The Viking Age (793–1066 AD) is a period in European history, especially Northern European and Scandinavian history, following the Germanic Iron Age. It is the period of history when Scandinavian Norsemen explored Europe by its seas and rivers for trade, raids, colonization, and conquest. In this period, the Norsemen settled in Norse Greenland, Newfoundland, and present-day Faroe Islands, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Normandy, Scotland, England, Ireland, Isle of Man, the Netherlands, Germany, Ukraine, Russia, and Turkey.
Viking travellers and colonists were seen at many points in history as brutal raiders. Many historical documents suggest that their invasion of other countries was retaliation in response to the encroachment upon tribal lands by Christian missionaries, and perhaps by the Saxon Wars prosecuted by Charlemagne and his kin to the south, or were motivated by overpopulation, trade inequities, and the lack of viable farmland in their homeland.
Information about the Viking Age is drawn largely from what was written about the Vikings by their enemies, and primary sources of archaeology, supplemented with secondary sources such as the Icelandic Sagas.
In England, the beginning of the Viking Age is dated to 8 June 793, when Vikings destroyed the abbey on Lindisfarne, a centre of learning on an island off the northeast coast of England in Northumberland. Monks were killed in the abbey, thrown into the sea to drown, or carried away as slaves along with the church treasures, giving rise to the traditional (but unattested) prayer—A furore Normannorum libera nos, Domine, "Free us from the fury of the Northmen, Lord."
Three Viking ships had beached in Weymouth Bay four years earlier (although due to a scribal error the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle dates this event to 787 rather than 789), but that incursion may have been a trading expedition that went wrong rather than a piratical raid. Lindisfarne was different. The Viking devastation of Northumbria's Holy Island was reported by the Northumbrian scholar Alcuin of York, who wrote: "Never before in Britain has such a terror appeared".
Vikings were portrayed as wholly violent and bloodthirsty by their enemies. In medieval English chronicles, they are described as "wolves among sheep".
The first challenges to the many anti-Viking images in Britain emerged in the 17th century. Pioneering scholarly works on the Viking Age reached a small readership in Britain. Linguistics traced the Viking Age origins of rural idioms and proverbs. New dictionaries of the Old Norse language enabled more Victorians to read the Icelandic Sagas.