Viking Timeline - Important Events in the History of Ancient Vikings

Norse chessmen, from a Viking hoard, Isle of Lewis, Scotland
Norse chessmen, from a Viking hoard, Isle of Lewis, Scotland. CM Dixon/Print Collector/Getty Images

This Viking timeline begins with the earliest attacks on the islands of the North Atlantic and ends on the eve of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066. The history tracks the Viking diaspora, as floods of young Scandinavian men first raided across England and Europe, then settled down into farms and merged with the locals.

Early Attacks

Most of the early attacks of the Norse on England, Scotland and Ireland were hit-and-run attacks by small forces, at most in two-three shiploads. They attacked coastal settlements, no farther than 20 miles inland then disappeared.

789: Three ships of Norse men land in Wessex and kill the messenger who meant to bring them to court.

June 8, 793: Norwegians launch an attack on St. Cuthbert church at Lindisfarne (the "Holy Island") in Northumbria, England, leaving survivors who record the event in the Domesday Stone, and recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles

794: The Norse attack Iona Abbey, off the coast of Scotland. It is the first attack on the monastery where the monks had been working for centuries on illustrated manuscripts known as the "Book of Kells" and the "Chronicle of Ireland."

795: Norwegians run assaults on monasteries in Scotland and Ireland

799: Norwegian Vikings from Ireland sack Saint-Philibert de Tournus, a Benedictine monastery in France: they will return several times over the next decades.

806: Vikings massacre 68 monks on the shore of what will be called Martyr's Bay on Iona.

810: Danes under King Godfred Haraldsson (ruled 804–811) attack Frisia in a fleet of 200 ships, but is assassinated by his own kinsmen.

January 28, 814: Charlemagne, king of the Franks and Lombards dies.

814–819: St. Philibert sacked several more times, compelling the abbot to build temporary quarters for the monks near Nantes.

825: Vikings arrive in the Faroe Islands from either southern Norway or from the Orkneys. They establish a small settlement, based on farming and fishing.

834: Danes under Rorik attack Dorestad, now in the Netherlands

Overwintering and Larger Scale Attacks

The first deep territorial attacks with large-scale capture of prisoners for the slave trade, began in 836. Large fleets arrived in the region and were active on inland rivers like the Shannon and the Bann.

December 24, 836: Viking raids on Clonmore in Ireland take many prisoners.

840: Norwegians overwinter in Lough Neagh Ireland and raid in Lincolnshire.

841: The Norse found the town of Dublin on the south bank of the Liffey, and establish a permanent Norse base there.

March 845: The Siege of Paris begins when the Norse Chieftain Ragnar Lothbrok sails his fleet of 120 ships on the Seine.

848: Charles the Bald (823–877), emperor of the Carolingian Empire, conducts a string of victories against the Norse. They plunder the city but leave after Charles the Bald pays a ransom.

850: Longphorts established in Ireland; permanent bases will be established in Waterford, Wexford, St. Mullins, Youghal, Cork, and Limerick.

850: Danes spend their first winter in England

850: Viking settlement established at the Prussian town of Wiskiauten in Germany—the cemetery will eventually hold over 500 Viking burial mounds.

852: Danes spend their first winter in Frankia.

853: Norwegian Olaf the White (ruled until 871) established as king at Dublin

859–861: The Viking Rurik (830–879) and his brothers begin raiding in what would become Ukraine.

865: The coalition of Norse warriors known as the Great Heathen Army (or Viking Great Army) arrives in East Anglia, led by Ivar the Boneless and his brother Halfdan.

866: Norwegian Harald Finehair subjugates Scottish Isles.

Settling Down

The precise dates of the point at which the Norse began to settle down in their various regions vary, but the significant events are the establishment of winter settlements (wintersetl) and treaties made with the local people.

869: Ivar and Halfdan take control of Northumbria, taking advantage of the civil war turmoil.

870: Danes rule over one half of England.

872: Harald Finehair becomes king of Norway; he would rule until 930.

873: Ingolf Arnason and other settlers establish the first Norse colony on Iceland and found Reykjavik.

873–874: The Great Heathen Army establishes wintersetl at Repton, where they bury Ivar the Boneless.

878: King Alfred defeats Guthrum and converts him to Christianity.

880s: The Norwegian Sigurd the Mighty moves into the Scottish mainland

882: Rurik's cousin Oleg (ruled 882–912) takes over his rule in Ukraine, and begins the Rus expansion leading to what would become known as the Kievan Rus.

886: The Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum is formalized, defining the boundaries of their separate kingdoms and establishing peaceful relations under the Danelaw.

The Last Settlements

By the late 10th century, the Vikings have either been expelled or melted into the populations of Europe. The Vikings still have worlds to attempt to conquer: North Americas.

902: Dublin is decisively defeated and the Vikings are expelled from Ireland.

917: Vikings retake Dublin.

918–920: Lincoln falls to the English king Edward the Elder and Aethelflaed.

919: Exiled Irish-Viking king Ragnall takes York, and as a king of Northumbria, submits to King Edward of Essex.

920: Ragnall dies and is succeeded by Sitric, a dynastic Viking rule.

930–980: First Norse invaders in England become established as settlers

954: Eirik Bloodaxe dies and Vikings lose control of York.

959: Danelaw established.

980–1050: Newly established Norwegian and Danish kings launch attacks on England

985: Norse farmers led by Erik the Red settle Greenland, but the colony eventually fails, but only after 300 years.

1000: Leif Erikson finds North America and sets up a colony on Newfoundland, but the colony fails after 10 years.

1002–1008: The Laws of Edward and Guthrum are enacted in the Danelaw, the first time the term is used.

1014: Vikings defeated at Clontarf by Brian Boru.

1016: Danish King Cnut named king of England, Denmark, and Norway.

1035: Cnut dies.

September 25, 1066: Norman Harald Hardrada dies at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, the traditional end of the Viking Era.

Selected Sources and Further Reading

  • Graham-Campbell, James, et al., eds. "Vikings and the Danelaw." Oxbow Books, 2016. Print.
  • Helle, Knut, ed. "The Cambridge History of Scandinavia. Vol. Volume 1 Prehistory to 1520." Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.
  • Kendrick, Thomas D. "A History of the Vikings." Abingdon UK: Frank Cass and Co. Ltd.: 2006.
  • Lund, Niels. "Scandinavia, C. 700–1066." Ed. McKitterick, Rosamond. The New Cambridge Medieval History C.700–C.900, Vol. 2. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1995. 202–27. Print.
  • Ó Corráin, Donnchadh. "Ireland, Scotland and Wales, C. 700 to the Early Eleventh Century." "The New Cambridge Medieval History." Ed. McKitterick, Rosamond. Vol. 2, c.700–c.900. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995. 43–63. Print.
  • Richards, Julian D. "The Vikings in Ireland: Longphuirt and Legacy." Antiquity 90.353 (2016): 1390–92. Print.
  • Svitil, Kathy A. "The Greenland Viking Mystery." Discovery 18.7 (1997): 28–30. Print.