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Scandinavians/Norsemen/Vikings/Danes... Time to clear this up once and for all.

Discussion in 'Civ - Ideas & Suggestions' started by RobinHat, Sep 15, 2009.

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  1. RobinHat

    RobinHat Warlord

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    Disclaimer! After having discussed back and forth on this thread for a long time I have revised many of my original opinions. I realise that many of the things I stated here are very black & white and simplified. I have edited a few things in this post to fit with my new view on things.

    -RobinHat



    Hi all,

    There have been quite a few discussions on these boards about whether the 'Viking' Civilization is really worthy of a place in the game. Many believe that the word 'Viking' should be replaced by 'Scandinavian' or 'Norse'/'Norsemen'.
    I have taken an active part in these discussions in an attempt to convince people that all these words are in fact wrong.
    So I thought I'd start this thread.

    I have posted this in the Ideas And Suggestions forum, as it is really a suggestion for the potential new Civ V game – complete with detailed reasons why.

    I am a History Bachelor from Aarhus University with semesters of special focus on the early Middle Ages. The so-called 'Viking Era' (793-1066) was my main field of study for a year and I have visited all three Scandinavian countries as well as England.

    So here goes... First of all, here is a map of present-day Scandinavia. Scandinavia is the common word for the 3 countries:
    Norway - Blue
    Sweden - Yellow
    Denmark - Red


    http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d166/RobinHat/presentscandinavia.jpg


    A word that is often mistaken for 'Scandinavia' is the 'Nordic' countries. This is a broader term as it includes more countries:

    Norway - Blue
    Sweden - Yellow
    Denmark - Red
    Finland - Green
    Iceland - Purple
    Faroe Islands - Not on map, but just North-East of Scotland
    Greenland - Orange


    http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d166/RobinHat/presentnordic.jpg

    Greenland and the Faroe Islands are not independent countries like the rest. They are under Danish rule, although they effectively have their own parliaments (much like Scotland in the UK).


    Now we have that settled, I will define the meaning of the different phrases that people use when talking about the 'Vikings' as a Civilization in the Civ games.

    "Scandinavians"

    The word 'Scandinavia' arose in the late Middle Ages. At this time (several hundred years AFTER the Viking Era), the largest university in the present Scandinavian area was the University of Lund (present day Southern Sweden). In those days, the southern tip of present-day Sweden was Danish. This area is still known as 'Skåne' (Scania in English). For many scholars in Lund (and other places), Lund was the centre of knowledge in the area and students came from all of Scandinavia to study here.
    Anyway... The scholars of Lund mapped out the area of Denmark, Norway and Sweden (due to the similar languages and cultures) and called the area 'Skaana Aua', meaning 'The Scanian Island' (Lund, of course, being situated in Scania).
    The term 'island' is not to be taken literally, but rather understood as 'an island of knowledge' in the dark world... People liked themselves a lot back then... ;)
    'Scandinavia' is obviously a Latin variation of 'Skaana Aua'.

    So the term 'Scandinavian' did not arise until many years after the Viking Age. It was not even used in Scandinavia itself, as the term was a decadent, academic phrase used by high-and-mighty professors.

    Edit: Although there has been discussion about this claim, I stand by it. Terms similiar to 'Scandinavia' are indeed seen before the time I stated, but using the word as a collected term for the whole region did not start until this time. (Sources: Deleuran, Claus: Deleuran's Illustrerede Danmarkshistorie, 1995


    ”Norsemen”

    The term ‘Norsemen’ is a phrase that has existed since the Iron Age and is a word that was used mainly by English and French monks who were harassed by raiders from Norway and Denmark. The meaning is simply ‘men from the North’ and is of course a reference to all ‘Viking’ raiders or people from what is now known as Scandinavia. The thing to remember here is that this term was only used by OTHER cultures, never the actual people themselves. The term later evolved into ‘Normans’, as the area of Normandy was named after the ‘Norsemen’ who invaded the area and settled there. The Normans did indeed take the name for themselves, but this was much later. At this point, they no longer considered themselves of the same culture as their ancestors (William the Conqueror’s grandfather, Rollo, was from Faxe in Denmark and was the chief who conquered the area later known as Normandy).

    So the term ‘Norsemen’ was not used by the people themselves, but was a term used by others. It was considered an ‘evil’ word. In a version of The Lord’s Prayer found in England, dating from the 9th Century, the line “Deliver us from evil” is actually phrased “Deliver us from the Norsemen”.

