Difference Between Vikings and Pirates

Seafaring groups have always been a source of fascination for many. People have often debated about which seafaring groups are the best.


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While it may be hard to conclude on the seafaring group as the ultimate winner, several arguments have surfaced owing to this topic. One such debate is regarding Vikings and pirates.

While Vikings and pirates may seem similar, they have comparable functions and characteristics. 

Key Takeaways

  1. Vikings were seafaring warriors from Scandinavia who lived between the 8th and 11th centuries, while pirates were criminals who engaged in maritime theft and violence throughout history.
  2. Vikings participated in exploration, trade, and colonization, whereas pirates focused primarily on plundering ships and coastal settlements.
  3. Vikings had a distinct culture, language, and religion, while pirates came from various backgrounds and nationalities.

Vikings vs Pirates 

Vikings were seafaring Norse people who engaged in raiding, farming, trading, and settlement establishments during the Viking Age. Pirates were criminals who operated in different parts of the world and were often motivated by greed and criminal activity.

Vikings vs Pirates

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Vikings are a community of seafaring people whose disruptive influence left an indelible mark on the history of Europe.

They were active from the 9th to 11th centuries and mostly looted and drained different areas across Scandinavia and France.

Vikings were interested in several sports activities including wrestling, stone lifting, and fist fighting. The appearance of Vikings is particularly identical to modern-day Scandinavians. 

Pirates were primarily robbers who travelled by ship. Although the most common attack of pirates was ships, they often raided coastal towns from time to time.

Regardless of the perceptions held regarding pirates, they were ordinary individuals who turned to criminal activities to earn their living. The famous pirates of the Golden Age came from different countries of the world. 

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonVikingsPirates
Boats The boats of Vikings were not warships. Pirates operated and travelled on giant war ships. 
Speed of Boats The speed of Viking ships was faster than that of Pirates ships. The speed of Pirate ships was slower than that of Viking ships. 
Attack The main source of an attack of Vikings was their size and brute force. The main source of attack of Pirates was warlike attacks as well as ambushing cargo ships. 
Conquest Areas The main areas of the conquest of Vikings were cities and villages. The main concern of Pirates was to finesse their loot with minimal attention. 
Duty Vikings were commissioned to be bodyguards of Kings of France. Pirates did not serve as bodyguards of Kings of France. 

What are Vikings?

Vikings refer to seafaring people. It is a modern name accorded to people from Scandinavia. Scandinavia includes Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

The work carried out by Scandinavians included raiding, pirating, trading, and settling through parts of Europe. Other territories voyaged by Vikings included North Africa, North America, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. 

The Viking Age is the period when the Vikings settled and raided different countries across the world. The early medieval history of Scandinavia, France and Estonia has been significantly impacted by the Vikings.

Different types of Viking ships were used for different purposes. The most popular out of these was the longship.

A well-known watercraft used by Vikings was the Knarr. 

Socially, the Vikings were categorized into three classes: Thralls, Karls, and Jarls. Thralls were the subordinated classes who often worked as slaves.

At Least a quarter of the Vikings population was composed of Vikings. On the other hand, Karls were a free peasant group among the Vikings.

Lastly, the Jarls were the aristocrats among the Vikings with supreme power and authority. 

Most women in the Vikings society served as subordinates to their husbands. Nearly all the women in the Vikings society were housewives.

Vikings have an appearance identical to that of modern Scandinavians. The three classes among the Vikings were easily recognisable based on their appearance and clothing preferences.

Conclusively, Vikings were a popular community of seafaring people.  

What are Pirates?

Pirates are members of seafaring groups involved in an act of robbery or criminal violence usually by ship. Such an illegal practise is known as piracy.

The earliest instances of piracy are reported to occur around the 14th century BC. The ships carried by pirates are specifically known as pirate ships.

They are particularly well-known for their practices of looting and raiding. 

Modern art and literature often classify pirates as swashbucklers or plunderers. Most of them have eyepatches and wear peg legs.

Pirates usually have a parrot on their shoulders. Such appearances of pirates have lasted through the mediums of pirate-themed toys, plays, books, film, and tourist attractions.

The safest places for pirates to stay were regions of Madagascar and the Indian Ocean. This is primarily because pirates were away from the legal and state forces in these areas.

Such regions are popularly known as pirate havens. When on the sea, every pirate excluding the captain usually slept in the open.

The common areas were either the floor or in a hammock. 

Pirates have often hijacked the trade routes followed by ancient Greece. The most active period of pirates was from 1650-to 1720.

Often, these years are categorized as the Golden Age of Piracy. Some famous pirates of the Golden age are Henry Morgan, Blackbeard, and William Captain Kidd.

Therefore, pirates have attracted popular attention from different areas of the world.  

Main Differences Between Vikings and Pirates

  1. Vikings are more trusted as compared to Pirates. 
  2. While Vikings may choose to live as farmers off the coast, pirates did not have any significant establishments off the boat. 
  3. Vikings are often considered more daring and powerful than pirates. 
  4. Vikings usually have no written document that needs to be signed among their community. Pirates, on the other hand, sign the Pirate Code. 
  5. The speed of Viking ships is often more than that of Pirate ships.  
Difference Between Vikings and Pirates
  1. https://www.rmg.co.uk/stories/topics/what-do-pirates-do 
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vikings 
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