Some fragmented counts on the size of Viking raids are provided on page 39 of The Oxford Illustrated History of the Vikings, edited by Peter Sawyer. The number of ships reported and recorded for some raids between 789 and 896 are listed. That would be essentially the 9th century.
This will be first in a series of posts on tidbits of information I found particularly interesting in the book.
Author points out we need to be careful in relying on the reported number of ships. In addition, it is not possible to calculate the size of particular raiding parties (assuming the reported number of ships is actually correct) since ships varied dramatically in size. Text says they could carry anywhere from 10 to 60 warriors.
Author points out that exaggeration is possible in all the reported data. I’ve also learned that ancient data is often rounded. Thus the report of “100” ships could be 60 or 80. Or maybe it was 120 or 140 ships. Or maybe nobody even tried to count but to give an idea that it was a really large raid the symbolic number of ‘100’ was recorded.
To get a wild guess on the size of raiding parties, I’ll extend out the ship count in the text.
Author estimates the range of warriors per ship ran from 10 to 60. The midpoint of those two amounts would be 35 warriors.
I’ll guess the range of warriors is between 20 and 60 per ship.
Following data lists the year, location, and reported ship count. Following that is the number of warriors at my low estimate of 20, my high estimate of 60 per ship, and a midpoint of the author’s range.
|year||location||ships||warriors, low est.||warriors, high est.||warriors, midpoint|
An interesting mental exercise is to estimate the cost needed to build all those ships, buy all the arms, and feed all the warriors for the length of the raid.
As a wild guess on the severity of the growth in size of raids, I will add the tally above by quarter century. I know I’m pretending to get a precisely quantified amount based on a long string of guess, assumptions, possible exaggerations, and massive missing data. Yet, that is all we have.
So, don’t just take the following subtotals by quarter century with a grain of salt. Please take them with a large block of salt.
|years||# raids listed||ships||low range||high range||midpoint|
Data is listed above so you can extend, revise, shrink, or recalculate them as you wish.