Early history of Ireland

The main characteristic features of Ancient and Medieval history of Ireland. The main events, dates and influential people of Early history of Ireland. The history of Christianity development. The great Norman and Viking invasions and achievements.

10.04.2013

Early history of Ireland

1. Ancient Ireland

1.1 The Mesolithic Period

No trace of human occupation has been found in Ireland from earlier than the end of the last Ice Age, though animal traces from interglacial warmer periods have been found. The first reliable evidence of human life comes from the Mesolithic period, the `Middle Stone Age'. Flint tools have been found dating back six thousand years before the Christian era began. Although the main source of flints was in the north-east, Mesolithic people were established as far south as Cork. The arrival of the earliest people is so far undated, and the means by which they came is unsure. A land link, later submerged by rising sea levels, between Scotland and Ireland has been suggested, but they may equally well have come by boat. The relative density of very early sites in Ulster suggests western Scotland as a starting point. Evidence of Mesolithic settlements can be found in places like Mount Sandel in County Derry, one of earliest human settlements in Ireland.

These Mesolithic people were true hunter gatherers and seem to have moved along the coasts, and waterways of Ireland in their search for sustenance. The dense forests which covered Ireland at that time would have made dispersion difficult and so the people would fish and forage in the most accessible areas. These people probably entered Ireland along the Antrim coast in the north east where Ireland lies closest to Scotland and possibly some also migrated from Wales to the east coast of Ireland. Sites of their presence have been found along the Bann and in the Boyne Valley, they were also in the midlands at Lough Boora near Tullamore in County Offaly and as far south as Ferrier's Cove in the Dingle peninsula. From Mount Sandel a high ridge along the river Bann, near Coleraine in county Derry, we learn that these early people lived in circular dwellings of about 20 feet diameter and the post holes indicate that they were formed of branches bent inwards to form a dome. The floor of the dwelling was dug out and a fire pit was placed in the centre of the structure.

They would have hunted bore, fished for salmon, trout and eel in the rivers and loughs. They ate fish, shellfish birds, nuts, apples, berries and wild boar. Their tools consisted of small blades of flint known as microliths which were probably bound to a shaft to form spears, arrows and harpoons. They also used various stones for skinning animals and scraping hides. It must be remembered that apart from their flint implements, these people used only organic materials and so we can only have a limited knowledge of how difficult or brutish their lives were.

Throughout the Mesolithic period the only significant development in this society seems to be a change from microliths to macroliths. That is the flint tools have increased in size. However, we can never know if in the 4,000 years of the Mesolithic period there were societal, linguistic or religious changes occurring.

1.2 The Neolithic Period

Ireland's Neolithic (late stone-age) period began around 4000 BC. and is marked by the introduction of farming techniques. Farming had first appeared around 10,000BC, in the Middle East and from Anatolia and Mesopotamia had slowly spread into Europe. Cattle, sheep and goats and grain were ferried across the narrow sea between Antrim and Scotland by new migrants in dugout canoes and possibly skin covered boats. They also brought with them knowledge of pottery making. It was simple, clay formed into ropes and coiled around and round to form a pot shape then heated in a fire. Sometimes the pot would have a simple design such as indentations from stones or fingers. These new incomers found a land that was sparsely inhabited and heavily forested with oak, elm, alder and hazel. The hills and mountains were clothed with pine and birch woods. Those who arrived on Irish soil would clear an area and work it until the ground became infertile, then they would up camp and move somewhere else. It was this style of settlement which would cause the exhausted soil to evolve into the peat bogs. It is probable that the first inhabitants of Ireland would have learned and adopted these new ideas from the new-comers.

Around this period too, there was an improvement in the climate as temperatures, on average, rose. This would have helped in the introduction of barley and wheat. The macroliths of the late Mesolithic period began to be replaced by heavier polished axes which were better suited to fell trees. These axes were made from porcellanite which is much harder than flint. It was mined near Cushendall on the Antrim coast and on Rathlin Island. Whilst finds of Neolithic axes have been made throughout Ireland, though mainly in Ulster, they have also been found in the south of England which suggests a two-way trade existing between Ireland and Britain. It is estimated that over 18,000 of these ancient axes have been found in Ireland alone.

One of most remarkable things the Neolithic people left behind that can still be found in Ireland today are the monuments and burial sites. Today, dotted all over the country, are the remains of these sites many of which have changed over the years. Such monuments and sites includes the Passage Tomb of Newgrange, Maeve's Cairn on the summit of Knocknarea Mountain and the Poulnabrone Dolmen Megalithic Tomb.

1.3 The Bronze Age Period

From around 2500 BC, copper and gold were being mined and smelted in Ireland. Copper was used for utensils, tools and for adornment. When mixed with tin the resultant alloy is bronze, a much harder material than pure copper and thereby more useful for use in weaponry. Finds of Bronze-age weapons include daggers, halberds, spearheads and flat axes. These axe heads were sometimes decorated spirals or zigzagging and have been as far away as Britain and Scandinavia. The axes are heavy and this is an indication that copper was in good supply in Ireland.

