Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

which may also he seen on a sword of the iron age in the Museum at Copenhagen. Even the old Irish chronicles relate that the Norwegians placed inscriptions on their swords. Thus an ancient Irish poem says: "Hither was hrought, in the sword sheath of Lochlan's king, the Ogham across the sea. It was his own hand that cut it." It is most probable that by the Ogham writing is here meant "the Norwegian's Ogham," or runes, with which, as our Sagas state, the old Northmen's swords were frequently ornamented.

Several genuine Irish iron swords of that ancient period have been discovered in Ireland at various times, both in the river Shannon and in old Irish castleyards, or on the sites of castles. They are much smaller than the Norwegian swords, and in general want both the guard and the large pommel at the end of the hilt, as the annexed figure of those most frequently found shows. On the whole the Irish iron swords are of an older and more imperfect kind, and very strikingly resemble the bronze sword used in Ireland in the age of bronze. On placing the short and illformed Irish sword by the side of the much larger, better, and handsomer Norwegian one, we may almost say that we obtain, as it were, a living image of the degenerate and miserably-equipped Irish people in comparison with the strong and well-armed Norwegians.

The Norwegian warriors who found their last resting-place at Kilmainham, were evidently buried with all their arms, from the renowned " Danish battle-axe" (Fig. 4), and the lance (Figs. 5, 6)—which must have been deposited with the entire shaft, since the ferrule (Fig. 7) has been found—down to the shield. But as the last was mostly of wood, nothing more remains of the whole shield than the large iron boss (Figs. 8, 9), which was placed in the middle, and which served to protect the hand which bore the shield.

Among all the things discovered at Kilmainham, scarcely any more decidedly indicate their Norwegian, or Scandinavian, origin, than the bowl-formed brooches (Figs. 10, 11), already mentioned when speaking of the coasts of Scotland, and which are not found in any other part of Ireland. There are also some very peculiar small bone buttons (Fig. 12), having a small hole in the flat side, penetrating the button for some way without entirely piercing through it. Buttons of this form have not been before found in Ireland, though they are very well known in the Scandinavian North. They are discovered in Sweden and Norway, in graves of the period of the iron age, or times of the Vikings. It is highly probable that in those times they served as men, or counters in some game, as .they are generally found, especially in Norway, collected together in great numbers, and in conjunction with dice. To judge from the holes in the bottom, they have certainly been used in a sort of game of draughts; for, till late in the middle ages, nay, almost down to our own times, the Icelanders were accustomed to furnish their boards with small pivots, on which they placed the men, that they might not by any accidental shaking of the table be mixed with one another, and the whole game thus suddenly disturbed. The Irish also seem to have had a somewhat similar mode of proceeding at that time, as among a great number of things undoubtedly Irish, discovered at Dunshauglin, there was found a bone button or knob, certainly a draughtsman, which, instead of a hole, is furnished with a metal point at the bottom, by which it was evidently intended to be fixed in the board. But for the Scandinavian Vikings, who were so much at sea, and who, it seems, liked to while away the time by playing draughts, such a precaution was doubly necessary, as the rolling of the vessel would otherwise have thrown the draughtsmen together every moment. It is remarkable that at Kilmainham, as well as in Scandinavia itself, the draughtsmen are found deposited in the graves, by the side of the arms and ornaments of the warriors. This affords an instructive proof that the old Northmen must have been very fond of gaming; and consequently that the picture drawn by Tacitus of the passion of the ancient Germans for play, which at times even led them to gamble away their personal freedom, might apply to their neighbours, the Scandinavians.

