Ireland history took another turn when, in 841, the Vikings changed their style of casual once-off attacks on Irish monasteries. That year was the first time they overwintered building a ‘longphort’ at Lough Neagh.
The following winter 841-842 they started building a ‘longphort’ at Dublin and overwintered there. Their Irish base was now used to drive attacks further inland.
The Irish local kings or chieftains were not going to put up with a Viking settlement without a good fight. Many battles were fought and the Irish won a few. Meanwhile, the Vikings also started to fight each other as more and more arrived, now from different places such as Denmark.
Ireland history of the Vikings- Colm did an illustration of a viking raid showing some typical clothes and weapons Vikings would have used. Note the helmet which is far from a horned one!
In the second half of the ninth century however, as more and
more Vikings arrived and settled and mixed with the local population, getting
involved with local politics, attitudes towards them changed. Viking
settlements were then seen as a source of wealth rather than as something to be
A prime example for this change in attitude is the 20 day
siege of Dublin in 989AD won by Maél Sechnaill mac Domnaill. In his terms he
was promised ‘whatever he wished for for as long as he was king:
'An ounce of gold from every garth
(probably a small allotment garden such as those found in excavations in
Dublin) on Christmas Eve, forever.’
This quote is from the annals of Tigernach.
Longphorts, the typical Viking camp, are enclosures made of a raised earth mound. They are typically D-shaped and the top of them were finished off with a wooden palisade. Inside, there would have been huts for living quarters.
Longphorts were located at a bend in the river that contained a deep enough pool for mooring the Vikings’ longships. All that’s left of longphorts in the landscape these days is the earthen mound.
Read related articles here about how the Vikings
arrived first, and about Dublin, a Viking
town and Viking
contributions to Irish culture.
In Dublin, the Vikings first settled at a pool in the river Liffey where the tributary Poddle enters, and formed a deep black pool, ‘dubh linn’ in Irish (pronounced duv linn) which later became the word Dublin. Dublin was a great location because there were forests nearby which were crucial for boat building and boat repairs.
Over time, the earthen banks of the longphort were replaced with a stone wall, which later became Dublin Castle. The Poddle was diverted and is now underground, and a marshland formed in its’ place, which was filled in and is now the garden of Dublin Castle. During the Viking Age, Dublin developed into Ireland's inofficial capital, a major international hub of commerce in the Viking world.
Dublin became a town of merchants and trades people such as leatherworkers, builders, cobblers, shipwrights, metalworkers, comb makers and so on. In the major Viking settlements, people became bilingual. There was a lot of intermarriage, and a lot of trade with the Irish.
Shocked at reading the headline?
Actually, the slave trade was flourishing all over Europe at the time. In Ireland however, it hadn't been a big thing.
There had been slaves in Ireland before the arrival of the Vikings, but these were mostly prisoners of war, or enslaved because of debt. There was no large scale buying or selling of slaves.
The Vikings however used the slave trade as a major source of income and Dublin was a handy stopover between Europe and Scandinavia. There is a lot of evidence to indicate that Dublin was the slave emporium of the Viking world. Archaeological digs in Dublin have turned up huge slave chains designed to fit around a persons’ neck chaining them to many others so they could not escape or fight.
Horrendous, when you imagine the scene. They had the whole thing down to a ‘T’. The wealth of Viking towns in Ireland was largely built on trading humans. A cruel piece of Ireland history!
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