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Lunchtime Lecture Series: 1014 Battle of Clontarf

A millennium has passed since the Battle of Clontarf took place on the outskirts of Dublin, Good Friday 1014. Involving on the one hand, the Vikings, both Dublin-based and from further afield, their Irish allies and supporters, and on the other, the allies of Brian Boru, leader of the Dál Cais, the story of Clontarf has long been portrayed as a battle between the Irish and the Vikings, in which the Irish claimed victory. Yet as the sun set on the battle, Brian and members of his own family and many of the Irish leaders lay dead.

Date: Spring 2014
Venue: Academy House, 19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2

Tales of Clontarf, literary and pseudo-historical, have resonated throughout the centuries and later Irish leaders, such as O’Connell, were often likened to Brian Boru. Yet, there is very little reliable historical evidence for the events at Clontarf ─ one of the most cited sources, Cogadh Gáedhel re Gallaibh dates from the twelfth century and bears the hallmarks of political propaganda.

Who was Brian Boru? Who were the Dál Cais? What led to the Battle of Clontarf? Is there any archaeological evidence from the site of the battle, and can we know exactly where it took place? What were the outcomes? What are the historical sources? Are they reliable? Why were the 18th and 19th century literary accounts so prolific? How has Clontarf impacted on Irish history? Why has Clontarf gained such a place in the public consciousness?

In an effort to address some of these questions, the Academy Library organised an exhibition ‘1014: the Battle of Clontarf’ (March-June 2014) and an accompanying lecture series. We present the lectures here and acknowledge the contributors for their excellent presentations and permission to use them.

We thank Ambassador Niels Pultz and the Royal Danish Embassy in Ireland and Ambassador Roald Sturle Næss and the Royal Norwegian Embassy for sponsoring two further lectures which took place on 22 May 2014, expanding the scope of the series to consider kingship and politics in Viking Denmark and the connectedness of Ireland, Iceland and Norway in the late medieval period.

Note: The views expressed in these lectures are the speakers’ own and do not reflect the views of the Royal Irish Academy.

We apologise that we are unable to reproduce the recording of  Donnchadh Ó Corráin's lecture, Dál Cais, Déis, Ó Briain - changing places, changing identities, for technical reasons. We hope to post the text of the lecture shortly.

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