Irish Annals

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The Annals of Ulster are a compiling of notable events by monks which span centuries of Irish history. They are arranged chronologically, and focus in particular on ecclesiastical and political events. The Annals of Ulster themselves are not one original document, but in fact take their material from various different sources. The earliest of these sources is the Iona Chronicle, dating back to the mid-sixth century and written on the small island of Iona off the coast of Scotland. Other sources include annals compiled in Armagh and Clonard up until the tenth century, and annals centred in Derry from the late twelfth to early thirteenth centuries. The names of the earliest scribes are unknown, but upon the compiling of the Annals of Ulster…show more content…
Until the conclusion of the Old Irish Period, all entries in the annals were written in Latin. The first Irish entry occurs in 434 A.D., but it is not until 912 A.D. that they become the norm. It also features the transition from Old Irish spelling to that which would be more familiar to the modern Irish speaker. Along with this, the scribes of the Historic Period appear to have been more hyperaware of their more modern audience, as the annals thereafter feature a change in accents and a modernisation of prominent names. The laconic tone evident in the document is proof that the intention was to provide information in a strictly factual manner, without bias, and for the most part this is the case. However, the simple act of omitting matters that were - for the most part - unrelated to the lives of clerics and their surroundings can be considered a form of bias, and it prevents us from learning a great deal about life in Early Christian Ireland outside of the monastic and political sphere. It is here that the annals fall short as a primary…show more content…
onwards in the document given, the annals begin to record widespread natural occurrences, beginning with 'A great snowfall in which many men and cattle perished,' and ending with 'Fire from heaven' killing a man in Nuadu. This could indicate either a change in environment, with an increase in unusual weather such as 'A rainy summer', or it could suggest that scribes now deem it appropriate to include such events - deviating from the usual accounts of notable deaths, invasions and battles. Towards the end of the document there is also a marked increase in violence against the ecclesiastical community, not merely due to the growing number of attacks by the Vikings. It begins in 800 A.D. with a battle at Mag Lingsen in modern Munster amongst its native people, in which the 'abbot of Daire Eidnech' is killed. This is followed by the burning of the Tír da Glas monastery in 806 A.D., and the 'slaughter of a countless number of ordinary ecclesiastics' a year later during a battle between the people of Corcach and Cluain Ferta Brénainn. The trend continues throughout the subsequent centuries, with author Eleanor Hull noting that monasteries fell victim to the raids of Irish princes multiple times during the twelfth century. This is clear evidence that attacks against monasteries were not nearly as exclusive to Viking raids as many modern analyses would lead one to
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