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Thread: Scandinavians/Norsemen/Vikings/Danes... Time to clear this up once and for all.

  1. #1
    RobinHat
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    Exclamation Scandinavians/Norsemen/Vikings/Danes... Time to clear this up once and for all.

    Hi all,

    I am new to the forums but have been playing Civ since Civ1 came out.

    There have been quite a few discussions on various forums about whether the 'Viking' Civilization is really worthy of a place in the game. Many believe that the word 'Viking' should be replaced by 'Scandinavian' or 'Norse'/'Norsemen'.
    I have taken an active part in these discussions in an attempt to convince people that all these words are in fact wrong.
    So I thought I'd start this thread.

    I have posted this in the Ideas And Suggestions forum, as it is really a suggestion for the potential new Civ V game – complete with detailed reasons why.

    I am a History Major from Aarhus University with special focus on the early Middle Ages. The so-called 'Viking Era' (793-1066) is my main field of study and I have visited all three Scandinavian countries as well as England.

    So here goes... First of all, here is a map of present-day Scandinavia. Scandinavia is the common word for the 3 countries:
    Norway - Blue
    Sweden - Yellow
    Denmark - Red


    http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d1...candinavia.jpg


    A word that is often mistaken for 'Scandinavia' is the 'Nordic' countries. This is a broader term as it includes more countries:

    Norway - Blue
    Sweden - Yellow
    Denmark - Red
    Finland - Green
    Iceland - Purple
    Faroe Islands - Not on map, but just North-East of Scotland
    Greenland - Orange


    http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d1...sentnordic.jpg

    Greenland and the Faroe Islands are not independent countries like the rest. They are under Danish rule, although they effectively have their own parliaments (much like Scotland in the UK).


    Now we have that settled, I will define the meaning of the different phrases that people use when talking about the 'Vikings' as a Civilization in the Civ games.

    "Scandinavians"

    The word 'Scandinavia' arose in the late Middle Ages. At this time (several hundred years AFTER the Viking Era), the largest university in the present Scandinavian area was the University of Lund (present day Southern Sweden). In those days, the southern tip of present-day Sweden was Danish. This area is still known as 'Skĺne' (Scania in English). For many scholars in Lund (and other places), Lund was the centre of knowledge in the area and students came from all of Scandinavia to study here.
    Anyway... The scholars of Lund mapped out the area of Denmark, Norway and Sweden (due to the similar languages and cultures) and called the area 'Skaana Aua', meaning 'The Scanian Island' (Lund, of course, being situated in Scania).
    The term 'island' is not to be taken literally, but rather understood as 'an island of knowledge' in the dark world... People liked themselves a lot back then...
    'Scandinavia' is obviously a Latin variation of 'Skaana Aua'.

    So the term 'Scandinavian' did not arise until many years after the Viking Age. It was not even used in Scandinavia itself, as the term was a decadent, academic phrase used by high-and-mighty professors.


    ”Norsemen”

    The term ‘Norsemen’ is a phrase that has existed since the Iron Age and is a word that was used mainly by English and French monks who were harassed by raiders from Norway and Denmark. The meaning is simply ‘men from the North’ and is of course a reference to all ‘Viking’ raiders or people from what is now known as Scandinavia. The thing to remember here is that this term was only used by OTHER cultures, never the actual people themselves. The term later evolved into ‘Normans’, as the area of Normandy was named after the ‘Norsemen’ who invaded the area and settled there. The Normans did indeed take the name for themselves, but this was much later. At this point, they no longer considered themselves of the same culture as their ancestors (William the Conqueror’s grandfather, Rollo, was from Faxe in Denmark and was the chief who conquered the area later known as Normandy).

    So the term ‘Norsemen’ was not used by the people themselves, but was a term used by others. It was considered an ‘evil’ word. In a version of The Lord’s Prayer found in England, dating from the 9th Century, the line “Deliver us from evil” is actually phrased “Deliver us from the Norsemen”.

    So using the term ‘Norsemen’ is as wrong as using the word ‘Barbarians’.


    ”Vikings”

    This is without a doubt one of the greatest misunderstandings in the history of language. The term ‘Viking’ was indeed used by the people themselves, and it is definitely the most recognisable of all the phrases.
    However, the word ‘Viking’ is not a noun; it is a ‘verb’!
    ‘Viking’ was not something you were, but rather something you DID!
    In many of the Icelandic Sagas, this word appears, but always in contexts like this:

    ”Han samlede en hćr og drog i viking.” = “He raised an army and went viking.”

