Growing up as a kid you probably imagined yourself at one point or another as a marauding Viking warrior. Of course, naturally you had your impressive horned helmet carried into battle as well. But is this helmet a myth popularized by Hollywood, or is there some historical fact to it? All archaeological evidence suggests that Viking warriors did not wear horns on their helmets.
Of course, there are practical reasons for this as well. Any battle smart warrior would know that having horns jetting out from your helmet would give the enemy a place to grasp and throw you around. In battle, Vikings wore standard Sutton Hoo type helmets that did not have horns. Before the horn myth was made popular, Viking helmets were shown to have wings on them. This is also not historically accurate.But where did these myths come from? Old texts suggest that priests may have worn headdresses with horns for religious ceremonies. They may have been worn for decorations as well. However, what got the myths going was the ancient Romans and Greeks who came back from Britain saying the soldiers and people wore outlandish headdresses and helmets.
Also, Roman generals and soldiers claimed that the Gauls and Germanic tribes often wore helmets with horns or antlers, and often whole animals on their heads for intimidation. This part may be accurate to some extent, but it does not mean the Vikings raided towns with their fearsome helmets. However, this is probably where the Viking Horn helmet came into being. Of course, this tradition and myth was passed down from generation to generation by stories and pictures.
In the modern world, Viking helmets are portrayed with horns not because they are historically accurate, but because they make good looking costumes. Who wouldn’t want an intimidating, blood thirsty Viking warrior wearing a horned helmet?
John Hilde is a historical weapons and armor collector and owns his own online store selling authentic armor and weapons. Please visit http://www.armorvenue.com to learn more.