Jelling stone

A Viking History Timeline

Creating a Viking history timeline is somewhat problematic. The Scandinavian countries didn’t exist, in their current form, at the time the Vikings rose to prominence. It wasn’t until Harald I, aka Bluetooth, took power that Denmark was unified under one king. Harald Finehair united some of Norway in 880 A.D. and very little is known about Sweden at all. The oldest known document to proclaim Sweden a united country is a Papal decree dated 1164, which comes 100 years after the demise of the Viking age, though some rulers of provinces claimed to rule over the country as whole.

The Vikings didn’t keep great records. They had a rich oral tradition, but these stories changed over time. Denmark was lucky in this regard because it was bordered by states that confessed to be Christian. The Christians of the Viking Age were good record keepers and influenced Denmark to follow their lead, even when it was still Pagan. Sweden was furthest away from these influences, and the ravages of time and harsh climate eradicated much of the information that may have otherwise been gleaned from graves and town sites.

Additionally, many of the records that exist were written by the enemies of the Vikings. They did not ask where the raiders came from. They labeled all of the Viking groups as Danes, Norsemen, or Northmen and looked at the geographical region as full of infidel or pagan peoples that were not worthy of differentiation.

Of course, Vikings from all over the region had similarities, but this does not mean that they should be lumped together in one group. Still, because of the lacking historical evidence and the lack of differentiation between Viking clans from media and others, Asgard Alaska has put this timeline together to cover all Viking activities from the Scandinavian clans. (In the future, we will add dates for the Vikings in Greenland, Iceland, and Russia, as well as any other countries where they definitively show up, like England and Scotland.)

Most Viking timelines begin at 793 A.D. because it is the first recorded, large-scale Viking attack. (There was a Viking party that killed a man in Wessex in 789 A.D.) However, Vikings didn’t just spring into existence. Before 793, there were Danes and Scandinavians, who were evolving into Vikings. They were creating a lifestyle and inventing the technology that would help them become traders and raiders over a vast majority of the known, and some of the then unknown, world.

Many history books label the Battle of Stamford Bridge and the loss of England in 1066 as the end of the Viking Age. The people, who made up the Viking population, didn’t disappear suddenly, but the Viking lifestyle experienced a decline as Christianity and new military powers gained strength. 

For the following Viking History timeline, all dates are approximate. We have endeavored to include a geographical location when appropriate and known.

Pre-Viking Age Events

753 A.D. – Vikings attack a nunnery at Minster in Thanet.

789 A.D. – Vikings kill a king’s reeve in Wessex.

early viking age banner

Early Viking Age

793 A.D. (June 8) – The Vikings (of unknown origin) attack a monastery on the island of Lindisfarne in England. The monks are killed or taken away as slaves. The story of the attack is recorded about 100 years later in the “Anglo-Saxon Chronicle” by an unknown author. Most scholars recognize this event as the beginning of the Viking Age.

800 A.D. – King Godfred (Godfrey), the first known Danish King, stops the advance of Charlemagne.

810 A.D. – (Denmark) King Godfred dies.

812 A.D. – (Denmark) Harald Halfdansson and Reginfred are co-rulers of Jutland.

820 A.D. – (Sweden) Roek runestone is carved.

823 A.D. – Ebo, Archbishop of Reims, preaches Christianity in Denmark.

826 A.D. – King Harald Klack becomes the first Scandinavian king to be baptized; the ceremony is held  in Mainz.

829 A.D. – Ansgar travels to Sweden for the first time to preach Christianity.

850 A.D. –  (Denmark) Horik the Older and Horik the Younger allow Ansgar to build two Christian churches. Ansgar built the first church in Hedeby.

880 A.D. – Harald Finehair unites southern Norway, the coastal districts, and fjords.

930 A.D. – (Norway) Harald Finehair dies. Erik Bloodaxe, co-ruler, assumes control alone. He is ousted because of his brutality. Hakon Adalsteinfostri, a Christian and the foster son of the English King Athelstan, becomes king of Norway.

947 A.D. – Erik Bloodaxe becomes king of York. Gets ousted by Edred.

950 A.D. – (Denmark) Gorm the Old, father of Harald Bluetooth, is king.

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Middle Viking Age

952 A.D. – The overthrown Erik Bloodaxe regains his territory in York.

954 A.D. – Erik Bloodaxe is killed when Edred claims North England as part of his territory, and he tries to flee. The BBC calls Bloodaxe “the last Viking in England.”

960 A.D. – Hakon Adalsteinfostri dies fighting Erik Bloodaxe’s sons. Harald Grafell (Gray-cloak) becomes king but only has influence in southern Norway. Earl Hakon gains power in Trondelag after Grafell kills his father Sigurd. In Sweden, the city of Birka is abandoned.