We can scarcely err in referring the antiquities found at Kilmainham to the ninth, or at latest to the tenth century. The mode of burial is heathenish rather than Christian; and, as is known, the Norwegians settled in Ireland were converted to Christianity in the tenth century at latest, and probably still earlier. It is not at all probable that the graves are to be attributed to an isolated band of heathen Vikings, who came over at a later period, and who, after a battle, buried their dead on the field. The great number of graves, and the careful manner in which each is said to have been set or enclosed with stones, rather show that they were made in all tranquillity by the Norwegians and Danes, who at that time dwelt in Dublin, or its immediate neighbourhood, and who probably had a common burial ground there. Scandinavians appear also to have been buried in an adjoining churchyard, which at that time belonged to a convent dedicated to St. Magnen, but which afterwards became the burial-place for a hospital of the knights of the order of St. John, founded at Kilmainham. It has at length become one of the largest churchyards in Dublin. In corroboration of the conjecture that Scandinavians were buried in it, it may be mentioned that atall upright stone with carved spiral ornaments stands there—a sort of monumental, or bauta-stone, under which, several years ago, various coins were discovered, minted by Norwegian kings in Ireland; and near them a handsome two-edged iron sword, with a guard and a longish flat pommel. Some have, indeed, thought that this sword must have belonged to Murrough, a son of Brian Boru, or to Murrough's son Turlough, as both these warriors, having fallen in the battle of Clontarf, are said to have been buried in this churchyard. This, however, is only a vague conjecture; whilst it is quite certain that the abovementioned sword agrees most accurately in form with the many swords of the Vikings' times found in the North. There is, therefore, reason to suppose, that the sword was formerly deposited there with the body of a Norwegian warrior; and this supposition is strengthened by the discovery of the Norwegian-Irish coins.

Other old Norwegian, or Scandinavian burial-places, have been discovered in the Phoenix Park, near Dublin, where a pair of bowl-formed brooches were found near a skeleton. In making, a few years ago, some excavations in Dublin itself, in "College Green," which formerly lay outside the city, the workmen met with several iron swords, axes, lances, arrows, and shields, of the well-known Scandinavian forms. It is probable that this also was a burialplace similar to that at Kilmainham. With the exception of the burial-place on the coast of Lough Larne, the ancient Ulfreksfjord, no other decidedly Norwegian graves are hitherto known to have been discovered in Ireland.

Just as the proportionally numerous Norwegian graves near Dublin prove that a considerable number of Norwegians must have been settled there, so also do the peculiar form and workmanship of the antiquities that have been discovered in them afford a fresh evidence of the superior civilization which the Norwegians in and near Dublin must, for a good while at least, have possessed in comparison with the Irish. The antiquities hitherto spoken of only prove, indeed, that the Norwegians and other Northmen were superior to the Irish with regard to arms and martial prowess. But there are other Norwegian antiquities, originating in Ireland, and found both, in and out of that country, which also prove that the Danes and Norwegians formerly settled there contributed, like their kinsmen in England, by peaceful pursuits, to influence very considerably the progress of civilization in Ireland.

Section V.

Ancient Irish Christianity and Civilization.—Trade.—No Irish, but Norwegian Coins.—Sigtryg Silkeskjeeg.—Norwegian Coiners.

Centuries before the introduction of Christianity into the Scandinavian North (in the tenth and eleventh centuries)— nay, centuries before the actual commencement of the Viking expeditions—the Irish people had been Christianized. At a very early period numbers of churches and convents were erected in Ireland, which was also celebrated for its many holy men. It was a common saying that the Irish soil was so holy that neither vipers, nor any other poisonous reptiles, could exist upon it. Numerous priests set out from Ireland as missionaries to the islands lying to the west of Scotland; nay, they even went as far as the Faroe Islands and Iceland, long before those islands had been colonized. Thus, when the Northmen first discovered Iceland (about the year 860), they found no population there; but on "Papey," in "Papyli," and several places in the east and south of the country, they found traces of "Papar," or Christian priests, who had left behind them croziers, bells, and Irish books; whence they perceived that these priests were "Westmen," or Irishmen; for just as the Irish called the Scandinavians "Ostmen," because their home lay to the east of Ireland? so also did the Scandinavians call the Irish "Westmen." The most southern group of islands near Iceland is called to the present day "Vestmannaeyjar " (the Westman Isles),

« НазадПродовжити »