The Roman Empire has long been considered one of the greatest empires in history, and its soldiers were so effective that the very word "legion" has come to be synonymous with a formidable fighting force. On the other hand, the Vikings of the medieval period brought forth warriors so fearsome and brutal that they are still legends to this day.

So, who would win in a fight between the Romans and the Vikings? Let's find out.

If we want to figure out who is going to win this fight, we first have to learn what weapons each side is going to use. Since the Viking age came almost 600 years after the abandoning of the gladius and scutum we will have to speculate what the Western Roman soldiers would have fought with by looking at their brothers, the Eastern Romans.


A standard Eastern Roman soldier during the Viking Age would have worn a steel helmet, chain mail hauberk or lamellar cuirass, and padded skirt while carrying a large oval shield, 70 cm spatha longsword, and a 2-meter spear. They also utilized archers, called taotai, which would wield composite bows and short swords for defense as well as amazingly effective heavy cavalry cataphracts, armed with a bow, lance, axe, and spatha. This variety of different soldiers allowed the roman army to adapt and be good at many types of battle tactics.


The Vikings on the other hand, were much more accustomed to raiding than outright field battles. As a result, they often didn't wear much armor, and if they did it was of padded leather or chain mail if you were wealthy. The typical viking would have also carried a circular shield, spear, axe, short knife, and a sword similar to the spatha if they were lucky. However, despite their lackluster weapons the Vikings were so large and fearsome and strong that the Romans would hire Vikings, known as Varangians to guard the emperor.


In terms of weapons and armor the Romans clearly have the advantage, but the Vikings have an ace up their sleeve. The Vikings were masters of naval warfare, and their longships allowed them to get in, raid, and get out before a garrison could organize itself. So, if the Vikings were to raid a Roman garrison when it was unaware this would take away much of the Roman advantages.

In addition, the Viking battle axes would have absolutely torn through the Roman's wooden shields, which gives the Vikings a further advantage in a raid situation.

In a field battle however, the Roman's clearly have the advantage. Their better armor, advanced cavalry, and ranged advantage more than make up for what they lack in size and ferocity. The Roman's ranged advantage would pick the Vikings off from a distance, their heavily armored troops would keep them at bay, and their cataphracts would smash them in the rear, smashing the disorganized Vikings.

And the Winner Is…

So to sum up, while the Vikings lack in weapons, armor and discipline they excel in ferocity, size, and ambush tactics in a raid battle. This gives them the advantage in any raid or surprise battle against the Romans. On the other hand, in a battle where the Romans can prepare, put on their armor, and organize themselves the Romans have the clear advantage and would defeat the Vikings.

Source: A Clash for the Ages: Romans Vs. Vikings