    So using the term ‘Norsemen’ is as wrong as using the word ‘Barbarians’.

    Edit: This claim I stand by. Norsemen is a very simplified term and was not used by the people themselves. It is a collected term for 'those people who come from the north'.


    ”Vikings”

    This is without a doubt one of the greatest misunderstandings in the history of language. The term ‘Viking’ was indeed used by the people themselves, and it is definitely the most recognisable of all the phrases.
    However, the word ‘Viking’ is not a noun; it is a ‘verb’!
    ‘Viking’ was not something you were, but rather something you DID!
    In many of the Icelandic Sagas, this word appears, but always in contexts like this:

    ”Han samlede en hær og drog i viking.” = “He raised an army and went viking.”

    ‘To go viking’, can roughly be translated as ‘to go plundering’ or ‘pirating’.

    So using the term ‘Viking’ is actually as wrong as calling them ‘The Killings’ or ‘The Fightings’.

    Edit: This has been up to a lot of debate. Some people believe that the term 'Viking' comes from 'viken', but the only real source I have seen that states this is Wikipedia! Regardless of the meaning however, the word is still wrong to use when defining a civ, because it did not refer to the people but rather only the raiders.


    ”Danes”

    The term ‘Danes’ dates back to Roman times and is the name of the tribe of people who lived in present-day Denmark and Norway (as well as southern Sweden). The first time the ‘Danes’ are mentioned is in accounts of the barbarian raids on Rome in the 5th century. There are also accounts of the ‘Kimbrer’ tribe that were a break-off tribe of the ‘Dani’ in earlier centuries, who wreaked havoc throughout Europe.

    The term ‘Denmark’ is first mentioned in Frankish texts from the early 8th century and describes the area of present day Denmark, Norway, Iceland and southern Sweden. It means ‘The borderland of the Danes’ The term ‘Norway’ comes from the present-day word ‘Norge’, which again comes from the term ‘Nord Rige’ or ‘Nord Rike’ which means ‘The Realm to the North’.
    ‘Sweden’ is actually called ‘Sverige’, which comes from ‘Svea Rige’ or ‘Svea Rike’, which means ‘The Realm of Svea’. There is debate in historical circles as to whether ‘Svea’ was a man or a people, but the legends say that he was the brother of a Danish king ‘Dan’ who settled his own land to the east. The historical facts of this are doubtful.

    Throughout Western Europe, the term ‘Danes’ was universally used to describe the raiders from Denmark and Norway. By the 10th century the Danes were feared throughout Europe.

    The greatest of all the kings was Knud den Store (Canute the Great) whose kingdom rivalled that of many other great kings in Europe. His Empire consisted of Denmark, Norway, England, parts of Scotland, Iceland, southern Sweden, Faroe Islands, Shetland Islands, Greenland, northern France and parts of Northern Germany.
    Here is a map of Knud’s empire:

    http://i35.photobucket.com/albums/d166/RobinHat/knudsrige-2.jpg

    Edit: Now here I have simplified a bit. Although this is not entirely wrong, Canute's Empire had little influence over Iceland and Greenland. Norway was, however, ruled by Canute so placing the areas under his empire is not completely wrong (although a bit simplified).

    To understand why the Norwegians were not distinguished from the Danes, one must understand the cultural links between the two.
    Denmark and Norway have historically always been linked. Of the three Scandinavian languages, Danish and Norwegian are by far the most similar – Swedish is considerably different.

    Edit: Apparently, there are more complicated links here that I did not know of. I am not a linguist. So this may be wrong.

    Norway was part of the Danish kingdom throughout the Viking era and all the way up until the early 19th century, where it was taken over by Sweden. During the Viking era, Norway had its own vassal kings that often were in conflict with Danish kings, the most powerful of these was Harald Harderaade, who challenged Denmark on several occasions and who even tried to take over England after the Danes left. In the 14th century the final Norwegian royal bloodline died out and Norway was effectively a part of Denmark. In 1814 Norway came under Swedish rule (due to years of Danish stupidity).
    In 1905 Norway finally became independent and offered the crown to the Danish prince Carl, who took the name Haakon. The fact that they gave the crown to a Danish prince is also proof of the feeling of unity between the two countries.

