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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.
Ancient Irish Christianity and Civilization.—Trade.—No Irish, but Norwegian Coins.—Sigtryg Silkeskjseg.—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), because, at the time of their colonization, a number of Irish serfs, or Westmen, were put to death there for deceiving their masters.
Not even the Norwegian expeditions into Ireland, and the destruction of churches and convents by which they were accompanied, were able to annihilate the influence of the Irish clergy on the diffusion of Christianity in the northwestern part of Europe. Not only were the Norwegians and Danes settled in Ireland and the rest of the Western Isles soon converted from heathenism by Irish monks and priests, but Christianity was communicated through these converts to many of their Scandinavian countrymen, who visited Ireland partly as Vikings and partly as merchants. Thus the Norwegian king Olaf Tryggveson was baptized by an abbot on the Sylling Isles near Ireland, or, as other Sagas state, "to the west over in Ireland;" whence we may probably conclude that the Sylling Isles are not, as was before supposed, the Scilly Isles near England, but the Skellig Isles on the south-west coast of Ireland, on one of which there was at that time a celebrated abbey. At all events, it is certain that Olaf Tryggveson, during his long abode with his brother-in-law, King Olaf Kvaran, in Dublin, must, by his constant intercourse with the Irish Christians, have been strengthened in his determination to christianize Norway. Another proof of the influence of Christianity in Ireland on the North is, that an Irish princess, Sunneva, was at a later period worshipped as a saint in Norway. Her body is alleged to have been deposited in a large and handsome shrine over the high altar in Christ Church, in Bergen, and on the 8th of July the Norwegians celebrated an annual mass in her honour. Even in Iceland there is a fiord, or firth, on the northwest coast, called "PatreksfjorSr," after St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.
As we have before stated, the commencements of a national Irish literature were also developed among the clergy at a very early period; which, together with the numerous ecclesiastical buildings in Ireland, prove that the Irish clergy of those times must have attained no mean degree of civilization, and that with regard to education they must, in certain respects, have been a great deal in advance of the heathen Scandinavians. But not to speak of the Icelandic literature—which developed itself in tbe remotest North immediately after the heathen times, and contemporaneously with the Norwegian dominion in Ireland, and which both in form and substance was undoubtedly far superior to the Irish—there is reason enough to doubt whether the Irish people of that time, although christianized, were really more educated or more advanced in true civilization than the certainly too much decried heathen Norwegians and their Scandinavian kinsmen. It is true, indeed, that the Norwegian Vikings made their way with fire and sword, that they destroyed a number of churches and convents in Ireland, and that in this manner they often occasioned the most violent intestine commotions, which for a time, at least, could not but tend to hinder the progressive development of Christian civilization. But the Irish chronicles themselves teach us that the Christian Irish acted precisely in the same manner at the same period. In their mutual contentions they often burnt ecclesiastical buildings, plundered the shrines of saints, and'maltreated the clergy, besides, as is well known, constantly perpetrating amongst themselves the most horrible butchery. Lastly, in Ireland, as in England, we must certainly distinguish between the Vikings, who came to the country for the sake of war and plunder, and the colonists, whose aim it was to obtain a new home in Ireland. The latter brought with them not only great skill in the forging and management of arms, as well as in building and navigating ships for expeditions, both of war and trade, but likewise had their own runic writing; and by the readiness with which they imbibed the newer Christian civilization, soon acquired the ascendancy in the most important Irish cities, so as to become perceptibly enough, not only the equals, but the superiors of the Irish.
What particularly warrants us in doubting the alleged early and extensive civilization of the Irish, is the very striking circumstance that, previously to the arrival of the Norwegians, they do not appear to have carried on any very great trade, or on the whole to have had any very extensive intercourse with the rest of Europe. This appears particularly from the fact that the Irish at that time (about the year 800) had not yet minted any coins of their own; although their Celtic neighbours in Britain and Gaul had for centuries—that is, from about the birth of Christ— minted a great number, mostly in imitation of Greek and Roman coins. And though the Romans, Franks, and AngloSaxons, after their conquests of France and England, had made very considerable coinages in those countries, we do not even find in Ireland any trace of the coins of these neighbouring people being brought over the sea in any considerable quantity before the period mentioned. Yet in other countries, where the minting of coins also came late into use—as, for instance, in the Scandinavian North—so great a quantity of older foreign coins, together with all sorts of foreign valuables, is continually dug up as to show that even at a very early period active connections of trade must have existed between the Northmen and more southern nations. Neither Phenician nor Celtic coins are known to have been found in Ireland, and discoveries even of Roman and the more ancient Anglo-Saxon coins are very rare.
That Ireland should have, remained for so long a period and to so great an extent unconnected with the neighbouring nations, was undoubtedly caused partly by its remote situation, partly by the indolence of the Irish and the disinclination so general among the Celts to traverse the sea, to which an old author (Giraldus Cambrensis) expressly alludes. It must partly also be ascribed to the peculiar hostile position which the Irish were obliged to. assume towards the Romans, Anglo-Saxons, and Franks; since these people having gradually conquered the Celtic countries, France and England, naturally only awaited a favourable opportunity to make themselves masters of Celtic Ireland also. According to this we might even, perhaps, regard the isolation of Ireland as a necessary system of self-defence adopted by the Irish.
But no sooner were the Norwegians and Danes settled in the chief cities of Ireland, than Irish trade and navigation obtained an extent and importance before unknown. An active commerce was opened with England and Normandy through the numerous and influential Scandinavian merchants settled in those countries, as well as, of course, with the mother-countries of Scandinavia. In Ireland, therefore, as well as in England, Arabian coins, minted in countries near the Caspian Sea, are here and there found buried, which have evidently been imported by Scandinavian merchants. The Sagas mention regular trading voyages to Ireland from Norway, and even from Iceland; where there was, for instance, a man named Rafn, who was commonly called Rafn Hlimreksfarer (Eng., Limerick trader), on account of his regular voyages to Limerick (Limerick being called by the old Northmen, Hlimrek). The Sagas further mention, under the head of Ireland, "Kaupmannaeyjar" (Eng., the merchant islands), probably what are now called "Copeland Islands," on the northeastern coast, where there may have been a sort of rendezvous for the ships of Scandinavian merchants. The Icelandic and Norwegian ships brought fish, hides, and valuable furs to the English and Irish coasts; whence, again, they carried home costly stuffs and clothes, corn, honey, wine, and other products of the south.
These accounts of the old Northmen, respecting their commerce in Ireland, are far from being unsupported. The Welsh author, Giraldus Cambrensis, who visited Ireland during the English conquest, whilst the Ostmen were still living there in considerable numbers, says in plain