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Thread: Clontarf, 1014

  1. #1
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    Default Clontarf, 1014

    We've almost reached 2014, and as part of the many celebrations that will occur next year, we will be commemorating the Battle of Clontarf where Brian Boruimhe defeated an army of Vikings and Leinsterman trying to undermine his efforts to maintain a singular authority over all the men of Ireland.

    Of course much has been made of this battle in Irish historiography and in the formation of Irish identity in the 19th century. Originally, perhaps as a result of the effective propagandising efforts of the author of Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh,it was viewed as an Irish verse Viking affair, the struggle for national freedom against a foreign enemy.

    Subsequent scholarship, however, has undermined its national significance, downplaying the threat that Vikings posed at the end of the 10th century, and that it was primarily about Brian asserting his overlordship, and a rebellion against those attempts, as opposed to a genuine attempt by Dublin Vikings and their Islander allies to reassert their position.

    Seán Duffy's new book, Brian Ború and the Battle of Clontarf, is in some respects a revision of the revisionism. Firstly, he reasserts the importance of Brian's achievement. Not merely did he ride roughshod over the status quo, the first non-Eoghanacht king of Munster since the 5th century, the first non-Uí Néill (high-)King of Ireland ever. Before the rebellion that lead to Clontarf, Brian had the unprecedented distinction where every provincial king, as well as the kings of Bréifne, Ulaidh and Osraige, of Ireland had come into his house (i.e. had submitted to him). This seems to have involved Brian providing each with a tuarastal, literally a wage, but more akin to a movable fief, and receiving military service and tribute (mainly in the form of cattle, but silver, foodstuffs and billeting rights could also be included). There is evidence to suggest that Brian had officials in other provinces, maeraibh, in order to regularly collect his dues (although this was nothing peculiarly new).

    Although Seán Duffy does characterise the actions of Maelmordha King of Leinster, and his nephew, Sitriuc Silkbeard king of Dublin which lead to Clontarf as a rebellion against Brian's hitherto unchallengeable authority, he does recognise that even amongst contemporary annalists the battle of Clontarf was given national and international significance. The annalists describe Brian as leading the men of Ireland and Maelmordha and Sitriuc's forces were frequently referred to as "Na Gaill" in brief. It seems too that the annalists, rather than say that Sitriuc supported his uncle, claim that the rebellion itself was at the instigation of the Dubliners.

    Of course, on their own the Leinstermen and the Dubliners could not face down Brian's forces, for which he could potentially draw on all corners of Ireland, however, the addition of Norse Islanders from the Western Isles and Orkney stiffened their resistance. This is quite similiar to the situation in 1167 where Mac Murchadha, who could not challenge Ua Conchobhair in the field (the latter again could potentially drawn on all the polities of Ireland for his armies), looked abroad in order to maintain his independence.

    The arrival of Norse mercenaries and allies of Sitriuc naturally evened out the playing field. Contemporary accounts suggest Sitriuc's army, along with his Norse and Leinster allies, consisted of up 7,000 men, the majority of which being heavily armed Norse warriors. Of course, this may have initially been motivated by a desire to break Brian's control over the country, however, a victory at Clontarf would have left them with a strong army with the only military force capable of challenging them decimated and in a shattered retreat. This is no small number, and Svein Forkbeard in England had demonstrated what a force of 10,000 Viking warriors could do even with a united, coherent and full armed enemy.

    In short, although the battle of Clontarf may not have been fought to prevent a conquest of Ireland, it seems the victory itself, though pyrrhic, may have prevented a reassertion of Norse power in Ireland, something that seems to have been appreciated by contemporary accounts both at home and abroad.

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    Default Re: Clontarf, 1014

    That's not the way I heard it .... Brian Ború twice burned the city of Dublin ....... having first slaughtered half the population of Munster.

