Archaic Martial Traditions in High Medieval Scandinavia: A Glimpse of Viking Age Warfare?


  • Beñat Elortza Larrea



Most written evidence regarding warfare in Viking Age Scandinavia originates either from contemporaneous chronicles – recorded by those at the receiving end of Norse attacks – from skaldic poetry, or from high medieval Scandinavian texts. However, these sources often prove problematic: either in the form of chronicles from other parts of Europe, which
often exaggerate the brutality of Viking raids, or from 13th century Icelandic writers, who embellish accounts of long deceased rulers.

This article explores archaic martial features found in 12th- and 13th-century contemporaneous sagas and treatises to identify and analyse the continued influence of Viking Age military practices in high medieval Scandinavia. By comparing information found in three medieval texts to scholarly contributions on Viking Age warfare; skaldic poems; and archaeological evidence, this article aims to identify Viking Age military features that survived the military transformation, which followed the periods of internal struggles that the Scandinavian kingdoms underwent from the 1130s onwards.






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