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
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
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.
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 'Skåne' (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.
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’.
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 hær 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’.
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:
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.