View Full Version : The Viking Age in Ireland

Monday, September 25th, 2006, 11:43 AM
The First Raids

At the end of the eighth century the first Viking raiders appeared in Irish waters. These raiders came exclusively from Norway. The first recorded raid was in 795 on Rathlin Island off the coast of Antrim where the church was burned. On the west coast the monasteries on Inismurray and Inisbofin were plundered possibly by the same raiders. The Scottish island of Iona was also attacked in the same year.

For the first four decades, 795-c.836, the raids followed a clear pattern of hit-and -run affairs by small, probably independent, free-booters. Attacks were usually on coastal targets no Viking raid is recorded for areas further inland than about twenty miles. These attacks were difficult to defend but the Vikings were sometimes defeated. In 811 a raiding party was slaughtered by the Ulaid and the following year raiding parties were defeated by the men of Umall and the king of Eóganacht Locha Léin. By 823 the Vikings had raided around all the coast and in 824 the island monastery of Sceilg, off the Kerry coast, was attacked. The monastic city of Armagh was attacked three times in 832.

In the first quarter century of Viking attacks only twenty-six plunderings by Vikings are recorded in the Irish Annals. During the same time eighty-seven raids by the Irish themselves are recorded. An average of one Viking raid a year can have caused no great disorder or distress in Irish society. Attacks on Irish monasteries were common before the Viking Age. The burning of churches also was an integral part of Irish warfare. Wars and battles between monasteries also occurred in Ireland before the coming of the Vikings. Irish monasteries had become wealthy and politically important with considerable populations. The Vikings attacked the monasteries because they were rich in land, stock and provisions. They also took valuable objects but this was not their primary concern.

Intensified Raids and Settlements

From c. 830 Viking raids became more intense in Ireland. In 832 for instance, there were extensive plunderings in the lands of the Cianachta who lived near the sea in Louth. In 836 the Vikings attacked the land of the Uí Néill of southern Brega and attacked the lands of Connacht. In 837 a fleet of sixty ships appeared on the Boyne and a similar fleet on the Liffey. Soon afterwards Vikings made their way up the Shannon and the Erne and put a fleet on Lough Neagh.

The Vikings wintered for the first time on Lough Neagh in 840-41. In 841 they established a longphort at Annagassan in Louth and at Dublin and used these bases for attacks on the south and west. They wintered for the first time at Dublin in 841-842 and in 842 another large fleet arrived. Also in this year there is the first reference to co-operation between Vikings and the Irish though this may have occurred previously. A fleet was based on Lough Ree and the Shannon and built a fortified position on the shores of Lough Ree from where they ravaged the surrounding countryside in 844. Máel Seachnaill, overking of the Uí Néill attacked the Vikings, captured a leader called Turgesius and drowned him in Lough Owel in Westmeath.

From now on Irish kings began to fiercely fight back against the Vikings. Because they now had fixed settlements or fortified positions they were vulnerable to attack. Máel Seachnaill routed a Viking force near Skreen, County Meath and killed 700 of them. At Castledermot, in Kildare, the joint armies of the kings of Munster and Leinster defeated a large force of Vikings. The newly founded Viking settlement at Cork was destroyed and in 849 the Norse territory of Dublin was ravaged by Máel Seachnaill. The Vikings were now a factor in the internal politics of Ireland and were accepted as such. Norse-Irish alliances became commonplace.

During the years 849-852 new Vikings, probably from Denmark, arrived in the Irish Sea area and many battles took place between the new arrivals and the more established Vikings. In 853 Olaf the White arrived in Dublin and with Ivar, another Viking, assumed sovereignity of the Viking settlement there. Along the Irish coast were other Viking settlements. Vikings at Waterford attacked the King of Osraige but were slaughtered in 860. There was a longphort settlement at Youghal which was destroyed in 866. In 887 the Limerick Vikings were slaughtered by Connachtmen and in 892 the Vikings of Waterford, Wexford and St. Mullins were defeated.

Ivar, joint king of Dublin died in 873 and there were struggles and division in Dublin for the next two decades. In 902 the kings of Brega and of Leinster combined again the Norse of Dublin and defeated them, destroyed their settlement and expelled them from Ireland. By his time extensive cultural assimilation had taken place between the Irish and the Norse. Olaf, king of Dublin in the middle of the ninth century was married to the daughter of Áed Finnliath, king of the northern Uí Néill. The Hiberno-Norse also had gradually become christianised. The annals in recording the death of Ivar in 872 said that "he rested in Christ".

