Did the Vikings Know About Rome?

By Michael Ferguson

In the popular imagination, the Vikings are often depicted as fearsome warriors and seafarers from the Scandinavian region who raided and plundered their way across Europe during the Middle Ages. But did they have any knowledge or interaction with one of the greatest empires of that time – Rome?

The Viking Age

The Viking Age is generally considered to have started in the late 8th century and lasted until the 11th century. During this period, Scandinavian seafarers, known as Vikings, explored and settled new territories far beyond their homeland. They ventured to regions such as Britain, Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, and even reached as far as North America.

Viking Contact with Rome

While the Vikings primarily Targeted areas in Western Europe for raiding and trading purposes, there is evidence to suggest that they had some knowledge of Rome. However, it is important to note that the Vikings did not interact with Rome at its height but rather during its decline.

One of the main sources of information about Viking contact with Rome comes from archaeological discoveries. Excavations in various Viking settlements have uncovered a range of artifacts that indicate a connection with Roman culture. These artifacts include coins, jewelry, pottery, and even architectural elements.

  • Coins: Roman coins have been found in Viking hoards across Scandinavia. This suggests that the Vikings had access to Roman currency through trade or plundering.
  • Jewelry: Some Viking jewelry designs show influences from Roman styles. For example, intricate gold necklaces featuring pendants adorned with Roman-inspired motifs have been discovered.
  • Pottery: Fragments of Roman pottery have been found at Viking settlements, indicating trade or cultural exchange between the two civilizations.
  • Architectural Elements: The Oseberg ship burial, one of the most famous Viking archaeological finds, contained carved wooden panels with motifs reminiscent of Roman art and architecture.

These discoveries suggest that the Vikings had at least some knowledge of Rome and its material culture. However, it is important to remember that such artifacts may have reached Scandinavia through trade networks rather than direct contact with Rome itself.

Literary Accounts

In addition to archaeological evidence, there are also literary accounts that hint at Viking knowledge of Rome. The most famous example is found in the 10th-century Old Norse saga called “The Saga of the Jomsvikings.”

In this saga, a character named Sigvaldi travels to Rome and describes it as a wealthy and powerful city. While this account may be fictionalized or exaggerated, it does provide some insight into Viking perceptions of Rome.


While it is clear that the Vikings had some knowledge of Rome through archaeological evidence and literary accounts, their interaction with the empire was limited. It is likely that their contact with Roman culture was primarily through trade or plunder rather than direct diplomatic relations. Nonetheless, these glimpses of Viking awareness of Rome provide valuable insights into the interconnectedness of medieval civilizations.