    Brian Boru came to Kilmainham to do battle against the Vikings. In 1013, as the white tents of his camp were pitched along this green valley troop after troop arrived in this quiet place. The Knights and foot soldiers did their duties and when the pale crescent of the Autumn moon rose up lighting the lines where banners and pennants shimmered in the gleaming air all the “wilderness was gorgeous with the panorama of glorious war.” Here the sight was renewed night after night until Christmas of that year, and in the bleak December days King Brian abandoned his camp at Kilmainham and marched back to Clare. Then on Easter Sunday in the following year, they again crossed the Liffey this time victorious but the grandson of King Brian, was borne in stately sorrow upon his bloody shield from the triumphant field of Clontarf to these slopes here at Kilmainham. Solemnly he was buried in the sacred ground where Saint Maighnean himself was also buried.
    "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies.”

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    Default Re: Clontarf, 1014

    Whichever take one has on Brian Ború, this will be the year to learn more. There are many events planned for Killaloe, where his castle at Kincora lies, starting tomorrow evening at 5 pm with the lighting of beacons and bonfires and leading up to a fireworks display at midnight.



    Details of the year's programme can be found here http://www.feilebrianboru.com/art-trail/

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    Default Re: Clontarf, 1014

    Quote Originally Posted by riposte View Post
    That's not the way I heard it .... Brian Ború twice burned the city of Dublin ....... having first slaughtered half the population of Munster.
    If that's Stanihurst you're using I'd recommend caution. He's far from contemporary and his account contradicts the annalists few of which were biased towards Brian. As for the claim he killed half the population of Munster, how could you justify such a number?

    And yes, he did attack, besiege, and where necessary, burn Dublin. That was the way of war then.
    Last edited by riadach; 31-12-2013 at 12:35 AM.

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    Default Re: Clontarf, 1014

    Quote Originally Posted by riadach View Post
    If that's Stanihurst you're using I'd recommend caution. He's far from contemporary and his account contradicts the annalists few of which were biased towards Brian. As for the claim he killed half the population of Munster, how could you justify such a number?
    True ..... I can't say how many people lived in Munster ....... or how many would make up half of them ...... but Ború was at war with the clans of Munster and south Leinster from 1009 trying to achieve his dominance. It took him four years to reach Dublin.
    Quote Originally Posted by riadach View Post
    And yes, he did attack, besiege, and where necessary, burn Dublin. That was the way of war then.
    "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, misdiagnosing it, and then misapplying the wrong remedies.”

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    Default Re: Clontarf, 1014

    Quote Originally Posted by riposte View Post
    True ..... I can't say how many people lived in Munster ....... or how many would make up half of them ...... but Ború was at war with the clans of Munster and south Leinster from 1009 trying to achieve his dominance. It took him four years to reach Dublin.
    It took him far longer than that and munster had been long under his control by 1009. I suggest you pick up Duffy's book, it gives an excellent summary of the politics of the period and goes into impressive detail about ború's achievements.

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    Default Re: Clontarf, 1014

    Quote Originally Posted by Spectabilis View Post
    Whichever take one has on Brian Ború, this will be the year to learn more. There are many events planned for Killaloe, where his castle at Kincora lies, starting tomorrow evening at 5 pm with the lighting of beacons and bonfires and leading up to a fireworks display at midnight.



    Details of the year's programme can be found here http://www.feilebrianboru.com/art-trail/
    Thank you.

    Both Trinity and Dublin City Council are also organising events to commemorate the Battle. Perhaps we could use this thread to keep a track on these events, if people are interested.

    http://www.dublincity.ie/RECREATIONA...ntarf1014.aspx

    (can't say much for the historical accuracy of the blurb).

    Trinity Conference schedule:

    http://www.tcd.ie/history/assets/pdf...17_04_2014.pdf

    http://www.thejournal.ie/battle-of-c...44862-Oct2013/


    Seems the hospitality industry are cashing in as well, fair dues.

    http://www.battleofclontarf.net/home
    http://www.clontarfcastle.ie/activit...ents.1206.html

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    Default Re: Clontarf, 1014

    I doubt that there was ever a battle at Clontarf.

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    Default Re: Clontarf, 1014

    Quote Originally Posted by Holly View Post
    I doubt that there was ever a battle at Clontarf.
    You doubt it was at Clontarf itself, or such a battle ever occurred?

