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Sketch of the Svinfylking.

The Svinfylking, Old Norse for 'Swine Array' or 'Boar Snout',[1] was a version of the wedge formation used in Iron Age Scandinavia then by the Vikings, and by the Germanic peoples during the Germanic Iron Age where it was known as the "Schweinskopf" or 'Swine's Head'.[2] Its invention was attributed to the god Odin.[2][3]

The apex was composed of a single file. The number of warriors then increases by a constant in each rank back to its base. Families and tribesmen were ranked side by side and this added moral cohesion.[4][2] The tactic was admirable for an advance against a line or even a column, but it was poor in the event of a retreat.[2]

The formation consisted of heavily armed, presumably hand-to-hand warriors and less-armored archers grouped in a triangle formation with the warriors in the front lines protecting the archers in center or rear. Cavalry charging a group in Svinfylking formation were frequently attacked by the outer warriors with spears causing complete chaos among the horses. The swine array could also be used as a wedge to break through enemy lines. Several Svinfylking formations can be grouped in a side by side appearing something like a zig-zag to press or break the opposition's ranks. The weakness of the swine array was that it could not handle flanking. The swine array was based on a monumental shock. If the swine array did not break the enemy lines immediately, then the warriors in the swine array would not hold long.[5][unreliable source?][citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Norse/English Dictionary
  2. ^ a b c d Richard F. Burton (1987). "CHAPTER XIII. THE SWORD AMONGST THE BARBARIANS (EARLY ROMAN EMPIRE)". Book of the Sword. Dover Publications; Revised ed. edition. ISBN 0486254348.
  3. ^ Peter G. Foote and David M. Wilson, The Viking Achievement (New York, 1970),p.285
  4. ^ "Quodque præcipuum fortitudinis incitamentum est, non casus, nec fortuita conglobatio turmam aut cuneum facit, sed familiæ et propinquitates" - Tacit. Germ. 7. Refer Germania (book)
  5. ^ The Boar : The ‘Svínfylking’ : the Swine-Snout Battle Wedge