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Any Viking -- whether chieftains or farmers -- could organize a group of men for the purpose of raiding. Plundering was carried out by only small groups of men transported in three to six ships. For the most part these men acted on their own initiative for personal economic gain. Viking warriors also served as volunteers in royal armies called lid in wars of conquest abroad or in neighboring lands.
Vikings did not have a professional standing army and their tactics and discipline were basic. They did not fight in organized formations and there was no formal weapons training; young Vikings learned how to use weapons through hunting. This is often the reason why Vikings were more successful in surprise attacks. The Vikings, had tactics they used in battle. A frequent defense tactic was the shieldburg, or shield wall. Vikings also formed what were known as svinfylking or a "boar formation“.
Viking raids began in the 790s and continued for decades. These surprise attacks were planned all throughout winter and were executed in the summer. The frequency of the raids ranged from once every few years to every year. Nomadic armies invaded England and traveled for years plundering England and France.
There were women warriors in Viking society. Although for the most part, Viking women stayed home and ran the farm while their husbands were away, some women went along in Viking raids. Freydis, the sister of explorer Leif the Lucky, led an attack against natives in Vinland (now Newfoundland) and overpowered her two other brothers for control of the Viking colony. Apparently not one for competition, she even used her axe to kill all the women in their settlement.
Berserkers were Viking warriors who went into a frenzied state during battle. During this state they felt no pain, had superhuman strength and believed they were actually wolves or bears. These rages are thought to have been possibly initiated by hallucinogenic mushrooms. Berserkers fought without concern for their own personal safety. Groups of berserkers were chosen to make the first attack against the enemy.
Viking warriors believed that the warrior daughters of Odin presided over battles and chose those who were to die. They brought the souls of the dead heroes back to Valhalla, Odin's banquet hall in the heavenly realm of Asgard. These warriors then became members of Odin's army.
For most of the Middle Ages, a man must have been born the son of a knight to become a knight. Knighthood was conferred only on members of the nobility. However, as the costs of knighthood increased (a knight had to provide for his own arms, armor, horses and retainers) and money-based economies became more common, rich peasants and merchants began angling for the title of knight as well.
Training for knighthood began at an early age. At the age of four or five, a prospective knight's training would begin with learning to ride a pony. By the age of seven or eight, he would be sent to serve as a page to his father's overlord or to a powerful relative. By the age of 14 or so, they were eligible for the next step: becoming a squire. Squires would accompany their master knight into battle, dress him, feed him, see to his armor and arms, care for his horses and hope that one day they would be deemed worthy to be dubbed a knight . If a squire passed muster with an examining knight, he would usually be dubbed a knight at around the age of 21.
Local warriors developed their own equestrian skills and the knight was born. A line of charging knights with spears in hand could easily crush opposing foot soldiers. The knight became the most important warrior on the medieval battlefield. European nobles needed a way to pay these rising warriors. In a money-poor economy, land was the answer. In return for a parcel of land, the knight agreed to fight for the king.
Women could become honorary members of knights' orders, but this did not mean that they were actually knighted or regularly fighting in the field as knights. However, this did not stop some medieval women from taking up arms. The most noted example is Joan of Arc in her struggle against the English in 15th century France.
A knight earned his living from his fief, the land a knight held in return for military services to a lord. Kings sometimes paid knights for their services. Younger sons who had been dubbed knights, but didn't have the lands to support their activities often hired themselves out as mercenaries. Frequent sources of income for knights in the field of battle were gold and treasures and ransom for prisoners. Weapons, armor or horses also became his property.
Medieval military strategy was largely based on attack. The knight and the horse acted as a sort of medieval missile. After the initial attack, knights would draw their swords, maces or axes and fight on foot. As weapons evolved, longbows shot by archers, foot soldiers carrying pike-axes and halberds, gigantic axes with curved spikes on 8 ft. long staffs, and artillerycaused the knight to disappear from the battlefield..
Knights were expected to follow the code of chivalry. He was expected to achieve individual glory in war, uphold virtues (loyalty, humility, self-sacrifice, faith). He was expected to be courteous loyal to his lady love, gifted in the arts of dance, conversation, music and able to play a good game of chess.
To keep their hand in during times of peace, knights would take part in tournaments, huge battles that would be staged outside a castle or town that would include the same weapons used in warfare. The joust was a type of event which consisted of two horses charging at each other from opposite directions with a rider holding a lance tipped with a coronel. They were only separated by a low wooden fence.