Famous Men of the Middle Ages
Rollo the Viking
Died 931 A.D.
For more than two hundred years during the Middle Ages the Christian countries of
Europe were attacked on the southwest by the Saracens of Spain, and on the northwest by
the Norsemen, or Northmen. The Northmen were so called because they came into
Middle Europe from the north. Sometimes they were called Vikings (Vi'-kings), or
pirates, because they were adventurous sea-robbers who plundered all countries which
they could reach by sea.
Their ships were long and swift. In the center was placed a single mast, which carried one
large sail. For the most part, however, the Norsemen depended on rowing, not on the
wind, and sometimes there were twenty rowers in one vessel.
The Vikings were a terror to all their neighbors; but the two regions that suffered most
from their attacks were the Island of Britain and that part of Charlemagne's empire in
which the Franks were settled.
Nearly fifty times in two hundred years the lands of the Franks were invaded. The
Vikings sailed up the large rivers into the heart of the region which we now call France
and captured and pillaged cities and towns. Some years after Charlemagne's death they
went as far as his capital, Aix (aks), took the place, and stabled their horses in the
cathedral which the great emperor had built.
In the year 860 they discovered Iceland and made a settlement upon its shores. A few
years later they sailed as far as Greenland, and there established settlements which
existed for about a century.
These Vikings were the first discoverers of the continent on which we live. Ancient
books found in Iceland tell the story of the discovery. It is related that a Viking ship was
driven during a storm to a strange coast, which is thought to have been that part of
America now known as Labrador.
When the captain of the ship returned home he told what he had seen. His tale so excited
the curiosity of a young Viking prince, called Leif the Lucky, that he sailed to the newly
Going ashore, he found that the country abounded in wild grapes; and so he called it
Vinland, or the land of Vines. Vinland is thought to have been a part of what is now the
Rhode Island coast.
The Vikings were not aware that they had found a great unknown continent. No one in
the more civilized parts of Europe knew anything about their discovery; and after a while