Unraveling the Past: Was Viking a Job?

Was Viking a Job

The Vikings are often portrayed as ruthless raiders and warriors who terrorized Europe during the Middle Ages. However, their society was much more complex than that, and their occupations and roles were diverse and varied.

In this article, we will explore whether being a Viking was a job or not. We will examine the different occupations and roles within Viking society, as well as their daily routines, challenges, and cultural practices. Furthermore, we will delve into the enduring legacy of the Vikings and their impact on modern culture.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Vikings had a complex society with diverse occupations and roles.
  • Being a Viking was not a specific job, but rather a way of life.
  • Viking society had a hierarchical structure with different levels of power and authority.
  • The Vikings had a lasting impact on modern culture in various aspects.

The Viking Era: An Overview

The Viking era, also known as the Viking Age, spans roughly from the late 8th century to the mid-11th century. It is characterized by the cultural and economic expansion of the Norse people, who originated from what is now known as Scandinavia.

The Vikings were known for their seafaring skills, which enabled them to travel far and wide, raiding and trading with different civilizations, and establishing settlements in various parts of Europe, North America, and beyond. They were also skilled craftsmen, farmers, and warriors, with a deep-rooted belief in their gods and folklore.

The Viking Worldview

Central to the Viking worldview was the concept of fate, which they believed determined the course of one’s life. They also believed in a pantheon of gods, including Odin, Thor, and Freya, who were often depicted in their art and mythology.

The Vikings had a complex social structure, with different classes of people occupying various roles and occupying different levels of power. At the top of the hierarchy were the kings and chieftains, followed by the warriors, freemen, and slaves.

The Viking Expansion

The Viking expansion was fueled by a variety of factors, including overpopulation, limited natural resources, and a desire for wealth and prestige. The Vikings raided and traded extensively, establishing trade networks that spanned from the Middle East to North America.

Their seafaring abilities and the construction of longships, which were swift and maneuverable, enabled them to travel long distances and engage in surprise attacks. They also established settlements, including the famous Vinland settlement in North America.

The Viking era came to an end when Christianity became the dominant religion in Scandinavia, and the Norse people gradually assimilated into the cultures of the countries they had settled in. However, their legacy lives on in various aspects of modern culture, including language, mythology, and art.

Roles and Occupations in Viking Society

The Vikings had a structured society with different roles and occupations. The social hierarchy was divided into classes based on their profession and power. The higher up the ladder, the more privileges and wealth one would have. The lowest class consisted of thralls, who were slaves or prisoners of war.

At the top of the social hierarchy were the jarls, who were wealthy landowners, powerful warriors, and political leaders. They often hired warriors and raiders for protection and carried out justice. The jarls were followed by the karls, who were free men and landowners. They were farmers, craftsmen, and traders, and their skills were essential to the Viking economy.

The lowest of the free men were the cotars or cottars, who were landless farmers, laborers, or servants. They worked for the jarls or karls in exchange for protection and a small piece of land. They had limited rights and were not allowed to attend the Thing, a yearly assembly where the laws were made and disputes were settled.

The Viking society was a male-dominated society, but women had important roles and rights. Women could inherit property, make decisions in trade, and even divorce their husbands. They could also become priestesses, healers, and warriors, although the latter was not common.

The Viking society was a self-sufficient society, and each occupation played a crucial part in its survival. Farmers grew crops and raised animals for food and wool. Craftsmen created goods for trade and domestic use, such as weapons, jewelry, and household items. Traders facilitated the exchange of goods and ideas between different parts of Viking society and with foreign lands.

Overall, the Viking society was a complex and organized society with a division of labor that ensured its survival and prosperity. Each occupation had its own value and contributed to the Viking way of life.

Warriors and Raiders: The Most Notorious Vikings

The Vikings were known for their fearsome reputation as warriors and raiders. In Viking society, being a skilled fighter and adventurer was highly revered, and many Vikings aspired to become warriors.