The total weight of copper and bronze artefacts found amount to around 750 kilograms but it is estimated that a mine in County Cork, at Mount Gabriel turned out 370 tones. The oldest known copper mine in Northwest Europe is said to be at Ross Island in County Kerry. Later in the period bronze would also be used to produce musical horns and to date 104 such horns are known today.

The Bronze-age is marked by the large number of hoards that have been found throughout the country. There is the Ballinesker hoard found in County Wexford in 1990 and dated from the 8th century BC. The Dowris Hoard from near Birr in County Offaly found in 1830's and dated to between 7th and 9th centuries BC. This hoard includes swords, spearheads axes, horns, crotals buckets and a cauldron. Many crescent shaped lunula made of hammered gold sheets and which fit around the neck, have been discovered. Out of 100 found in Europe 80 of them were in Ireland. The decorations on the lunula usually consist of concentric rows of dots, zigzags, crosses and triangles and are similar to the decorations found on pottery and flat axes. Other finds included arm bands, necklaces, ear-rings, ear spools, bracelets and lock rings made for the hair and made from fine gold wire. Many of the hoards include gold and bronze artefacts with glass, faience and amber beads. Indeed the hoards can contain a great number of different objects from weapons to musical instruments to jewellery. We have to ask ourselves why such hoards have been placed where they were? Many of the larger ones were probably an accumulation of objects gathered over a long period of time perhaps as a votive offering or hidden in times of strife. Others were obviously personal belongings either lost or placed as an offering to a god. As most of these hoards were found in bogs or wetlands it probably signifies sites of spiritual importance.

Another development of the Irish bronze age was the move away from the massive megalithic graves such as Newgrange Passage Tomb. Wedge tombs were appearing. The wedge tomb is a simple stone lined narrowing chamber with a capstone and the whole then covered over with a mound. Normally they don't measure more than 1.5 metres in height and though found in many parts of Ireland they are more numerous in the uplands of Munster, Connaught and West Ulster. They are usually associated with the people who worked with bronze production and are almost always face the southwest.

Another type of grave that puts in an appearance at this time is the Cist Grave. This is a simple grave for an individual. Most cists, on average measure internally about 80cms long and 50cms wide and may contain cremated bones or disarticulated bones. Sometimes the remains are whole and seem to have been bound up before internment. However more elaborate stone lined cists have been found, for instance at Keenoge in County Meath, they are found mostly in Ulster and Leinster and many of them are buried in cairns such as the Creevykeel Court Cairn that had been used over many generations. Stone circles, standing stones and ring forts are other features of the Bronze-age. The stone circles are thought to have been either astronomical sites or ritualistic sites, such as Beltany Stone Circle. They can have very tall stones or quite small ones, the circle can be singular or multiple. They are to be found mostly in Ulster or in Munster. Ring forts can be found all over the country and out - standing examples are Dun Aengus on Inishmore island, and the Grianan of Aileach which stands guard on a hill in Donegal overlooking the Foyle and Lough Swilly. Many but not all ring forts have associated souterains or underground rooms. Standing stones are solitary stones that vary in shape and size. Again they are found all over the island with some of them decorated or with Ogam writing as memorial to someone special. Most however are bare of any inscription and the reason for them can only be guessed at. Local people usually have a familiar name for them. The one which stands at Tara is called the Lia Fail or The Stone of Destiny. The supposed coronation stone of the High King of Ireland legend has it that if the rightful king of Ireland should touch it, it will call out. Recently there was public outrage when vandals attacked it with a hammer.

1.4 The Iron Age Period (The Celts)

Ireland's Iron Age is usually said to run from the end of the Bronze Age (around 500 B.C.) and continues until around 500 A.D. The overlap from Later Bronze Age to Early Iron Age reflects how society changed slowly and did not make a great leap of technology and culture from one period into another. Similarly, the end of the Iron Age extends into the Early Christian period in Ireland, and while great changes were taking place at that time, the technology used in farming and blacksmithing, cart making, etc. would have continued unchanged up to relatively modern times.

Ireland's Iron Age has it's origins in Europe where a culture known as the Halstatt was flourishing 800 B.C. for a couple of centuries. This was the time when the Celts came to Ireland - probably not peacefully but as an invading force. In a few hundred years the Bronze age technology had been replaced by Iron Age Celtic technology. The effect of this new Iron Age cannot be over emphasized. Suddenly iron axes and iron farming equipment began to have a dramatic effect on the landscape. Perhaps one of the greatest changes introduced into Ireland during the Iron age was the making of iron swords and spears. Staigue Fort in Co. Kerry is a wonderful example of a late Iron Age Stone Fort. A new culture began to evolve and expand from east of central Europe.

