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Flann Sinna › Who Was

Definition and Origins

by Joshua J. Mark
published on 16 March 2018
Flann Sinna (The Creative Assembly)

Flann Sinna (r. 879-916 CE) was a High King of Ireland from the Kingdom of Mide (Meath) and a member of the Clann Cholmain, a branch of the Southern Ui Neill dynasty. His name is pronounced “Flahn Shinna” and means “Flann of the Shannon”. He is best known as an effective high king of Ireland who consolidated the power of the Kingdom of Meath while honoring his obligations to other kingdoms, famous for his victory at the Battle of Ballaghmoon in 908 CE, and erecting monuments to commemorate his achievements; most notably the Cross of the Scriptures at the Abbey of Clonmacnoise.
He was an important patron of this religious community and is also responsible for the cathedral (also known as TempleMcDermot) and possibly the South Cross still extant at the site. This patronage seems at odds with accounts from the Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland (also known as The Annals of the Four Masters, c. 1616 CE) which report that Flann Sinna was responsible for the sack of a number of churches and monasteries throughout Ireland, and this has led to criticism of his reign by later writers.
His patronage of Clonmacnoise is no doubt due to his mother who retired to and was later buried there. Although the ancient sources provide a more or less favorable account of his reign, Flann Sinna clearly faced opposition and twice had to put down a rebellion by one of his sons, revolts by other kingdoms, and faced various other oppositions to his reign.

THE UI NEILL & THE KINGDOMS OF IRELAND

Flann Sinna ruled as a king of the Connachta Dynasty which claimed descent from the legendary Celtic hero Conn of the Hundred Battles. The Connachta Dynasty is synonymous with the Ui Neill Dynasty; the latter designation only becoming prominent in later usage once the Ui Neill had established themselves. The Connachta genealogy traces its ancestry from Conn to the historical or semi-historical king Niall Noigiallach (Niall of the Nine Hostages) from whom all the other Ui Neill kings descend.
According to legend, Niall and his brothers were out hunting one day when they encountered an old woman by a well. She refused to give them any water unless they each kissed her. Three of the brothers refused and one only gave her a quick peck on the cheek, but Niall kissed her fully on the lips and found her transformed into a beautiful goddess. She rewarded him by granting him kingship of Ireland which would be passed on to his descendants for generations.
Ireland c. 900 CE

Ireland c. 900 CE

While there is no doubt the Ui Neill who descended from Niall were a powerful dynasty, it is inaccurate to say that they ruled Ireland as traditional kings over the next few centuries. The Ui Neill divided the land between them as the Northern Ui Neill and the Southern Ui Neill, each branch taking turns sending a king to rule from Tara, but there were many smaller kingdoms throughout Ireland at this time which were autonomous or semi-autonomous states.
When a king came to power, he would demand hostages from other kingdoms – those in Ireland and abroad - to encourage compliance. A king who was able to command a large number of these hostages was considered far more powerful than one who was only able to have a few sent to him. Niall's name indicates he was among the most powerful because he held one hostage each from the five provinces of Ireland (Connacht, Leinster, Meath, Munster, and Ulster) and one each from the Britons, the Franks, the Saxons, and the Scots.
Whether Niall ever held such hostages – or if he even existed – is doubtful but the story, as related by later Ui Neill authors, is intended to make clear the dynasty's great legacy and power: just as Niall Noigiallach could command the compliance of so many others, so could his descendants.

THE HIGH KING OF IRELAND

The term 'hostages' should not be understood in the modern sense. A hostage in ancient times was an important member of a ruler's family or court who was sent to another monarch as a gesture in ratifying a treaty. A hostage would be well cared for, educated in the culture he or she was sent to, and would eventually be returned safely; unless that hostage's monarch broke the terms of peace or failed to comply with an agreement. Hostages were sent from the smaller kingdoms to those more powerful not only to conclude a peace but also when a new king came to the throne.

HOSTAGES WERE SENT FROM THE SMALLER KINGDOMS TO THOSE MORE POWERFUL NOT ONLY TO CONCLUDE A PEACE BUT ALSO WHEN A NEW KING CAME TO THE THRONE.

