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In Search of Ancient Ireland
Cartographer's Journey
Fortress Ireland
Culture and Commerce
About the Film
Lesson Plans

Geographic Reference

Founded by the Vikings, Dublin became a great center of trade for the whole of Europe.

Culture and Commerce
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Deserted now, the Drumanagh peninsula is believed to have once been a major trading post.
Although Ireland lay outside of the Roman Empire, the Irish traded with the Romans. The Drumanagh peninsula, just north of Dublin, is believed to have been a major trading post between Ireland and the Empire. Deserted now, archeological evidence tells of a once bustling place with people from all over Europe bartering and trading with the Irish. Irish raiders plundered along the Roman British coast and carried people off to sell them into slavery in Ireland. Slavery was an important institution throughout Europe at this time.

When Christianity arrived in the middle of the 5th century, Ireland was a rural society made up of about 100 or so communities without any central political power. Within a hundred years, monasteries developed -- and they were practically indistinguishable from secular society. Eventually, these monasteries became centers of wealth and commerce. The best artists and craftsmen were employed by them, and they produced some of the finest work in Europe. Illuminated manuscripts, beautiful jewelry, and ornate chalices were typical products of the workshops of the large monasteries. Stonemasons were employed to carve the immense stone crosses, sometimes called Celtic Crosses, still seen across Ireland today.

The Vikings first arrived in Ireland to plunder the wealthy monasteries, but they eventually founded the first Irish towns. Dublin, founded by the Vikings, became a great center of trade for the whole of Europe. Slave trading was an important part of this. The Vikings introduced coinage and improved shipping into Ireland while trading, which had been a part of Irish commerce from the earliest times, took on a more meaningful economic role. By the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion in the 12th century, Dublin was established as a wealthy commercial city with merchants from all parts of Europe living and trading there.

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