Social order in the Viking Age
Viking society was divided into clear social strata. At the top were the great landowners or magnates, in the middle were the farmers and at the bottom the slaves. The great divisions in society were between the free and unfree, rich and poor, as well as between men and women.
In the Viking period honour, family and lineage were crucially important, and society was bound together by traditions and norms. If these norms were broken, then an individual’s honour and society’s approval could be lost. Personal honour was achieved through particular attributes, such as courage, cleverness, generosity and fellowship. In the Christian period church and bridge building were also regarded as important skills.
The Vikings attached great significance to the reputation that they left behind after death. If a person’s honour and reputation were intact, then his or her name would never be forgotten:
You yourself die,
gods and gold die;
an honourable name will never die,
one which was won
by your own work
(Hávamál stanza 77).