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Ireland and Its Viking Influence

Updated on October 18, 2017

Ireland after Christianity

Ireland along with the Shetland Islands and the mainland of Scotland, remained relatively untouched by the spread of Roman colonization and it's associated road network. This meant that the peoples of Ireland were a people of a few independent tribal groups, these people followed ruling families rather than those invaders strong enough to fill a void once the Romans had left their country.

The Irish did not suffer the mass onslaught of Germanic invasion that its near neighbour England had experienced. And this allowed Ireland to keep its own old customs and fierce clan rivalries. The only real change that Ireland made before the Vikings started to visit and raid was the mass conversion to Christianity. It was the promise of new lands, fresh victories and the wealth of the Christian monasteries which encouraged the Vikings to raid, settle and integrate into Ireland and its ancient culture.

Christianity replaced the druidic religion of Ireland.
Christianity replaced the druidic religion of Ireland. | Source

Map of Ireland

Rival Irish clans and the Vikings

Ireland was ruled by family clans who effectively were kings of the territories they held. Ireland had a "High King" who effectively ruled the whole Kingdoms, but in practice Ireland was not committed to a one nation at the time of the Vikings first appearance on their shores. The clan rivalry in the country originally encouraged Viking's to come and fight as mercenaries for one side against the other.

The Christian native Irish were not against raiding a rival's monastic building for their material wealth, be it coins, animals or religious artifacts. It is ironic that the Vikings are infamous for this kind of act, when the natives did the same. The Monasteries were effectively like banks for whichever chieftain had control of that area. The pagan Vikings had no objection to looting the Christian church, whereas the newly converted Anglo Saxon frowned on such heresy against God across the Irish Sea.

The first Vikings to set foot on Irish soil were believed to be Norwegian Vikings, this is likely as the Norwegian Vikings had already made great inroads into Scotland and its surrounding islands. The Danish Vikings were more interested on what could be gained from the rich but sparsely defended English lands. The Vikings of Sweden looked to colonise the land to their east, the Baltic states where the principal colonial and raiding lands that their longboats sailed for.

A Viking Dragon Ship
A Viking Dragon Ship

Raids from Scandinavia

By 830 A.D the Viking raiding parties from Scandinavia became bigger and bolder. In the next five raiding seasons, the Vikings would assault the settlements of Armagh, Lismore and Louth. These locations were attacked in force by water, due to the expert seamanship of the Vikings and their superior vessels.

The transport system of Ireland was very much water based and a road network like the former Roman colonies across the channel was unheard of. The Norsemen used their boats to travel and successfully hit target's up to 100 miles inland. The inhabitants would have been shocked by pirate raids hitting their homes and panic would have hampered any defence of these settlements.

A decade after the Vikings started raiding Ireland in force, saw the arrival of a new Viking war leader. The Irish referred to him as Turgeis, although his Viking name would be more likely to incorporate an affinity to the thunder god Thor. Turgeis set up a fortified enclosure where the River Poddle met the River Liffey. The Viking war base that Turgeis constructed was named " Black Pool " and in the native tongue was called Dubh Linn . This initial war base became known as Dublin, and is now the modern day capital city of the Irish Republic.

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Viking settlement in Ireland

By the end of the 9th century, the Vikings of Ireland had scaled back much of their raiding and started to settle down within the lands of the Irish. They sometimes engaged in warfare against their Irish neighbours and fought off any incursion's from the Danish Viking's who saw the lands as a potential site for further colonies.

As the Viking invaders settled in their homestead's and outpost's, a Viking infrastructure and influence began to spread into Irish life. Some Viking warriors inter-married with the Irish girl's and some formed alliance's through marriage to Irish lords daughters. A Viking grave site was discovered near modern day Dublin in 1841. And among the grave goods where Irish-made Viking swords and tools. Also in these graves where women in Viking style jewellery.

Although the Viking influence in Ireland is less than certain area's of the British Isles, It is quite obvious that they have effected the genetic makeup of the Irish people's by breeding with the native Irish population.They gave several town's the name these still use i modern times. The place names of Wexford, Limerick, Wicklow and Waterford are anglicized version's of their Norse names. The Vikings failed to influence the people of Ireland away from Christianity, the faith in Christianity in Ireland has become part of the national character.

The Vikings could not convert the Irish to Norse Paganism as the gods of the Aesir, did not have a common ground for the Irish people.The Anglo Saxon English although mainly Christian like the Irish, had in their pagan past a similar belief structure. Gods such as Odin/Woden and Thor/Thuror had a common identity, while the old religion of Ireland did not have as similar gods to identify with.


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    • Asp52 profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Stewart 

      5 years ago from England

      Thank you for stopping by, Ireland has so much history that is often overlooked!

    • Scribenet profile image


      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Great information about the Vikings and Ireland. Past history is so interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this Hub!

    • Asp52 profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Stewart 

      6 years ago from England

      Thank you Oceansider, it is a topic I am very keen on. Thank you for visiting and commenting.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Very interesting about the Vikings.....I have learned a lot from reading your hub....thank you. This was well done.

    • Asp52 profile imageAUTHOR

      Andrew Stewart 

      6 years ago from England

      @Cfin thanks for the visit. The Vikings often stayed in the lands they visited due to a lack of space in their native lands. Most of the Vikings in Scotland and Ireland where of Norwegian or Danish stock.

    • cfin profile image


      6 years ago from The World we live in

      Yes of course. My last name, Finegan, is purely Celtic. However many names are Viking or mixed Viking. You can almost tell by the look of some people. Viking settlements such as vater fjord (Waterford) can be found around Ireland. Also ironic was the fact that many Vikings stayed in Ireland and Iceland. I am unsure, but I beleive this was rare for Vikings.

    • Robwrite profile image


      7 years ago from Oviedo, FL

      Vikings are always interesting reading. Nice hub.



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