Heroic Biography and the Viking Age around the Irish Sea

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How was the Viking Age remembered in texts from the Irish Sea zone, and what can this tell us about the culture of this region? When considering historical representations of the Vikings, the most often-cited texts are contemporary and capture the emotional toll of raids on a civilian population, yet were largely written from a monastic perspective. This article argues that in 'long twelfth-century' texts from the Irish Sea zone, the Viking Age was remembered as a period of opportunity which provided the backbone for a shared genre of 'heroic biography' within the textual corpus of the region. Works describe the mustering of pan-Irish Sea zone forces in order to restore an unjustly banished, exiled or disinherited figure to his rightful lands and status. Within this group of texts, insular Viking activity provides a unifying and productive opportunity to regain something lost rather than a destructive force for societal disruption.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-141
Number of pages19
JournalProceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics and Literature
Issue number1
Early online date26 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 26 Aug 2022


  • Heroic biography
  • Historical writing
  • Irish sea
  • Long twelfth century
  • Rebellion
  • Viking age


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