The Celts were an Indo-European group and quite rapidly Celtic influence spread over much of Europe. They possessed the technology to work iron and as it is a much stronger metal than bronze the Celts had a great advantage over their neighbours in battle. The early half of the iron-age is known as the Hallstatt period after the town of that name where a large cemetery was discovered in 846 and the designs of the grave goods found are an indication of the extent of Celtic expansion at that time. Evolving out of the Halstatt culture came the La Tene and this was to take Celtic influence and language from Anatolia in Turkey to Ireland in the west, from Danmark in the north to Iberia in the south. In Ireland the first sign of Celtic influence is usually dated between 800BC and 400BC (some would suggest an earlier date for the Celtic language) and is represented by carved stone work and worked metal but it is only from around 300BC that a distinctive Iron-age is recognised as having taken hold in Ireland, particularly in the northern half which would suggest that Antrim was the gateway for Celtic influence to enter Ireland.
It is reflected from the designs, in the La Tene style, that have been recovered. Whilst some of these rare artefacts are thought to have been imported from the continent (Ardnaglug collars, Roman coins, etc) others are indigenous. Recognisable and distinctly Irish made objects of bronze and gold have been recovered from bogs and marshes. Many of the artefacts are parts of hoards and consist of items of personal adornment, (Celts seemed to have a particular fondness for beautifully decorated torcs and broaches), weapons, tools, horse adornments and feasting equipment. The Broighter Hoard from County Derry (near Limavady), found by Tom Nicholl in 1896 is such a one. Made of gold it consists of a beautiful 18cm boat complete with mast, oars, hook and grappling iron. There is also a beautiful hollow torc decorated in the La Tene style, two necklaces, a bowl and two bar torcs. It is thought that these were votive offerings and are on view at the National Museum of Ireland.

Other Iron-age artefacts removed from the bogs include leather shields, remains of wheeled vehicles, horse bits and yokes, scabbards and pieces of clothing made from leather, hide and wool, cauldrons and bog-butter. There are also several finds of a more gruesome nature that are the remains of a human sacrificed preserved by the bog.

The Celts arrived in Ireland at various stages and their migration was a lengthy process. They came as different groups or tribes taking control of different areas in Ireland. The Celts arrived in Ireland approximately 700BC and continued their migration until about 400AD. During this time the different tribes that had arrived had established their own regions, today they are known as provinces. There was no recorded documents of when and how the Celts arrived in Ireland or how the settled into the Irish way of life. When the Christians arrived, after the Celts, they started documenting events. They also recorded stories and poems heard from Celtic mythology or local folklore leaving clues to what may have happened.

A Celtic scholar T.F. O'Rahilly based a study on influences on the Irish language and a critical analysis of Irish mythology and pseudohistory. This was called O'Rahilly's historical model and could give us some understanding of Ireland's Celts. His study has been the topic of debate for many historians. O'Rahilly came up with how the Celts may have invaded Ireland in four separate waves:

The Cruithne or Priteni arrived between 700 - 500 BC

The Builg or Erainn arrived around 500 BC

The Laigin, the Domnainn and the Galioin arrived around 300 BC

The Goidels or Gael arrived around 100 BC

The first group of Celts that arrived in Ireland approximately 700BC were named Priteni. They settled in parts of Ulster and Leinster but would later be replaced by other tribes. The second arrival wave was the Bolgic's who arrived around 500BC and would take control of nearly half of Ireland. Four tribes of the Bolgic's included:

The Uluti who took control over the northern part of Ireland

The Darini and Robogdii who settled in the north eastern part of Ireland

The Iverni who settled in Munster

The Ebdani who settled in the east

The Laginians who were the 3rd group to arrive, around 300 BC, settled in the west coast, what is known today as the province of Connacht. They had also taken over the Leinster area. It was also around the same time the La Tene culture may have been introduced to Ireland. The provinces of Ireland were now starting take shape and a 5th province would be added to the land. The invasion from the Goidelic or Gaelic would be the last Celts to arrive in Ireland. These people came in two different groups the Connachta and then the Eoganachta. The Connachta tribe arrived and pushed their way to the Hill of Tara and sacked the Ernean king. They carved a new region between Ulster and Leinster and it became known as Meath (the 5th province).The Eoganachta tribe arrived more quietly than the previous Connachta tribe. The settled in Munster and gradually became more powerful and dominant in the province. When the Celts did come to Ireland they brought with them a totally different culture, languages, art, technology and belief's. They had introduced using Iron for making tools and weapons. The Celts also brought the sense of kingship, kingdoms and power. They divided their lands up with each being d ruled by different kings.

Ireland was divided into five main kingdoms: Ulster in the north, Munster in the southwest, Leinster in the southeast, Connacht in the west, with Tara as the seat of the high kings of Ireland. In Ireland the Bolgic tribes had control of the northern part of the island and the Laginians controlled the southern region. The Celts had a strong sense of honor, especially in battle. To be bold and show courage in a battle gave a Celtic man honor and a high reputation. However, unlike times to come in the future, in this Iron Age it was the aristocracy who fought in battle. Peasants and people of a lower class were not forced to fight or take part in battle, but to stay on their farming plots and act as slaves for their King.

