Danes VS Vikings: An Overall Comparison

Longships are ready to sail on the Nordic tidal waves. Strong men with long beards and strange horned helmets on heads are waiting for the Chief’s call. Strong metal-wooden shields and razor-sharp swords are ready to conquer. 

We were talking about a tribe called the Danes. Wait, why does it sound more like Vikings? Are they somehow related to Vikings? Well, yes, Danes relate to Vikings! Today most people refer to Viking Age Scandinavians as the Vikings as if they were homogenous. 

But the fact is that the Vikings were not homogenous. Historical texts such as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Annals of Ulster mention the Vikings as a non-homogenous tribe. Various sources show that present-day Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian lands took shape as early as the beginning of the late 8th century. 

To sum up the text from the chronicles of history and geographical pieces of evidence, we can say Vikings were roughly split into three different groups; Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish Vikings. 

Here’s a brief overview to help you brush up on your Viking knowledge of Danes and other Vikings and start your own Viking adventure. Let’s take a look at the Viking race first.

Danes VS Vikings: Similarity & Comparability

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Vikings

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Vikings, also known as Norsemen or Northmen, were a Scandinavian seafaring people who raided and inhabited wide areas of Europe from the late 8th to early 11th century. The Vikings are often portrayed as invaders, predators, or barbarians.

History depicts Viking society as one-dimensional warriors whose goal was to raid and plunder. However, the image that we see about Vikings today was written and magnified by the victims of the Viking attacks. 

So, there are also views that prove these raiders to be facilitators of many remarkable changes throughout the lands. It is also appropriate to label them as traders and explorers. 

The fun fact is that they discovered the Americas long before Christopher Columbus. Their footsteps can be traced as far east as the distant reaches of Russia. Besides having destructive and violent behaviors, Vikings had a diverse society and culture too.  

The Name Viking

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Many historians claim the term “Viking” to be the Scandinavian term Viking, which means pirate. However, the term also refers to overseas expeditions. 

A Brief History Of Vikings

Vikings - History, Origins & Tactics - HISTORY

Vikings originated from a united land which is divided into present-day Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Their homelands almost had no towns. The vast majority of Vikings used to earn a living through agriculture or fishing. 

With the advancements of shipbuilding technologies, they built longships to sail overseas. These swift shallow-draft boats were perfect for navigating coastal, inland waters, and even lands on beaches! 

For this reason, the boats were ideal for small-scale raids. These extraordinary vessels made a significant impact on shaping the Norse lives and changing European history. 

The Notorious Viking Age

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With the raid on the island of Lindisfarne in 793 AD, the notorious Viking age began in Europe. This raid was the first pillar of the 250 years long Viking age. In 799 AD, Vikings raided the island monastery of St Philibert on Noirmoutier. 

This was the first recorded raid in continental Europe. During the almost three centuries period, Norsemen explored rivers and seas for conquest, trading, and raiding. 

Over this period, England alone experienced almost 50 pitched battles, countless raids, and naval encounters. In 1066 AD, Harald Hardrada sailed up the River Humber for the final Viking invasion of England. 

The English king named Harold Godwinson, with his army, defeated Hardrada. The long notorious Viking age came to an end with this long and bloody battle.

Language and Religion

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Vikings used the Old Norse language for communication. Also, the Norse of the Viking Age read and wrote Runner, a non-standardized alphabet built upon various sound values. 

Thousands of stones and a few runic writings on paper from the Viking era are found near the Viking territory. They were written to remember the dead. The Runner alphabets were used parallel to the Latin alphabets and survived into the 15th century.

Vikings followed the Old Norse Religion, which is also known as Norse Paganism. However, through their raids in different lands, they came in contact with Christianity adopted Christianity quite quickly.

The Danes

File:A Chronicle of England - Page 046 - Edmund, King of East Anglia,  Killed by the Danes.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

It was approximately 10,000 BC, the last Ice Age ended, and people started to migrate from the Eastern and Southern parts of Europe to the Northern areas, known as present-day Denmark. Having flat terrain, proximity to water, and rich soil made Denmark a center of attention to the immigrants. 

The Name Dane

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The word Dane generally refers to a person from Denmark. However, Danes refer to a North Germanic tribe who used to inhabit southern Scandinavia as early as the Nordic Iron Age and the Viking Age. 

