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A Mugshot of Hall of the Fallen CEO Gregory Lawrenson

Greg Lawrenson

Jul 28, 2023

Exploring the Origins of Vikings

A Deep Dive into their Germanic Roots

Germanic Roots of the Vikings - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

In the annals of history, few cultures command the fascination and intrigue of the Vikings, known for their fierce raids, unique artistry, and intricate mythology. However, the origins of the Vikings, specifically their Germanic roots, often remain shrouded in mystery.

Unraveling these roots reveals the interwoven relationships between the Vikings, the Germanic people, and even the broader Germanic language and culture.

A map showing where The ancestral cultures of all Germanic people is thought to originate from, Bronze-age Southern Scandinavia and Northern Germany

The ancestral cultures of all Germanic people is thought to originate from Bronze-age Southern Scandinavia and Northern Germany

An image of a Roman Legion

The term "Germanic" is used because of the Nordic Bronze Age culture's interactions with the Romans as it moved south.

Key Questions

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5 mins

Understanding the Germanic Connection

Identifying the connections between the Vikings and the Germanic people is a complex task, given that historians struggle to establish a universal definition of 'Germanic.' The term Germanic often refers to the collection of tribes that lived in Central and Northern Europe during the Iron Age, sharing a common language group from which all Germanic languages, including English, German, Dutch, and the Nordic languages, stem. The term is based on linguistic and archaeological evidence rather than modern-day German borders or even the Germania of Roman times.

The Germanic tribes, including the Norse people of the Viking Age, are believed to have originated from a relatively small region in southern Scandinavia and northern Germany around the 4th century BCE. From this homeland, they embarked on the Great Migrations, spreading throughout Europe and parts of Asia. These movements coincided with, and likely contributed to, the fall of the Roman Empire around the 6th century CE, predating the era of Viking raids by approximately 200 years.

While the Vikings spoke a Germanic language (Old Norse) and had Germanic roots, it doesn't necessarily mean they had cultural connections to all other Germanic groupings at the time. This dichotomy is exemplified by their reputation for raiding various Germanic tribes, leading them to be seen as heathens with little regard for shared ancestry.

A Map of Migrations: Germanic Tribes from the Nordic Bronze Age

An animated image illustrating the migration of Germanic / Nordic tribes in the bronze age

A map illustration the migration of Germanic / Nordic tribes in the Bronze age starting in Northern Germany and Southern Scandinavia - Image by Gabriel A. Álvarez @ Wikipedia Commons 

Several well-known Germanic tribes, such as the Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, Angles, Saxons, Franks, Goths, Lombards, and Burgundians, among others, are believed to have originated from the Nordic Bronze Age culture. This culture dominated Scandinavia and Northern Germany, and its influence can be traced across Europe, as these tribes founded kingdoms and empires in their adopted lands. These formations became precursors to modern-day countries like England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian countries.

Scandinavian Roots: Tracing the Connection

Scandinavians, comprising the Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians, are considered a North Germanic people, with their languages forming part of the North Germanic language group. Their Germanic ancestry traces back to the Bronze Age Scandinavians, also known as the Nordic Bronze Age culture. This group, known for their expertise in metalworking and seafaring, developed a rich, individualistic, and warrior-focused culture that spread into northern Germany, laying the foundation for all Germanic people.

The term 'Germanic' was assigned by Roman historians as the Nordic Bronze Age culture began interacting with Celtic tribes and the Roman Empire. Therefore, despite all Germanic tribes originating from Scandinavia, the term 'Germanic' persists.

Clarifying Misconceptions: Germanic ≠ Scandinavian

Although Germans and Scandinavians share a Germanic ancestry that reaches back to the Nordic Bronze Age Culture, Germany is not considered part of the Scandinavian geopolitical region. This connection stretches even further back to the Corded Ware and Funnelbeaker cultures during the Copper Age. DNA comparisons between Germany and Scandinavia show a significant correlation to a specific gene group, especially prevalent in regions where Germanic tribes migrated and settled.

Vikings in Germany

A coin of Odo of West Francia (r. 888-898 CE)

A coin of Odo of West Francia (r. 888-898 CE) - Image by

The Vikings, known primarily as Norse seafarers from Scandinavia, did settle within the borders of what is now Northern Germany, particularly in Hedeby and Sliasthorp. These Vikings settled and raided along the Rhein river, the North Sea coast, and the Scandinavian borderlands. The Viking Age inhabitants of present-day Germany were part of the Frankish Empire, particularly East Francia, seen as the predecessor of modern-day Germany.

The Vikings' interaction with the Franks was fraught with conflict. The early Frankish Kingdom, under the legendary Frankish Emperor Charlemagne, faced repeated raids from primarily Danish Vikings from around 800 CE. Unable to repel the invaders, the Franks often resorted to hefty payments, known as Danegeld, to keep the Vikings at bay.

From 860 CE onwards, the Vikings changed tactics, establishing forts and settlements in Northern Germany that served as bases for future raids. This historical intertwining of Viking and Germanic cultures provides an enriching perspective on Europe's cultural landscape and the Viking heritage that shapes it even today.


The Vikings were a diverse group of seafaring people from the late eight to early 11th century. They were from the Scandinavian regions of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, but they established settlements and exerted influence in many parts of Europe, Asia, and even North America.

Their Germanic roots originate from the Bronze Age culture that was dominant in Scandinavia and northern Germany, which is considered the ancestral culture of all Germanic peoples. The term "Germanic" is used because of the Nordic Bronze Age culture's interactions with the Romans as it moved south.

Scandinavians and Germans share a long history and still maintain strong linguistic and cultural connections today. The Viking Age, however, is a distinct period in Scandinavian history, characterised by sea-faring raiders and traders.

While Vikings did settle in some parts of modern-day Germany, they did not originate there. The evidence of their presence can be seen in archaeological sites, place names, and the genetic makeup of the local population. But it's important to remember that the influence of the Vikings was felt across a large geographical area, reaching far beyond the confines of Scandinavia.

The Darkside of the Vikings 


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