9 Famous Viking battles **The Great Heathen Army

Vikings were famous as raiders who launched attacks on European coasts from 800 A.D. onward. They were warriors and traders hailing from Scandinavia.


Their attacks on the coasts of the European mainland and the British Isles led to a lasting impact on the culture and history of these areas.

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In northern France, the Vikings eventually formed settlements and became permanent residents. This led to the creation of Normandy, after the Normans who descended from the Vikings.

Viking Settlement

Viking Settlement

In the British Isles likewise, Vikings came to dominate the coastal lands and established inland kingdoms as well. Following are some of the key battles fought by the Vikings.

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The Battle of York *866 (1) Famous Viking Battles

The Battle of York came about when the Great Heathen Army of the Vikings reached England in 865 A.D. This army was led by the Viking leader Ivar and first came to East Anglia.

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York England

The people of East Anglia sued for peace and agreed to provide the army with provisions. In winter the next year, Ivar and his army marched north towards the kingdom of Northumbria.

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The Northumbrians didn’t expect an attack in the winter and were taken by surprise. In the ensuing Battle of York, they were routed and the Vikings effectively took over York.

The battle was a victory for the Vikings and would mark the end of the Northumbrian kingdom.

The Battle of Edington *878 (2)

The Battle of Edington was fought in May of 878. It took place near Edington in Wiltshire. The battle was fought between the Great Heathen Army of the Vikings and the Wessex troops under Alfred the Great.

Alfred the Great

Alfred the Great

The Heathen Army had been plundering the countryside and was previously victorious in the Battle of York. When this army came up against the Wessex forces of Alfred, it was soundly defeated.

The Viking leader Guthrum agreed to be baptized and convert to Christianity.

Viking Warriors

Battle of Englefield *870 (3)

This battle was fought on December 31, 870 AD. It was fought between Vikings and the West Saxons. It took place near Englefield, Berkshire. Before the battle, the Vikings had occupied the kingdom of Wessex.

Viking Soldiers

Viking Soldiers

They camped at Reading and then rode towards Englefield. The Vikings were led by Sidrac and the Aethelwulf of Berkshire was the leader of the West Saxons.

The West Saxons were successful in this battle and the Vikings were defeated with heavy losses.

Anglo Saxon Warfare

The Anglo Saxons used a shield formation as a tactic on the battlefield


Battle of Ashdown *871 (4)

This battle was fought on 8th January 871 AD at North-West of Reading in Berkshire. The contestants of the battle were the English inhabitants of Wessex against Viking invaders from Scandinavia.

Viking Warriors in Battle

In 870, the Danes sailed up the river Thames towards reading in Berkshire. They conquered Reading as the English soldiers were celebrating Christmas.

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The Danes arrived there around 28 December. The English army was driven away towards Englefield, some six miles from Reading. The Vikings followed the English army and were badly defeated at Englefield. They headed back to Reading.

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The Viking army attacked again and met the Anglo-Saxon army 11 miles from Reading. In the battle that was joined, the Vikings were once again defeated by the Anglo Saxons under Alfred the Great who was only 22 at the time.

Battle of Brunanburh *937 (5) Famous Viking Battles

The Battle of Brunanburh was fought in 937. It took place between the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of England on one side and the kingdoms of Dublin, Scotland, and Strathclyde on the other side.

The English forces were led by Aethelstan, regarded as one of the greatest Anglo-Saxon kings. The Kingdom of Dublin was led by Olaf Guthfrithson, a Viking leader.

Anglo Saxon Warfare

Anglo Saxon Warriors

Although Vikings were primarily allied against the English forces, Aethelstan was able to recruit some Vikings mercenaries to fight on his side as well. The Battle of Brunanburh is regarded one of the greatest battles involving Anglo-Saxons. It resulted in a decisive victory for the English, although casualties were heavy on both sides.

Anglo Saxon Warrior Wearing Anglo Saxon Armour

The Battle of Maldon *991 (6)

The Battle of Maldon was fought on Aug 11, 991 A.D. Unlike other battles, this was a comeback of Viking forces. It was fought between the Saxons and victorious Viking raiders during the invasion of Britain.

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The Saxon commander was Ealdorman Byrhtnoth while the Viking force was led by Olaf Tryggvason or Svein Forkbeard. Byrthnoth decided to fight the Vikings despite having fewer men in comparison.

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The battle resulted in a decisive Viking victory. King Aethelred then decided to pay 10,000 Roman pounds of silver as a tribute to the Vikings.

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Battle of Clontarf *1014 (7)  Famous Viking Battles

This battle was fought on April 23, 1014. This battle was fought at the River Tolka, from Clontarf inland near Dublin. It was fought between Brian Boru, High King of Ireland, against a Norse-Irish alliance.

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Brian Boru’s forces were victorious. Thousands of warriors on both sides were killed. King Brian Boru was also killed in this battle.

Battle of Assandun *1016 (8)

This battle was fought on October 18, 1016, between the Danish army and the English army. It was fought at somewhere near north Essex, England. The English fought under the leadership of King Edmund Ironside whereas the Danish army was led by Cnut the Great.

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In this battle, the Danish army won and the Vikings became dominant in England. The Danes retook the English territories. King Edmund was forced to sign a treaty with Cnut after the battle. Almost all of England was controlled by Cnut except Wessex.

Battle of Stamford Bridge *1066 (9)

This battle was fought at the place of at the village of Stamford Bridge, East Riding of Yorkshire. It was fought between the forces of King Harold II of England and a Viking army led by King Harald Hadrada of Norway.

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The battle was joined on September 25, 1066. In this battle, the Viking leader was killed along with most of the Norwegians. This battle symbolized the end of the Viking Age.

Viking Culture Vikings in Medieval Times

The English army won the battle and Vikings were killed in huge numbers in this bloody battle. The surviving Norwegians were allowed to go back including the son of Harald Hadrada.

9 Famous Viking battles Fast Facts

        • Battle of York: Fought between Northumbrians and Vikings in 866. Northumbrians lost and Vikings took over York.
        • Battle of Eddington: Fought in 878 between Viking Heathen Army and Wessex under Alfred the Great. Wessex forces were victorious.
        • Battle of Englefield: Famous Viking Battles – Fought between West Saxons and Vikings in 870. The Vikings lost the battle.

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        • Battle of Ashdown: Also fought between West Saxons under Alfred the Great and the Vikings. The Vikings lost the battle.
        • Battle of Brunanburh: Fought in 937 between Anglo-Saxons and an alliance including Vikings. The Anglo-Saxons won the battle.
        • Battle of Maldon: Fought between Saxons and Vikings in 991, the battle was a Viking victory.

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        • Battle of Clontarf: Fought in 1014, this battle was fought between Irish forces under Brian Boru and an alliance of Irish-Norse forces. Boru’s side won although he died in the battle.
        • Battle of Assandun: Fought in 1016, this battle was fought between Danish and English forces. The Danes under Cnut the Great won.
        • Battle of Stamford Bridge: Fought in 1066, this battle was fought between English and Viking forces. It resulted in a decisive Viking victory and ended the Viking Age in England.

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