The Viking Age is historically considered the period from the late 8th century to mid-11th century. During this period, many Viking kings, warriors, heroes and legends rose to prominence. Some of the most famous Vikings of the period are listed below.
Erik the Red was a Viking explorer who lived in the 10th century. He is prominently mentioned in one of the Icelandic sagas and is credited with the discovery of Greenland.
Erik’s father was previously banished from Norway for killing a man. So he and his father went to Iceland. When Erik grew up, he also killed another man for which he was banished from Iceland for three years.
It was during this period that he discovered Greenland and played a pivotal role in attracting Viking settlers and colonists to it. Erik the Red earned his name for his flowing red beard and hair, although some also related it to his violent temper.
Ragnar Lothbrok was a legendary Viking figure. He launched extensive raids along the European coasts including Britain, France and Ireland. Lothbrok is considered the most celebrated warrior in Viking history and has a semi-mythical status.
During the raiding days of the Vikings, Lothbrok emerged as one of the most daring and successful figures. It isn’t clear how he perished – he probably fell in one of the battle during the raids on Britain – it was to avenge his death that the Great Heathen Army then arrived in England. Bjorn Ironside, another famous Viking, was probably a son of Lothbrok.
Bjorn Ironside was the son of Ragnar Lothbrok and a Viking king of Sweden. Ironside lived in the 9th century and famously led a Viking expedition into the Mediterranean. During this expeditions, the Vikings raided the Iberian coast, southern France, Italy, Sicily and North Africa.
The Viking force fought many battles and won a huge amount of plunder but lost most of its ships during the voyage. More famously, Ironside attacked England as a purported revenge for his father’s death. He was one of the leaders of the Great Heathen Army of Danish Vikings who effectively invaded most of England in the 9th century.
Ivar the Boneless was a brother of Bjorn Ironside and the son of Ragnar Lothbrok. He was the chief leader of the Great Heathen Army. Ivar is noted in the Viking history for his wisdom and cunning. Not exactly a great warrior, he was a gifted strategist and had a knack of using various battles tactics to secure victory.
Harald Fairhair was the first King of Norway and one of the most important Viking figures in Norwegian history. Fairhair is said to have battled many long years in a quest to unify Norway into a single entity.
He ultimately succeeded and was crowned the King of all Norwegian territories. According to historical sources, he remained the King from 872 to 930. He had many sons, so he feared his kingdom would be torn apart upon is demise. So he named his son Eric Bloodaxe as his successor.
Eric Bloodaxe was the son of Harald Fairhair. He fought many of his brothers to become the King of Norway and later also the King of Northumbria. Bloodaxe was a fierce warrior who was successful in combat but often flawed as a leader of men.
Harald Hardrada is considered the last great Viking king and warrior. He had a claim to the Norwegian throne but was forced into exile. He spent many years in the service of Kievan Rus and then Constantinople. Ultimately, he came back to Norway and reclaimed the throne. He also established a centralized form of government in the country.
Later 11th century, he was invited by one of the pretenders of the English throne to come to the country and invade it. Hardrada accepted the invitation and sailed to England in 1066. Although initially successful, he lost at the famous Battle of Stamford Bridge and was killed himself.
Sweyn Forkbeard was the King of Norway, ruler of most of Denmark and later also the first Danish king to rule over England as well. As the King of England, his reign was from 1013 to 1014. He was father to the famous Viking ruler Cnut the Great as well as Harald II of Denmark.
Egill Skallagrimsson was a famous warrior-poet of the Viking Age. Skallagrimsson’s life is detailed in the Icelandic sagas which show him as a man of great combat prowess, excellent poetic abilities and with a knack of running into troubles with other powerful people.
He famously killed the son of Eric Bloodaxe and the feud with the king ultimately landed him on the death row in England. But he escaped it by composing a poem of exceptionally brilliant quality in praise of the king. He was pardoned and returned to Iceland.
Gunnar Hamundarson is a legendary figure in the Viking history that probably lived in the 10th century Iceland. He is portrayed as a great hero and warrior, who had no equal in combat or any other sports and also had the best looks.
The sagas tell of how he killed two men of the same family who then attacked him. Gunnar killed many of the attackers and his bow broke. He asked his wife for her hair to serve as bowtring but she refused, so he was captured and died in combat.