2. Christianity

2.1 The Introduction of Christianity

Christianity came to Ireland in about AD 430. The beginning of Ireland's history dates from that time, because for the first time there were people who could write down events. The message of Christianity was spread in Ireland by a British slave Patrick, who became the patron saint of Ireland. Christianity brought writing which weakened the position of Druids, who depended on memory and the spoken word. Christian monasteries grew up, frequently along the coast. This period is often called Ireland's golden age. Invaders were unknown and culture flowered. But it's also true that the five kingdoms were often at war, each trying to gain advantage over the other, often with great cruelty.

Not much factual history is known previous to the arrival of the Christians to Ireland as they had become the first people to actually document historic events here.

By the time of their arrival in Ireland the country was dominated by the Celtic culture that had arrived during the Iron Age Period. The people in Ireland were druids including the Kings and nobles, a challenge for any Christian.

Many people believe that St Patrick was the one responsible for bringing Christianity to Ireland. Although he made a major impact on Christian Ireland he certainly wasn't the first to arrive here. St Palladius was the first Christian to arrive in Ireland sent over from Rome by the Pope in 430AD, two years previous to St Patrick's arrival. St Palladius wasn't as successful in converting the Irish and Celtic druids to Christianity as St Patrick.

It is believed that Niall Noigrallach, a High king of Ireland, and the Ui Neill dynasty's were the main factors of Christianity first arriving in Ireland from raiding Britain and Gaul from slaves, mercenaries and merchants which included St Patrick, who was sold as a slave to Ireland at the age of sixteen.

Saint Patrick escaped Ireland 6 years after being kidnapped; he became a priest and then a Bishop. He returned to Ireland after having visions to become a Christian missionary and helped spread Christianity to the people of Ireland.

Celtic Christianity broadly refers to the Early Medieval Christian practice that developed in Britain and Ireland before and during the post-Roman period, when Germanic invasions sharply reduced contact between the broadly Celtic populations of Britons and Irish with Christians on the Continent until their subsequent conversion in the 5th and 6th centuries. Then through the works of Columba and Aidan it was spread to others on Great Britain, such as the Picts and Northumbrians respectively. Celtic Christianity may be distinguished by its organisation around monasteries rather than dioceses, and certain traditions, especially in matters of liturgy and ritual, that were different from those of the greater sub-Roman world.

It is easy to exaggerate the cohesiveness of the Celtic Christian communities. Scholars have long recognised that the term Celtic Church is simply inappropriate to describe Christianity among Celtic-speaking peoples, since this would imply a notion of unity, or a self-identifying entity, that simply did not exist. As Patrick Wolmard explained, One of the common misconceptions is that there was a `Roman Church' to which the `Celtic' was nationally opposed. Celtic-speaking areas were part of Latin Christendom as a whole, where in a significant degree of liturgical and structural variation existed, along with a collective veneration of the Bishop of Rome that was no less intense in Celtic areas. Nonetheless, it is possible to talk about certain traditions present in Celtic-speaking lands, and the development and spread of these traditions, especially in the sixth and seventh centuries. Some scholars have chosen to apply the term `Insular Christianity' to this Christian practice that arose around the Irish Sea, a cultural nexus in the sub-Roman period that has been called the `Celtic Mediterranean'. The term Celtic Christianity may also be employed simply in the sense of different Catholic practices, institutions, and saints amongst the Celtic peoples, in which case it could be used meaningfully well beyond the seventh century. Christian's in Ireland become known for their monastic lifestyle, they changed the way Christianity would be taught but also how they lived. They would build monasteries in remote places, away from main villages or towns and they themselves would become the centre of their own community. The monks were extremely intelligent, the spoke and wrote Latin but also had great skills in art as proven with the creation of some of the finest illuminated manuscripts such as the Book of Kells. These places of worship help produce many Irish saints who would go to spread the word of the lord throughout Ireland, Europe and in some cases further.

Monks also loved to write and they started recording important events that were occurring in Ireland during their time. They were also known to record stories orancient folklore that had been handed down to families over generations and some of the stories date back when the Celts had become settled in Ireland. This was extremely important in terms of documents history, without the records from the monks we today would know very little about Ireland its early history.

After Christianity was introduced to Ireland the Irish Church set about re-introducing Christianity to Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire, they set-up religious settlements in France, and Italy. They spread the gospel to places like Germany and beyond where previously the word Christianity had not been heard.

Today Christianity in Ireland is still popular with the majority of the population practising their religious beliefs on a weekly basis or even daily.

2.2 The Irish monasteries

The Rise of Monasticism. The churches set up by Patrick and other missionaries were fairly simple affairs. During the late 400s, hundreds of churches were set up. They were unlike the churches that we would recognise today: most were small wooden buildings, with the occasional small stone structure and would not have accommodated more than a few dozen people at a time. Each tuath (petty kingdom) had a 'bishop' to oversee the church's work in it.

