The Vikings Capture and Use of Slaves

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The Vikings have always been discussed throughout history as vicious people. The Viking Age lasted from the late eighth to eleventh centuries. The ancestors of the Vikings, called the Scandinavian people, traded with the Romans. Scandinavia was made up of five modern day European countries: Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland, and Sweden.1 Some items that they traded included ivory, amber, skins, and furs. After the Roman Empire fell, the Scandinavian people living in Scandinavia became closer and stronger. Around the mid seventh century, the Scandinavian people used ships with sails and built large towns. At the end of the eighth century, the Scandinavian people began raiding parts of pre-modern Europe. During this time, the Scandinavian people began to be known as the Vikings. Most people in pre-modern Europe were afraid of the Viking’s raiding of their society, but the Vikings were really just seeking goods that they could trade for money. The Vikings were known as a range of different people including warriors, pirates, explorers, and merchants. The Vikings started in Scandinavia, but because of increase in population and limited land, they traveled all through Europe looking for new land to expand. But the question is, with these vicious people just raiding to look for goods to trade with and with limited land space, why did they capture slaves and how did they use and treat these slaves in their society? As you may know, the Vikings went from society to society in pre-modern Europe looking for goods including gold, jewelry, and livestock. However, the Vikings also captured children men and women from these societies and used them as slaves. Because of their limited land space, they traded most of these slaves for money. The Vikings got a majority of their slaves from Ireland. They began to get involved with a slave trade in Ireland. Slavery existed way before the Vikings came. Slaves made up a large population of trade for the Vikings. Once captured, most of the slaves were sold on the slave trade while others were sent to Scandinavia to become slaves of the Vikings. It has also been recorded that some laves captured from Ireland were sacrificed to heathen gods. The first attack in Ireland was in 795, and attacked approximately once a year for the next thirty to forty years. The Vikings heard of the riches that the Irish held and thought that this region would be the perfect place for the Viking people. During this attack, the Vikings mainly just raided the societies and only took some slaves, but continued to capture more slaves as time went on. For those whose fate it was to be in the trade were either sent to Iceland, Viking colonies in Britain, Islamic empires, or Byzantine empires. The Islamic and Byzantine empires contained luxury items that the Vikings wanted for the trade of slaves. These items included Byzantine silk and Arabic coins. The Vikings then used the silk and coins in trade for items from North Europe including more slaves and furs. Once these slaves were traded, they were usually required to do laborious work of the household. The treatment of these sold slaves varied from owner to owner. Some were treaded kindly while others were treated worse than livestock. Even though a majority of the captured slaves were sent to the slave trade, some of the slaves were sent back to Scandinavia to become slaves of the Vikings. The reason that all of these slaves did not go straight to Scandinavia was because of the over population in that area. If all of the slaves were used in this area, than more strain would be on the land and on the resources that it produces. The Viking society had a social class system. This caste system was separated into three classes. The highest class was called the jarls. This class was known as the noble class, the rich people of the Vikings. They were measured by their mass wealth in terms of followers, treasures, ships, and estates. They lived in fine halls and led refined...
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