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the ancient Merovingian coins, and has a remarkable inscription on the obverse, half in runes and half in Latin letters, but which can scarcely be read otherwise than “Cunut u Dieflio," or, Canute in Dublin.
The Old Northmen call Dublin “ Dýflin,” whence the surrounding district also obtained the name of “ Dýflinarskiri,” as appears in the Sagas. This legible inscription encircles the bust of a royal warrior, clad in scale armour. On the reverse are seen the letters ENAE, and under them two figures, both turning their faces upwards in the same direction, and each extending a very large hand, whilst in their other hands, joined together, they hold a ring, as if they were taking an oath on the holy ring. They are, besides, represented as standing before, or sitting on, an elevated platform (perhaps an altar ?), under which is a mark (c) like the letter S placed on its side. These figures probably contain an allusion to some treaty concluded between an Irish king and the Scandinavian king Canute.
By the kindness of Mr. C. F. Herbst, of Copenhagen, I have been enabled to give a wood-cut of this silver coin, the only one of its kind, and never before copied. The drawing was made from a cast taken in Dresden. If the preceding explanation, which is certainly by no means farfetched, be the right one, we shall consequently have a proof that other Scandinavian kings, besides Olaf the White, the first-mentioned in the Sagas, reigned at a very early period in Dublin, if only for a short time. But all the rest of the Norwegian coins minted in Ireland are of the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries. They are of silver, and undoubtedly coined in various towns of Ireland besides Dublin, as in Limerick, Cork, Waterford, and several other towns where the Ostmen had settled.
The most remarkable of all are the Dublin coins, especially those with the legend “Sihtric rex Dyfl,” or, Sigtryg king of Dublin. It is true that there were several kings of Dublin of this name in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries ; but the coins alluded to, to judge from the impressions, all of which are imitations of contemporary Anglo-Saxon dies, and especially of those of King Ethelred the Second, must for the most part have belonged to Sigtryg, surnamed “ Silkbeard,” who reigned in Dublin at the close of the tenth and beginning of the eleventh century, and who was one of those who fought the battle of Clontarf against Brian Boru. It is very remarkable that on Sigtryg's coins, as well as on several of the Danish coins minted in the north of England, we find not only the Latin title “Rex,” but also the Scandinavian “Cununc "(king), as, for instance, on the annexed coin (in Mr. C. F. Herbst's collection), which has never before been copied :
On the obverse is the legend “Sihtric cunuic dyn," or Sigtryg king of Dublin; and on the reverse, “Byrhtmer mo on Vin;" whence we see that the coiner had an AngloSaxon name, and was certainly an Anglo-Saxon, particularly since he is said to have been “ on Vin,” that is, of Winchester. Among the coiners' names on the NorwegianIrish coins, we meet, indeed, with several Scandinavian names, such as Stirbirn (Styrbjörn), Azcetel (Asketil), Ivore (Ivar), Colbrand, Tole (Tule), and Oadin (Odin ?); whence we may reasonably conclude that the Norwegians in Ireland soon learned to coin, and were not, therefore, always compelled to avail themselves of foreign coiners. But most of Sigtryg's coiners were Anglo-Saxons; and not a
few of his coins are, like that above delineated, even struck by coiners in England; as, for instance, in “ Efrweec," or “ Eofer (wick)” (York), “ Veced” (Watchet, in Somersetshire), “ Vilt" (Wilton), “ Vint” (Winchester), and “Luni" (London). This admits of two explanations; either that these coiners at Sigtryg’s request minted coins for him, or that Sigtryg, who at one time was driven from his kingdom, resided in some at least of the above-named places, and caused coins to be minted there (?). The origin of several coins minted in Dublin about Sigtryg's time by the AngloSaxon king Ethelred the Second—as well as by the Danish-English king Canute the Great, and which for the most part are struck by the same Dublin coiner, Færemin, who minted most of Sigtryg's own coins—is involved in no less obscurity. Although history is silent, we might be almost tempted to believe that Ethelred and Canute were acknowledged by Sigtryg as his liege lords, or that possibly they ruled in Dublin for a short time; but in weighing these probabilities it must be remembered that neither Ethelred nor Canute calls himself on these coins king of Dublin, but simply “Rex Anglorum," or king of the English.