    ‘To go viking’, can roughly be translated as ‘to go plundering’ or ‘pirating’.

    So using the term ‘Viking’ is actually as wrong as calling them ‘The Killings’ or ‘The Fightings’.


    ”Danes”

    The term ‘Danes’ dates back to Roman times and is the name of the tribe of people who lived in present-day Denmark and Norway (as well as southern Sweden). The first time the ‘Danes’ are mentioned is in accounts of the barbarian raids on Rome in the 5th century. There are also accounts of the ‘Kimbrer’ tribe that were a break-off tribe of the ‘Dani’ in earlier centuries, who wreaked havoc throughout Europe.

    The term ‘Denmark’ is first mentioned in Frankish texts from the early 8th century and describes the area of present day Denmark, Norway, Iceland and southern Sweden. It means ‘The borderland of the Danes’ The term ‘Norway’ comes from the present-day word ‘Norge’, which again comes from the term ‘Nord Rige’ or ‘Nord Rike’ which means ‘The Realm to the North’.
    ‘Sweden’ is actually called ‘Sverige’, which comes from ‘Svea Rige’ or ‘Svea Rike’, which means ‘The Realm of Svea’. There is debate in historical circles as to whether ‘Svea’ was a man or a people, but the legends say that he was the brother of a Danish king ‘Dan’ who settled his own land to the east. The historical facts of this are doubtful.

    Throughout Western Europe, the term ‘Danes’ was universally used to describe the raiders from Denmark and Norway. By the 10th century the Danes were feared throughout Europe.

    The greatest of all the kings was Knud den Store (Canute the Great) whose kingdom rivalled that of many other great kings in Europe. His Empire consisted of Denmark, Norway, England, parts of Scotland, Iceland, southern Sweden, Faroe Islands, Shetland Islands, Greenland, northern France and parts of Northern Germany.
    Here is a map of Knud’s empire:

    http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d1...nudsrige-2.jpg

    To understand why the Norwegians were not distinguished from the Danes, one must understand the cultural links between the two.
    Denmark and Norway have historically always been linked. Of the three Scandinavian languages, Danish and Norwegian are by far the most similar – Swedish is considerably different.

    Norway was part of the Danish kingdom throughout the Viking era and all the way up until the early 19th century, where it was taken over by Sweden. During the Viking era, Norway had its own vassal kings that often were in conflict with Danish kings, the most powerful of these was Harald Harderaade, who challenged Denmark on several occasions and who even tried to take over England after the Danes left. In the 14th century the final Norwegian royal bloodline died out and Norway was effectively a part of Denmark. In 1814 Norway came under Swedish rule (due to years of Danish stupidity).
    In 1905 Norway finally became independent and offered the crown to the Danish prince Carl, who took the name Haakon. The fact that they gave the crown to a Danish prince is also proof of the feeling of unity between the two countries.

    If we go back to the Viking era again and take a look at the Swedes, their focus was much different than that of the Danes. Where the Danes engaged Western Europe, the Swedes looked East and set up immense trade routes along the rivers of Russia and managed to reach the Caspian Sea and beyond. They founded Kiev and other cities along the rivers and were great merchants and traders, unlike any the world had seen. They were, however, not a people of raiders in the same sense as the Danes were, and the shear impact they had on Europe could not match that of the Danes.

    Centuries later, the three countries were in a union for a while known as the Kalmar Union, but this was more of a mutual protection pact and an economic union than anything else. The Swedes hated it and eventually left the union, feeling that the Danes were calling too many shots. The Swedes later rose to become a huge power in Europe, almost annihilating Denmark in devastating wars.

    So if we are to speak of the ‘Viking’ civilization, it is foolish and lazy to throw them all together into one, especially when one takes into account the rivalry between Denmark and Sweden.

    Denmark and Sweden are in fact the two countries in the world that have been at war most times. Since the Viking era, the two nations have been at war 29 times – every single time, Norway has fought on the Danish side.


    My conclusion is, that if it is to be remotely historically accurate, the ‘Viking’ civilization in the Civ games should be the ‘Danish Empire’, led by Knud den Store (Canute the Great).
    Sweden should also be represented as a seperate Civ, only as the immense economic and military powerhouse they were throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.

    And that’s all I have to say about that. Let’s hear what you all think.

  2. #2
    Heraclitus
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    I'm afriad you shall recieve little support for splitting the civ into two since there are arguably already too many European civilizations in the game. I would remind you that far greater historical inaccuracies have been introduced in the game due to similar reasons....


