The Vikings are infamous for their raid-and-pillage-style attacks on their southern neighbors in the 9th through 11th centuries, made possible by the shallow draft of their longboats which could penetrate far inland along rivers. The attack on Lindisfarne Abbey, the center of the 9th century Northumbrian Renaissance, heralded the seasonal violence to come. To "go viking" was the summertime occupation of some Norsemen, but at home they farmed in isolated settlements, and the fearsome longboats were used not just in warfare, but in trading missions from Kiev to Constantinople. The Norse co-opted a portion of France, becoming in a short century the "Normans" who then conquered England, and also settled Iceland, Greenland, and (briefly) North America. Far from being the savage barbarians recorded by Christian chroniclers, the Norse, Swedes, and Danes had a mixed culture of agrarians, artisans, and adventurers. Their seafaring technology was especially advanced, and their metalwork among the most prized in Europe. And on a personal cleanliness level, English men resented the Danes because Englishwomen were attracted by their habit of bathing and combing their hair weekly.
When the Anglian Oswald established himself as king of Northumbria in 634, he asked the monks of Iona to send him a bishop. Aidan was chosen, and he founded the island monastery of Lindisfarne, now known as the Holy Island, in the North Sea between England and Scotland, as the center for his bishopric of Northumbria. For 30 years, Lindisfarne was the most important center of religious influence in all England. Zealously seconded by King Oswald, Aidan spread the faith with such marvelous success that some English historians do not hesitate to assert that it is St. Aidan not St. Augustine who should be called the apostle of England.
Lindisfarne became a training center for missionaries, and Iona and Lindisfarne took over from Rome and Canterbury as the driving forces behind the conversion of the English. In the mid-seventh century northern Irish clerics calculated Easter according to an outmoded system. The settlement of the dispute which arose, in Rome's favour, at Whitby in 664 did not end the influence of the Irish Church. Here monks wrote the holiest and most beautiful of all books, the Lindisfarne Gospels, and venerated the relics of Saints Cuthbert and Aidan.
On the 8th of June, 793, a number of dragon ships appeared on the horizon and the men in them did not behave like normal traders or mariners. They stormed on land, tore the monk's clothing off their backs, ran their swords mercilessly through the good men's bodies, drowned them, knocked over the stone cross of Bishop Ethelwold, seized all the monastic treasure, set fire to the buildings, slaughtered the cattle, dragged the carcasses on board their ships, and were gone as suddenly as they had appeared.
The first recorded Viking attacks were on three of the most famous northern monasteries: Lindisfarne (793), Jarrow (794), and Iona (795). Few records of attacks survive from Northumbria: the attacks were so sustained that monasticism became virtually extinct and monastic libraries almost totally destroyed. Raids reached right into central Ireland, and forced the monks of the island monasteries of Lindisfarne and Noirmoutier (by the mouth of the Loire) to move themselves and their relics further inland. Laboriously the monks rebuilt their monastery. All organized defense proved unavailing against the mobility of the Vikings and their loose system of government made any diplomatic protest or countermeasures impossible. For two hundred and fifty years, monastic chroniclers bewailed the Viking scourge.
This is the practical information about choosing Vikings as a hometown, and
will be available in the character generation menus once new hometowns go
The chill waters and rocky soil of the Vikings' homeland spawns hearty stock, with the endurance to be expert warriors and the cunning to be master craftsmen and traders. The best bards in all Europe relate sagas to warm the hearts of their kinsmen on cold nights, and common thieves are seldom to be found, since the Northmen have a broad definition of what is honorable plunder. Of medicine and magic they know little; only the hardiest of plants grow in the far north, and the gods' magic is old and distant. Beginning your adventuring career as a Viking is a challenge, and like your ancestors you will probably have to set out for other shores to gain experience once the local livestock is depleted. You can learn many basic fighting skills before embarking on your journey, though, and your relatives will help you with basic provisioning.