The foreign articles of luxury (dress, ornaments, wine, &c.) required by them were brought to the great oenachs or fairs held periodically in various parts of the country. A flourishing commerce, however, soon grew up in the Scandinavian towns; mints were established, and many foreign traders—Flemings, Italians and others—settled there. It was through these Scandinavian trading communities that Ireland came into contact with the rest of Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries. If evidence were needed it is only necessary to point to the names of three of the Irish provinces, Ulster, Leinster, Munster, which are formed from the native names (Ulaid, Laigin, Muma-n) with the addition of Norse staðr; and the very name by which the island is now generally known is Scandinavian in form (Ira-land, the land of the Irish). The settlers in the Scandinavian towns early came to be looked upon by the native Irish as so many septs of a tribe added to the system of petty states forming the Irish political system. They soon mixed in the domestic quarrels of neighbouring tribes, at first selling their protection, but afterwards as vassals, sometimes as allies, like the septs and tribes of the Goidel among themselves. The latter in turn acted in similar capacities with the Irish-Norwegian chiefs, Irish tribes often forming part of the Scandinavian armies in Britain. This intercourse led to frequent intermarriage between the chiefs and nobility of the two peoples. As an instance, the case of Cerball, king of Ossory (d. 887), may be cited. Eyvindr, surnamed Austmaðr, “the east-man,” son of Björn, agreed to defend Cerball’s territory on condition of receiving his daughter Raforta in marriage. Among the children of this marriage were Helgi Magri, one of the early settlers in Iceland, and Thurida, wife of Thorstein the Red. Three other daughters of Cerball married Scandinavians: Gormflaith (Kormlöð) married Grimolf, who settled in Iceland, Fridgerda married Thorir Hyrna, and Ethne (Edna) married Hlöðver, father of Earl Sigurd Digri who fell at Clontarf. Cerball’s son Domnall (Dufnialr) was the founder of an Icelandic family, whilst the names Raudi and Baugr occur in the same family. Hence the occurrence of such essentially Irish names as Konall, Kjaran, Njall, Kormakr, Brigit, Kaðlin, &c., among Icelanders and Norwegians cannot be a matter for surprise; nor that a number of Norse words were introduced into Irish, notably terms connected with trade and the sea.
The obscure contest between the Norwegians and Danes for supremacy in Dublin appears to have made the former feel the need of a powerful leader. At any rate, in 851-852 the king of Lochlann (Norway) sent his son Amlaib (Olaf the White) to assume sovereignty over the Norsemen in Ireland and to receive tribute and vassals. From this time it is possible to speak of a Scandinavian kingdom of Dublin, a kingdom which lasted almost without interruption until the Norman Conquest. The king of Dublin exercised overlordship over the other Viking communities in the island, and thus became the most dangerous opponent of the ardrí, with whom he was constantly at variance. Amlaib was accompanied by Ivar, who is stated in one source to have been his brother. Some writers wish to identify this prince with the famous Ivar Beinlaus, son of Ragnar Lodbrok. Amlaib was opposed to the ardrí Maelsechlainn I. (846-863) who had overcome Turgeis. This brave ruler gained a number of victories over the Norsemen, but in true Irish fashion they were never followed up. Although his successor Aed Finnliath (863-879) gave his daughter in marriage to Amlaib, no better relations were established. The king of Dublin was certainly the most commanding figure in Ireland in his day, and during his lifetime the Viking power was greatly extended. In 870 he captured the strongholds of Dumbarton and Dunseverick (Co. Antrim). He disappears from the scene in 873. One source represents him as dying in Ireland, but the circumstances are quite obscure. Ivar only survived Olaf two or three years, and it is stated that he died a Christian. During the ensuing period Dublin was the scene of constant family feuds, which weakened its power to such an extent that in 901 Dublin and Waterford were captured by the Irish and were obliged to acknowledge the supremacy of the high-king. The Irish Annals state that there were no fresh invasions of the Northmen for about forty years dating from 877. During this period Ireland enjoyed comparative rest notwithstanding the intertribal feuds in which the Norse settlers shared, including the campaigns of Cormac, son of Cuilennan, the scholarly king-bishop of Cashel.
