Sports and entertainment




 

Sports were widely practised and encouraged by the Vikings. Sports that involved weapons training and developing combat skills were popular. This included spear and stone throwing, building and testing physical strength through wrestling, fist fighting, and stone lifting. In areas with mountains, mountain climbing was practised as a sport. Agility and balance were built and tested by running and jumping for sport, and there is mention of a sport that involved jumping from oar to oar on the outside of a ship's railing as it was being rowed.

Swimming was a popular sport and Snorri Sturluson describes three types: diving, long-distance swimming and a contest in which two swimmers try to duck one another. Children often participated in some of the sport disciplines and women have also been mentioned as swimmers, although it is unclear if they took part in competition. King Olaf Tryggvason was hailed as a master of both mountain climbing and oar-jumping, and was said to have excelled in the art of knife juggling as well.

Skiing and ice skating were the primary winter sports of the Vikings, although skiing was also used as everyday means of transport in winter time and in the colder regions of the north.

Horse fightingwas practised for sport, although the rules are unclear. It appears to have involved two stallions pitted against each other, within smell and sight of fenced-off mares. Whatever the rules were, the fights often resulted in the death of one of the stallions.

Icelandic sources refer to the sport of knattleik. A ball game akin to hockey, knattleik involved a bat and a small hard ball and was usually played on a smooth field of ice. The rules are unclear, but it was popular with both adults and children, even though it often led to injuries. Knattleik appears to have been played only in Iceland, where it attracted many spectators, as did horse fighting.

Hunting, as a sport, was limited to Denmark, where it was not regarded as an important occupation. Birds, deer, hares and foxes were hunted with bow and spear, and later with crossbows. The techniques were stalking, snare and traps and par force hunting with dog packs.

Both archaeological finds and written sources testify to the fact that the Vikings set aside time for social and festive gatherings.

Board games and dice games were played as a popular pastime, at all levels of society. Preserved gaming pieces and boards show game boards made of easily available materials like wood, with game pieces manufactured from stone, wood or bone, while other finds include elaborately carved boards and game pieces of glass, amber, antler or walrus tusk, together with materials of foreign origin, such as ivory.

The Vikings played several types of tafl games; hnefatafl, nitavl (Nine Men's Morris) and the less common kvatrutafl. Chess also appeared at the end of the Viking Age. Hnefatafl is a war game, in which the object is to capture the king piece – a large hostile army threatens and the king's men have to protect the king. It was played on a board with squares using black and white pieces, with moves made according to dice rolls. The Ockelbo Runestone shows two men engaged in Hnefatafl, and the sagas suggest that money or valuables could have been involved in some dice games.

On festive occasions storytelling, skaldic poetry, music and alcoholic drinks, like beer and mead, contributed to the atmosphere. Music was considered an art form and music proficiency as fitting for a cultivated man. The Vikings are known to have played instruments including harps, fiddles, lyres and lutes.

 

 

Conclusion

 

During the Viking Age, Scandinavian men and women travelled to many parts of Europe and beyond, in a cultural diaspora that left its traces from Newfoundland to Byzantium. This period of energetic activity also had a pronounced effect in the Scandinavian homelands, which were subject to a variety of new influences.

In the 300 years from the late 8th century, when contemporary chroniclers first commented on the appearance of Viking raiders, to the end of the 11th century, Scandinavia underwent profound cultural changes.

By the late 11th century, royal dynasties legitimized by the Catholic Church (which had had little influence in Scandinavia 300 years earlier) were asserting their power with increasing authority and ambition, and the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden had taken shape. Towns appeared that functioned as secular and ecclesiastical administrative centers and market sites, and monetary economies began to emerge based on English and German models. By this time the influx of Islamic silver from the East had been absent for more than a century, and the flow of English silver had come to an end in the mid-11th century.

Christianity had taken root in Denmark and Norway with the establishment of dioceses during the 11th century, and the new religion was beginning to organize and assert itself more effectively in Sweden. By 1103, the first archbishopric was founded in Scandinavia, at Lund, Scania, then part of Denmark.

The assimilation of the nascent Scandinavian kingdoms into the cultural mainstream of European Christendom altered the aspirations of Scandinavian rulers and of Scandinavians able to travel overseas, and changed their relations with their neighbours. One of the primary sources of profit for the Vikings had been slave-taking. The medieval Church held that Christians should not own fellow Christians as slaves, so chattel slavery diminished as a practice throughout northern Europe. This took much of the economic incentive out of raiding, though sporadic slaving activity continued into the 11th century. Scandinavian predation in Christian lands around the North and Irish Seas diminished markedly.

The kings of Norway continued to assert power in parts of northern Britain and Ireland, and raids continued into the 12th century, but the military ambitions of Scandinavian rulers were now directed toward new paths. In 1107, Sigurd I of Norway sailed for the eastern Mediterranean with Norwegian crusaders to fight for the newly established Kingdom of Jerusalem, and Danes and Swedes participated energetically in the Baltic Crusades of the 12th and 13th centuries.

 

Bibliography

 

1.Gareth Williams “Viking religion”. – [Электронный ресурс] http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ancient/vikings/religion_01.shtml

2.History of the Vikings. [http://www.historyworld.net]

3.Jennie Cohen “10 things you may not know about the Vikings”. – [Электронный ресурс] http://www.history.com/news/history-lists

4.Legends and chronicles. The Vikings. [http://www.legendsandchronicles.com]

5.Norse Mythology. Gods and Goddesses. [http://www.viking-mythology.com]

6.Old Norse Religion. [http://www.arnastofnun.is/page/old_norse_religion]

7.The Vikings. The British Museum. [www.britishmuseum.org/explore]

8.Viking Age. Arms and armour. Viking axe. [http://www.hurstwic.org/history]

9.Viking Beliefs. [http://vikingship.org/ourfaqs/beliefs_1.html]

10.Viking Food and Diet. [http://www.danishnet.com/info.php/vikings]

 

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