During the Viking Age, the word ‘Dane’ was used for mentioning the Vikings who used to invade England. The fun fact is that the Danes’ origin is still undetermined, but according to an author named Sven Aggesen from the 12th-century, the mythical King Dan named the Danes tribe.

A Brief History Of The Dane Tribe In Denmark

Danes - Wikipedia

Danish land was full of natural bounties and a good place to start a new journey after a long, harsh ice age. The first Danes were probably hunters and fishermen. 

They migrated from South and East Europe to Denmark during the last Ice Age of 10,000 BC. Farming in Denmark started in 3000 BC. 

The flatlands were very fertile, and this led the Danes to build the oldest farms of Denmark. At first, the Dane farmers with stone made their tools. They also used stone weapons at that time. But later on, they made bronze and iron for crafting weapons and farming tools.

The Iron Age

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In the Nordic Iron Age, the Danes settled in present-day Denmark, Scania, Schleswig, present-day Sweden, and the Northern part of Germany. At that time, they began the large fortification of Dannevirke to establish the southern border of their realm. 

The process extended several times, even centuries after the Iron Age. An old English poem of 143 lines called Widsith introduced a couple of semi-mythical Dane kings from the Iron Age. Sigar and Offa are one of them. 

Sugar used to rule the sea-Danes, and Offa ruled both the Danes and the Angles. The Lejre Kingdom, which actually refers to Zealand near Lejre, was the royal seat and capital of the Danes. 

It is important to note that the Danes established trade links with the Roman Empire by the Iron Age. Goods such as amber and animal furs were the main business commodities of this trade channel.

Impact of Viking Age

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By around 793 AD, the Vikings of Lindisfarne began the raids on the English tidal island. They ransacked the Lindisfarne Monastery of northeast England, and this started the Viking age, a long era of well-organized raids across the coasts of Europe. 

The Viking age lasted for 250 years. The Danish settlers started to settle larger areas even outside Scandinavia. Svend Tveskæg and his son Canute Knud den Store are well-known rulers of this era. 

In the early 11th century, King Canute the Great ruled Denmark, Norway, Southern Sweden, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, Shetland, Orkney, and parts of England for nearly 20 years.

By the 10th century, Jelling became the new royal seat of the Danes.

Some Viking Expeditions

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Ireland

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The Danes first arrived at Rathlin Island in Ireland in 795 AD. They built multiple purpose longshots for using them as bases for Viking raids and ship enclosure. They established many coastal towns such as present-day Dublin, Waterford, Cork, and Limerick during that age. 

During the following two centuries, there were many small and large battles between native Irish clans. Sometimes the Danes participated in those battles siding with allied clans. 

However, at theBattle of Clontarf, which took place in 1014 AD, the Vikings were defeated, and the remaining Danes slowly assimilated with the Irish population.

Frisia

Frisia - Wikipedia

Frisia was a part of today’s Netherlands and Germany. Vikings arrived in Frisia in 800 AD. During that period, Danes plundered the coastal areas and the town of Dorestad. The town was a common target of Viking raids.

France

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The first known Viking raid in French land took place in 799 AD. The first attack took place on the coast of Aquitaine. In 820, Vikings from Danish territory made their first raid on the Seine. 

Danes built a strong base on Noirmoutier island, which was the central spot for the European salt trade at the time. In the following century, Charles the Simple, the king of Lotharingia, made a treaty in Saint-Clair-Sur-Epte with the Viking chieftain of Rollo to reduce continuous raids. He granted authority over present-day Normandy to Rollo and his men.

Language and Religion

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The Danes used to speak Proto-Norse and Runes for writing. By 200 ADS, the Danes started using the Rune language chiseled in stone. Their writings were mostly used on Runestones, wood carvings, weapons, jewelry, and utensils.  

Like their Scandinavian ancestors, the tribal Danes practiced the Norse religion. However, During the 10th century of the late Viking Age, the Danes officially adopted Christianity due to mass Christian influences. 

Runestones, historical documents, and church buildings are evidence of their accepting Christianity. The art, jewelry, and burial practices from the late Viking Age reflect the new Christian influences.

The Bottom Line

The similarity between the Danes with the Vikings is undeniable. The Danes originate from the Viking race itself. So, to jump to a conclusion, if we compare the Viking race to a tree, the Danes are just one of the many branches of that tree.

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