Viking warriors were expertly trained in combat and were equipped with a variety of weapons such as swords, axes, and spears. They were also known for their use of shields and helmets as protective gear.

As raiders, Vikings were notorious for their pillaging and plundering of coastal communities. They would often attack unsuspecting towns and monasteries, taking valuable goods and capture people as slaves. These raids were not limited to Europe, as Vikings also ventured as far as North America and the Middle East.

Viking warriors and raiders played a significant role in shaping the history of Europe and beyond. Their impact was felt not only in their conquests but also in their influence on the culture and traditions of the regions they visited.

The Most Notorious Vikings:

Name Occupation Notable Achievements
Ragnar Lothbrok Legendary Viking Warrior Conquered Paris and became a king
Leif Erikson Viking Explorer Discovered North America, established settlement in Newfoundland
Erik the Red Viking Explorer and Colonizer Established the first European settlement in Greenland
Harald Hardrada King of Norway and Viking Warrior Invaded England, fought in the Battle of Stamford Bridge

Despite their violent reputation, Viking warriors and raiders were also skilled traders and craftsmen. They were known for creating intricate jewelry, weapons, and other objects using their expert metalworking skills.

While the exploits of Viking warriors and raiders may be the most well-known aspect of Viking culture, it is important to recognize that they were just a part of a larger and more complex society. Vikings were also farmers, traders, craftsmen, and explorers, each of these occupations playing a crucial role in Viking daily life.

Traders and Explorers: The Viking Reach

Apart from their reputation as fearsome warriors and raiders, the Vikings were also skilled traders and accomplished explorers. Viking traders ventured far and wide across the known world, establishing lucrative trade routes and conducting commerce with distant lands. They were known for their business acumen, bartering skills, and their ability to navigate treacherous waters.

The Vikings were also renowned for their exploration prowess, with their seafaring vessels allowing them to travel across vast distances. They made expeditions to the Americas, North Africa, and even as far as the Middle East, establishing trade links and cultural exchange along the way. Viking explorers were the first Europeans to set foot in America, long before Christopher Columbus claimed to have done so.

Farmers and Craftsmen: The Productive Vikings

The Vikings were not just warriors and raiders; they were also skilled farmers and craftsmen. In fact, agriculture and craftsmanship were essential to their self-sufficient way of life. Viking farmers had to be skilled in a range of activities, including animal husbandry, crop cultivation, and food preservation.

The Viking farmers primarily grew crops such as rye, barley, oats, and wheat. They also raised livestock, including cattle, sheep, pigs, and horses. Animal products such as milk, cheese, meat, and hides were crucial for their survival, especially during the long winters.

Viking craftsmen were skilled in a variety of trades, including blacksmithing, woodworking, leatherworking, and shipbuilding. They used locally available raw materials such as iron, wood, and animal hides to produce a wide range of objects, from tools to furniture to weapons and jewelry.

One of the most famous Viking crafts was shipbuilding. The Vikings were renowned for their seafaring skills and they relied on their ships for trading, raiding, and exploration. Viking ships were constructed using a technique called clinker building, where the planks were overlapped and nailed together. The ships were also decorated with intricate carvings and colorful sails.

The Viking farmers and craftsmen played a vital role in the Viking society and economy. They enabled the Vikings to be self-sufficient, well-fed, and able to produce their own goods. The skills and techniques they developed were passed down through generations and have contributed to the enduring legacy of Viking culture.

Women in Viking Society: Equal Partners

Contrary to popular belief, women played a significant role in Viking society and were regarded as equal partners to men in many aspects of life.

While men were typically responsible for activities such as farming, hunting, and warfare, women played a crucial role in managing households, tending to crops and livestock, and participating in trade and commerce.

Occupations held by Viking women: Examples
Farmer Sigrid, a wealthy Norweigan woman who owned multiple farms and livestock.
Trader Freya, a Norse merchant who traded throughout the Baltic region and even as far as Byzantium.
Navigator Gudrid, a Norse woman who participated in several voyages to Vinland (North America) and other parts of the world.
Priestess Freydis, a Norse woman who was the chief priestess at the temple of Uppsala in Sweden.