In time, the Irish church matured and by the 500s a number of monasteries were set up. Initially intended to be places of retreat from the world, they attracted the patronage of the kings and the rich and became influential institutions in their own right. Many extended control over other monasteries, with Armagh ultimately claiming primacy over all churches in Ireland. The network of buildings that eventually grew up on monastic settlements - the hired workers, craftsmen and artisans - were, in a sense, the first 'towns' in Ireland. ACeltic monastery was not of the church-and-cloisters type that appeared in the middle ages. Rather, it usually consisted of an enclosure with a small stone church and a number of cells were the monks lived individually. By their nature, some were in the most remote areas imaginable. Sceilg Mhicil was perched on an outcrop of rock in the stormy north Atlantic off the coast of county Kerry. The picture above [4] shows the ruins of the monastery on Sceilg Mhicil (Photo: Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland). Many monasteries were set up in connection with the ministry of Patrick, for example the great monastery of Armagh.

One of the most prominent Irish Saints was St Colum Cille (also known as St Columba and St Colmcille). Colum Cille was of the province of the northern Ui Neill (in present-day Donegal), a prominent relative of the King who became a Christian and evangelised in the Irish colony of the Dal Riata in Scotland. Colum Cille believed in people becoming Exiles for Christ, by leaving their homes to go and live with other Christians in isolated places, thereby coming closer to God. He set up monasteries in Ireland, such as that at Derry, before setting up the monastery of Iona off the western Scottish coast in the year 563. Colum Cille's establishment successfully converted the Dal Riata before converting Northumbria [Northern England] by 627. The great Northumbrian monastery of Lindisfarne was founded in 635. Thus, Britian was Christianised by a missionary from north-west Ireland. Iona and Armagh together became the most influential monasteries in Ireland. The map below shows the principal monasteries in Ireland as they were around the year 650 [5].

The Irish church was fairly simple, because the hierarchical structure of the continental church was found to be incompatible with the network of small kingdoms in Ireland. However, Roman missionaries had arrived in southern England and there were disagreements between the Celtic church and the Roman church. This was resolved at the Synod of Whitby of 664 in which it was decided that the church in Britain would follow the Roman practices. However, the people in Ireland resisted the changes and so Romanism did not have much impact in Ireland.

One of the most important works of the Irish monasteries, besides catering for the needs of the local population, was in the production of books. These are the great illuminated manuscripts, such as the Book of Kells, which were hand written copies of the Bible and other books. Beautifully decorated by hand, these books were usually written in Latin, which was introduced by Patrick. The Latin alphabet was also introduced, replacing the more awkward Ogham scripts. Although Latin was the language of education, Celtic-Irish remained the language of everyday life. As Ireland's monastic establishments grew, they became centres of learning as well as of evangelism. It is for this reason that Ireland has been termed the land of Saints and Scholars. After Colum Cille, and his evangelical successor Aidan, had set up the monasteries in Scotland and Northumbria (northern England), the Irish turned their attention to southern England. St Fursa preached in East Anglia (eastern England) in the 6th century before travelling to Gaul (France) and setting up churches there. St Columbanus, of Bangor Monastery in northern Ireland, went to Gaul in 591 and founded 2 monasteries in France before travelling through modern Germany, Switzerland and Italy. He is buried in a Monastery he founded at Bobbio, in northern Italy. By the 9th century, Irish scholars followed the missionaries and managed to gain important academic roles in the courts of Kings such as Charlemagne of the Franks. Irish foundations can be found in France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Italy and their influence was been left in places as far afield as Vienna, Rome and eastern Germany

3. Medieval Period

3.1 The Vikings

As Scandinavia was becoming increasing over populated the Vikings found a need to discover new land and create settlements, Ireland being one of them. They had also settled in Scotland and, like Ireland, started to settle with the local population. In Scotland these people became known as The Gallowglasses and would later arrive Ireland as hired mercenaries

In 795 the first Vikings in Ireland landed on the Irish shores with their Viking ships attacking their first Irish monastery in Rathlin Island located near County Antrim. Attacks on Ireland remained very few over the next 30 - 40 years with attacks taking place approximately once a year. It is known the Irish resisted these attacks on a few occasions and in 811 seen the Ulaidh slaughter the Vikings attempting to raid Ulster. In 823 the Vikings attacked and pillaged Bangor and repeating these attacks again the next year.

At first the Vikings in Ireland stayed within 20 miles of the coast unsure what lay ahead inland keeping their attacks on coastal Irish monasteries and made more permanent settlements with their first wintering over located at Lough Neagh during 840-841. Then between 841-842 settlements were established in Dublin, named Dubhlinn, and then Cork and Waterford which was named Vadrefjord.

849-852 saw the arrival a new Viking, the Danes who were named by the Irish as the dark foreigners. The more settled Vikings in Ireland, the Norse named the fair foreigners, quickly went to battle with the Danes in the Irish Sea and Strangford Lough.

In 860 the Vikings of Waterford attacked the King of Israige but were slaughtered and attacks on the Vikings in Ireland increased. In 866 the settlement longphort was destroyed and the King of Northern Ui Neill managed to rid the Vikings from Ulster. Connachtmen in 887 slaughtered the Vikings of Limerick and in 892 Wexford, Waterford and St Mullins Vikings were also slaughtered.