The Second Phase of Viking Attacks on Ireland

By the first decades of the tenth century opportunities for Vikings in Britain and the Europe were limited. It is not surprising that they chose to attack Ireland again. From 914 large fleets again began to attack Ireland, these Vikings came from those already settled elsewhere in Britain. Munster was ravaged widely in 915 and the king of Tara was defeated when he went to the aid of the Munstermen. The king of Leinster was killed in a battle with Vikings under the leadership of Sitric at Leixlip. The king of Tara was killed in a combined Irish attack on the Norse of Dublin in 919. For the next two decades the Norse kings of Dublin were also trying to establish their power in York. Their activities in Ireland gradually became more confined to Dublin and its immediate hinterland. The Irish began to counter attack with growing success. Dublin was burned by the king of Tara in 936 and was sacked in 944. Its power had declined considerably by the second half of the tenth century.

The Wars of the Great Dynasties

One of the great leaders of this period was Brian Boru of Dál Cais in County Clare. He had defeated the Vikings of Munster. His great rival was Máel Sechnaill 2, King of Tara who had defeated the Norse of Dublin in 980. Brian at times made alliances with Norse as in 984 when the Norse of Waterford attacked Leinster by sea while he attacked by land. In 977 an agreement was made between Brian and Máel Sechnaill that the former would be king of the southern part of Ireland while the latter would be king of the northern part. In 998 the two kings co-operated in an attack on the Norse of Dublin.

The next year the Dublin Norse allied with the Leinstermen revolted and were defeated by Brian. He spent January and February 1000 in Dublin, plundering the city and destroying its fortress. He expelled Sitric, king of Norse Dublin who could find refuge nowhere else in Ireland. He returned, gave hostages to Brian and was restored. Brian now claimed the kingship of the whole island and Máel Sechnaill submitted.

In 1012 Leinster revolted against Brian and the Norse of Dublin assisted them. Brian and Máel Sechnaill together attacked Leinster and blockaded the city of Dublin from September to Christmas before returning home. Knowing that the attack would be renewed the Norse set about getting help from allies. Sitric, king of Dublin visited Sigurd, earl of the Orkneys who agreed to be in Dublin on Palm Sunday 1014. Sitric then went to the Isle of Man and persuaded two Viking leaders Brodar and Ospak to support him.

Brian and Máel Sechnaill marched to Dublin but a dispute arose between them and Máel Sechnaill took no part in the battle. Battle was joined at Clontarf on Good Friday 1014 and after a long battle Brian's forces were victorious. Brian himself was killed. Sigurd and Brodar were also killed though Sitric who remained inside the town during the battle survived.

In subsequent traditions, both Irish and Norse, Clontarf became a heroic battle of saga and story-telling. Fearsome portents and visions were said to have been seen by both sides on the eve of the battle. A fairy woman appeared to Brian's followers and foretold disaster. Saint Senan appeared to Brian's followers the night before the battle demanding compensation for an attack by Brian on a monastery years before. In the Isle of Man there were ghostly assaults on Brodar's ships and ravens with iron beaks and claws attacked his followers. Evil portents were seen throughout the Norse world even in Iceland. Everyone wished his ancestors to have participated in the great battle.

While the battle of Clontarf was not a simple Irish against Norse battle it did signal the end of the power of Norse Dublin and the effective end of the Viking Age in Ireland.

(References to Irish Counties in the above are of course to modern counties.)

Source (http://www.ncte.ie/viking/vikage.htm)

Tuesday, September 26th, 2006, 10:16 AM
Great post my good man.

Uí Fiachrach
Wednesday, October 11th, 2006, 03:18 AM
In AD 820 the monastery of saint Fin Barre was attacked by sea-borne raiders . In AD 914 a great fleet from Scandivian devasted Munster and the monastery in Cork was one of the monasteries raided by the vikings .

However some of the original newcomers were merchants were allowed to remain undisturbed in the port of Cork . They took over some of the neighbouring territory in Cork . The people of Cork traded with them purchasing wine , salt and and other goods from them .

The Vikings most likely settled in a small cove in Cove street . Excavations revealed the existence of a tidal mill-pond stretching over the area now known as Meade's street , Cove street , Mary's street and Sullivans Quay . An archeologial dig found a heavy stone wall which surrounded the mill-pond in the latter middle ages .

In 1130AD a Viking thief who stole the jewels of Clonmacnoise but could get none of the ship's from Cork to take him abroad . He was hanged by Cormac Mac Carthy whoes castle was based at the north side of the river Lee .

The Lee divides in two at the western edge of Cork city. The river Lee flows eastwards into Cork city . On the western approaches it divides into two channels ; the north channel and the south channel these channels converge at the eastern edge of the city . The original viking base was, as has been said above, at Cove street an inlet of the south channel .

The area between the two arms was the marshy district from which Cork got its name [ Corcach means march ] . Here on the edge of the marsh is where the Vikings settled .

