near Wolin, Poland.
  • 965-971 – Sviatoslav the Brave destroys Khazaria, conquers the Volga Bulgars, and brings together the lands that would become Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus.
  • 970 – Eric the Victorious becomes king of Sweden.
  • 972 – After a failed invasion of the Byzantine Empire, Sviatoslav is ambushed by Turkic Pechenegs while trying to carry his boats around the rapids of the Dnieper. Many of his Viking elites were killed with him, and some historians postulate that this is the event from which the character of the Rus becomes more Slavic. Vikings would still remain active with the Rus for generations to follow.
  • 978 – with the help of Viking mercenaries, Sviatoslav’s younger son, Vladimir, becomes Prince of the Rus. Vladimir would send his Vikings to serve his brother-in-law, the Byzantine emperor Basil the Bulgar Slayer. These Vikings would become the world-famous Varangian Guard, which would play a key role in Byzantine history for centuries.
  • 981 - While serving a three-year exile from Iceland for murder, Viking leader Erik the Red colonizes Greenland. While too remote to be a base of many Viking raids, Greenland becomes an essential part of the Viking trade in luxury goods, like walrus ivory, white falcons, furs, and polar bears.
  • 986 - Viking ships first sail in North American waters.
  • 991 - Æthelred pays the first Danegeld ransom to stop Danish attacks on England.
  • 995 - Olof Skotkonung became the first king to rule the Swedes and Geats.
  • 995 - Olav I Tryggvason conquers Norway and proclaims it a Christian kingdom.
  • 1000 – Iceland officially converts to Christianity while allowing the worship of the old gods to continue in private.
  • 1000 - Leif Erikson, son of Erik the Red, explores the coast of North America.
  • 1000 - Olav I dies in battle; Norway is ruled by the Danes.
  • 1001 – Leif returns to Greenland with reports of North America (“Vinland” and “Markland”). Leif also brings Christianity from the court of Olav I. Greenlanders lead several expeditions to North America.
  • 1002 – Aethelred the Unready massacres Danes in England. This generates animosity with King Svein Forkbeard in Denmark that would later have disastrous consequences for the English.
  • 1002 – According to the Vinland Sagas, the first violent contact between Native Americans and Vikings left Thorvald Erikson (Leif’s hot-headed brother) dead. Though Leif Erikson had never encountered Native Americans, future Viking expeditions in North America and to the north of Greenland would result in conflict between the peoples.
  • 1002 – Brian Boru defeats the Norse-Irish and becomes the High King of Ireland.
  • 1010-1015 – Viking explorer Thorfinn Karlsefni attempts to found a settlement in North America. Though he was not ultimately successful, modern archeology confirms Vikings had an active seasonal camp in Newfoundland for about 200 years.
  • 1011-1013 - Sven Forkbeard, his Danes, and the Jomsvikings conquer England; Æthelred flees to Normandy. The nursery rhyme, London Bridges Falling Down, is thought to date back to these events.
  • 1014 – Irish High King Brian Boru faces an alliance of Irish and Viking forces at the Battle of Clontarf. Though this war was essentially an Irish civil war and Vikings fought on both sides, the outcome of the war was a return to the status quo of decentralized rule and the demise of Viking power. The Battle of Clontarf essentially marks the end of the Viking Age in Ireland. Dublin would remain Norse-Irish until the coming of the Normans in 1171.
  • 1016 - Olaf II (“Saint Olaf”) regains Norway from the Danes.
  • 1016 - The Danish Viking Knut (Canute) takes control of England.
  • 1028 - Knut (Canute) conquered Norway, adding it to his domains in England and Denmark. Though seldom remembered in English history, Knut the Great ruled his North Sea Empire well.
  • 1030 – Saint Olaf dies at the Battle of Stiklestad. His young half-brother, Harald Hardrada, escapes to the Rus court of Yaroslav the Wise and eventually makes his way down to the Byzantine Empire, where he becomes a famous leader of the Varangian Guard.
  • 1035 – Magnus the Good becomes King of Norway. The North Sea Empire of his predecessor, Knut the Great, is fragmented but remains an ideal for the rulers of Scandinavia at this time.
  • 1042 - Edward the Confessor ruled England with the support of the Danes.
  • 1043 – Magnus the Good destroys the Jomsvikings at their stronghold in Jomsburg, Poland. Though this act is sometimes thought to be religiously motivated, it was most likely a pre-emptive strike by Magnus as he hoped to rebuild his Empire.
  • 1046 – Harald Hardrada returns and becomes joint king of Norway with Magnus. After Magnus’s untimely death around 1051, Harald Hardrada becomes the sole ruler of Norway. He immediately begins attacking Denmark in hopes of re-establishing the North Sea Empire.
  • 1050 - The city of Oslo was founded in Norway.
  • 1062 – the epic sea battle of Niz (or Nisa) between Norwegian and Danish Vikings for control of Scandinavia. Harald Hardrada won but was unable to press his advantage.
  • 1066 - English King Harold Godwinson defeated King Harald Hardrada at the Battle of Stamford Bridge. There was an astonishing loss of life on both sides. This battle marks the traditional end of the Viking Age.
  • 1066 - Duke William of Normandy defeated the English King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. It would take William 5 years to establish control of England, but his heirs are on the throne to this day. Many of the displaced Anglo-Saxon and Danish aristocracy of England fled to Byzantium and took service in the Varangian Guard.
  • 1096-1099 – The First Crusade announces the beginning of a new era in European history.


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