I'm amused by the latest theory about the Vikings.
When the Vikings landed at the holy island of Lindisfarne in 793AD it marked the beginning of hundreds of years of terrifying raids, which would earn the Norsemen a fearsome reputation as murderers and pillagers throughout Europe.
But the reason why groups took to the seas in the first place continues to divide historians, with some blaming over-population in Scandinavia, while others seeing it as a preemptive strike against the seemingly unstoppable march of Christianity.
Now a new theory suggests that the Vikings actually had matters of the heart on their minds.
Dr Mark Collard ... believes that changes in society had led to a desperate shortage of marriage partners.
The growth of polygamy and social inequality in the Late Iron Age meant that richer men took many wives, or concubines, causing an in-balance in the male-female sex ratio.
Suddenly young poor men had little chance of securing a wife unless they became rich and well-known quickly, says Prof Collard. And raiding was a shortcut to heroism and treasure, he believes.
. . .
“So raiding was away to build up wealth and power. Men could gain a place in society, and the chance for wives if they took part in raids and proved their masculinity and came back wealthy.”
There's more at the link.
That theory would make Led Zeppelin's 'Immigrant Song' into a love ballad rather than a paean of conquest. Sorry, I don't buy it.
I think this theory stems largely from our own sex-obsessed culture, where everything is seen through the 'filter' of men and women and the ways in which they come together. I accept that sex is a driving force in human relationships, but it's not enough, in and of itself, to form and sustain a warlike culture like that of the Vikings. After all, they traded far into what is today Ukraine and Russia, and formed the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine emperors, and reached Iceland, Greenland and North America, as well as raiding Ireland and Britain. That sort of expansion and outreach can't possibly have been primarily driven by the need for women, wives and wealth. (Besides, in Iceland and Greenland they'd only have found seals, and I doubt they would have made suitable mates!)
Still, it's entirely possible that such drives were one of the elements that led to the Viking expansion - just not the dominating factor that Prof. Collard suggests, IMHO.