The concept of a 'king' should also be understood somewhat differently than in the modern sense. There were many 'kings' throughout Ireland in the 9th century CE but most of them reigned over small areas and had limited power. There were no large cities, towns, or villages in early Ireland, and smaller rural communities were known as raths (wooden huts clustered around a central meeting house and surrounded by earthen walls) while larger fortified communities were called cashels (stone forts). The raths would submit to the lord of whatever kingdom they were in, who ruled from a cashel, and these kings would protect them, lead them in time of war, and participate in public religious rituals.
Scholars Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry elaborate:
Ireland was divided into numerous very small kingdoms which loosely belonged to one or other of the five larger provincial kingdoms of Connact, Leinster, Meath, Munster, and Ulster. Probably there were more than 100 smaller kingdoms in the earlier period and as many as 150 or so by the seventh century. They were known as Tuatha (Tuatha = tribe, or people, or clan) and each was ruled by a ri, or king, who might, if his tuath was very small, be an under-king to a greater ri…This vassalage would generally be marked by the giving of a hostage, or hostages, to the higher king and was often quite voluntary, for it afforded protection for the smaller tuath. (29-30)
The concept of a king evolved from tribal chiefs to lords of a region and then to a single overlord of those lesser kings and princes. This overlord, who is said to have presided over all of Ireland, was the High King. This king was the embodiment of the people, and his coronation is thought to have included a ritual mating with the goddess of the land to ensure fertility and prosperity.
The king of any region in Ireland was supposed to care for his people; the high king was supposed to care for all the people and command their unconditional allegiance. While this may have been true in theory or policy, it was not so in practice; the High King of Ireland only had control over his own territory and had to make the same kinds of treaties with other kingdoms as the lesser kings did with each other. The difference, it seems, is that the high king commanded greater respect owing to his coronation at the Hill of Tara.

THE HILL OF TARA

Tara was the sacred site associated with the legend of the brothers Eber and Eremon of the Milesians who had divided the rule of Ireland between them peacefully in antiquity; Eber taking the south and Eremon the north. Peace prevailed until Eber's wife wanted the most beautiful three hills in Ireland for herself – and chief among these was the Hill of Tara which belonged to Eremon. Eremon's wife Tea became enraged at the request and the two brothers went to war. Eber was killed and Eremon was crowned king of all Ireland at Tara, thus initiating the tradition of the high king's coronation at that site.
Mound of the Hostages, Hill of Tara

Mound of the Hostages, Hill of Tara

Tara would be developed as a place of assembly for the enacting and reading of laws and for religious festivals under the reign of Cormac MacArt (c. 3rd century CE), considered the greatest of the Irish kings and author of the Brehon Law, but it is clear the site was an important religious and political center long before. The oldest monument at Tara is the Mound of the Hostages, a Neolithic passage tomb, dating from c. 3000 BCE and so named because it was where hostages would be exchanged between kings.

FLANN SINNA'S RISE TO POWER

Flann Sinna was born c. 848 CE, the son of one of these kings, Mael Sechnaill mac Maele Ruanaid (rc 846-862 CE) of the Southern Ui Neill and the queen Land ingen Dungaile (d. 890 CE) of the Kingdom of Osraige. Mael Sechnaill (also known as Mael Sechnaill I) assassinated anyone who would have stood in his path to power and was crowned King of Tara in 846 CE.
He spent the greater part of his reign battling Viking raiders, while also allying himself to Norse chieftains in warring on other Irish kingdoms, and then using diplomacy and threats of further violence to consolidate his power. Mael Sechnaill's initiatives were so successful that, when he died, he was hailed as High King of All Ireland.
He was succeeded by Aed Findliath (r. 862-879 CE) who married Land ingen Dungaile in keeping with the tradition of a successor marrying the king's widow. Land ingen Dungaile chose to devote herself to a life of piety shortly afterwards and went to live at Clonmacnoise. Aed Findliath then married Mael Muire ingen Cinaeda (d. 913 CE), daughter of Kenneth MacAlpin, King of the Scots. Aed Findliath had opposed Mael Sechnaill and met him in battle while allied to the Norse kings of Dublin. It is possible that Flann took part in these wars but there is no proof, and nothing is known of Flann's youth until he takes the first steps to secure the kingship for himself.
Clonmacnoise

