Without a shadow of a doubt, Europe’s most feared and relentless pirates of the Middle Ages were the Vikings . Pushed by the harsh conditions, possibly even overpopulation and a definite lack of agricultural lands back home in Scandinavia, the Norsemen developed a society based to a large extent on raids and plunder, attacking first and talking trade later. Even the Norse word “Viking” itself translates to either pirate or warrior, being indistinguishable and meaning the same thing. Aboard their small, slender vessels, the Norse would go all around the coasts and upstream rivers, sacking, pillaging, killing and enslaving every settlement they encountered along the way. They sometimes even settled there. Only the mightiest of cities or fortresses could withstand them, in which case the Vikings would suddenly turn into peaceful traders. One such example could be seen between the Viking Rus in present-day Ukraine and the Byzantine Empire to the south.