The Vikings had a unique type of government. All disputes were to be settled outside the courts if possible. If disputes could not be solved these cases went in front of something called the 'Thing.' It is sometimes called the Althing too. Regardless it is the same thing, no pun intended. The Thing was conducted annually or semi-annually. This depended on the need and the village.

The Thing was a council of elders that listened to cases. The decision of the Thing was final. There was no appeals process. Most disputes were in the territorial or monetary form, but ancient societies did have to deal with the more aggressive crimes like murder, rape, assault. In these cases most of the time the eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth philosophy was used. Almost amazing to believe, the Vikings were not a violent society. Outside of raiding and war, the Vikings were very peaceful people.

Interestingly enough, death was not the most severe punishment that could handed out. Banishment was the most severe. Banishment meant not only meant the defendant had to leave, the entire family had to leave. People didn't just move into new villages. They were not welcome. They stayed outcasts the rest of their lives.

If it wasn't for the Thing, America may not have been discovered by the Vikings. Leif Eriksson's father, Eric the Red was cast out of his village and the rest of his family had to follow. Because Leif had no ties and he did have the experience of travel, sailing and exploring went hand-in-hand with him.

Conquest

Vikings are best known for being vicious and brutal. This is very true. Battle and conquest were a part of Viking life for a few reasons. The most significant reason was land. The Vikings are also called the Norsemen. Norse means north. It's cold up there!! You can't farm and hunt in snow and cold all the time. The Vikings would make quick raids into Europe traveling and raiding homes close to water. For the men of the Viking kingdoms, this is how they would create a reputation for themselves. The word Viking is from these people, when they would go on raids, it was said that they were, "going a Viking."

The Vikings would attack at dawn when people were sleeping. Surprise was their best weapon at this time. They would raid quickly and efficiently. They would kill mercilessly. The Vikings were the key reason why Europe ended up in a feudalistic society. Descriptions of these dawn raiders made them sound like the angels of death.

Eventually the people of Europe banded together and the Vikings had to fight men that were awake. This was just a terrifying as the dawn raids. Psychological warfare was one of the Vikings best weapons. They were big and strong, and knew how to mess with people's minds.

The Vikings would only fight in open areas. If they were able to, the Vikings would arrange a huge circle of stones to fight in. This fell into their strengths, namely their strength, swords, spears, and noises. The people of Europe were terrified by these men. Having to fight them face to face, toe to toe was a terrifying thought.

Another tactic the Vikings used was the use of a berserker. The ultimate honor a Viking male could face was to die in battle. Dying in battle meant that they would go directly to Valhalla. One man would be chosen and given mushrooms to eat. All night the Vikings would drink and sing songs of the bravery of the man that was chosen.

Once the battle would start, the berserker would be sent down the hill. It was a suicide mission, and everyone knew it. The importance was that he was under the spell of narcotics that it would take many men to take him down. The thought then would be how many men will it take to defeat the Vikings if it took so much work to kill just one?