Clonmacnoise

Flann married the princess Gormlaith ingen Flann mac Conaing, daughter of the king of Brega, c. 870 CE. The Kingdom of Brega was important as it held the Hill of Tara, and Gormlaith's father, Flann mac Conaing, was a powerful king. Having established himself in the royal house of Brega, Flann might have been content but his ambition was to reign as high king just as his father had.
As noted, the tradition at this time was for the Ui Neill to alternate the honor of high king between the northern and southern branches. After Aed Findliath of the north, a king would then be chosen from the south. The likely choice would have been Flann Sinna's second cousin Donnchad son of Aedacan, king of Mide, but Flann had other plans. He divorced Gormlaith and married the princess Eithne (d. 917 CE), the daughter of Aed Findliath, thus establishing himself in the house of the high king, and then assassinated Donnchad. When Aed Findliath died in 879 CE, Flann was chosen as High King of Ireland and crowned at Tara.

FLANN SINNA'S REIGN

Flann's first step as high king was to divorce Eithne and marry his step-mother Mael Muire; his second was to demand hostages from the other kingdoms. When the demand was refused by some of these, he followed his father's example and allied himself with Norse-Gaels and other Norse chiefs and attacked the region of Armagh in a show of strength; the other kingdoms then complied and sent hostages to Tara.
Throughout the next 20 years of his reign, Flann would repeat this tactic a number of times as he supported one kingdom's claims against another with the help of Norse allies from Dublin. He also fought the Norse in Ireland, however, and was defeated by them under the leadership of Sichfrith son of Imair (brother and successor of Bardr mac Imair ), King of Dublin (c. 883-888 CE), at the Battle of the Pilgrim c. 887 CE.

FLANN SUPPORTED ONE KINGDOM'S CLAIMS AGAINST ANOTHER WITH THE HELP OF NORSE ALLIES FROM DUBLIN.

Although defeated, Flann's power as king is evident at this time as he was able to raise an army from a number of different kingdoms. Scholar NJ Higham notes how “the fact that Aed son of Conchobar, king of Connact and Lergus son of Cruinnen, Bishop of Kildare were numbered amongst the Irish dead at this battle indicates that [Flann's] over lordship was recognized far beyond the borders of Mide alone” (93). Flann was clearly ruling as high king of a united country but could not control his own house.
In 901 CE his son Donnchad Donn (from his marriage to Gormlaith) rebelled. Flann blamed this on his son's associates and tracked them to the abbey at Kells, where he slaughtered them. Donnchad was spared and seems to have returned to the role of a dutiful son. Flann's reign continued unchallenged, but it is interesting to note that the annual festival known as the Fair of Tailtiu, honoring the fertility goddess Tailtiu, was held only twice during his reign.
The significance of this is that the fair (also known as the Tailteann Games) was a celebration of unity, and the fact that it was not celebrated suggests strong objections to Flann's policies as high king which may have marginalized some kingdoms. Even when Flann seems to have done his best to keep the kingdoms at peace and in some degree of equality, however, they still found reason to fight amongst themselves.

THE BATTLE OF BALLAGHMOON

In 908 CE, the king of Munster, Cormac mac Cuilennain (r. 902-908 CE) was encouraged to make war on the Kingdom of Leinster by his advisor Flaithbertach mac Inmainen (d. 944 CE). Flaithbertach claimed that Leinster owed Munster money for chief-rent as they occupied some of Munster's land. Leinster's king, Cerball mac Muirecain, was Flann Sinna's son-in-law and, after refusing any payment to Munster, he called on Flann for aid in defense.
Cormac mac Cuilennain was a highly respected king who was renowned as a scholar and man of piety. Flann had no desire to go to war against him, and Cormac himself did not want a war at all. It had been foretold by omens that, if he launched the attack against Leinster, he would die in battle, but that aside, it was simply not in his nature to be the aggressor. The instigator was Flaithbertach who seems to have sincerely believed that Cormac's honor as king was being slighted by Leinster.
Stone of Destiny, Hill of Tara

