The Danish Invasion

Justin McCarthy
Chapter II | Start of Chapter

But the internal condition of Ireland began to be visited by many disturbing influences. Perhaps the fame which she had won for enlightenment and religion attracted invaders to her shores. The Danish invasion was the first of these great inroads. The Danes were a people especially given to travel, adventure, and conquest, and the mild softness of the Irish climate, the readiness with which the soil repaid its culture, must have been potent allurements to the inhabitants of a colder region with rougher seas and less temperate skies. Ireland was quite near enough to invite expeditions of conquest, and towards the close of the eighth century the hardy Norsemen effected their first landing upon Irish soil. Ireland was not at the time in a position to offer united resistance to the invaders. The constitution of the country had not grown up under circumstances suggesting the necessity of constant defence against incursions from over the seas. On one side lay what was then regarded as the illimitable ocean, and on the other countries from which she had received many friendly visitations, but had no reason to expect conquering inroads.

The island was divided among native Chiefs, who concerned themselves mainly about their local interests, and had, no doubt, their natural rivalries. In the crisis of danger they were not able to form any common league against the invaders. The warlike Danes overran Ireland and held the country for more than a century. Then there came about an event so common in the history of nationalities that any intelligent reader might be able to anticipate it. The native Irish had been conquered and reduced to servitude, not because they were incapable of effective resistance, but because the man had not yet come who was destined to show them how to organize the means and secure the end. At the critical moment the man arose. His name was Brian Boroihme, or Boru, a name ever since familiar to readers in all countries, even to readers who regard it as that of some half-mythical hero, the serio-comic invention of Hibernian imagination.