Vikings is based on historical characters and events, but it wasn’t safe from multiple inaccuracies, and there is one in Athelstan’s story that fans have pointed out. The series is one of the most successful historical dramas of recent years, created by Michael Hirst and premiered on the History Channel in 2013. The show was originally planned to be a miniseries, but the success of the first episodes lengthened it to a total of 6 seasons.
The series initially followed Norse figure Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) and his travels alongside his Viking brothers, from the beginning of the Viking Age onward. During all those trips and battles, Ragnar and company encountered different characters, among them Athelstan (George Blagden), a monk from the first invaded monastery who was captured by Ragnar and brought to Kattegat to be a family slave, but ended up becoming a an important person in your life.
Athelstan became Ragnar’s advisor and close friend, and throughout his arc in Vikings he wrestled with his beliefs, torn between those of the Vikings and his Christianity. In the second season, Athelstan accompanied Ragnar on a raid and headed for England, where after many deaths and conflicts, he decided to stay in Wessex with King Horik while Ragnar sent his best warriors back to retake Kattegat. Athelstan was captured and crucified, said crucifixion scene is shocking, but some viewers have pointed out that it is actually historically inaccurate.
While creator Michael Hirst assures that the story was taken from reality, in a review of the Vikings season 2 episode, “Eye for an Eye”, some fans pointed out that, “there is no real data from that story” and It seems “doubtful” that Christians would have used the crucifixion as punishment, since it actually ends up appearing as “a mockery of the crucifixion of Jesus.”
Athelstan’s crucifixion scene works because of its impact value and enhances the character’s religious struggles, but it is another historical inaccuracy on the Vikings roster, joining for example the death of Jarl Borg’s “blood eagle”, the snake pit where Ragnar died, and even Ragnar himself, as it is still debated if he existed or if he is just a mix of different historical figures.
Although the inaccuracy of Athelstan’s crucifixion does not affect his overall arc and it is not something that could have changed his fate, it is one more detail that is discussed in the series and that invites viewers to investigate and talk about it. . Athelstan’s crucifixion led him to form a bond with King Ecbert that led to a peace negotiation between Ecbert’s side and the Vikings, and became one of the most graphic and shocking scenes in the entire series.