    Edit: Here is my most blatant mistake. I apologise for some of these claims, which are simplifications and not thought through. The claim that Harald Harderaade was a vassal king is wrong and I understand that many people have gotten angry about this. Also, claiming that Norway was under Danish rule througout the Viking Age is also wrong and I am sorry for claiming it. I do, however, not accept that Harald Harderaade was ever king of Denmark, as has been claimed several times. The Viking Age was a time of great shifting of power in Scandinavia, but Norway did come under Danish control in the late Viking Age and (for the most part) remained under Danish rule up until 1814.

    If we go back to the Viking era again and take a look at the Swedes, their focus was much different than that of the Danes. Where the Danes engaged Western Europe, the Swedes looked East and set up immense trade routes along the rivers of Russia and managed to reach the Caspian Sea and beyond. They founded Kiev and other cities along the rivers and were great merchants and traders, unlike any the world had seen. They were, however, not a people of raiders in the same sense as the Danes were, and the shear impact they had on Europe could not match that of the Danes.

    Edit: This I also stand by. The Swedes who conquered much of Eastern Europe and the Baltic, and set up trade routes along the rivers did indeed have great impact on the region, but power-wise they did not match the Danish and Norwegian kings of their time.

    Centuries later, the three countries were in a union for a while known as the Kalmar Union, but this was more of a mutual protection pact and an economic union than anything else. The Swedes hated it and eventually left the union, feeling that the Danes were calling too many shots. The Swedes later rose to become a huge power in Europe, almost annihilating Denmark in devastating wars.

    Edit: Again, I stand by this. The Kalmar Union was a union of countries, not a single united one. There was much strife and discontent within the union.

    So if we are to speak of the ‘Viking’ civilization, it is foolish and lazy to throw them all together into one, especially when one takes into account the rivalry between Denmark and Sweden.

    Denmark and Sweden are in fact the two countries in the world that have been at war most times. Since the Viking era, the two nations have been at war 29 times – every single time, Norway has fought on the Danish side.

    Another interesting thing worth mentioning is the Jelling Stone. This is a large finely engraved stone (well, two stones actually) put up around 965 AD in Jelling, Denmark by Harald Blaatand (sometimes translated as 'Bluetooth' but actually meaning 'Blue King' - Tand = Thane = King) in memory of his father Gorm the Old. This is especially interesting (and is now a world heritage site), as it marks the moment of transition for the Danes from the Asetro religion to Christianity. Gorm was the last Danish king to worship the old Nordic gods, and his son Harald was the first Christian king.
    The Jelling Stone can be seen here: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/39/Jelling_gr_kl_Stein.JPG

    It is commonly known as "Denmark's birth certificate" as it is the oldest written account of the word 'Denmark' (Tanmaurk) within Danish borders.

    The Jelling Stone also disproves another misunderstanding: Many people think that the 'Vikings' were heathen raiders. This was only true during the first few centuries, as all of Scandinavia was Christian by the 11th Century. All the great 'Viking' kings such as Canute, Svend Forkbeard, Hardeknud and Harald Harderaade were in fact Christian kings.


    My conclusion is, that if it is to be remotely historically accurate, the ‘Viking’ civilization in the Civ games should be the ‘Danish Empire’, led by Knud den Store (Canute the Great).
    Sweden should also be represented as a seperate Civ, only as the immense economic and military powerhouse they were throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.

    Edit: I am actually starting to move away from my original opinion. Taking into consideration the shifting of power in the Viking Age, 'Danish Empire' is a gross simplification that is not fair to the others. I still have a problem with 'Scandinavian Empire', however, because such an Empire never existed. The closest thing the world ever came to a 'Scandinavian Empire' was the empire of Canute the Great (which was essentially a Danish Empire and would leave out the Swedes). Perhaps it would be better to leave Scandinavia out all together, or simply make a 'what if' Scandinavian Empire.
     
  2. killmeplease

    killmeplease Mk Z on Steam

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    good reading
     
  3. Tholish

    Tholish Emperor

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    Civilizations with the same name and leader start the game in 4000 BC and stay the same forever. Also, these first ancient civs tend to consolidate until the civ count only goes down and the emnpires only gets larger. Rhye's of Civilizations tried to fix this by forcing play that almost approached history and by scripting in the arrival of new civilizaitons on time. Revolutions and Barbarians mods have civilizations break off periodically from ill managed empires, or emerge in frontier areas. There are modifications to ensure civilizations have realistic distances from each other, so that England is beside France and far from China. There are modificaitons to ensure civilizations that branch off actually branch off from what they emerged from, so that the Byzantines can break away from the Romans. And there is even a mod to ensure that when you pick a custom late era start, the array of civilizations and leaders will reflect those that actually occurred in that era. The best of alll these should be combined, in improved forms, in the future versions of Civ to that a rich and persuasive alternate history emerges that validates our own. The game need not generate real history, it just needs to convince you that a low resolution version of real history could plausibly emerge from the game, should it happen to go that way. To that end, having Proto Danes as an initial civ, which can generate norwegian and swedish splinter groups might be a good idea. And Viking should perhaps be a unit, a promotion, or a civic. Like "running," "viking" can become a noun or an adjective.