965 A.D. – Harald Bluetooth’s rune stone at Jelling names Denmark for the first time. Denmark officially becomes Christian.

970 A.D. – Harald Grafell killed by Earl Hakon and his Trondelag men. Hakon becomes the most powerful man in Norway but submits to the rule of Denmark’s Harald Bluetooth.

979 A.D. – Denmark’s largest, and possibly first, bridge is built over the Veijle River Valley. Now called the Ravning Bridge, it remained the longest bridge until 1935. There is no record of the original bridge having ever been repaired. A reconstruction of two bridgeheads at the site today provides a visual of how large the bridge was.

987 A.D. – (Denmark) Svein Forkbeard overthrows his father Harald Bluetooth and takes control of the throne.

995 A.D. – A slave kills Earl Hakon. Olaf Tryggvason becomes king of Norway and starts “systematic missionary activity.” Olof Skoetkonung becomes king of Sweden, which included Svear and Goetar; he is the first Swedish king to have a substantially known history.

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Late Viking Age

1000 A.D. – Olaf Tryggvason converts Iceland to Christianity. He is killed at the battle of Svoeld. Svein Forkbeard becomes king of Norway, but the region’s unity falls apart.

1004 A.D. – Olof Skoetkonung, king of Sweden, is baptized into Christianity. 

1013 A.D. – Svein Forkbeard, king of Denmark, conquers parts of England and remains king until his death five weeks later.

1014 A.D. – Earl Erik, son of Earl Hakon and loyal to Svein Forkbeard, helps Forkbeard to conquer England. Svein Forkbeard dies; his son Harald inherits Denmark.

1015 A.D. – Olaf Haraldson becomes king and works to unite Norway while converting the people there to Christianity by force. He added inland regions to his kingdom.

1016 A.D. – Cnut the Great becomes the sole ruler of England.

1017 A.D. – Earl Erik, son of Earl Hakon, becomes Earl of Northumbria under Cnut the Great.

1018 A.D. – Harald, son of Svein Forkbeard, dies. Cnut the Great becomes ruler of Denmark.

1020 A.D. – Olof Skoetkonung dies. His son, Anund Jakob becomes ruler of his father’s lands in Sweden..

1027 A.D. – Cnut the Great claims to rule all of England, Denmark, and Norway; he also claims to rule “some of Sweden.”

1028 A.D. – Cnut the Great arrives in Norway with a fleet. Earl Hakon, son of Earl Erik, and men from Trondelag threaten Olaf Haraldson. Haraldson flees to the king of Sweden, Prince Yaroslav of Kiev. Earl Hakon becomes Cnut’s earl in Norway and drowns in the English sea.

1030 A.D. – Olaf Haraldson returns to Norway and is killed at the Battle of Stiklestad. He is worshiped as a saint. Cnut the Great’s son, Svein Alfivason, and Svein’s mother, Alfiva, assume power and become unpopular.

1035 A.D. – St. Olaf Haraldson’s son, Magnus the Good, returns to Norway. Svein Alfivason flees to Denmark and dies. Cnut the Great dies. Harthacnut inherits Denmark.

1040 A.D. – Harthacnut becomes king of England.

1042 A.D. – (Denmark) Harthacnut dies. Norwegian King Magnus the Good comes into power.

1045 A.D. – Harald Hardradi claims his share, as half-brother to St. Olaf Haraldson of the Norwegian throne.  

1047 A.D. – Magnus the Good dies. Svein Estridsson, nephew of Cnut the Great, gains power in Denmark. Harald Hardradi becomes sole ruler of Norway.

1050 A.D. – Anund Jakob dies. His half-brother Emund Slemme becomes king in Sweden.

End of Viking Age

1066 A.D. (Sep. 25) – The Battle of Stamford Bridge: Harald Hardrada, king of Norway, defeated by Harold II, king of England. Harald II marches his troops south and faces William, Duke of Normandy. William defeats Harald II, and the Normans gain control of England (Oct. 14).

1074 A.D. – (Denmark) Svein Estridsson dies. Harald III becomes king.

1080 A.D. – (Denmark) Harald III dies. Cnut IV, aka Cnut the Holy, becomes king.

1086 A.D. – (Denmark) Cnut IV dies.

1101 A.D. – Cnut IV  granted sainthood by the Roman Catholic Church. He is the first Danish king to receive the honor.

Modern Viking Events

1880 A.D. – Gokstad ship found in Norway.

1904 A.D. – Oseberg ship found in Norway.

1962 A.D. – (Denmark) Five Viking ships are excavated at Skuldelev.

This Viking history timeline is incomplete. As new information becomes available, we will add it.

Sources for the Viking history timeline:

The Vikings by Else Roesdahl. Published by Penguin books, 1998, revised edition.