Ireland: Imbibing Its Rich History
If you're planning on an overseas destination this summer, try to consider the luscious country of Ireland. Fondly called Erin by poets and nineteenth century Irish nationalists, Ireland is Europe's third largest island. It is located in the north western part of continental Europe. It has hundreds of islands around it, and is separated by the Irish Sea from the island of Great Britain lying on its eastern side.
It's a good thing to gain a little knowledge of the place you are going to even before getting there. This article aims to give you an overview of Ireland's history to enable you to experience its cultural appeal meaningfully once you get there.
First, you need to be aware that the island of Ireland is composed of two specific jurisdictions. The Republic of Ireland or Ireland is a sovereign state covering five-sixths of the island, and has Dublin as its capital city. The sixth part comprises the Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, and Belfast is its capital.
A Glimpse of Ireland's History
It has been believed that Ireland has been inhabited by people starting around 6000BC, during the Mid-Stone Age. Then the Neolithic culture had been built around 4000 years later by the tribes coming from Southern Europe.
You can see the legacy of the Neolithic culture in the presence of the megalithic passage tombs in Newgrange and Knowth in County Meath. Considered to have been built around 3200 years BC, these historical structures were thought to be older than England's Stonehenge and Egypt's Pyramids of Giza. You can also find remnants of the Iron Age in the form of pagan idols created by the Celts on County Fermanagh's Boa island. The most prominent of which is the well-preserved form of Janus.
St. Patrick, Ireland's patron saint did not come originally from Ireland. He was taken from his home in Great Britain and was brought to Ireland to work as a shepherd. Upon his return to his homeland, God had given him a vision to be a missionary in Ireland. Considered as the one responsible for bringing Christianity to the island, historical relics of the time he spent in Ireland are visible all over the country. Among the most popular is the Croagh Patrick located in County Mayo where he spent 40 days of fasting in 441 AD. It is also thought that his remains are interred in the grounds of Downpatrick Cathedral in County Down.
In 837 AD, the Vikings bringing 60 Dragon warships first attacked Ireland at the entrance of Liffey. Dublin fell to their hands five years after the invasion but they were driven away by the local Irish. Around 17 years later however, the Vikings under the leadership of Olaf the White returned and settled in Dyflinn (Dublin in those days). The palace of their king was then standing where the present Dublin Castle stands. And remnants of the town's fortress are still visible to this day at the Dublin Castle's Undercroft.
An immense tragedy struck Ireland from 1845-1849. Called the Great Famine, this disastrous event was caused by a potato blight affecting crops resulting in the diseases of a lot of people and death of more than a million. This led to the emigration of above two million of people to the United Kingdom, United States, Canada and Australia., and from 1848-1850 at least six million people have left the country.
In the 1990's however, the Celtic Tiger economy experienced a great surge, making Ireland a lively historically rich country that is attracting people from all over the globe. It has now become an ethnically diverse country with people less than 30 years of age comprising more than half of the total population.