    Leaders reflect not really individual leaders but dynasties or parties simply represented by the founder or guiding light. Yet even parties and dynasties change over time. Thus individual leaders and when a civ changes civics, it should change leaders. Each "revolution" should be accompanied by an offer to change leader to one that the new civics choices allow (which might include keeping the same one). In that context, Canute (as many call him) could be one of the leaders of the Danes.
     
  4. pesgores

    pesgores Deus Vult!

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    Good read. I support "The Danish Empire" and Danes as short.
     
  5. moscaverde

    moscaverde Prince

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    I like your idea (plus no horned helmets).
     
  6. RobinHat

    RobinHat Warlord

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    Definitely no horned helmets. :)
     
  7. Weik

    Weik Warlord

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    That is the situation today, not 1000 years ago. Linguists divide the languages into West Scandinavian languages (Norwegian, Faroese and Icelandic) and East Scandinavian languages (Danish and Swedish).
     
  8. RobinHat

    RobinHat Warlord

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    What? I have never heard of this, but then again I am no linguist. This doesn't really make sense as Norwegian and Danish are almost exactly the same both gramatically and word-wise. Swedish is much more different.

    I don't think you are right about this.
     
  9. RobinHat

    RobinHat Warlord

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    Edited and updated.

    Let me hear some more opinions! :)
     
  10. Öjevind Lång

    Öjevind Lång Deity

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    He is. Historically, Danish and Swedish had much more in common than either language had with the Norwegian. The present situation reflects the fact that the Norwegian language was profoundly affected by all those centuries when Norway was ruled from Copenhagen and Danish was the language of administration, trade and learning.

    I'd very much like to see separate Danish (under Canute) and Swedish (under Gustavus Adolphus) civilizations, but I fear there isn't much interest in that outside the Nordic countries. The best we can hope for is that the word "Viking" is replaced with "Scandinavian". Like it or not, it tends to be used in English for everybody from Iceland to the Faroes to Sweden, and is frequently even applied even to Finland. It is very hard work to drive home the idea that the Scandinavians, the Icelanders, the Faroese and the Finns should properly be called Nordics when mentioned collectively.

    Incidentally, I don't understand your claim that the word "viking" wasn't used as a noun referring to people. It was the contemporary word for those warriors who sailed off on robber expeditions, though the etymology is a matter of debate. However, as you know, it was never used about people as members of any country or people, any more than "cowboys" or "buccaneers" have been.
     
  11. Antilogic

    Antilogic --

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    You have another voice wanting two civilizations. You can also check my location to see I'm not in a Nordic country. :)

    I'd like having the Danish and Swedish empires...right now, I have modded Ragnar -> Canute and Viking -> Scandinavia, but I'm just working with what Firaxis has given me.
     
  12. RobinHat

    RobinHat Warlord

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    Interesting. Again, I am a historian, not a linguist. :) But still, historically, Denmark and Sweden have never been considered the same country. Skåne was Danish up until 1658 when Carl X Gustav conquered it, but the two nations have never been one.

    But this is wrong! Don't you think it is worth at least enlightening people about the fact that Scandinavia is not a collected Civilization? Historically, when talking about the 'Viking' empire, the only correct term to use would be the 'Danes' - presumably under Canute. I'm sure many Swedes would be rather annoyed if they have to be thrown into the same Civ as Denmark, ruled by Canute, as he was never king of Sweden. Likewise, I'm sure many Danes would be annoyed if they were thrown into the same Civ as Sweden, ruled by Gustav Adolf.

    It is important to realise, that although Denmark and Sweden share certain aspects of culture and language, the two nations have never been one (and no, Kalmar Union doesn't count).

    Putting them together is as wrong as putting England under France or vice versa.