For the next ten years the Vikings focused their attacks elsewhere in Europe but with less opportunities they returned to Ireland in 914 as much larger force with Vikings of Britain joining their attacks in Viking ships.

Ulster became vulnerable with the death of Niall Glundubh in 919 after which the Vikings raided Tir Conaill and attacked Armagh again. Over 32 ships entered Lough Foyle and in 924 they returned to Lough Erne to setup their fleets. Once again Ireland became enslaved by the over whelming power of the Vikings which would not last long.

Irish monasteries lacked defences from Viking attacks. A new form of building was constructed known as `round towers' built by stone and proved strong in defence. It had a unique feature of having only one entrance to the round tower that was at least 10ft from the ground so a ladder was needed to gain entry. Round towers can still be seen today dotted around the Irish countryside and their unique features still standing strong.

Niall Glundubh's son, Muircertach, took revenge in setting up attacks from his base, Grianan of Aileach in County Dongeal, which still stands today and is a perfect example of round forts in Ireland. Muircertach won victories over the Vikings in battles such in 926 on Strangford Lough and in Dublin in 939. He went onto the Scottish Isles with his Ulster fleet attacking Viking settlements in 941 but died in Combat in 943.

Brian Boru of Dal Cais became king of Munster and who was first to call himself High King of All Ireland after his brother was killed during battle. With the help of the Ui Neill, Brian Boru slaughtered the Vikings of Dublin and was seen as the High King in 1002.

One of the main reasons the Vikings failed to take full control of the island is that they made the mistake of getting involved with Ireland's internal affairs which seen many clans battle with each other for control of different regions. The Vikings joined forces with the clan of Leciester to defeat Brian Boru and called on forces to come to Ireland from all over the Viking Kingdom.

On Good Friday 1014 the Viking fleet arrived in Dublin bay to battle with Brian Boru. Brian's Army consisted of his Munster army and the Limerick and Waterford Vikings, who had joined forces with Brian Boru. Although Brian was killed, at an age of 70, as he prayed in his tent for victory the Vikings were driven back to the Viking ships with many being slaughtered on the coast of Clontarf which would see Viking power in Ireland lost forever.

Although the Viking power was taken away it is well known they helped the Irish progress in terms of technology in building warships, weapons and battle tactics and also built the first towns such as Dublin, Cork and Waterford. Many Vikings still lived on in Ireland and married into Irish families which would help shape many future generations.

With the invasion of the Vikings and internal disputes the Church in Ireland was reduced and its influence abroad was dramatically smaller than previous years. Rome was quite worried that Ireland was losing touch with Christianity and the country would need reformed and disciplined yet again. Malachy of Armagh, aged 29, would be appointed Bishop of Down and Connor in the North East.

Time line of Vikings in Ireland

795AD - The Vikings arrive in Ireland performing small raids

806AD - The Vikings raid Iona Abbey killing all 68 occupants

832AD - 120 Viking ships arrive in Ireland's northern and eastern coasts

836AD - Vikings being attacking deeper inland

841AD - Dubhlinn (Dublin) begins as a Viking settlement

856AD - The Vikings created the settlement near Cork

848AD - Viking army defeated in Sligo, Kildare, Cashel and Cork

850AD - The Vikings created the settlement of Waterford

851AD - Battle at Dundalk bay between Norwegian Vikings and Danish Vikings takes place

852AD - Armagh is destroyed by Vikings

869AD - King of Connaught defeats Norwegian Vikings near Drogheda

902AD - The Irish attack and drive the Vikings from Dublin into Wales

914AD - Large Viking Fleets being arriving at Waterford. Further settlements built in Limerick and Wexford

915AD - The Vikings attack Dublin and regain control from the Irish

928AD - Viking Massacre at Dunmore Cave in Kilkenny

940AD - Brian Boru was born

976AD - Brian Boru becomes King of Munster

980AD - The Battle of Tara

999AD - Brian Boru defeats the Vikings

1002AD - Brian Boru becomes High King of Ireland

1005AD - Mael Morda mac Murchada begins to rebel against Brian Boru

1014AD - Battle of Clontarf - Brian Boru & Mael Morda mac Murchada are killed.

3.2 The Normans

Although an important piece of Irish history, the life of the Normans in Ireland was somewhat short lived (+200 years) in terms of occupation. In saying this, the Norman invasion of Ireland would lead to the English occupation on Irish soil for over 800 years, a reason why this era held importance in Ireland's history.

The Normans brought many new things to Ireland such as Architecture, languages, such as English and French, and farming ideas just to name a few. As brilliant builders the Normans constructed many castles in Ireland to some of which still stand today, many other lay in ruin.

1 May 1169 marked the beginning of the Norman military invasion of Ireland headed by Diarmait Mac Murchada. Without long he had regained the King of Leinster seat and moved onto remove the High King of Ireland, Ruaidri Ua Conchobair. In this battle MacMurrough failed to remove O'Connor from the throne and requested that Richard de Clare, 2nd Earl of Pembroke come to Ireland and assist with his quest.