St Finbarrs monastery occupied a ridge over looking the march from the south side . St Finbarr had moved from his original base in Gougane Barra , an remote and peaceful hermitage in an isolated valley , the source of the river Lee 64 km due west of Cork . Cork city evoled from his settlement .

Our district , Kilnamartyra lies 48 km due west of Cork city . A small monastic settlement founded by St Lachteen survived his death in 622 AD and in fact lasted until its destruction by Cronwellian forces in 1650 . It suffered a viking raid in 832 AD which left it in a sorry state but it was subsequently restored and continued as a place of pilgrimage . The church was known as Cill na Martra [called the "Church of the Human Relic" as Lachteens hand was preserved in a shrine as an object of veneration. This name is now applied to our district and village in which the school is situated

Uí Fiachrach
Wednesday, October 11th, 2006, 03:19 AM
The Vikings and the monastic community eventually arrived at a form of peaceful coexistence. Indeed the seafaring and trading abilities of the Vikings proved to be a boon to the monastery which they provided with wine, salt and other commodities. In 914 A.D. there was a massive raid on Cork and Munster from Scandinavia and it is conjectured that some members of this raiding party expropriated the existing Viking community.

By the 12 th century the descendants of the original settlers had intermarried with the native Irish and had become known as the Ostmen or Eastmen. They had established Cork as an important trading centre and its importance was enhanced with the coming to power in the 12 th century of the MacCarthys of Desmond who established Cork as their capital. The MacCarthys built a residence and fortress near Cork. In Latin this fortress was called vetus castellarum. This is an exact translation of the Irish sean dún, or old fort, and may be identified with the present-day Shandon area of Cork. The Ostmen of Cork acknowledged the overlordship of the MacCarthy kings of Desmond but would appear to have retained some form of autonomy.

It is known that the Ostmen built a fortification on the south island in the Lee and it is thought that this may have served as a template for the wall of Cork, which was built during the Norman era.

Gina Johnson, an archaeologist and expert on the development of Cork, has described Hiberno-Norse Cork in the following terms ‘…it is likely that the town consisted of formalised rows of wattle-walled houses fronting one or more streets. The Vikings probably defined the limits of their settlement possibly with a wattle wall or earthen enclosure surrounding the south island’. At this time the north island of the Lee, known as Dungarvan and identified with the area around the present-day North Main Street, was regarded as being outside the city itself.

Ostman Cork was not fated to have a long history. The last known leader of Ostman Cork, Gilbert mac Turgar, was killed in a sea battle near Youghal in 1173. In 1177, the Ostmen of Cork suffered a fate common to many conquered peoples before and since. Their property was confiscated and they were expelled from the city of Cork, when the city was taken by an invading army of warriors, the Normans.

Norman Cork

1169 is one of the most famous dates in the history of Ireland. In that year Normans from Wales landed at Bannow Bay in Wexford and began the Norman conquest of Ireland. With their superior military technology and organisation, the Normans made inroads against the Irish and Hiberno-Norse. In 1171, many of the provincial kings took an oath of fealty to Henry II of England, including Dermot MacCarthy, King of Munster and overlord of Ostman Cork. At the Council of Oxford in 1177, Henry II granted the kingdom of Cork to Robert FitzStephen and Milo de Cogan, but he reserved the city of Cork for himself. An army led by FitzStephen and de Cogan arrived at Cork City in 1177 and took the city, thus beginning the Norman era of the history of Cork. Prince John, Lord of Ireland, visited Ireland in 1185 and sometime around that date granted a charter to Cork City which made Cork a corporate town with powers of local government. This status has been retained by Cork since that time to the present day.

The Normans constructed a wall on the south island of the Lee in 1182, possibly based on the former Ostman defensive structure. Over time this wall was extended and the entire mediaeval city centre became one of the great walled towns of Ireland.

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006, 12:12 PM
Great posts friend.Could we please have an introduction please.How did you find our little community.:bub

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006, 03:12 PM
A great first two posts you've delivered, a good addition to the topic.

If you would like to post an introduction in this subforum (http://www.blutundboden.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=51) so we can all get to know you a little better? ;)

Wednesday, October 11th, 2006, 06:44 PM
Its great to have a fellow Irish man here we are too few here.

The Dagda
Wednesday, October 11th, 2006, 09:05 PM
Ninth century Dublin;

The period 837-873 was a period of Viking penetration and Irish reaction. This phase began dramatically with two large fleets of Norsemen in 837 on the Boyne and Liffey. Each fleet was said to have comprised three score ships. Their leader may have been the chieftan Saxolb who was killed later that year in Ireland. There was no unified response from the Irish and soon afterwards two naval encampments were established by the Vikings, at Annagassan, Co. Louth and at Dublin (Duiblinn).

The Dublin longphort was apparently established at the tidal pool in the River Poddle. Later references after 843 are to a settlement at Áth Cliath and this is presumably another site though close. There was an island, Usher's Island, in the river close by and this may have been the site of Duiblinn. Islands were often used by Vikings as settlements. There is little evidence that the site was at Kilmainham.

Habitation and inhumation appears to have been scattered along the banks of the Liffey and its tributaries.

After 850 kings of Dublin begin to be mentioned. Amláib (Olaf the White) arrived in Dublin in 853 and ruled jointly with Ímar (Norse Ívarr inn beinlausi "Ivar the Boneless"). Amhláib was a Norwegian but Imar may have been a Dane. They brought back an enormous number of captives from northern Britain in 871. Ímar is mentioned as king of all the foreigners in Ireland at his death in 873. By then Amhláib appears to have returned to Norway. For the remainder of the century the kingship of Dublin was unstable and there appears to have been much dissention.

The longphort of Áth Cliath was captured in 902. By then it could not be called a "town". It appears that Dublin was the only Viking trading place in Ireland during the latter half of the ninth century.

Tenth century Dublin;

Sitriuc Cáech, one of the grandsons of Ímar reoccupied Áth Cliath in 917. No indication that this was a new site. The king of Tara, Niall Glúndubh, attacked the settlement in 919 but was defeated in a battle at Islandbridge. Sitriuc Cáech in 920 left Dublin and made himself king of York. Presumably he took some of the Vikings of Dublin with him

In 921 Sitriuc's brother (or cousin) Gothfrith reoccupied Áth Cliath and attacked the Armagh area. He led an expedition to Limerick in 924 where Vikings had two years earlier established a settlement. In 927 Sitriuc Cáech died in York and Gothfrith left Dublin and unsuccessfully bid for control of York. He returned to Dublin two years later. He died in 934 and was succeeded by his son Amláibh.

Amláibh plundered the monastery of Clonmacnoise in 936 and the king of Tara, Donnchad Donn mac Flainn replied by burning Áth Cliath. King Amláibh and his warriors left Dublin and he died in England in 941. The word "dún" (stronghold) is used of the settlement at Dublin for the first time in 944. This may mark a significant development.

Amlaíb Cúarán became king of Dublin 945 having been king of the York Danes 941-3. He had become a Christian while in York. He still led raids on monasteries, sometimes with Irish chieftains as allies. In 947 the Vikings were defeated at Slane, Co. Meath while operating in support of the king of Tara.

King Amlaíb left for England in 946 to try to take advantage of the unsettled political situation there. Gothfrith son of Sitruic became leader in his stead and led a great raiding expedition in 951 which was the last such major raid. The booty included cattle, horses, gold, silver, and a large supply of slaves for the slave market. It is suggested that it was at this time that the Vikings of Dublin were changing their economic and political behaviour - towards urbanisation.

In 953 Amlaíb Cúarán returned from York and took up the kingship of Dublin. York's independence would soon be ended and Dublin was growing. York was no longer a close ally and the new strategy was to build up Dublin like York. There was political stability for a whole generation as Dublin remained allied with Leinstermen.

The Irish Sea trading economy was becoming currency based and Dublin began to mint its own coins. The place of mintage of this Hiberno-Norse currency is given as DIFLIN and there are many variants including Dyflinn. By 997 the people of Dublin had marked the position of their first landfall by the erection of the Long Stone, a tall megalith.

In 980 Amláibh Cúarán (Norse Óláfr kváran) and his allies were defeated at Tara, and the king abdicated and retired to Iona. The new king of Tara captured Viking Dublin and released large numbers of hostages. Between 936 and 1015 Dublin had been attacked and usually captured by the Irish on at least thirteen occasions.

Dublin starts to sound like and look like a town in the middle decades of the tenth century. Amlaíb Cúarán was the last king of Dublin to attempt to obtain control of York. He married a member of a Kildare Irish family and may have spoken Irish. His defeat marked the end of Viking Dublin, his principal achievement was the creation of the Hiberno-Norse town of Dublin.

In 989 Máel Seachnaill 2, king of Tara, levied a gold tax on the householders of Dublin. 997 Ireland partitioned between Brian Bórama and Máel Seachnaill 2, Dublin fell under the influence of Brian. The Dublin Norse part in the battle of Clontarf was their last attempt at asserting their independence.

Uí Fiachrach
Thursday, October 12th, 2006, 02:38 AM
Great posts friend.Could we please have an introduction please.How did you find our little community.:bub

I was looking up "Blut und Boden" on a google search and this site was the number 2 hit, so here I am.....:)