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THE SEA ROAD - A VIKING VOYAGE THROUGH SCOTLAND

The Sea Road - A Viking Voyage Through Scotland

 
 Author(s)                

Olwyn Owen
 Publisher Canongate Books
 Date 1999
 Pages 68
 Format pdf
 Size 24.5 Mb


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   There was no such place as Scotland at the dawn of the Viking Age around ad 800 - only a territory of varied geography that eventually became the Scotland of history, inhabited by different peoples, each with their own culture and customs. There was not one king, but many kings and chieftains. There were no borders; the modern boundaries of Scotland would have been meaningless to its ninth-century inhabitants. And to the sea-taring Vikings from Scandinavia, whatever contemporary territorial boundaries there were in Scotland would have been completely irrelevant. Against this background, one of the main aims of this book is to bring alive the context in which the Vikings operated in Scotland, and to show what part Scotland played in the Viking world. For the Viking world was huge. From just before 800, for over 300 years, Scandinavian peoples from the modern countries of Norway, Denmark and Sweden took to the sea road in great numbers. They travelled further than Europeans had ever gone before and established a sophisticated network of communications over great distances. They exploited the riches of the East and explored the uncharted waters of the North Atlantic. They settled as farmers in the barren western lands of Greenland and discovered America 500 years before Columbus. They took part in the development of successful commercial centres from York to Kiev, and served as mercenaries at the court of Byzantium. They ravaged Christian Anglo-Saxon kingdoms; penetrated to the very heart of continental Europe and deep into Russia; and stole, extorted and traded massive quantities of silver and gold from their victims. To be a 'Viking' during this period was to be a Scandinavian raider or adventurer, although the name probably has its root in the word vik, meaning inlet. To these 'inlet people'. the boat or ship was their natural ally. Through their mastery of the sea they could fish, trade and communicate with their neighbours; without it. they could not survive. In their magnificent ships, they embarked on the sea road in the late eighth and ninth centimes and burst on to the European stage as raiders, warriors, traders, colonisers and political wheel-en and dealers. Their contribution in extending the frontiers of Europe, in re-shaping political structures and forming powerful states, and in stimulating commerce and encouraging the growth of towns, was immense. And in many places - including Scotland - their legacy endures today.

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