Stone of Destiny, Hill of Tara

The omens were bad for Munster from the beginning as Flaithbertach was thrown from his horse as the troops assembled.This was taken as a sign by a number of the men who refused to follow their king into battle. Once the two armies engaged, Cormac was thrown from his horse, breaking his neck, and died on the field.
A Leinster soldier found his body and cut off his head, presenting it later to Flann. Scholar Martin Haverty, citing the Annals of Ireland, writes that, far from being pleased, Flann “only bewailed the death of so good and learned a man and blamed the indignity with which his remains had been treated” (122). Over 6,000 men from Munster were killed at Ballaghmoon, but this did not deter other kingdoms from asserting claims which also had to be proven in battle.

REBELLION & DECLINE

The Kingdom of Breifne rebelled in 910 CE and was defeated. Flann's old home of the Kingdom of Brega revolted in 913 CE, and he responded by razing a number of communities. It is from this period that he gets his reputation as a destroyer of churches. It is unclear whether these churches and abbeys were destroyed as part of a wider campaign or were chosen for particular resonance in the community or were instigators in the revolt.
In 915 CE Donnchad Donn rebelled again, this time in concert with his brother Conchobar. They were defeated, not by Flann, but by his vassal Niall Glundub (r. 916-919 CE), son of Mael Muire and Aed Findlaith of the northern Ui Neill. Flann had defeated Niall in battle at Crossakiel years before and the two had formed an alliance through the marriage of Flann's daughter Gormlaith ingen Flann Sinna to Niall.
In 914 CE, Niall had killed Flann's son Oengus in a battle which may have been a part of the other brothers' rebellion of 915 CE. Flann was certainly an older man at this time but still seems to have been able to effectively put down the rebellions of Breifne and Brega. It is likely he was unable to cope with the rebellion of his own sons and left it to Niall Glundub.
Flann Sinna died of natural causes in May of 916 CE and was succeeded by Niall Glundub as high king. Niall would continue Flann's policies but not nearly as successfully. He marched his armies against the Norse of Dublin in 919 CE and was killed in battle. He was succeeded by Donnchad Donn who was nowhere near the king his father had been. For all his faults, Flann Sinna is remembered as an effective ruler who tried to do his best for his people, and when he died, he was mourned as the High King of a united Ireland.

Bardr mac Imair › Who Was

Definition and Origins

by Joshua J. Mark
published on 27 March 2018
Viking Fleet (The Creative Assembly)

Bardr mac Imair (c. 873-881 CE, also known as Barid mac Imair, Barith, Baraid) was a Viking king of Dublin, son of the Viking king Imair (Imar, Ivan) who founded the Ui Imair Dynasty in Ireland. Bardr became king in Dublin after Imair's death. He engaged in military campaigns against the Irish monasteries and other religious institutions and is best known for his raids on various communities for plunder which was brought back to Dublin. He is known as a Viking sea-king based on his 873 CE raid on the Kingdom of Munster.
He died in 881 CE after one such raid on the oratory of St. Cianan or St. Ciaran, depending on different sources, in Dunleek, Meath. His death was attributed to an act of God and the saint in punishing Bardr for desecrating sacred sites for plunder.Bardr was succeeded by an unnamed king and then by his brother Sichfrith mac Imair (c. 883-888 CE) who continued his basic policies.
Little is known of Bardr's life because his biographers were the monks and clerics of Ireland who only took note of him in reference to his raids on their churches and monasteries. The little information available on him depicts him consistently as “a great Viking Tyrant,” but this is to be expected when one's life story is written by one's enemies. Even so, there are other Norse leaders mentioned in the Irish chronicles who are not so consistently depicted as brutal marauders and so it may well be that Bardr was as ruthless as the clerics claim.