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    Default Re: Clontarf, 1014

    Quote Originally Posted by riadach View Post
    You doubt it was at Clontarf itself, or such a battle ever occurred?
    It is on a par with the Battle of Jerico. Myth.

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    Default Re: Clontarf, 1014

    Quote Originally Posted by Holly View Post
    It is on a par with the Battle of Jerico. Myth.
    You do understand we have contemporary sources for the event. Annals of Inisfallen, Ulster, Chronicon Scottorum independently describe the event and its importance despite their respective biases. Not merely in Ireland, but a contemporary annalist in Aquitaine, writing within 5 years of the event also describes the Battle. Welsh annalists as part of the Brut also describe the battle. Then you have saga literature, both Irish and Icelandic which also give incredible detail about the battle, much of which they hold in common, in other areas complimenting eachother. Furthermore the meteorological evidence provided by the Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh about the position of the moon and the occurences of the tides have been mathematically confirmed. The characters described in it are historical and attested for in other sources, both Irish and international, their respective relationships are repeatedly confirmed by genealogies to a degree that cannot be explained away by genealogy. The very signature of Brian Ború has been preserved in contemporary manuscript.

    It would take the absolute blind disregard of reams and reams of evidence to make the bland and blunt statement that this was a concocted myth. I suggest you read a book on the matter.
    Last edited by riadach; 01-01-2014 at 03:13 PM.

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    Default Re: Clontarf, 1014

    Quote Originally Posted by riadach View Post
    ... It would take the absolute blind disregard of reams and reams of evidence to make the bland and blunt statement that this was a concocted myth. I suggest you read a book on the matter.
    A book? The Israelis have the Bible. It proves that God gave the Holy Land to the Jews.
    I must check-out the sources you mentioned. The Annals of Inisfallen, you say.

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    Default Re: Clontarf, 1014

    Quote Originally Posted by Holly View Post
    A book? The Israelis have the Bible. It proves that God gave the Holy Land to the Jews.
    Try an academic work. Numerous peer-reviewed articles and books have been written on the matter over the past 100 years.

    Not one of which supports your assertion that the battle was a mere figment of someone's imagination.


    I must check-out the sources you mentioned. The Annals of Inisfallen, you say.
    Primary sources include the Annals of Inisfallen, Chronicon Scottorum, the Annals of Loch Cé, Annals of Ulster, the Annals of Clonmacnoise, as well as the Chronicon Acquitainicum et Francicum and the Welsh Brut. Saga literature, which has a tendency to exaggerate and propagandise, is also useful however, once proper consideration is given to the objectives of the author. Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh as well as Njals Sága and Orkneyingasaga, the latter two being Norse sources, are thus very useful sources of information given the right degree of caution.

    For secondary sources on the battle I'd suggest Seán Duffy's new work, but Fr John Ryan S.J.'s essay "The Battle of Clontarf" found in Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, vol 68 (1938) is also invaluable for establishing the historicity of the event.

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    Default Re: Clontarf, 1014

    Quote Originally Posted by Holly View Post
    A book? The Israelis have the Bible. It proves that God gave the Holy Land to the Jews.
    I must check-out the sources you mentioned. The Annals of Inisfallen, you say.
    The Annals are pretty good.But you can check them against Norse sources.Laxdaela Saga or Njal's Saga - maybe both.It was big news in Iceland, so I'm guessing it was a bit of a setback for the Norse.An Orkney Tapestry by George Mackay Brown is a fascinating read too.The Welsh writer Hywel James noted the tendency of English academics to ignore Irish and Welsh sources.Even when researching periods when the Anglo Saxons were pre-literate.But , even if they cop on, no doubt we will continue this odd custom.

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    Default Re: Clontarf, 1014

    There is now an amended and extended post by Riadach on Clontarf and Ború on the PW Blog

    http://itsapoliticalworld.wordpress.com/

    How power balances in Ireland are affected by outside alliances is perennially interesting.

    http://itsapoliticalworld.wordpress.com/
    “ We cannot withdraw our cards from the game. Were we as silent and mute as stones, our very passivity would be an act. ”
    — Jean-Paul Sartre

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