    But this is also wrong. Regardless of what other people 'might think', I find it important to at least try to avoid such mistakes. It's like when people think Denmark is a province of Holland, and Sweden is the capital of the great nation of Ikea... Ignorance is not something that you should live with, but rather try to remedy.

    Well yes, you are right that the term 'Viking' may have been used by other peoples around the 10th century but the meaning of the word as I described it is still correct. Using the word Viking about the Danes is as wrong as if the Mongol Civ was called the 'Barbarian Civilization'.

    Change 'Scandinavia' to 'Denmark'. Read the original post in this thread to see why. :)
     
  13. RobinHat

    RobinHat Warlord

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    Updated.
     
  14. Hans Lemurson

    Hans Lemurson Prince

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    That's very interesting history there, but I think that you are missing a bit of the bigger picture in terms of what makes the cut as a civilization. "Germany" is a civilization even though the nation of germany has only existed since the 1880's, and both of it's leaders are Prussian, though Bismarck did unify Germany, and so has full rights to being a leader of the country.

    Basicly the point I'm trying to make is that you're going to have to settle for "Scandinavians", because no single country on its own has enough historical clout to make the cut onto the list of civilizations. Talk all you want about the importance of Denmark, but in the end it's a little windswept peninsula(no offense, of course). if you're speaking about historical relevance and power, Lithuania or Poland (or both!) will easily have it beat.

    Scotland has about as much claim as Denmark, but it is included as part of the "English" empire (the horror!!!). The "Native Americans" are a civ. That's casting as wide as having there be a "European" civilization.

    "India" is a civ. The subcontinent of India had never been fully unified in any enduring manner until the British conquered all the small kingdoms there and put them together under the British Raj.

    So, anyways...I think it is perfectly fair to have the "Scandinavian" civilization given the other agglomerations already used. It is not entirely inconceivable that it could have been one united country had there been some great conquering/unifying leader and some land on the peninsulas actually worth conquering. (Drat, I was supposed to stop belittling Scandinavia. Sweden has some good croplands. And Norway has the occasional valley wide enough to support significant agriculture, and what it can't grow it makes up for in fish. And Denmark has windmills which can provide strategic distractions for an invading spanish army.)

    The question remains though, which sounds cooler, the Scandinavians or the Norsemen? I think I'd go for the latter, since in conjures up images of the heyday of coastal raiding by barbate barbarians from the north. Similarly, when we think about the "Mongolian" "civilization", what we're thinking about is the non-barbate barbarians sweeping out from central asia and conquering everything in sight, rather than the present-day country of Mongolia.

    I should go to bed now, I'm rambling. But once again, thank you for that very well written and informative article you've written about Scandinavian history and culture.
     
  15. Bluetooth

    Bluetooth King

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    No doubt Denmark was a great power during the Viking era. No doubt that Sweden was a great power during the 17th Century. So you can say that both nations are equally qualified as a nation in Civilization. Like Öjevind Lång I don't think that will happen, unlike him I hope that the Vikings will remain in Civilization 5.
     
  16. Thoughtful Thug

    Thoughtful Thug Deity

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    I did not know that "viking" was used as a verb. Good info.
     
  17. DJ Bonebraker

    DJ Bonebraker a.k.a Laura

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    I also support a split between Denmark and Sweden... I want to be able to found Garðariki and dominate Eastern European trade, dammit!
     
  18. Sajttam

    Sajttam Chieftain

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    I just can't help but feel that if the Vikings would split up that there would be so many more civilizations that are just as deserving as Sweden and Denmark to be added. Such as Poland and Austria and also the Arabian Empire would also need to be split by the same principle.
     
  19. RobinHat

    RobinHat Warlord

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    I agree. But I'm not saying that none of the others should be split up. My point is also, that Denmark and Sweden never EVER were united... EVER! The two nations have NEVER been one.

    It is as wrong as throwing Spain and France together... Sure they share cultural and linguistic qualities, but that does not make them one.

    If you are going to add the 'Viking' Civilization, it should be the 'Danish Civilization'... Pure and simple.

    Sweden should ALSO be added, but not for 'Viking'-historical reasons. Sweden was an immense military, political and economic powerhouse in the 16th and 17th centuries - They were never a huge power in the Viking era. - Sorry, Swedes, but this is true!
     
  20. DJ Bonebraker

    DJ Bonebraker a.k.a Laura

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    Sweden wasn't a military power in the viking era because they were too busy colonizing Russia. ;)
     
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