THE VIKINGS IN IRELAND

The various chronicles of the Irish during the Viking Age are never very flattering to the invaders and with good reason: the Vikings disrupted life in Ireland beginning in 795 CE with the sacking and burning of the monastic island of Rechru (Rathlin) followed shortly after by the destruction of St. Patrick's Island, one of the most revered monastic sites, in 798 CE. Viking raids would continue almost annually until 842 CE. It should be noted, however, that this date is only accepted as concluding the Viking raids because it corresponds to the rise of the Viking Kingdom of Dublin and a decrease in raids on Ireland from overseas; it does not signify an end to Viking raids or hostilities between the Vikings and the Irish.
The Vikings had first struck Britain in 793 CE in a bloody raid on the abbey of Lindisfarne and they would continue their attacks there while simultaneously raiding Irish sites. Their choice of monasteries most likely had little to do with religious differences and everything to do with easy access to rich plunder and food supplies. The monasteries and abbeys were often located along the coast and lent themselves to strikes from the sea.
The early raids were quick forays into Britain and Ireland in which the Vikings, in one or two ships, would strike quickly and depart with their stolen goods. By 807 CE, however, they were engaging in highly concerted efforts involving more ships and larger contingents. Between 811-822 CE, they had sacked and burned monasteries from Inismurray, off the coast of Sligo in the north, to Cork in the far south.
Viking Longship Replica

Viking Longship Replica

Their goals had advanced from portable plunder and food to captives they could sell into slavery or ransom back to their families. This same paradigm was held to with religious relics taken from churches and monasteries which, earlier, seem to have been stolen for the precious metal they were made from and jewels which adorned them but now were taken to be ransomed back.
The raids continued in attacks on Derry (833 CE) and Glendalough (834 and 836 CE) which prompted the monks to construct the now famous Round Towers. These structures were built with the doorway one floor up accessible by a ladder. When a Viking raid seemed imminent, the monks could flee to the Round Tower with the sacred books and relics and pull the ladder up. Each floor of the tower was also accessible only by ladder and each of these could be hauled up to the next floor if the one beneath were compromised.
The Viking raiders had already made a significant impact on the lives of the Irish but they had not yet made inroads into the country at large. Scholar Donnchadh O'Corrain notes how “no Viking is named in the Irish records before 837 and no king before the mid-ninth century. They kept to the edge; hardly ever much more than 30 kilometres from navigable water” (Sawyer, 87). This was the paradigm the Irish had become used to, but it was about to change.

THE LONGPHORTS WERE BUILT TO PROTECT THE VIKING SHIPS BUT ALSO FOR DEFENSE AGAINST LAND ATTACKS.

The Annals of Ulster record 840/841 CE as the first year the Vikings overwintered in Ireland and the appearance of the first Viking longphort (naval base). The longphorts were built to protect the Viking ships but also for defense against land attacks.The entry in the Annals from 841 CE reports a longphort at Dublin and then, in 842 CE, the entry reads, “The heathens are still at Duiblinn” (842.2). Now the Vikings could raid at will, not only during certain seasons, and launched raids against the lands of the Irish Ui Neill dynasty at will.
The Ui Neill were attempting to consolidate their power in the north and south of Ireland through the rule of a High King of Tara, chosen alternately from the northern and southern branches of the clan, and they fought back effectively. In 848 CE the Southern Ui Neill High King Mael Sechnaill I (rc 846-862 CE, father of the later High King Flann Sinna ) defeated the Viking forces in battle at Dublin, killing 700 of them, and destroying the longphort settlement.
The Viking forces at this time were not organized under a single leadership but seem to have followed the commands of a local leader. In 849 CE a fleet of ships from Denmark arrived in Ireland to impose order on the Norse raiders there. The struggle between the Danes and the Norse of Ireland “disturbed the whole country,” according to the Annals of Ulster, until the Danes were driven off sometime in c. 852 CE. After the Danes had left, however, the Norse were given no time to resume their former raids as a new figure arrived who would change the Irish landscape permanently.

THE COMING OF AMLAIB CONUNG

While the Norse had been conducting their raids in Ireland, other Viking armies had been at work elsewhere in Britain and Scotland and other regions. In 853 CE a Viking prince named Amlaib Conung (r. 853-871 CE) arrived in Ireland. His name means Amlaib the King, and he is sometimes referred to as Olaf and associated with the Viking sea-king Olaf the White (though this claim is challenged).
Who he was and whatever he did prior to this time is unknown but he was clearly a powerful figure. The Norse instantly submitted to his rule, and the Irish were compelled to give him tribute. Amlaib is called “son of the king of Laithlind” in the annals and this is thought to correspond to Nordic Scotland and not, as previously thought, to Norway.
The Vikings in Dublin, 841 CE

The Vikings in Dublin, 841 CE

Amlaib organized the Norse in Dublin as their first king and then left for military campaigns in Britain. When he returned in 857 CE, it was in the company of two other princes (or at least nobles) named Auisle and Imair who are called his “brothers” in the annals; whether this means they were brothers by blood or brothers-in-arms is unclear.

