What was it like in the 9th-century Ireland? Following the popularization of new religion, the traditional Druidism became extinct. Irish scholars studied Latin and Christian theology in monasteries which were all very gorgeous buildings in Ireland. Irish missionaries publicized the academic atmosphere in Ireland, which attracted scholars from the whole Europe to visit Ireland. Those monasteries in Ireland were all excellent academic institutions, and their seclusion helped much in preserving the knowledge of Latin. Illustration art, metalwork and engraving were also rapidly developed.
The time when Vikings invaded Ireland
Due to the political division in Ireland, Vikings began to invade this island from 795. The Vikings from Norway had colonized Orkney Islands and Shetland Islands before they came to Ireland. After the initial attacks, they began to establish settlements in Ireland. These settlements later became the earliest cities in Ireland. Cities like Dublin, Wexford and Waterford all emerged in that way.
How the Vikings plundered Ireland in early time
Just like how the Vikings did in England, at first those Norse pirates only did small-scale pillages. They usually sent out no more than three ships to test the defense of local people. They always plundered those isolated areas which were near the seashore, and they had become quite adept at this tactic. Even the most prestigious monasteries in Ireland could not avoid being pillaged. The Vikings could always pillage monasteries and then escape before the local amry arrived.
began to change their way of plundering
The successful cases in Ireland drew a large number of Vikings. In the following twenty years, the whole Ireland suffered countless attacks, even the Skellig Michael Monastery which looked indestructible could not avoid being pillaged. This monastery is located on a small island which is 80 miles away from the southwestern coast of Ireland, about 500 feet above the sea level. In 821, a Viking pirate group climbed up the cliff and pillaged the wealthy monastery, even kidnapped the abbot. These Vikings starved the abbot to death just to please themselves. More sadly, the other pirates also followed the Vikings’ practice for ransoms.
Vikings attempted to found a kingdom in Ireland
The first Viking who attempted to found his own kingdom in Ireland was Thorgest. His kingdom was located in modern Irish provinces of Connacht, Munster and Ulster. This kingdom lasted from 831 to 845, the year where Thorgest was killed by Malacky, the king of Meath. In 848, Malacky led his army and defeated a Viking army. In 852, some Vikings built a fortress by the Dublin Bay, this was the origin of Dublin city (the name Dublin was derived from “Án Dubh Linn”, which means ”black pool” in the Old Irish). But according to ancient Greek and Roman scholars, before the Viking fortress there had been a settlement named Deblana in where the modern Dublin located. Later the Irish people in this settlement merged with Vikings.
The emergence of Thorgest
In the year of 836, Thorgest, a notorious Viking pirate, boarded the stage of history. In Ireland, his name Thorgest was derived from the Gaelic. Thorgest led a large number of ships and landed in Ireland, they are even called the “Royal Fleet” in the Irish annals. Thorgest seemed to be heavily linked with the royal families in Scandinavia, and thus was elected as the leader of Vikings in Ireland.
In the year of 839, Thorgest personally led the attack on the shrine of Ireland, which was located in County Armagh of Northern Ireland. The monks and seminarists failed to escape were all slaughtered. The Viking pirates overturned altar, dug the tomb, cracked the Holy Box, poured the Saint’s remains on the ground and picked out the valuable. Besides, Thorgest also broke into the St Patrick’s Cathedral, worshipped Odin with the remains on the altar.
Thorgest’s atrocity made him the most hated person to Irish people. They regarded this Viking pirate as Satan’s disciple who was cruel and evil and showed no respect to the God, and therefore must be stopped at all costs. However, Thorgest was totally different from those Vikings they had ever met. He was not content with killing and looting, because he had a bigger plan and attempted to conquer and control the whole island. He also had the most favorable opportunity. The king of the Kingdom of Munster challenged the High King, leading to a chaos in Ireland. With the abundant materials he got in County Armagh, Thorgest advanced inland.
The death of Thorgest
In 845, Máel Sechnaill, the king of Tara, captured Thorgest. This was great inspiration to Irish people mentally and spiritually. As for how he did that, it was still a mystery. People only know that Máel Sechnaill captured Thorgest with stratagems instead of measures of war. People fastened stones to this abominable Viking and threw him into the lough. The death of Thorgest did not only end the Vikings’ attempt to establish a unified pagan regime, but also cause a chaos among Vikings.
The fusion period of Celts and Vikings
The Vikings did not coordinate their attacks, while the defense of Irishmen were inconsistent. There were also power struggles among Irishmen, some factions even aligned with Vikings sometimes. At last, the Tara family from Northern Ireland obtained the edge, and made the Vikings who had settled down in Ireland submit to him. In the late 10th century, Brian Boru unified Ireland. And he defeated the Vikings in 1014.
The threat of Vikings, new weapon technologies, the foundation of cities and the development of maritime trade greatly changed Ireland. The Vikings failed to set up a foothold in Ireland for long, but their culture and language left the traces in Ireland. In the following 150 years, there were still struggles and conflicts among Irishmen, but it was generally peaceful on this island, and the Irish culture and art was developing. The peace had lasted till the Norman invasion led by Henry II.
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