Weapons were a very valuable part of the personal
belongings of all free Viking men. Each warrior likely owned
a spear, an axe or two, a sword and a knife. Of these, the
sword and axe were the most important. They were most often used in close fights. A Viking man carried a sword everywhere he went, even to the toilet.
The sword was the most valued weapon of the Viking
warrior. It was made of iron and often decorated with runes
(characters of the Viking alphabet) and other carvings. Both, its owner believed, brought good luck and protection in battle. The handle or hilt of the sword was decorated with gold, silver and copper. The blade was double-edged. This meant it was sharpened on both sides so it could create a deadly wound in whatever direction it was wielded. The tip of the blade was sharpened to a point and was used for thrusting an enemy.
While the sword was the Vikings warrior’s prized
possession, the weapon identified most closely with him was the battle-axe. The Vikings were the only fighters across Europe to use an axe. There were two types; one that could be thrown and one that was wielded by the warrior. The latter was quite heavy and had a handle up to 1.5 metres long. Both axes were feared by their enemies. One blow was usually deadly because of the power behind its swing or throw. A hit with the axe meant
The battle axe and the sword were used in
hand-to-hand combat with an enemy. The spear was
often thrown from some distance away or used for
thrusting an opponent standing or charging nearby.
The Bow and Arrow
The only long-range weapon available to the
Vikings was the bow and arrow. It was not used as
often as the other types of weapons. The Vikings
liked to fight up close, hand-to-hand. When the bow
was used, specially trained warriors did the work. An
skilled archer could hit a target 250 metres away. Vikings sagas record that the bow string was actually made of women’s hair spun into a string.
The Spear and Knife
The spear was yet another weapon in the Viking arsenal.
It was thrown from a distance or thrust at an enemy close-by. Like all Viking weapons, the spear handle was decorated. The metal tip was leaf shaped and very sharp. With a well aimed powerful thrust, it could pierce almost anything. The smallest Viking weapon was the knife. It was held in a sheath and hung on the right side of the warrior’s belt where he could quickly grab it for battle.
The average Viking warrior wore a one piece outer jacket usually made of leather. The jacket was both tough and warm. Beneath it, he wore a linen or woollen tunic. This tunic often hung lower in the sleeves and around the waist hem than the jacket. The tunic was usually colourful and nicely decorated. Wool socks and goatskin or calfskin shoes were worn on the feet. A silver Thor's hammer, a good-luck charm, hung from a chain or leather strap around the neck.
Some Viking warriors had an extra piece of protection. It was wire mesh covering called a birnie or chain mail. It was heavy, very time-consuming to make and expensive to buy. Consequently, only the King's warriors wore it.
A Viking warrior's head dress was a helmet made either of leather or metal. Both fitted snugly on the head. The last thing a warrior would want was a loose helmet blocking his vision. Metal helmets were conical in shape and were mainly worn by the king's warriors.
Some leather and metal helmet designs often included a reinforcing strip of metal along the center seam. This piece extended down over the nose for additional protection. Some designs included a goggle-like protection around the eyes too. Whether it was made of metal or leather, Viking helmets did not have horns as often pictured in movies, cartoons or fictional books. Horned helmets would have been extremely cumbersome in battle.
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