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Irish History

Below is the first article in a six-part overview of the history of Ireland. This article series briefly touches on all periods of Irish history, from prehistoric times to the present day.

Part 1: Beginnings (Prehistory to 300 A.D.)

In the days before the first inhabitants came to Ireland, large thick sheets of ice covered the entire region. During the latter stages of the Ice Age, Ireland was not yet an island; it was connected to England and Europe by a series of land bridges. As the globe thawed, the sea reclaimed these land bridges; Ireland became an island, and its current outlines began to take shape.

Early Celtic Tribes

As far back as 9,000 years ago, the first people arrived in Ireland. Not much is known about them, unfortunately, as their civilizations were preliterate, leaving behind no written record. They did, however, leave behind impressive Stone Age megaliths, such as those found at Newgrange and Knowth. They also possessed highly developed skills in metalworking, silversmithing and goldsmithing.

The first Celts who left their mark were the Gauls, who migrated to Ireland from central Europe circa 4th century B.C. They controlled territory ranging east to Switzerland. The Gauls not only sacked Rome, but invaded Greece and sacked Delphi. Later, the Gauls moved into Spain and all the way to Asia Minor, where they were known as the Galatians.

Over the next eight centuries, many tribes, chieftains, and kingdoms rose to power, with fierce competition among all. Gradually, however, Irish territory was divided into five primary kingdoms: Ulster, Leinster, Munster, Connacht, and Meath. By the 4th century A.D., the high king of Meath had consolidated power over the entire island, ruling from his court at Tara, not far from the present-day city of Dublin.

Article Series: A Brief History of Ireland
Part 1 Beginnings (Prehistory to 300 A.D.)
Part 2 Christians, Vikings and Brian Boru (300-1100)
Part 3 The Bloody British (1100-1700)
Part 4 Punishment and Starvation (1700-1850)
Part 5 Strides Toward Independence (1850-1940)
Part 6 The Irish Republic and the Troubles Up North (1940 to present)

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