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Irish history

Dublin is a Viking city

Though both of its names are Gaelic, Dublin is a Viking city.

Before the Vikings, indeed, there were no cities in Ireland. The closest approximation was the monastical settlements, which tended to include limited industrial and residential buildings.

The English name "Dublin" derives from the Gaelic words Linn Dubh — "pool black," or, in our grammar, Black Pool — Dub lin. (There was a pool where the River Poddle (now ducted underneath streets) met the River Liffey (which bisects Dublin, north and south.)*

The Irish name for Dublin is Baile Átha Cliath — "city of the hurdle ford." The name refers to a surface woven of strong twigs that could be placed across mud at low tide, allowing people and their apparati to ford. The name signifies the importance of the area as a crossing at the mouth of the river.

The area that is now Dublin city, whatever about* its two names, was not inordinately significant before the Vikings made it so begining at the end of the 8th century. The Liffey was a shallow meandering river — and while its east-coast proximity to England and thereby lands beyond was notable, it was no broad majestic Shannon.

There may have been an important structure in the area during the Roman empire* when that civilization encompassed most of what is now Great Britain; and there were, before that, a meeting of roads to the main provinces here too.

But there was no city until the Vikings built one.


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* The Romans never occupied Ireland — "Hibernia," as they called it. The name is a possible clue to their absence, the word being theirs for "Winterland."

The confirmed evidence of Roman influence here is limited to scattered artifacts and a few graves containing the corpses of several visitors. There is disputed evidence of a trading post on the Drumanagh Promontory, north of Dublin.

There are speculations that Rome at one time invaded the island, but this idea is controversial at best.

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  ↑ Return to "Roman empire" ...


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North and south Dublin are two separate cultures, by tradition anyhow.

Q. What do you call a man from North Dublin wearing a suit?

A. The accused.

Conversely, south Dublin, and especially the post-code area 4, is considered posh and almost faux-British by many in the Republic.

  • Return to "north and south" ...