posted on Apr, 25 2005 @ 06:44 PM
this is an interesting subject and me being so Irish it's titanic
The Vikings in Ireland
The traditional perception of the Vikings as marauders and plunderers of Irish monasteries is incomplete: it concentrates on the early years of Viking
activity, ignoring that the Vikings eventually settled peacefully, integrating into Irish society and making a positive contribution as traders and
Marie Therese Flanagan
The arrival of Viking sea raiders in Irish waters in the late eighth century heralded the first influx of new peoples into Ireland since the major
settlement of the Celts had been completed in the last centuries BC. From about the second century BC until the late eighth century AD Ireland had
enjoyed freedom from external attack or settlement. This was in marked contrast with the experience of neighbouring Britain or the continent during
the same period. Britain, for example, like Ireland had been settled by Celts and at approximately the same time. But Britain, unlike Ireland, was
also to experience conquest by the Romans in the first century AD and to be further colonised by Germanic peoples during the fifth and sixth
centuries. By contrast, Ireland experienced neither Roman nor Germanic settlement. Rather, it was the Irish who engaged in colonising ventures between
the fourth and sixth centuries, attacking and settling parts of Britain, notably in Scotland, Wales and Cornwall. This is an aspect of Irish colonial
history which is generally overlooked.
In the late eighth century Ireland shared once again a common historical experience with Britain and the continent, namely attacks from Scandinavian
sea pirates who came to be known as Vikings. The first recorded Viking attack on Ireland occurred in 795. In that year the annals of Ulster recorded
'the burning of Rechru by the heathens'. Although it is usual to identify the Irish place-name of Rechru or Rechrainn with the island monastery of
Lambay off the coast of Co. Dublin, this identification is not secure. It is possible that this entry may refer to an attack on Rathlin Island off the
Antrim coast, that Rathlin was in fact the first place in Ireland to experience a Viking raid.
The term Viking conjures up for most Irish people bands of marauders and robbers who plundered Irish monasteries and churches, causing widespread
destruction and terror, and carrying off the precious objects of the monasteries. Why did the Vikings concentrate their raids on Irish monasteries?
One popular view is that the Vikings were pagans and as such violently anti-Christian. But the Vikings did not initiate raids on Irish monasteries.
Less well known is the fact that the Irish had attacked monasteries even before the arrival of the Vikings. In order to explain why they did so it is
necessary to highlight some less familiar aspects of the role of the monastery in early Irish society than the more well-known reputation for sanctity
and scholarship which certain early Irish monasteries justifiably enjoy. Doyle Clan