Women in Viking society had legal rights that were unheard of in other parts of Europe at the time. They were allowed to own property, inherit from their families, and even initiate divorce. It was also not uncommon for women to participate in political and legal proceedings, including the making of important decisions for their communities.

Additionally, women in Viking society were skilled in a variety of crafts, such as weaving, embroidery, and metalworking. Some women even took part in the creation of the intricate and beautiful Viking art and jewelry that are now treasured relics of the era.

Overall, women in Viking society were far from being passive bystanders. They were active participants in a wide range of activities and held important roles that contributed greatly to the success and vitality of their communities.

Feudal Hierarchy in Viking Society

The Viking society was structured into a hierarchical system, with kings, earls, and chieftains holding the highest positions of power and authority. This feudal system was characterized by a complex network of obligations and loyalties, with each member owing allegiance to a superior and providing protection and service in return for land and resources.

Rank Description
Kings At the top of the hierarchy were the kings, who held absolute power and controlled vast territories. They were responsible for maintaining law and order, settling disputes, and leading the military campaigns.
Earls The earls were appointed by the kings to oversee specific regions and were responsible for collecting taxes, enforcing laws, and resolving conflicts within their jurisdiction. They were also expected to provide military support to the king when necessary.
Chieftains Chieftains were local leaders who held significant influence within their communities and were responsible for maintaining order, resolving disputes, and providing protection to their followers. They were also expected to contribute to the king’s military campaigns and participate in the wider political decision-making process.
Free farmers and craftsmen Free farmers and craftsmen formed the backbone of Viking society, providing the necessary resources and expertise to sustain the economy. They were expected to pay taxes and provide military support when required.
Thralls Thralls were slaves who had no legal rights and were considered the lowest class in Viking society. They were often captured during raids and were forced to work for their masters without pay.

The feudal hierarchy in Viking society was not fixed and could change depending on various factors, such as military prowess, wealth, and alliances. However, it provided a stable framework for social organization and enabled the Vikings to maintain their power and influence for several centuries.

Life as a Viking: Daily Routine and Challenges

Life as a Viking was far from easy. The harsh Scandinavian climate and limited resources meant that daily life was a constant struggle for survival.

Vikings typically woke up before dawn and began their day with a simple breakfast of bread and porridge. They then spent the morning tending to their farms or engaging in other work-related tasks.

Lunch was usually their main meal of the day, consisting of meat, fish, vegetables, and dairy products. Afternoons were often spent on leisurely activities such as hunting, fishing, or gambling.

In the evening, Vikings gathered with their families for dinner, which was similar to lunch but smaller in portions. Afterward, they would unwind by telling stories, playing music, or participating in other forms of entertainment.

The challenges of daily life as a Viking were many. Harsh winters made it difficult to grow crops, and raids from neighboring tribes and kingdoms were a constant threat. Health was also a concern due to the lack of modern medical care.

Despite these challenges, the Vikings were a resilient people who adapted to their environment and found ways to overcome hardships. Their ability to endure and thrive in difficult conditions is a testament to their strength and resourcefulness.

Legacy of the Vikings: Impact on Modern Culture

The Vikings may have disappeared from history, but their legacy lives on. From language and literature to art and architecture, their impact on modern culture is vast and varied. Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways in which the Vikings continue to influence our world today.


The Vikings spoke Old Norse, a Germanic language that went on to influence modern Scandinavian languages, such as Swedish and Norwegian. English also owes a debt to the Vikings, who invaded and settled in England around 1,000 years ago and brought words like “sky”, “knife”, and “egg” into the English language.


The Vikings were known for their storytelling and poetic traditions, which have inspired countless works of literature over the years. One of the most famous examples is the epic poem “Beowulf”, which tells the story of a hero who battles a monster. The influence of Viking sagas and myths can also be seen in works like “The Lord of the Rings” and “Game of Thrones.