    A grand example is the Native American civ. A less obvious case is the Greek civlization, as strong a case as you have made for spliting the Danish empire and Sweden can be made for splitting the Greeks into at least two civlizations (the Greeks and Ancient Macedonians). Similar splits could be maid with the Indian and Persian civs. Also don't forget that we don't have an Italian civ simply because we alread have Romans on their spot.

    On the other hand popular demand has made such things happen, the Byzantium is a prime example of this. I mean having Romans and Greeks and Byzantines? The Empire was the survivng rump of the Roman empire that over time became basically a Greek empire. Also the Ottomans already take up their spot... there are so many good reasons not to include them. But people wanted them. If people get as excited about playing the Danish and Swedish empire as they do about playing Eastern Rome maybe... and even then Viking Empire quite simply sounds cool and the pic of a "Viking" leader is a pretty thing to place on the back of the box.
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    DarkCloud
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    every single time, Norway has fought on the Danish side.


    My conclusion is, that if it is to be remotely historically accurate, the ‘Viking’ civilization in the Civ games should be the ‘Danish Empire’, led by Knud den Store (Canute the Great).
    Well... With that kind of attitude it is unlikely that Norway will be fighting on the Danish side the next time Sweden decides to invade.
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    wodan11
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    Nice summary. Focuses a lot on nomenclature which, while the professed purpose, misses a bit of a causality link to that of culture. "Culture" in the sense of: peoples which share a common heritage, beliefs, social structures, interests, etc.

    Civ is about representing a culture as much as about representing a nation as it existed at any particular point in time.

    On the other hand, the game sometimes (but not always) will use one civ represent VERY two different cultures which happen to occupy the same geographic location in different time periods. The game does this by using two different leaders (e.g., Asoka and Gandhi, or Peter and Stalin).

    RobinHat does make the point that Norwegians and Danes share much more the same culture than either of the two with Sweden. Enough for Sweden to be its own separate civ? Possibly. So much that being the same civ is a bad idea? Not really but maybe.

    The main thing here is to note that whether such a thing is implemented as a separate civ or simply as a new leader is one of perception. (The only game differences between civs are UUs and UBs. Perception / back story is one reason people don't like the name "Viking".) Calling the Civ the "Danish Empire" has a lot of merit.

    Also note that the first step is to make a new leader, and a further distinction would be to separate that leader into a different civ. Whether to take that second step is a matter of degree.

    Honestly if Gustav II Adolph (Gustavus Adolphus) were added, it could either be as a new leader or a new civ.

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    Nikolai
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    We Norwegians have struggeled for more than a century to rid ourselves of Danish influence, and this is what we got; being mercielssly lumped together with filthy potato eaters?
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    Hegemonic
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    *Pats Nicolai on the back*

    Don't worry, I know a biased view when I read one.

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    GePap
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heraclitus View Post
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    On the other hand popular demand has made such things happen, the Byzantium is a prime example of this. I mean having Romans and Greeks and Byzantines? The Empire was the survivng rump of the Roman empire that over time became basically a Greek empire. Also the Ottomans already take up their spot... there are so many good reasons not to include them. But people wanted them. If people get as excited about playing the Danish and Swedish empire as they do about playing Eastern Rome maybe... and even then Viking Empire quite simply sounds cool and the pic of a "Viking" leader is a pretty thing to place on the back of the box.
    Since when does civ have predetermined spots?

    The issue is how different were civs - while the Danes looked West and Swedes east, they are pretty similar culturally and linguistically. I would agree that the Byzantines are an odd choice (as are the Habsburgs) for their own civs given the inclusion of Romans and Greeks (and Germans). The Ottomans on the other hand were significantly different from any of the other civs to be included, and are the only members of the Turkic linguistic group to get in.
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    Idontlikefish
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    Wow, the OP is CLEARLY not a historian. His post is so full of mistakes I don't even know where to begin.
    "Danish Empire"...lol, thanks for the laugh.

  9. #9
    Nikolai
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    Well, Denmark controlled Norway, part of Sweden, the northernmost part of Germany and large parts of the British Isles at one point, so one can see where he comes from.
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    Idontlikefish
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nikolai View Post
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    Well, Denmark controlled Norway, part of Sweden, the northernmost part of Germany and large parts of the British Isles at one point, so one can see where he comes from.
    Canutes so called empire only lasted for 7 years, and btw Norway has also controlled Denmark for just as long.

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    King Bilby
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    OP called it

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