In The Vikings course from The Great Courses, Prof. Kenneth Harl guesses the population in the Scandinavian areas (which would become Norway, Denmark, and Sweden) from around 800 A.D. through around 1100 A.D. was something in the range of 800,000 to 1,000,000 people. He thinks migration to Ireland, England, and Iceland offset the natural population growth.
In Vikings at War by Kim Hjardar and Vegard Vike makes the following guesses for population at location 525 in Kindle edition:
This is my newest blog, which takes a look at tidbits of ancient finances. I am enjoying my personal study of Roman and Viking history. Have posted a lot of articles at my other blog, Attestation Update. One of many lessons I’ve learned from blogging is that if you want to understand something well, try explaining it in print (well, in pixels, but you get my point).
Current focus will be on the Viking era and the times of the Roman Empire. Earlier posts are on the rampage of Alexander the Great and the destruction left in his wake.
Posts prior to this one are copied from my other blog. Posts after this will be new material.
Telling the tale of the collapse of the Roman Empire is a challenge even in a full length book. Presenting one slice of the story in an easily read and understood infographic is even more of a challenge.
The Money Project is a blog run by Visual Capitalist which focuses on illustrating complex ideas. Their infographic Currency and the Collapse of the Roman Empire does a great job of describing how debasement of the currency and the resulting inflation made trade more difficult which in turn contributed to the collapse.
Adrian Goldsworthy provides a good description of a Roman shield, called a scutum, in his book The Complete Roman Armyon page 129. A well-preserved shield was found at Dura Europus that dates from the 3rd century.
The shield is 3’ 3” tall by 2’ 8” wide in a curved shape.
It is two inches thick, consisting of three layers of wood glued together.
Note: A number of additional comments have been added since this article was initially posted. Additions will not all be identified as such. Any corrections will be clearly labeled.
Wikipedia says this document is from the Franks, located in northern Europe, more specifically it was from around what is modern Cologne, Germany. It was written about 630 A.D. It would thus provide a reference point from within Europe about 100 years before the start point of the Viking Age.
My guess is relative pricing of weapons in relation to each other would be sort of somewhat comparable to a few centuries later in the middle of the Viking Age, however, the prices in relation to animals is probably lower here than in Scandinavia because of the cost of transport.
What did it cost to arm a Viking warrior? Without contemporary writing, it is difficult to determine. Several books and articles provide some hints.
Viking: The Norse Warrior’s [Unofficial] Manual by John Haywood provides an entertaining view of Viking life. The book is presented as an unofficial guide to young men considering their future as a raider. Sort of a training manual to get young men ready.
The book provides some approximations for the prices of different weapons, measured in ounces of silver:
1.5 – spear
4-60 – sword, variation due to range of quality
13 – helmet
26 – chain mail coat
Another comment says that at the nicer end, a fancy sword could take a year for a blacksmith to make. So factor in a year of skilled labor for the high-end swords. That would explain the above guess of 60 ounces of silver for the nicest swords.
The book also gives another view of the cost of armament by describing the amount of arms a warrior might carry based on the level of the warrior’s wealth:
King Burghred of Mercia combined forces with King Athelred of Wessex to deal with the Viking invasion. The allied forces advanced on Nottingham where the Vikings were patiently waiting behind their fortifications.
The Vikings tried to avoid attacking in battle. Instead, their preferred tactic was to draw an attack and then respond with a withering counterattack. They excelled at defense.
Short version of the story is Ivar was better supplied than the Saxons, whose soldiers faded away to go home and take in their harvest.
The siege ended when Ivar accepted an unspecified, though presumably really large bribe, Burghred acknowledged Ivar, and Ivar headed north to York.
The book describes the logistics of surviving a siege.
With 1,000 warriors, an army the size of Ivar’s required 4,000 pounds of flour and 1,000 gallons of water a day. That would be 4 pounds of flour and 1 gallon of water per soldier.
Keep in mind as a leader of Viking force in the field you really don’t want to be the boss of a lot of grumpy, starving soldiers who also happen to be armed with heavy weapons. That is not a formula for a long reign and perhaps not a great plan for a long life.
This is one is a series of posts on this blog talking about ancient finances.
The book provides a reference for the goods needed to keep warriors fed. A force of 1,000 warriors would need 2,000 pounds of bread along with 1,000 pounds of meat. For liquids, the book says add about 240 gallons of beer.
Per warrior: That would be about 2 pounds of bread, 1 pound of meat, and 1 quart of beer.