Tidbits on money and fighting in the Viking Age

Viking coin replica based on archaeological findings. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Fun article on Viking coinage and more tidbits on fighting techniques.

Coins in the Viking Era

Some background on striking coins during the Viking era can be found at The Viking Network. Article dated 6/21/15 explained Vikings in Norway make their own Coins.

First silver coins flowing into Scandinavia were Arabic dirhems. Later pennies from England and the continent were a bigger portion of the coins. Even later, various kings in Scandinavia minted their own coins.

A large horde dated to 1010 A.D. or earlier contains three coins with an inscription of “ONLAF REX NOR”, which the article translates as “Olav King of the Norwegians.” Article points out it is unknown whether this is Olav Tryggvason or Olav Haraldsson.

Domestic coinage started while Olav Tryggvasson was on the throne.  He was king from 995 through 1000 A.D. and in 991 through 994 was in England collecting massive amounts of Danegeld as bribes to not loot the country with his large army.

Fascinating speculation in the article, and it is merely a guess, is that Olav took a moneyer, or coin maker, back to England with him. Sometime after his return coin started appearing with an inscription of”GODPINEM-ONO” on the reverse side which is translated something along the lines of “Godwine in Norway”, which suggests an Anglo-Saxon created the coins.

If I read the article correctly, both Olav Tryggvason and Olav Haraldsson coined money but few such coins have been found.

King Harald Hardråde, ruling from 1047 through 1066 A.D., minted lots of coins. Article says he tried to replace foreign coins with domestic production. During the last half of his reign he started mixing copper with silver, eventually reducing the silver content to 50%.

Article says this is the first inflation visible in “our monetary history.” I assume that comment refers to either Norwegian, or Scandinavian, or medieval history. Coinage during the Roman era makes exquisitely clear there was extensive debasement of the currency and resulting inflation many centuries before the Viking Era.

Inflation continued on through the reign of Olav Kyrre, ruling from 1067 through 1093 AD.  However he tried to return to some sort of standard by returning the coins to pure silver although with half the weight of previous coins.

Viking battle techniques

Article in National Geographic on 3/7/17 describes How to Fight Like a Viking.

The preferred Viking battle was using highly mobile longships for a lightning raid. By the time local defenders could gather the Vikings would be long gone. Speed more than superior weapons was what led to such success.

In contrast, when Vikings faced an opponent who had time to gather and prepare a defense, the rough equality of weaponry and number of soldiers meant the Vikings lost as many battles as they won.

Another major advantage of Vikings was strong cohesion. Soldiers on a particular long trip would all be from the same immediate area, thus knowing each other deeply. As a result, they would have the the camaraderie of long voyages, confidence their buddies would have their back, and awareness that any cowardice or weakness would follow them back home. All those factors created high cohesion and morale.

Article suggests the spear was far more common than swords or axes. One source says spears would have been much more effective than axes or swords in a shield wall.

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