For centuries, Vikings have been portrayed as savages. This is probably because it was their enemy who wrote the stories about them. Facts show that the Norse culture of the Viking Age was intricate, sophisticated, artistic, adventurous and creative.
Norsemen created the most technologically advanced ships of their day, and shortly after Norwegian Vikings migrated to Iceland in the late 800’s, they built up a well-functioning culture similar to the one they had in Norway. By the year 930, the Norwegian Vikings in Iceland had already formed the world's first parliament, the Alþingi (Althing), based on the Norwegian judicial system, which included all free people. This legal system is still used in the western world today.
The culture of the Norse people has been described as ruthless and barbaric, but Norsemen had a culture that was defined by a code of conduct based on reason, moderation and charity. The culture of the Norsemen was one of hard work, a spiritual respect for nature, and a passion for a good life. The reason that we know this, is that the Norse code of conduct was written down in the Hávamál, an Icelandic manuscript from the year 1270.
The Hávamál is one of the most famous wisdom poems in literature, and is one of the most important scources of what Viking Age Scandinavian culture was like. Hávamál means the sayings of "The High One", reffering to the Norse God Odin. The first 80 verses of Hávamál descibe how Norsemen and women were to deal with everyday matters as well as how to be spiritually nourished. Hávamál warns against over-indulgence, greed, idleness, ignorance and cowardice. It also tells us how important generosity, hospitality, honor, industriousness, moderation, good manners and good sense were to Viking/Norse culture.