Towards the end of this interval of repose a certain Sigtrygg, who was probably a great-grandson of the Ivar mentioned above, addressed himself to the task of winning back the kingdom of his ancestor. Waterford was retaken in 914 by Ivar, grandson of Ragnall and Earl Ottir, and Sigtrygg won a signal victory over the king of Leinster at Cenn Fuait (Co. Kilkenny?) two years later. Dublin was captured, and the high-king Niall Glúndub (910-919) prepared to oppose the invaders. A battle of prime importance was gained by Sigtrygg over the ardrí, who fell fighting gallantly at Kilmashogue near Dublin in 919. Between 920 and 970 the Scandinavian power in Ireland reached its zenith. The country was desolated and plundered by natives and foreigners alike. The lower Shannon was more thoroughly occupied by the Norsemen, with which fact the rise of Limerick is associated. Carlow, Kilkenny and the territory round Lough Neagh were settled, and after the capture of Lough Erne in 932 much of Longford was colonized. The most prominent figures at this time were Muirchertach “of the leather cloaks,” son of Niall Glúndub, Cellachan of Cashel and Amlaib (Olaf) Cuarán. The first-named waged constant warfare against the foreigners and was the most formidable opponent the Scandinavians had yet met. In his famous circuit of Ireland (941) he took all the provincial kings, as well as the king of Dublin, as hostages, and after keeping them for five months at Ailech he handed them over to the feeble titular ardrí, showing that his loyalty was greater than his ambition. Unlike Muirchertach, Cellachan of Cashel, the hero of a late romance, was not particular whether he fought for or against the Norsemen. In 920 Sigtrygg (d. 927) was driven out of Dublin by his brother Godfred (d. 934) and retired to York, where he became king of Northumbria. His sons Olaf and Godfred were expelled by Æthelstan. The former, better known as Amlaib (Olaf) Cuarán, married the daughter of Constantine, king of Scotland, and fought at Brunanburh (938). Born about 920, he perhaps became king of York in 941. Expelled in 944-945 he went to Dublin and drove out his cousin Blákáre, son of Godfred. At the same time he held sway over the kingdom of Man and the Isles. We find this romantic character constantly engaged on expeditions in England, Ireland and Scotland. In 956 Congalach, the high-king, was defeated and slain by the Norse of Dublin. In 973 his son Domnall, in alliance with Amlaib, defeated the high-king Domnall O’Neill at Cell Mona (Kilmoon in Co. Meath). This Domnall O’Neill, son of Muirchertach, son of Niall Glúndub, was the first to adopt the name O’Neill (Ir. ua, ó = “grandson”). The tanists or heirs of the northern and southern Hy Neill having died, the throne fell to Maelsechlainn II., of the Cland Colmáin, the last of the Hy Neill who was undisputed king of Ireland. Maelsechlainn, who succeeded in 980, had already distinguished himself as king of Meath in war with the Norsemen. In the first year of his reign as high-king he defeated them in a bloody battle at Tara, in which Amlaib’s son, Ragnall, fell. This victory, won over the combined forces of the Scandinavians of Dublin, Man and the Isles, compelled Amlaib to deliver up all his captives and hostages,—among whom were Domnall Claen, king of Leinster, and several notables—to forgo the tribute which he had imposed upon the southern Hy Neill and to pay a large contribution of cattle and money. Amlaib’s spirit was so broken by this defeat that he retired to the monastery of Hí, where he died the same year.
The Dalcais Dynasty.—We have already seen that the dominant race in Munster traced descent from Ailill Aulom. The Cashel dynasty claimed to descend from his eldest son Eogan, whilst the Dalcassians of Clare derived their origin from a younger son Cormac Cas. Ailill Aulom is said to have ordained that the
- In Anglo-Norman times the Scandinavians of Dublin and other cities are always called Ostmen, i.e. Eastmen; hence the name Ostmanstown, now Oxmanstown, a part of the city of Dublin.