By 1170 the 2nd Earl of Pembroke (also known as Strongbow) arrived in Ireland with an almighty force of soldiers armed with the latest advanced weaponry found in Europe. With Strongbows unbeatable army it wasn't long until the Normans had control of Dublin removing the Vikings that already settled in Ireland Before long Strongbow married MacMurrough's daughter, Aoife, and was soon King of Leinster. Other Norman soldiers started settling in Ireland taking to our culture & customs and marrying into Irish families. They even made alliances with clan chieftains helping to fight against other chieftains.

By now King Henry had become very unsettled on how their invasion had developed in what could only been seen as a very confusing state of affairs. Strongbow, A Norman, was now a King in Ireland, his army were becoming more Irish than the Irish, too many battles were taken place but yet England had seen no political or economical return for all their efforts.

To overcome the problem of the Normans fitting into the Irish way of life King Henry II decided to travel to Ireland, this was to be the first time an English King invades Ireland but the invasion was more of an embarrsement for the English King as some Irish Kings refused to cooperate. Irish resistance was strong in the Northern part of the island so the Normans invaded Ulster but in doing so Irish Chieftains decided to call onto Scotland for help.

Galloglach's, fierce Scottish fighters, came to Ireland's call to help fight against the Normans. Edward Bruce also arrived who later became a High King of Ireland. Sadly King Edward was killed and his body cut into pieces and placed in towns across Ireland, a warning to the Irish.

Initially the Normans controlled the entire east coast, from Waterford up to eastern Ulster and penetrated far west in the country. The counties were ruled by many smaller kings. The first Lord of Ireland was King John, who visited Ireland in 1185 and 1210 and helped consolidate the Norman controlled areas, while at the same time ensuring that the many Irish kings swore fealty to him.

Throughout the thirteenth century the policy of the English Kings was to weaken the power of the Norman Lords in Ireland. For example King John encouraged Hugh de Lacy to destabilise and then overthrow the Lord of Ulster, before creating him to the Earl of Ulster. The Hiberno-Norman community suffered from a series of invasions that ceased the spread of their settlement and power. Politics and events in Gaelic Ireland served to draw the settlers deeper into the orbit of the Irish.

3.3 The Norman Decline

Despite their superior fighting capability and successful conquests, the Norman colony in Ireland began to decline after 1250 AD. Firstly, there were not enough dedicated Normans to occupy all the land they had acquired. Secondly, after 1216, the Norman Kings back in England had lost interest in Ireland and no longer sent military assistance to defend the Norman Lords in Ireland. Thirdly, the Normans had begun to be 'Irishised' and many had married Irish people and had learned the Irish language and traditions. Lastly, many Normans who had come to seek their fortune on the 'new frontier' became tired of Ireland and left again.

The more anti-Norman Irish lords began to realise that they had a chance against the Normans again. Aided by hired mercenaries from Scotland, called the 'Gallowglasses', they began to attack the property of the Norman Lords. In 1261, the Normans of Kerry were defeated and the O'Connors defeated the Normans of Connaught in 1270. And in 1274, the Normans of Wicklow were defeated. By 1300, large chunks of Ireland were once again ruled by the Irish Lords. The Norman King did not regard Ireland as strategically important (aside from trading goods) and was not prepared to waste his forces protecting the Normans there.

Until this point, the Norman kingdom consisted only of England and the lands in Ireland. In 1296, however, King Edward 1st of England sought to expand northwards and invaded Scotland. He took control, and removed the Stone of Scone (an important royal treasure of the Scottish Royal family that was finally returned 700 years later in 1996). For 10 years the English-Normans ruled the Scots. In 1306, however, a Scot named Robert Bruce hatched a plot to regain Scottish independence and with help of some Scottish lords, he defeated the English at Bannockburn in 1314. The victorious Robert Bruce then became King of Scotland.

The Irish Lords in Ulster, O'Neill and O'Donnell, were impressed by this turnaround in Scotland and wondered if Bruce could help them defeat the remaining Normans in Ireland. Robert Bruce knew that the English got many supplies from Ireland so the two sides worked out an agreement whereby Robert's brother, Edward Bruce, would become High King of Ireland in return for military assistance. Edward landed at Larne in Ulster (just north of present day Belfast) in 1315 with a large army, rapidly defeated the Normans of Meath and then continued southwards. However, many Irish didn't like him because he disrespected the Irish peasants and damaged their property by marching through it rather than going around it. Edward, nonetheless, was crowned King of Ireland in May 1316. Edward was joined by Robert Bruce later that year, and the brothers marched on the Normans of Limerick, Tipperary and Kilkenny and plundered their property. Robert returned to Scotland but Edward was finally defeated and killed by the Normans on 14 October 1318. Although the Bruces were gone, the Normans were weakened and the Irish now felt able to defeat them themselves. The pestilence of the Black Death of 1348 merely added to the decline of the Normans.

