The Viking Social Structure

By Erik Solbakk 0 comments

The Viking Social Structure

The Viking social structure is something that has fascinated many for years. Their society was so different to what we currently know and is probably the reason why they were able to dominate large parts of Europe during the dark ages. The Viking Age started in 793 CE (Common Era) and ended in 1066 CE when Harald Hardrada was defeated in the Battle of Stamford Bridge. The Vikings are mostly known as raiders and traders. If you did not pay them protection money, then you could expect a visit from a group of them. Along with this came rape, pillage, torture, murder and destruction of their enemy's village or city.

What are the 3 classes of Viking society?

In the Viking society, there were three classes:

1. Jarls: The Jarls were the highest ranking members of the Viking society. They were responsible for governing their people and making sure that they followed the rules set by Odin. 

2. Karls: The Karls were similar to Jarls in many ways. They were also leaders, but they had less power than Jarls did because they only governed smaller areas of land.

3. Thralls: Thralls were slaves who belonged to other people (usually Karls or Jarls). They worked hard every day and often had very little food or clothing to keep them warm during cold winters.

What was the political structure of the Vikings?

The Vikings did not have a single political structure. There were several different political structures that existed in different places and at different times throughout the Viking Age. The most common political structure was known as the Thing, or assembly, which was used for the majority of Scandinavia. In a Thing, local farmers would gather together semi-annually to discuss and solve problems. For example, if someone failed to pay their taxes on time, the next time the Thing met, the local chieftain would bring up the issue and ask for suggestions on how to deal with it. Each farmer was allowed to speak about what should be done about it until an agreement was reached by the group as a whole.

The other major political structure in Scandinavia and Britain was known as kingship. In this system, one man served as both leader and judge of a group of people. He held some influence over how they were allowed to act and gave them advice on how to settle disputes between them. This type of government is very similar to that which we have today in many ways.


What were the roles in Viking society?

The two most important roles in any society are defending the boundaries and providing food. The Vikings, as a seafaring culture that relied on raiding other tribes for wealth, were no different. In this case, the warrior class was called the "býflokkur" (dwellers of the bý), or simply "býfarar," and their main goal was to protect the local community from potential invaders (like other Viking tribes).

Boys were expected to become býfarar from an early age, but only if they were physically fit enough to handle it. To be considered a full-fledged member of the býflokkur, men had to prove themselves worthy by performing feats like running difficult routes while carrying heavy objects or enduring freezing temperatures while left outdoors naked overnight (in order to prove they could withstand cold). Once they were accepted into the group, their job was to defend their community's land and property; if they failed at this task, they would almost certainly be killed as punishment for their failure.


What are a group of Vikings called?

The word "Viking" comes from the Old Norse word "vikingr," meaning "pirate raid," which is fitting because vikings were famous for their raids on foreign lands. The definition of a viking, however, expanded to mean "raider" or "plunderer" in general.

In the context of a group of Vikings, the term refers to a collection of men who come together for a particular purpose. The vikings were able to accomplish what they did because they were able to work well together as a team.


What was a typical Viking family like?

The Viking family was a very important part of Viking life. It was the center of all social activity, and the basic unit of community. The family was led by the father (or "jarl") who had ultimate authority. He was responsible for all the decisions regarding the family's resources and property, including acquisitions, sales, leases and dispositions. His wife (or "kona") was responsible for maintaining the home, making clothing and doing most of the chores. The children (or "barn") were expected to do chores in order to learn how to contribute to the household as they grew older.

The family economy was based on farming, with farming being men's work and women's work being spinning, weaving and repairing clothing. Most families were subsistence farmers--they produced just enough food to feed themselves. They did not produce any excess food for trading purposes. If they needed anything that they did not produce themselves, they had special items that they would exchange for it--for example, a farmer might swap fur for iron or a craftsman might trade a sword for some pottery.


Did Vikings do arranged marriages?

Yes, Vikings did do arranged marriages. The question of whether or not Viking arranged marriages happened is a bit more complicated than yes or no. There are examples of arranged marriages in Viking history, but there are just as many examples of couples falling in love and choosing to get married despite their families' wishes.

In Viking times, marriage was as much about politics as it was about love. Families would often arrange a marriage between two families that they thought would be most beneficial for them. There were social obligations and an expectation that families would keep the peace within their community by marrying off any daughters or sons who had reached a certain age without being married. The age was typically around 14-16 for girls and 18-20 for boys.

In some cases, someone's love life could even affect their status within their community. If a woman turned down all of her suitors, she could lose honor and respect among her peers. Being single after a certain age and not having children could also be seen negatively, especially if the woman's family was known for having strong alliances or for wielding power in the community.


How did Vikings treat woman?

The Norsemen believed that a woman's most important duty was to look after the home and children, while the men provided for their family. A woman's place was in the house, not outside with the men. It is said that when a Viking king died, he took half his household with him to Valhalla, meaning that women were considered almost as important in the afterlife as they were in life.

Some say that this did not mean that women were oppressed by men, because Vikings did not share our modern concepts of gender roles or even marriage. The word "wife" meant "woman", and was applied to any woman from birth until death. A man and a woman would live together as husband and wife for a long time, but without promising fidelity or ownership of each other, then once she became too old to bear children, she would be replaced by a younger woman who could give birth to future warriors and protectors. Viking women also had more rights than many other European women of the time: they could own property, inherit estates, file for divorce and participate in trade. They even took part in battle when necessary!


What is a Vikings wife called?

A Viking's wife is called a "Shieldmaiden" because, in addition to cooking and cleaning, a Viking household depended on the women to strap on their armor and fight off invaders when the men were gone. The term "shieldmaid" or "shield-maiden" comes from Old Norse, the language of the Vikings, and means "she who bears the shield."



The social structure of the Vikings was unique and fascinating, and it will likely continue to capture people's attention for many, many years. To me, that's what makes the Vikings so interesting: their social structure, culture, and way of life were far more complex and dynamic than people often assume. They weren't lazy, they weren't monolithic, they weren't limited in their ambitions or accomplishments—in fact, I'd argue that the Vikings are a model for succeeding in life. Rather than accepting fate or circumstances, they sought to carve out a place in history using little more than cleverness and hard work.

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