How were they depicted by the Romans in Ancient History?

  • 2
    Related: "Did the Romans ever encounter the Vikings?" history.stackexchange.com/questions/24222/…
    – Brasidas
    Aug 14, 2016 at 3:23
  • 1
    Short answer: there were no Vikings at the time of the ancient Roman Empire. See the question that @Brasidas links for further info.
    – rougon
    Aug 14, 2016 at 3:52
  • No Vikings during Classical Antiquity that we know of although the Vikings did practice slavery so you might start with that and see if there were any connections "in reverse." Aug 14, 2016 at 6:15
  • The Eastern Roman empire used vikings as mercenaries after 900 CE Aug 14, 2016 at 23:47
  • I think this is a good question , I'd like to post a question asking about Rome's influence if any on Scandinavia but I fear it will get closed,which can be quite disheartening lol
    – turinsbane
    Feb 20, 2017 at 18:50

1 Answer 1


Useful mercenaries.

Now, the Roman empire from antiquity never encountered what is usually called vikings: sea-born raiders from Scandinavia (the earliest recorded raid that could plausibly be said to be done by vikings were the one lead by Hydelac, known from Beowulf, which is also attested by Gregory of Tours in his Historia Francorum, but that is one hundred years after what is usually considered the end of the western Roman empire), but the eastern successor, based in Constantinople, certainly did (at least if we stretch the meaning of "viking" a little bit).

The Varangian guard was an elite force composed of Scandinavians (and later Anglo-Saxons), serving as bodyguards for the emperor (foreigners have few previous contacts in their new environment, and are dependant on the goodwill of the ruler, which lessens the risk for betrayal). They also served as an reserve force in many battles.

Later Norwegian king Harald Hårdråda was perhaps the most famous Scandinavian to serve in the Varangian guard, where he is reported to have risen in rank, but also to have been imprisoned on charges of misappropriation of plunder.

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