Art and Architecture

From intricately carved wooden ships to imposing stone fortresses, Viking art and architecture were impressive in their scale and detail. Today, their aesthetic can be seen in everything from jewelry design to furniture, with many artists drawing on the Viking love of nature and ornamentation.

Science and Exploration

The Vikings were skilled navigators and adventurers, known for their seafaring prowess and exploration of new lands. Today, their legacy can be seen in the fields of science and exploration, with modern-day Vikings continuing to push the boundaries of what we know and understand about the world around us.

In conclusion, the Vikings may have been a long time gone, but their influence on modern culture is undeniable. From language and literature to art and exploration, their legacy lives on, inspiring future generations to discover new worlds and push the boundaries of human achievement.


In conclusion, the Viking Era was a time of great cultural, social, and economic significance. Through our exploration of the different roles and occupations within Viking society, we have discovered that being a Viking was not just a job – it was a way of life. From the fierce warriors and raiders to the skilled craftsmen and traders, the Vikings were a complex and multifaceted civilization.

Despite their reputation as brutal conquerors, the Vikings also had a rich cultural heritage, as evidenced by their intricate art, literature, and music. They were also remarkable for their egalitarian approach to gender roles, with women playing a crucial role in the social and economic fabric of their communities.

Today, the legacy of the Vikings continues to endure, influencing various aspects of modern culture. From the English language, which has many words with Viking roots, to Viking-inspired fashion and home decor, the impact of these intrepid explorers is still felt today. Ultimately, whether being a Viking was a job or a way of life is a question that can be answered in many different ways, but what is certain is that their contributions to history will never be forgotten.


Q: Was Viking a job?

A: No, being a Viking was not a specific job. Vikings were people who belonged to a certain culture and society. They engaged in various occupations based on their skills and interests.

Q: What was the Viking Era?

A: The Viking Era refers to the period from the late 8th to the 11th century when the Vikings were active. They were seafaring warriors, traders, explorers, and craftsmen who had a significant impact on European history.

Q: What were the roles and occupations in Viking society?

A: Viking society had a diverse range of roles and occupations. They included warriors, farmers, craftsmen, traders, explorers, and more. The society had a division of labor based on skills and specialization.

Q: Who were the most notorious Vikings?

A: Viking warriors and raiders were considered the most notorious. They were known for their fierce fighting skills and their raids on other civilizations. Some famous Viking leaders include Ragnar Lothbrok and Erik the Red.

Q: What were the trading and exploration activities of the Vikings?

A: Vikings were skilled traders and navigators. They established trade routes throughout Europe, the Middle East, and even as far as North America. They were also renowned explorers, with their voyages expanding their geographical knowledge.

Q: What were the agricultural and craft-based occupations in Viking society?

A: Viking society relied on farming for sustenance. They cultivated crops, raised livestock, and practiced fishing. Craftsmen played an important role, including blacksmiths, weavers, shipbuilders, and more.

Q: What was the role of women in Viking society?

A: Women in Viking society had more rights and influence compared to many other societies during that time. They could own property, engage in trade, and participate in decision-making. They played a vital role in managing households and often had leadership positions within communities.

Q: How was the feudal hierarchy in Viking society?

A: Viking society had a feudal hierarchy with different levels of power and authority. At the top were the kings or jarls, followed by other noble families, free farmers, and slaves or thralls.

Q: What was life like for Vikings on a daily basis?

A: The daily life of Vikings involved various activities such as farming, fishing, trading, crafting, and taking care of their households. They also participated in religious ceremonies, storytelling, and social gatherings. Viking life was challenging, and they had to face harsh weather conditions and occasional conflicts.

Q: What is the legacy of the Vikings?

A: The Vikings left a lasting impact on modern culture. Their influence can be seen in language, with many English words derived from Old Norse. Viking traditions and mythology continue to captivate people today, and their art and craftsmanship are admired for their intricate designs.