Ireland's History in Maps


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Reference:   Old Irish Kingdoms and Clans -- Old Irish Surnames


The Vikings

The Viking era in Ireland is commonly divided into two periods: an early era beginning in 795 AD and ending by the mid 9th century, and a second period beginning around 914 AD and ending around the middle of the 10th century. The 'first period of the Viking Wars' consisted of raids on island and coastal monasteries, the initial raids occuring around 795 at the island monasteries at Rathlin, Inishmurray and Insbofin on the northern and western coasts. Irish monasteries provided important economic and political focal points to the Vikings for provisions, precious goods, livestock, and captives. This was also the reason that monasteries were a favorite raiding spot for Irish leaders both before and after the arrival of the Vikings. The early Vikings in Ireland were Norwegian ("Fingall") and were followed later by competing Danish Vikings ("Dubhgall"). The superior technology of their long boats allowed them to traverse the open seas and yet navigate the major river channels in Ireland, England and the European continent. Their surprise raids were quick and efficient.

During the first half of the ninth century, Viking raids occured quickly and infrequently (on average once every year or two). The Vikings eventually established raiding base camps at Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Wexford, Waterford, Carlingford, Strangford, Lough Foyle, Annagassan, Arklow, Youghal, Lough Foyle and even into Lough Ree.

By the mid-ninth century, the Vikings began more permanent settlements at some of their base camps, notably Dublin in 841, Cork about 846 and Waterford around 850 (and again in 914). At this time the Norwegian and Danish contingent of Vikings began competing heavily for power over the Irish enclaves. What followed was a period where the Irish were able to strike back at some of these settlements, as well as a 40-60 year lull in Viking raiding activity in Ireland. By 902 the Vikings were driven from Dublin.

A second period of intensified Viking activity began with the return of large Viking fleets to Waterford in 914 and to Dublin in 917, regaining control of these important trading ports. Settlements were further established at Limerick and Wexford as the Viking wars continued until the middle part of the tenth century. Over time the Vikings settled into Irish life as merchants and seamen, and the Irish formed alliances with them in their own continued internal struggles.

Some of the more prominent Viking activity recorded in the annals included:
795 - Raids on the monasteries of Rathlin, Inishmurray and Inishbofin.
797 - Viking attack on Lambay Island, northeast of Dublin City.
798 - Burning of the monastery of St. Patrick's Island.
807 - Burning of Inishmurray. Attack on Roscam in Co. Galway.
811 - Viking defeat by the Ulaid of northeastern Ireland.
812 - Viking defeat by the Umall of Co. Mayo.
812 - The Eoghanacht Locha Lein defeat a band of Vikings in Kerry.
819 - Vikings raid the Wexford area and later set up a trading post.
820 - The Vikings raid the Abbey of St. Finbarr's at Cork and set up a base camp.
824 - Attack on the monastery of Sceilg, 8 miles off the coast of Kerry.
825 - Monastery at St. Mullins is plundered.
831 - Vikings attack the area around Annagassan in Co. Louth.
832 - Vikings raid the monastery of Clonmore.
836 - First recorded inland attacks against the Southern Ui Neill in Meath.
837 - More raids, 60 ships appear both on the rivers Liffey and the Boyne.
839 - More raids - Viking fleet at Lough Neagh and over-winter in 840/41.
839 - Attacks are reported at Ferns, Co. Wexford and at Cork.
841 - Turgeis and a big Viking fleet take Dublin and begin their first settlement in Ireland.
841 - Vikings erect a longfort at Linn Duachaill near Annagassan.
842 - The Vikings complete there first "over-winter" at Dublin.
842 - The first recorded Irish-Viking alliance.
844 - Turgeis is killed by the Irish, drowned in Loch Nair.
845 - Forannan, abbot of Armagh, is captured in Munster.
845 - Viking victory at Dunamase.
846 - The Vikings make a settlement on islands at Cork.
848 - Maelseachlann I defeates the Vikings of Dublin at Skryne
848 - Olchobar, the king of Cashel, attacks the Viking base at Cork.
850 - Waterford is settled by the Vikings around this time.
851 - Battle at Dundalk bay between the "Fingall" (Norwegian) and "Dubhgall" (Danish) Vikings.
852 - Vikings devastate Armagh from their base at Annagassan.
853 - Olaf the White of Norway defeat the Danes in a great sea battle.
860 - Ossory is attacked from the Viking base at Vedrafjord (Waterford).
864 - The Deise destroy the Norse fort in Waterford.
866 - Aed Finnliath (Northern Ui Neill) clears the North coast of Viking bases.
869 - Norwegian Vikings suffer a defeat by Conor, king of Connaught, near Drogheda.
879 - Vikings attack Armagh from a base at Carlingford.
898 - Vikings attack Armagh from a base at Lough Foyle.
900 - Viking fleet moor at Lough Neagh.
902 - The Irish drive the Vikings from Dublin into North Wales.
908 - Eirík Bloodaxe, son of King Haraldr Harfagra of Norway, is a noted Viking raider.
914 - A second round of intensified Viking raids begin.
914 - A great sea fleet arrives at Waterford and more in 915.
917 - Vikings defeat the Irish at Dublin and regain control.
917 - The Leinstermen suffer defeat at the hands of the Vikings.
919 - Niall Glundub and the cream of the Ui Neill fall at the Battle of Dublin.
922 - Vikings establish a colony on an island at what is now Limerick.
926 - Muirchertach MacNeill defeats Alptham's Viking forces near Annagassan.
952 - St. Mullins monastery is plundered by a fleet under Lairic.
955 - The second and final period of Viking raids ends. An estimated total of about 43 raids are recorded during the entire Viking period in Ireland.
968 - Ívarr of Limerick is driven out of Ireland by King Mathgamhain of Munster.
969 - Ívarr returns to Limerick and re-establishes his rule on the larger islands of the Shannon.

