Battle of Clontarf account 'created and based on Greek tale'
Published 24/04/2014 | 02:30
A KEY account of the battle which came to define Irish identity may have been fabricated and based on Greek legend, new research has claimed.
As the country celebrates the millennium of the epic Battle of Clontarf, an academic from the University of Cambridge says much of what we know about the clash is based on literature rather than fact.
Professor Maire Ni Mhaonaigh claims there are striking similarities between the text 'Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh' – the most detailed account of the battle where legendary High King of Ireland Brian Boru was killed – and the Siege of Troy.
She says the author of 'Cogadh' was clearly well versed on the legend of Troy, despite it being penned thousands of years before Brian Boru met his fate.
"What this research shows is that its account of the battle was crafted, at least in part, to create a version of events that was the equivalent of Troy," Prof Ni Mhaonaigh said.
But Trinity College historian Professor Sean Duffy says the new theory doesn't diminish or undermine current understanding of Clontarf.
"It's a very interesting claim. What she is saying is there is one account of the Battle of Clontarf which might borrow these earlier motifs.
"But she's not saying that all the information we have from the various accounts are borrowed from the accounts of the Battle of Troy," Prof Duffy told the Irish Independent. He said the claims did not mean the story of Clontarf was not true – but that some areas of the tale recounted may have been inspired by ancient Greece.
"From a political historian's point of view, we are still able to look at literature like the 'Cogadh' and to see things that are ordinary fact. We can pick them while rejecting the literary cliches borrowed from other literature.
"It doesn't mean the story of Brian Boru is made up and based on the fall of Troy. It just means that in one version of the story, there are some ideas from ancient Greece."
And he said the link with ancient Greece gives the story of Clontarf even more international historical significance.
"Wouldn't it be wonderful to think that the man who put this together, who was probably living down in Co Clare in 1110 AD, had access to classical literature to weave into his tale about Brian Boru. That would be pretty amazing."