Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Coming of the Vikings to Ireland

From Wesley Johnston:
The first raids in the British Isles was in 793, when the great monastery at Lindisfarne was sacked. In Ireland, Rathlin island monastery was burned by the Vikings in 795. Other prominent monasteries that were attacked included Holmpatrick, Inishmurray, Inishbofin and Sceilg Mhicil. Sceilg Mhicil's abbot died of thirst as a Viking prisoner. St Colum Cille's great monastery at Iona was burned in 802. For the next 30-40 years, the Vikings engaged in hit-and-run raids where they landed a small number of ships at a settlement, spent a few days pillaging and burning it before heading back to Scandanavia to sell their booty. The Vikings were after two types of booty - riches and slaves - which they carried off to sell. They soon found that the monasteries were the richest sources of both goods and this is why monasteries suffered so much. However, the Vikings also attacked a lot of grád Fhéne (commoner's) dwellings.

The brutality that the Vikings displayed towards their prisoners, and their apparent disrespect for anything other than booty must have injected terror into those who experienced, and heard tales of, the Norsemen's exploits. However, the effects of these raids should not be exaggerated. In this phase, there was about one attack per year and the probability of being attacked in any given year was actually quite low. Life went on as normal in Ireland. Nor did the Irish sit back and let the Vikings pillage their coasts. While most Irish attacks on the Vikings met with defeat, a few succeeded. The Ulaid defeated a band of raiders in 811, a band was defeated in Connaght in 812 and one in Munster around the same time. (Read more.)

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