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The Vikings (from Old Norse víkingr) were the Norse explorers, warriors, merchants, andpirates who raided, traded, explored and settled in wide areas of Europe, Asia and the North Atlantic islands from the late 8th to the mid-11th century.[1]

These Norsemen used their famed longships to travel as far east as Constantinople and theVolga River in Russia, and as far westas Iceland, Greenland, and Newfoundland, and as far south as Al-Andalus.[2] This period of Viking expansion – known as the Viking Age – forms a major part of the medieval history of Scandinavia, Great Britain, Ireland and the rest ofEurope.

Popular conceptions of the Vikings often differ from the complex picture that emerges from archaeology and written sources. A romanticised picture of Vikingsas Germanic noble savages began to take root in the 18th century, and this developed and became widely propagated during the 19th-century Viking revival.[3] The received views of the Vikings as violent brutes or intrepid adventurers owe much to the modern Viking myth which had taken shape by the early 20th century. Current popular representations are typically highly clichéd, presenting the Vikings asfamiliar caricatures.

The Vikings in modern music, literature, and popular culture

Led by the operas of German composer Richard Wagner, such as Der Ring des Nibelungen, Vikings and the Romanticist Viking Revival inspired many creative works. These have included novels directly based on historical events, such as Frans Gunnar Bengtsson's The Long Ships (which was also released as a 1963 film),and historical fantasies such as the film The Vikings, Michael Crichton's Eaters of the Dead (movie version called The 13th Warrior) and the comedy film Erik the Viking. The vampire Eric Northman, in the HBO TV series True Blood, was a Viking prince before being turned into a vampire. Vikings appear in several books by the Danish American writer Poul Anderson, while British explorer, historianand writer Tim Severin authored a trilogy of novels in 2005 about a young Viking adventurer Thorgils Leifsson, who travels around the world.
Since the 1960s, there has been rising enthusiasm for historical reenactment. While the earliest groups had little claim for historical accuracy, the seriousness and accuracy of re-enactors has increased. The largest such groups include The Vikings and RegiaAnglorum, though many smaller groups exist in Europe, the UK, North America, New Zealand, and Australia. Many reenactor groups participate in live-steel combat, and a few have Viking-style ships or boats.

Modern reconstructions of Viking mythology have shown a persistent influence in late 20th- and early 21st-century popular culture in some countries, inspiring comics, role-playing games,computer games, and music, includingViking metal, a sub-genre of heavy metal music.

Viking expansion

The Vikings sailed most of the North Atlantic, reaching south to North Africaand east to Russia, Constantinople and the Middle East, as looters, traders, colonists, and mercenaries. Vikings under Leif Eriksson, heir to Erik the Red, reached North America, and set up ashort-lived settlement in present-dayL'Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

The motives driving the Viking expansion form a topic of much debate in Nordic history. One common theory posits that Charlemagne "used force and terror to Christianise all pagans", leading to "baptism, converting or death by iron and blood", and as a result "Vikings and other pagans wanted toavenge".[34][35][36][37][38] Professor Rudolf Simek confirms that "it is not a coincidence if the early Viking activity occurred during the reign of Charlemagne".[39][40] Because of the penetration of Christianity in Scandinavia, serious conflict divided Norway for almost a century.[41]

Another common theory posits that the Norse population had outgrown the agricultural potential of their Scandinavian...