• Europe /
  • Iceland /
  • Reykjavík

The Viking Althing

Thingvellir: where the ancient Althing took place

This wonderful place with its breathtaking views has a special connection with the Vikings. Here, in fact, took place what is known as the Althing. For the Vikings, this event was a national assembly held every year right here in Thingvellir.

Þingvellir National Park, where the Althing took place

The Althing

The Althing was created in Iceland around 930 CE, and all free men and their families could attend it. This large gathering, held on this very natural stage, was not only an official session of parliament, but also an opportunity to socialise. The event was presided over by a legislative assembly of 36 chieftains, who in turn, reported to an absolute judge elected every three years.

Trials and discussions of all kinds, typical of local peasant and rural life, took place here. We can imagine discussions in which landowners demanded justice in matters of land possessions or livestock. In short, this was the place where every issue of the individual (or a group of people) got attention, and what to do was discussed. 

At the end of every decision made by the legislative body, the Icelanders used to express their approval by shaking their weapons, according to the ritual known as vàpnatak.

The Viking Althing

Viking Society

It must be remembered that in Viking society, violence was often part of everyone’s life. This has been interpreted by historians as the mirror of a religion in which even the deities and mythological legends, told in front of hearths, recounted violent deeds. In contrast to the Christian countries, the polytheistic Vikings followed a code of life in which weakness had to be concealed as much as possible. In the Viking society, this often gave rise to incidents such as endless feuds, and duels over simple daily arguments.

Ptolemy Team
Last updated on
May 11, 2023

Ptolemy Team

All our content is conceived and written by our editorial team, consisting of students and recent graduates in Cultural Heritage, Ancient and Medieval History, and Arts.