The Medieval text known as the Cogadh Gaeil ré Gaill or “War of the Irish with the Foreigners” describes the successful four-decade campaign by Brian Bóramha son of Ceinnétigh, king of the south-west territory of Dál gCais, against the intrusive Scandinavian communities of Ireland, culminating in his pyrrhic victory at Cath Chluain Tarbh or the Battle of Clontarf in 1014 CE. By that stage Brian had declared himself the king of the country, his new status recorded rather grandly in the Annála Uladh as the Imperator Scottorum: the “Emperor of the Irish”.
Cornell University Library, New York, has just published a rather interesting textual review of the three surviving manuscript editions of the Cogadh, presented by a small team of researchers.
Brian’s victory is widely remembered for breaking Viking power in Ireland, although much modern scholarship disputes traditional perceptions. Instead of an international conflict between Irish and Viking, interpretations based on revisionist scholarship consider it a domestic feud or civil war. Counter-revisionists challenge this view and a lively debate continues. Here we introduce quantitative measures to the discussions. We present statistical analyses of network data embedded in the text to position its sets of interactions on a spectrum from the domestic to the international. This delivers a picture that lies between antipodal traditional and revisionist extremes, hostilities recorded in the text are mostly between Irish and Viking – but internal conflict forms a significant proportion of the negative interactions too. Additionally, we quantitatively compare the network properties of Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh to those of other epic-type narratives and find that, in many ways, they resemble those of the Iliad.
You can read the forty-five page document in PDF form, via this link: Network Analysis of the Viking Age in Ireland as portrayed in Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh.