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 Vikings. Click for larger image


The Vikings

In Ireland the raiders who arrived in longboats were mostly Norwegians, while in England they were mostly Danes. These Scandinavian invaders are collectively called Vikings.

The arrival of the Vikings in the late eighth century was the first influx of new people into Ireland since the Celts. Because the Vikings were the first foreign invaders for nearly a thousand years, Gaelic Ireland found itself without any political structure for facing a common foe.

Viking activity in Ireland was at first mere coastal raids. It entered a more intense phase after 837 with greater inland penetration and the first attempts at the establishment of permanent Scandinavian bases in the country. The Vikings eventually settled peacefully, integrated into Irish society and made a positive contribution as traders and town-dwellers.

From the battle of Clontarf in 1014 on, the Vikings no longer presented a formidable challenge to Gaelic Ireland, but Clontarf was not a clear-cut engagement between Irish and Norse. The battle was the result of a revolt of the king of Leinster against the overlordship of Brian Bóru. It was a battle of Munstermen against Leinstermen with the Scandinavians of Limerick and Waterford fighting on behalf of Brian Bóruma and the Scandinavian king of Dublin fighting on behalf of the king of Leinster, to whom he was related by marriage.

The Vikings made their most enduring contribution to Ireland as traders and town dwellers. Although the larger Irish monasteries may be classed as native Irish towns, the Scandinavians founded a different kind of urban settlement which pursued manufacturing and trade, not just within Ireland but also for overseas markets. The small colonies centred on the trading towns of Dublin, Waterford, Wexford, Limerick and Cork were not politically powerful, but they added an important dynamic element to Irish society. They provided an additional source of wealth for their Irish overlords, chiefly in the form of silver exacted as tribute or rents. The more powerful Irish kings also learned to use ships in their military manoeuvres, at sea and on the rivers and lakes.






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