Further Viking Reference:
The Vikings in Scotland and Ireland in the Ninth Century (Donnchadh Ó Corrain, PDF file)
The Vikings - at Ireland's Eye
Viking Network Ireland
The Vikings in Ireland - The Viking Network
The Viking Longship

Political Summary:
By the 780's the Ui Briuin had consolidated their power in Connacht to become the natural heirs to the kingship of Connacht. The Eoghanachta dynasties continue to alternate as kings of Munster, while the 'In Deis Tuaiscirt' (Dal Cais) begin to establish influence in parts of Tipperary and Limerick. The powerful Northern Ui Neill of Ulster and Southern Ui Neill of Midhe (Meath/Westmeath) vie for the title of Ard Ri and continue to alternate as high-kings of Ireland. In Leinster the Ui Dunlainge dynasties of the north continue their dominance of the provincial kingship, while the Ui Chennselaig of the south dominate the political scene there.

European Scholar:
One of the greatest scholars of Europe during the 9th century was an Irishman, Johannes Scottus Eriugena. John was invited into the Frankish court of Charles the Bald (Charlemagne's grandson) as schoolmaster at the Palatine Academy. He is noted for his translation of Greek works into Latin (e.g. Pseudo-Dionysius), later turned to philosophy and published outstanding treatises of his own (e.g. Periphyseon). It is now widely accepted that John Scotus possessed the finest and most original intellect of the early Middle Ages.

Excerpts from the Annals

758 AD - After Domhnall, son of Murchadh, son of Diarmaid, had been twenty years in sovereignty over Ireland, he died. He was the first king of Ireland of the Clann Colmain, and he was buried at Dearmhagh (Durrow) with honour and veneration. He was succeeded by Niall Frosach, son of Fearghal, in sovereignty over Ireland.

765 AD - Niall Frosach, son of Fearghal, was seven years king over Ireland when he resigned; and he died at I Coluim Cille, on his pilgrimage eight years afterwards. He was succeeded by Donnchadh, son of Domhnall, in sovereignty over Ireland.

792 AD - Donnchadh, i.e. the son of Domhnall, son of Murchadh, reigned twenty seven years, when he died, after the victory of penance, in the sixty fourth year of his age. He was succeeded by Aedh Oirdnidhe, son of Niall Frosach, in sovereignty over Ireland.

817 AD - After Aedh Oirdnidhe, the son of Niall Frasach, had been twenty five years in the sovereignty of Ireland, he died at Ath Da Fhearta, in Magh Conaille, after the victory of penance. He was succeeded by Conchobhar, son of Donnchadh, son of Domhnall, in sovereignty over Ireland.

831 AD - After Conchobhar, son of Donnchadh, had been fourteen years in the monarchy of Ireland, he died, after the victory of penance. He was succeeded by Niall Caille, son of Aedh Oirdnidhe, in sovereignty over Ireland.

844 AD - After Niall Caille, son of Aedh Oirdnidhe, had been thirteen years in the sovereignty of Ireland, he was drowned in the Callainn, in the fifty fifth year of his age. He was succeeded by Maelseachlainn, son of Maelruanaidh, over Ireland.

860 AD - Maelseachlainn, son of Maelruanaidh, son of Donnchadh, Monarch of Ireland, died on the thirteenth day of November precisely, on Tuesday, after he had been sixteen years in the sovereignty. He was succeeded by Aedh Finnliath, son of Niall Caille, in sovereignty over Ireland.

876 AD - After Aedh Finnliath, the son of Niall Caille, had been sixteen years in the sovereignty of Ireland, he died at Druim Inesclainn, in the territory of Conaille, on the 20th day of November. He was succeeded by Flann Sinna, the son of Maelsechlainn, in sovereignty over Ireland.

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