THE KINGS OF DUBLIN

Amlaib, Auisle (r. 863-867CE), and Imair (r. 863-873 CE) ruled Dublin as co-kings beginning in 863 CE but even before Auisle and Imair were elevated by Amlaib to kingship they took part in and coordinated the military campaigns of the Norse in Ireland far more effectively than had been done in the past. There were now well-planned military expeditions instead of hit-and-run raids, and the spoils of these battles went to the treasury of Dublin instead of being divided among a local war -chief and his band.
The difference in before and after Amlaib is apparent in the raids on settlements in Brega by the Norse of Dublin in 856 CE – when Amlaib was still in Britain – which followed the traditional style established, and the concerted military campaign led to victory by Amlaib and Imair against the Norse-Gaels of Munster in 857 CE.
In 859 CE Amlaib and Imair joined forces with Cerball mac Dunlainge, King of Ossory (842-888 CE), a small kingdom near Munster, in an attack on the High King Mael Sechnaill. They were defeated, and Cerball later sued for peace and submitted to Mael Sechnaill, but the kings of Dublin continued to make and break alliances as they fought with and against various Irish kings.
In c. 862 CE, Aed Findliath (r. 862-879 CE) succeeded Mael Sechnaill as High King of Tara and allied himself with Amlaib, Auisle, and Imair as he launched attacks on the Kingdom of Mide (Meath). By 866 CE Aed Findliath was their enemy and destroyed the longphorts of Amlaib all down the northern coast.
The Norse retaliated in 867 CE with a campaign against the Irish, and the Irish responded by burning Amlaib's fortress at Clondalkin. Amlaib and Imair then sacked and burned the monastery of Armagh, sacred to the memory of St. Patrick, and carried off almost 1,000 citizens to be sold as slaves. This act was considered a great sacrilege, but Amlaib had been guilty of an even greater one earlier.
In 863 CE Amlaib, Auisle, and Imair had led an expeditionary force into the Boyne Valley where they raided the megalithictombs (such as Newgrange and Knowth) and carried off anything of value. The valley was not only the site of the ancient Neolithic tombs but also of those of the high kings of Ireland. The annals only record the sacrilege of the heathens in desecrating the tombs and name only the leaders, but it is possible, even likely, that the sons of these leaders – including Bardr – took part in the campaign. Either before or after their sack of the tombs, Amlaib's forces also defeated the kings of Brega and Leinster.
Neolithic Mounds at Knowth

Neolithic Mounds at Knowth

In 867 CE Amlaib and Imair killed Auisle in a dispute over Amlaib's wife. The Fragmentary Annals of Ireland state that the two brothers had already decided to kill the third when Auisle admitted an affair with Amlaib's wife; Amlaib then killed him, slaughtered his followers, and took all his goods (347). Amlaib continued to war with Aed Findliath and others while also conducting campaigns in Scotland. He vanishes from the historical record in 871 CE and is presumed to have died in battle there.
Imair then founded the Ui Imair dynasty which would control the sea routes, western Scotland, and parts of Britain through the 12th century CE. Imair has often been associated with the famous Viking leader Ivar the Boneless (d. 870 CE) who was part of the leadership of the Great Army of 865 CE which campaigned in Britain. Led by Halfdan Ragnarsson (also known as Halfdane, c. 865-877 CE) and Ivar, this army was the best organized and most effective Viking force to invade Britain up to that date.
It is possible that Ivar and Imair are the same man, but no scholarly consensus has been reached. The probability is great, however, that the leader who so effectively organized the Norse in Ireland is the same as the one who did so in Britain;especially so when one considers that Ivar and Imair are versions of the same name.
Imair is said to have died in 873 CE as King of the Norsemen of All Ireland and Britain. After his death, power passed to his son Bardr, who most likely had been accompanying him on campaigns for some time.

