Denmark History


The first signs of agriculture are from 3000 BC. The Nordic period of the Bronze Age was marked by a people who buried their dead, along with their earthly goods, in burial mounds. Numerous dolmens and tombs dated to that period have been found. These archaeological finds include numerous religious artifacts, musical instruments, as well as the first evidences of a society stratified into social classes.

During this period corpses were sometimes thrown into the swamps. These corpses are known as the bodies of the swamp. They are very well preserved and have become a valuable resource for information on the Danish population of that period.

During the run-up to the Iron Age, the climate in Denmark and throughout Scandinavia became colder and wetter, limiting agriculture and settlements, which moved into Germany. There is evidence of Celtic immigration in Denmark as well as elsewhere in northern Europe. Signs of Celtic culture are the names of some place names.

The Roman Empire maintained trade routes and relations with the Danes as shown by various finds of Roman coins. Around the year 200 the first runic inscription appears.

The Runes

According to, the Vikings did not have a written culture in the modern sense of the word, since they did not have books, but they did have alphabetic characters, the Runic Script, whose letters were called runes. Inspiration may have come from the Rhineregion.

The runes were composed so that they could be engraved, and in Viking times they were engraved on wood, bone, metal, and stone. The script had been used in the Nordic countries several centuries before Viking times, and the earliest surviving runic inscriptions date back to a couple of centuries after Christ. The runes weren’t particularly Scandinavian either. Several Germanic peoples used them to write: Germans, Goths, Frisians and Anglo-Saxons, as well as the Nor-Germanic peoples, from whom the Vikings descended. Judging from the many early inscriptions, found in a fairly small area, Denmark is presumably the cradle of runes (according to the theory of runologist Erik Moltke).

There was no single script: the details of the runic signs varied from region to region and from century to century.

Norse mythology

Odin was the supreme god, father of all men and of many of the gods. He was the god of both wisdom and war. He pledged an eye in exchange for the wisdom of Mimer’s well.

Thor was the god of war and savage fighting. He was the son of Odin, and the strongest of all the gods. He always carried his Mjølner hammer which had the wonderful ability to always hit the target and then return to its owner.

Freya was the goddess of love and fertility, the most beautiful of all goddesses. She was also the one who taught the gods the art of magic.

Frey was Freya’s brother, and like her the god of love and fertility. He had the wonderful boat called Skidbladnir, which unfurled after use and always had a favorable wind when hoisting the sail.

Heimdall , son of Odin, had eight sisters as a mother. He is the guardian of the Bifrost Bridge that goes from Midgard to Asgard, for which the gods have endowed him with extraordinary vision and hearing.

Balder was the god of light and truth. He was the son of Odin and Frigg. He lived in the Breidablik Palace, whose roof was made of gold and whose columns were solid silver. Nothing false could enter through its doors, into the world of the living on the condition that absolutely the entire universe cried for it.

Loki was actually a yote, a giant of the frost. He came to Asgard because he became a blood brother to Odin. He was the god of deception, lies, and chaos, an evil spirit, riotmaker and thief.

Fenrisulven, came to Asgard as a cub for the gods to watch over him, but he quickly became very large and only the god Thor, Tyr, dared to feed him.

Midgardsormen was a snake that lived in the sea that surrounds the land. Like his brother Fenrisulven, Midgardsormen grew up in Asgard.

Hela was the sister of Fenrisulven and Midgardsormen. She is the queen of hell Nielfheim and there she was thrown by the gods.

The Christianity

Several small kingdoms existed in the area of Denmark for many years. Around 980, King Harald I, known by the nickname Blue Tooth, is believed to have established a unified kingdom in Denmark.

A German missionary visited the king and, according to legend, he survived an ordeal that convinced King Harald to convert to Christianity. The new religion, which replaced the old Norse mythology, brought advantages for the king, such as help from the Holy Roman Empire, and allowed Harald to get rid of some of his opponents, faithful to the old mythology. The Church brought a stable administration to the lands; stability that the king used to exert some control over them.

The Vikings

The people that ended up being known as Vikings inhabited Denmark between the 8th and 11th centuries. They presented a much more complete social structure than the towns that had previously populated the area. The Vikings became famous by sailing and trading across the rest of Europe.

During the Viking period, Denmark had great power based on the Jutland Peninsula, the Isle of Seeland, and the southern part of what is now Sweden. In the early 11th century, King Canute the Great (in Danish, Knud) conquered England for a period of at least 30 years.

After the death of Canute the Great in 1035, England was left out of Danish control and Denmark suffered a period of disorder. The Vikings of Norway made sporadic attacks. King Canute’s nephew, Sweyn Estridson (1020 – 1074) reestablished royal authority and established a good relationship with the Archbishop of Bremen.

In the early 12th century, Denmark became an independent seat of the Church of Scandinavia. Soon after, Sweden and Norway formed their own archbishoprics outside of Danish control. In the middle of the 12th century, reigning in Denmark was really complicated: civil wars followed one another, creating tensions. Valdemar the Great (1131 – 1182) took power, steadied him and made a reorganization of the administration. During his reign, a castle was built in the village of Havn which gave rise to what is now the city of Copenhagen. Valdemar made the country a leading power in the Baltic Sea area. He and his successors led various crusades to claim territories located in present-day Estonia. Legend has it that the Danish flag, the Dannebrog, fell from the sky during a battle in Estonia in 1219.

During the Middle Ages the crown and the Church maintained a close collaboration. During this period thousands of churches were built throughout the country. The economy improved during the 12th century, mainly thanks to the herring trade ; in the thirteenth century a period of economic difficulties began and the temporary collapse of the king’s authority.

Denmark History