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The Irish vs. Vikings: The Battle of Clontarf

Our chat with Clare Downham about an epic battle
Hugh Frazer’s 1826 romantic version of the Battle of Clontarf.

We are so happy and excited to welcome Professor Clare Downham back to the show. If you didn’t catch our first episode with her, you should. We had a great chat about lots of Viking, historical, and philosophical stuff.

But this time we decided to do something a little different and engage in a bit of storytelling. Since Clare is one of the world’s leading experts on Vikings in Ireland, we asked her to tell us about one of the most important battles in Irish history, The Battle of Clontarf in 1014 — a battle much beloved and remembered by many in Ireland to this day.

With the Irish side being led by national hero King Brian Boru, this battle has everything: Vikings, politics, greed, magical raven banners, scorned ex-wives, religion, beheading, ambition, martyrdom, good vs. evil, and female spirits weaving the grisly fate of it all. It’s the stuff that legends are made of.

The many faces of Brian Boru. We don't really know what he looked like.

The battle appears in several sources that we discuss in the episode, but arguably the most famous is Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib ("The War of the Irish with the Foreigners").

We hope you enjoy this one. Though it’s difficult to tease fact from fiction at times, there’s one thing we know for sure — someone needs to make this movie, stat!

On another note…..

If you are in the Aberdeen, Scotland area or would like to travel there, be sure to check out the Scottish Society for Northern Studies’ big conference from 26-28 June. Clare will be presenting on Thursday, and there are other interesting talks, as well as a side trip to a museum and distillery. Of course. It’s Scotland! Please do check it out and support their work.

Also, remember to check out Clare’s books if you are interested in medieval Irish history. You won’t be disappointed.

Vikingology Podcast is a reader-supported publication. Thank you for reading and watching. If you would like to further support our work, consider becoming a paid subscriber.

Vikingology Podcast
Vikingology Podcast
Terri and C.J. are first and foremost educators passionate about the Viking Age and Viking history. Theirs was a meeting foretold in the myths of old. Both are historians of Viking history, both live in Oregon in the U.S., and both share the same birthday. It seemed only natural they team up for something epic. The Norns have woven this fate.