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IRELAND

Places visited:

Dublin


I traveled to Ireland from England visiting a friend. Was a nice city. The most famours thing to visite are the Guinness Factory and the Kilmainham jail, famous because was there where some movies were setting, like “In the Name of the Father”, “The Italian Job” and other movies. Ireland is the third largest island in Europe, and the twentieth-largest island in the world. It lies to the north-west of continental Europe and is surrounded by hundreds of islands and islets. To the east of Ireland, separated by the Irish Sea, is the island of Great Britain. Politically, the state Ireland (described as the Republic of Ireland in cases of ambiguity) covers five-sixths of the island, with Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, covering the remainder in the north-east.

The population of the island is slightly over 6 million (2007), with 4.4 million in the Republic of Ireland (1.7 million in Greater Dublin) and an estimated 1.75 million in Northern Ireland (800,000 in Greater Belfast). This is a significant increase from a modern historical low in the 1960s, but still much lower than the peak population of over 8 million in the early 19th century, prior to the Great Hunger (1840s famine).

The name Ireland derives from the name Ériu (in modern Irish, Éire) with the addition of the Germanic word land. Most other western European names for Ireland derive from the same source, such as French Irlande, Spanish, Italian, Romanian and Portuguese Irlanda, German Irland and Dutch Ierland.

A long cold climatic spell prevailed until the end of the last glacial period about 9,000 years ago, and most of Ireland was covered with ice. Sea-levels were lower then, and Ireland, as with its neighbour Britain, rather than being islands, were part of a greater continental Europe. Mesolithic stone age inhabitants arrived some time after 8000 BC. Agriculture arrived with the Neolithic circa 4500 to 4000 BC, when sheep, goats, cattle and cereals were imported from southwest continental Europe. At the Céide Fields in County Mayo, an extensive Neolithic field system - arguably the oldest in the world - has been preserved beneath a blanket of peat. Consisting of small fields separated from one another by dry-stone walls, the Céide Fields were farmed for several centuries between 3500 and 3000 BC. Wheat and barley were the principal crops.

The Bronze Age, which began around 2500 BC, saw the production of elaborate gold as well as bronze ornaments, weapons and tools. The Iron Age in Ireland was supposedly associated with people known as Celts. They are traditionally thought to have colonised Ireland in a series of waves between the 8th and 1st centuries BC, with the Gaels, the last wave of Celts, conquering the island and dividing it into five or more kingdoms. Many scientists and academic scholars now favour a view that emphasises cultural diffusion from overseas over significant colonisation such as what Clonycavan Man was reported to be. The Romans referred to Ireland as Hibernia and/or Scotia. Ptolemy in AD 100 records Ireland's geography and tribes. Native accounts are confined to Irish poetry, myth, and archaeology. The exact relationship between Rome and the tribes of Hibernia is unclear; the only references are a few Roman writings.

In medieval times, a monarch (also known as the High King) presided over the (then five) provinces of Ireland. These provinces too had their own kings, who were at least nominally subject to the monarch, who resided at Tara. The written judicial system was the Brehon Law, and it was administered by professional learned jurists who were known as the Brehons.

According to early medieval chronicles, in 431, Bishop Palladius arrived in Ireland on a mission from Pope Celestine I to minister to the Irish "already believing in Christ." (This was to convert the Celtic Church to Roman Catholicism). The same chronicles record that Saint Patrick, Ireland's patron saint, arrived in 432. There is continued debate over the missions of Palladius and Patrick, but the general consensus is that they both existed and that 7th century annalists may have mis-attributed some of their activities to each other. Palladius most likely went to Leinster, while Patrick is believed to have gone to Ulster, where he probably spent time in captivity as a young man.

The druid tradition collapsed in the face of the spread of the new religion. Irish Christian scholars excelled in the study of Latin and Greek learning and Christian theology in the monasteries that flourished, preserving Latin and Greek learning during the Early Middle Ages. The arts of manuscript illumination, metalworking, and sculpture flourished and produced such treasures as the Book of Kells, ornate jewellery, and the many carved stone crosses that dot the island. From the 9th century, waves of Viking raiders plundered monasteries and towns, adding to a pattern of endemic raiding and warfare. Eventually Vikings settled in Ireland, and established many towns, including the modern day cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford.

Ireland political map:

Ireland location map: November 2005

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