In 1360, King Edward 3rd finally realised that he was on the verge of losing control of the last Norman parts of Ireland and sent his son Lionel to try to reverse the declining trend. He arrived in Dublin in 1361 with an army and recruited local Normans. He then launched a series of unsuccessful offensives into Leinster and Munster. Faced with no good news to come home with, he held a conference in 1366 called the Parliament of Kilkenny. This conference was designed to pass legislation for the Norman-controlled parts of Ireland, and attempted to reverse the trend of Norman decline by separating Irish and Norman culture. The laws passed banned Normans from marrying Irish, speaking Irish, using Irish law or dress, and listening to Irish music or stories. However, few Normans obeyed the laws - the families of many had been in Ireland for 2 centuries, and no longer felt patriotism towards England. Lionel died in 1367, with not much success to his name.

Richard 2nd became King in 1377. He landed at Waterford with a massive force of 10,000 men and a new invention: artillery. Faced with such a force, many major Irish Lords submitted to the English. Richard let these men hold their land if they promised loyalty to the English king. The Irish Lords of Leinster, however, were evicted from their estates and plans were made for English Lords to be set up instead. The land was temporarily left unoccupied, but as soon as Richard left in 1399 war broke out. The Irish Lords of Leinster returned to their land in Leinster and Richard's viceroy was murdered. Not long afterwards Richard was murdered by his cousin Henry who took the throne of England as Henry 4th.

The Norman decline continued for the next half century. By 1450, English control in Ireland had been reduced to a 20 mile wide strip around Dublin, known as the Pale. The English defended this land, and the Irish were unable to completely drive the English off the island. The Pale was surrounded with a fence to keep out the Irish. (This is where the phrase 'Beyond the Pale' comes from.) The 3 major English Lords whose estates were within the Pale continued to exist, and formed alliances with the neighbouring Irish and became very powerful. Outside the Pale (particularly Munster), former Norman Lords had practically become Irish, and many of them joined with the native Irish in their hatred of the English.

Conclusion

The Celts had a great impact on Ireland history. They brought with them a totally different and new culture, languages, art, technology and belief's. They had introduced using Iron for making tools and weapons but more importantly brought the sense of kingship, kingdoms and power.

Although the Viking power was taken away it is well known they helped the Irish progress in terms of technology in building warships, weapons and battle tactics and also built the first towns such as Dublin, Cork and Waterford. Many Vikings still lived on in Ireland and married into Irish families which would help shape many future generations.

The Anglo-Norman invasion has left an indelible mark on the face and character of the country. No other event except the preaching of the gospel by Saint Patrick and his companions has so changed the destinies of Ireland.

The Normans brought many new things to Ireland such as Architecture, languages, such as English and French, and farming ideas just to name a few. As brilliant builders the Normans constructed many castles in Ireland to some of which still stand today, many other lay in ruin.

Today many of Ireland's customs, placenames, towns, and even faces still act as a daily reminder to us of the influence that the Normans had on Ireland. Few Irish people are unfamiliar with the names of men such as Strongbow and Henry II. From numerous sources (such as the annals, Gerald of Wales' account of the invasion, correspondences of the popes at the time, even architecture and art-such as the fresco painting of the marriage of Strongbow to Aoife in Westminster) we can get a fairly clear idea of the chronological order of Normans intervention in Ireland. However, the reasons for the colonial enterprise are not so clear cut and precise, although the motives for the invasion are as important as the events themselves.

Observing the topic of our paper ON EARLY HISTORY OF IRELAND we've achieved our aim - observe the main characteristic features and important events of Ancient and Medieval history of Ireland.

And as a result of the work it's very necessary to emphasize the following conclusions:

1. Ireland is rich in culture, ancient castles and monuments which have survived even today

2. With the invasion of the Vikings and internal disputes the Church in Ireland was reduced and its influence abroad was dramatically smaller than previous years.

3. The Normans brought many new things to Ireland such as Architecture, languages, such as English and French, and farming ideas just to name a few. the Normans constructed many castles in Ireland to some of which still stand today, many other lay in ruin.

Bibliography

christianity viking invasion ancient

1. David Ross. Ireland. The history of a nation. . - .:, New Lanark: Geddes & Grosset, 2006-384 c

2. David MC Dowall - An illustrated History of Britain, Longman 1989

3. George Macanlay Trevelyan - A shortened history of England 1942

4. Encyclopedia Americana. International edition. Presented by the Public Affairs section united States Embassy Minsk, Belarus

5. Padraig Mac Donncha. Irish History Timeline http://www.yourirish.com/history/

6. Ireland and it's Viking influence. http://asp52.hubpages.com/hub/Ireland-and-the-Vikings

7. The story of Ireland (part 1 of 5)

http://video.yandex.by/#search? id=20453345-10 - 12&where=all&text=the % 20history % 20of % 20ireland

8. Thomas D'Arcy McGee. Popular history of Ireland. Book 3

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