We will continue our exploration of the Vikings by looking at how they shaped European history. They made their way to Constantinople. They captured the world’s largest city and founded the Russian Empire. The Vikings came to Constantinople to plunder and establish trade deals with the Byzantine Empire. The Vikings were on the hunt for silver. They were on the constant move to gain wealth and were very mobile people. The Viking mobility was a challenge for the kingdoms in Europe.
They traveled throughout Eastern Europe using the rivers. Before they turned their attention to Eastern Europe they attacked the coasts of the Baltic Sea. Their exploits in Eastern Europe were written about in a variety of sagas. Eastern Europe was rich in furs and slaves. Capturing and selling slaves was the biggest moneymaker for the Vikings. The rivers of Eastern Europe were a highway for the Vikings. They traded with the south over these rivers. Lake Ladoga was the heart of the trade and the river that fed it led to the Russian Steppe and the Eastern Mediterranean.
The birthplace of Russia can be traced to this area and they dominated the area before they turned their attention to Western Europe. The most important artifacts found in Russia are found at the site of Starya Ladoga. The Vikings traded furs and slaves for silver. Silver coins ended back up in the Viking homeland. In Russia, they founded an empire. They conquered trading places along the rivers.
Outside of Novgorod, Russian archeology students are excavating Viking sites. The finds are being carefully preserved in a museum. Prince Rurik founded the city of Novgorod. His followers went downriver and founded Kyiv. Finally, the Vikings continued down to Constantinople. The residents were shocked to find the Vikings at the door. The walls of Constantinople prevented further invasion. Instead, the Vikings attacked the coast.
The Byzantine Empire was the richest empire at the time and would have been an attractive prize for the Vikings. The Regent of Novgorod was angry at the attack. He went after the followers of the former king and killed them. Eventually, he made his way to Constantinople and worked out a trade deal with the Byzantine Emperor. These actions would be documented by Nestor. Nestor wrote about the development of the first Russian State.
The Vikings went into Poland. There they found no resistance to the rule. Poland was a place of passage for the Vikings. Archeological sites in Poland have changed the understanding of Polish history. Many graves were discovered and they were part of an elite group. Traders and warriors were found in the graves. Control of the routes through Poland enabled the Vikings to grow rich. The Vikings built the Polish nation. They brought their know-how and wealth into Poland.
The Vikings and Poles Royal Families started intermarrying with each other. These marriages brought together the different cultures and this is evidenced in the graves. The myth that the Vikings were a war-like people is being smashed through the grave evidence.
To continue to learn more about the Vikings and how they shaped Eastern Europe watch this documentary.
This episode had a long introduction before getting to how the Vikings shaped Eastern Europe. It was slow going at the start. I would start the documentary at about five minutes and skip that introduction. Another fascinating aspect of this series was the focus on Viking Poland. When studying Viking history, there was discussion on Viking Russia and Western Europe, never Poland. This was a fascinating look at Polish History. As I said at the start of this series, these documentaries are definitely for the classroom setting.
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