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The Battle of Clontarf, 1014 a.d.

brian-boru22014 is the centenary of the beginning of WW1.

Here in Ireland, however, we are celebrating the millennium of an even more important military event - the Battle of Clontarf in April 1014.

At that time Dublin was a small but strongly defended city located on the south of the river Liffey. Ruled by Sitric, a Viking invader, it was rich and powerful with much of the wealth generated by trade in slaves.

Brian Boru was an important leader of Gaelic Ireland and wanted to overthrow the Viking invaders, take over control of the economic powerhouse that was Dublin, and unite the whole country with himself as boss. He and his allies marched against the local Irish petty leaders near Dublin and Sitric, viking leader of Dublin at that time.

The battle was fought at Clontarf just north of the Liffey. The leaders on both sides all died in the battle. But after the battle, there being no leaders with sufficient power, Ireland unfortunately returned to a fractious status quo between the many small, separate 'kingdoms' that had existed before the battle.

But the Battle of Clontarf is important to us because it was Ireland's first involvement in 'international' military affairs.


Fascinating. It seems that you hold your nationhood very dearly.
I didn't know the Vikings had much to do with Ireland. It must be wonderful to have that much history to enjoy.
The Norse people ruled great tracts of these Atlantic islands- Dublin, northern England (Yorkshire was their Jorvik) the Isle of Man, the Western Scottish Isles the islands of Orkney and Shetland and on the Scots mainland, Caithness as well as Faroe, Greenland and Iceland further afield.

The Northern Earldoms were hugely important and it was people from those earldoms, 'Lucky' Leif Eriksson and his crews who first made it to your side of the pond long before Cristoforo Colombo.
There was a Viking settlement in or near Cardiff, I believe, but I don't think they made much impression on Wales, though they did attack and pillage monasteries around the North Wales coast.
I've read the sagas - too bad they never made it to Texas.
I live here in Wexford(in the south-east). The Vikings settled here about 900 AD - hence our town's name which the Vikings called Weis-fjord.
Sitric Silkbeard of the kingdom of Dublin's daughter married the father of Owain, Prince of Gwynedd, probably the finest of the pre-union Welsh rulers. Owain was, unusually for a Welshman, tall, blond and blue eyed after his mother.

Clontarf was a military disaster as was WW1 but I'm not sure it was as important as WW1 proved to be in building the century in whch it occurred

As important as WWI?

My first reaction was similar to yours. Then i thought how subjective (and nationalistic) "importance" is. The "Indian Wars" were much more important to American Indians, than any of the wars they fought in as citizens or allies of the United States.

Re: As important as WWI?

You could say the same about Hastings, '1066 and all that' and William the Bastard where I come from, but for my sins I'm a military historian so have to put my nationalisms aside when looking at cause and effect! :o)

Re: As important as WWI?

For casualty statistics and infrastructure damage, of course there are objective measures of importance. But if a war kills 90% of a thousand people, is that more or less damage than one which kills 1 percent of one-hundred-million people?

But the aftermath of the battle and war is a part of history which is never perfectly repeatable, and therefore mostly not explained by the usual criteria for objectivity. It is what it is, and whether or how much what is is a result of battles or wars seems to me a question of opinions. Granted some are more informed than others, but they are opinions nonetheless.
replying here cos LJ won't let me reply to your message, or post in your friend request post> This what I tried to send:

I think you'd commented on a mutual friend's journal - athgarvan's - you looked interesting and we have various mutual friends. Just realised I should probably have commented on the post that heads you LJ though... :)
(sorry for the temporary thread hijack)

Rightie. I'll add you forthwith or even fifthwith!
This is interesting. I always thought of the Vikings more as raiders that would just take they need and move on. Never really thought of them as taking over places and actually sticking around to rule.
The Vikings settled all over Europe. For instance, the Normans (William the Conqueror and all that) were called that because they were originally 'North men' - Vikings.

Wikipedia has a nice map


showing the expansion and the centuries in which it took place.

Oh, and I seem to remember that Queen Elizabeth II is descended from Brian Boru on her mother's side, though I suspect this is also true of a sizeable proportion of the inhabitants of Western Europe in general and Ireland and Scotland in particular!

Edited at 2014-01-21 14:46 (UTC)
That is a very interesting map. I was not aware of how far east they went in big numbers. Thank you.
No probs. I was very surprised myself by being told that Sicily was a Viking (or Norman, I believe) kingdom at the time of the crusades.
I did some research a few years back about Vikings in the Kievan Rus so they got a long way east. Harald Hardrade, later King of Norway (he who later died fighting Harold Godwinsson, King of England at Stamford Bridge in 1066 in the 'other' battle that year) served the Emperors of the Eastern Roman Empire in Byzantium when younger.
Is that why future leaders all stay at the rear and let the little guys do all the fighting AND dying? :o :o :o
Hugs, Jon
When I was in Dublin, years ago, I tried to do the Irish jig on a bridge, rather intoxicated. I remember that it was a famous bridge, but don't recall the name. Anyway, I have video of afore mention jig. Very sad. Lol
What a pity you've lost it.

Riverdance created a world record last summer by the number of Irish Stepdancers they gathered on a bridge and along the quays of the Liffey in Dublin. 1,693 dancers from 44 countries.
See it on video : http://riverdance.com/blog/2013/07/21/world-record-breakers/
No, I didn't loose the video. I have it safe and sound. I should drag it out and laugh at myself.
The leaders on both sides all died in the battle. But after the battle, there being no leaders with sufficient power, Ireland unfortunately returned to a fractious status quo between the many small, separate 'kingdoms' that had existed before the battle.

Yes, but i always thought there was some justice in the fact that those who instigated and planned wars should also die in them. Politicians and executives who hope to profit from a war ought to be in the front lines or at ground zero. No war was ever caused by the actions of powerless individuals, no matter how psychotic. The young Serb who murdered Archduke Ferdinand was merely the pretext that "justified" the Austrian government doing what it was going to do anyway.
That said and given our stuff on nationalisms above, Gavrilo Princip is still a national hero in Serbia as whatever else he may have been, he was a Serbian nationalist.
We Irish tend to claim that Brian and those with him had the victory on the day. But in actual fact there were Vikings fighting and dying on BOTH sides. As in today's wars acquiring POWER was the be all and end all of the game.

But the Battle of Clontarf is important to us because it was Ireland's first involvement in 'international' military affairs.

Edited at 2014-01-21 19:30 (UTC)
There is also a Clontarf in New South Wales and one in Queensland, both called after the Clontarf in Dublin.

The name means: 'Cluain' (field/meadow) + 'tarbh' (bull).
Just off-shore to the Clontarf in Dublin we still have 'Bull Island'.
It means something to us, too. On of the major exhibitions in The House of Manannan is centred on the Manxmen who took part in the battle.
Gura mie ayd (Go raibh maith agat).