The great number and variety in which Sigtryg's coins appear, and the comparatively good stamp that distinguishes them from the rest of the Norwegian-Irish coins, seem to show that the years of Sigtryg’s reign must have been a period very favourable to Scandinavian trade and power in Ireland. In later times the Norwegian-Irish coins became worse, as the coiners did not confine themselves to imitating coins of the older Norwegian-Irish kings, and of the later English kings, Canute the Great, Hardicanute, Edward the Confessor, William the Conqueror, and others, but even copied copies to such a degree that the stamp and inscriptions of the original coins were very frequently not to be recognised. Of the coins current in Ireland in the last half of the eleventh, and in the whole of the twelfth, century, pretty large quantities have been dug up, both in and out of Ireland, and particularly in the neighbouring Isle of Man.
It must, however, be regarded as very doubtful how far this deterioration of the coins affords any reasonable confirmation of the justness of the usual conviction among the Irish, that after Sigtryg's time, or rather after his defeat in the battle of Clontarf, the power of the Norwegians in Ireland was completely broken. For, in that case, we might expect, among other things, that the victorious Irish kings, during the long period of more than a hundred and fifty years, which elapsed from the time of the battle of Clontarf until the English conquest of Ireland, would have minted their own coins. But during the whole of this period there are very few coins that can possibly be regarded as having been minted for native Irish kings. For the rest, the whole of the coins minted in Ireland, from the commencement of minting there (at latest in 950) till the English conquest (1171), seem to owe their existence exclusively to the kings and bishops of the Ostmen, who ruled in the most important trading towns of Ireland *.
SECTION VI. The Battle of Clontarf.-Power of the Ostmen after the Battle.—Their
Churches and Bishops.—Their Land and Sea Forces.- The English Conquest.--Remains of the Ostmen.—Their Importance for Ireland.
The cause of the battle of Clontarf, so celebrated in song and legend, or, as it is called in the Sagas, “ Briánsbardagi” (Brian's battle, after King Brian, who fell in it in 1014), is not precisely known. All that we are acquainted with is, that Brian, who was connected by very close ties of relationship with the Norwegian royal family in Dublin, had long availed himself of the assistance of the Norwegians to subdue other Irish princes, until, at
See Appendix, No. II.
length, after gaining victories in that manner, he came to a rupture with King Sigtryg of Dublin. The prospects of Sigtryg, and of the Norwegian power in Ireland, seem really to have been threatening enough ; at least it is said that Scandinavian warriors hastened in numbers to Sigtryg's assistance from the Scandinavian kingdoms in England, the Isle of Man, the Syder Isles, and Orkneys. From the last, in particular, came Jarl Sigurd the Stout, with a chosen force, in the midst of which waved a flag with the image of Odin's holy raven. Sigurd's own mother had woven this raven, which, with fluttering wings, had often before led the warriors to victory and glory.
This time, however, the raven was checked in its flight. After many of the standard bearers had been killed, Sigurd Jarl himself took the flag from the staff, and wrapt it about his body. He seemed to foresee, what really happened shortly afterwards, that the raven flag would be his winding-sheet. The Norwegians were at length forced to give way, even if the battle was not so entirely lost as the exaggerated Irish accounts represent. The Scandinavian auxiliaries withdrew to their ships, and King Sigtryg retired with the remnant of his army to Dublin.
But, as the Irish chronicles contain nothing about Sigtryg and his men having been afterwards expelled from Dublin, or about the Norwegian dominion there having been entirely destroyed, we cannot conclude from them that the power of the Ostmen in the rest of the Irish cities was annihilated in consequence of Sigtryg's defeat in the battle of Clontarf. It would, besides, have been singular enough if the power of the Norwegians in Ireland had been perfectly destroyed so early as the year 1014, since it was just after that time that the Northmen in the neighbouring countries acquired their greatest power by means of their victories. Instead of the Norwegian influence in Ireland having ceased, we not only find, long after this battle, King Sigtryg of Dublin fighting bravely