BARDR'S REIGN

As noted, Bardr most likely took part in the campaign of the Boyne Valley in 863 CE but he is first recorded by name in 867 CE where he is called a Jarl of Laithlind (an earl) who was attacked, along with another Jarl named Haimar, in an ambush by the men of Connacht. Haimar was killed, but Bardr escaped and later would return. In 872 CE the Fragmentary Annals record a raid he led on the islands of Lough Ree and the Kingdom of Magh Luirg (Moylurg), both in Connacht. No mention is made of plunder, but many citizens seem to have been taken for sale as slaves.
Dublin had become a major center of the slave trade under the reign of Amlaib and his brothers. Sales of slaves, in fact, generated more wealth for the growing city than any other commodity. Amlaib's attack on Armagh in 869 CE was most likely as much for the 1,000 people he could sell as slaves as any retaliation against the Irish. Bardr's activity in Connacht focused on capturing citizens for the slave trade, and although it is not documented, this was most likely the reason the men of Connacht tried to kill him. It is also likely that Bardr had been active in the region long before his raids on the islands of Lough Ree and Magh Luirg.
Viking Attack

Viking Attack

In 873 CE, according to the Annals of Inisfallen, “Barid [Bardr] with a great fleet from Ath Cliath [Dublin] went by sea westwards and he plundered Ciarraige Luachra under ground, ie the raiding of the caves” (873). This raid was conducted with Bardr's cousin Oistin mac Amlaib, Amlaib's son, who is sometimes cited as a co-ruler with Bardr, though this is contested.Bardr is credited with being a Viking sea-king, and it is possible that his reputation comes from this raid. It is probable he took his fleet down the east coast of Ireland to strike at modern-day County Kerry on the south-west coast. County Kerry is associated with the designation of Ciarraige Luachra which designated a people of the Kingdom of Munster.
Alternately, it is possible he took his fleet down the rivers which the Vikings had been navigating by that time for almost eighty years. The exact location of where he raided “under ground” has not been agreed on by scholars, and possibly it was another location in the modern-day Munster province. It is agreed, however, that the “raiding of the caves” refers to plundering tombs for treasure. In this, Bardr seems to have reverted to the old methods of conducting military campaigns which prevailed before the coming of Amlaib.
This possibility gains more weight with the next entry for Bardr in the annals, which describes the sack of Armagh in 879 CE by “heathen” forces from Dublin. Bardr's name is not mentioned, but as King of Dublin in 879 CE, he would have either led the expedition or commissioned it. In this 879 CE raid, the abbot and lector of Armagh were captured and held for ransom.
The last entry on Bardr's reign – and life – is the entry in the annals from 881 CE, which describes his raid on the oratory of the saint Cianan or St. Ciaran and his death – either by drowning or burning – shortly afterwards. The oratory of St. Cianan in Duleek (County Meath) is the most probable site, and the entry claims it was destroyed “by foreigners” and that afterwards Bardr, “a great despot of the Northmen, was killed by St. Cianan” (Annals of Ulster, 881). The Annals of Ulster claim that he drowned at Dublin following the raid while the Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland (also known as the Annals of the Four Masters) and Chronicon Scotorum state that he was “killed and burnt” after the raid. All of the sources attribute his death to a miracle enacted by the saint whose oratory was desecrated.

CONCLUSION

Although the sources on Bardr's reign are obviously biased and must be interpreted with care, there is every reason to believe they are accurate when it comes to this particular king. The actions ascribed to Bardr fit with a paradigm of the earlier raids on Irish churches and monasteries and involve some of the same sites as military campaigns by his uncles and father.
Bardr the sea-king of Dublin most likely gained his reputation from his 873 CE raid and then enhanced upon it through traditional hit-and-run raids which would have supplied him not only with ready cash and food supplies but an abundance of citizens who could be sold as slaves. The ability of Bardr's brother and successor Sichfrith to wage his campaigns after Bardr's death attests to considerable resources which most likely came from Bardr's financial successes in the slave trade of medieval Viking Dublin.

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Article based on information obtained from these sources:
with permission from the Website Ancient History Encyclopedia
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