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Battle of Tara
Part of the Viking activities in Ireland
A sculpture of Máel Seachnaill II in Trim, Co. Meath, by James McKenna.jpg

Malachy MacDonnell, King of Meath
Result Irish victory
Kingdom of Meath
(Southern O'Neill's)
Kingdom of Dublin
Commanders and leaders
Malachy MacDonnell Olaf Sigtryggsson
Unknown At least 2,000
Casualties and losses
Unknown Entire army destroyed

The Battle of Tara was fought between the Gaelic Irish of Meath, led by Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill, and the Norse Vikings of Dublin, led by Amlaíb Cuarán. It took place near the Hill of Tara in Ireland in the year 980. The battle was a devastating defeat for the Vikings and led to the Irish regaining control of Dublin.


On one side there was a Norse army from the Kingdom of Dublin supported by troops from the Hebrides, which was commanded by a son of Olaf Cuaran named Ragnall.[1] The other side was led by Máel Sechnaill mac Domnaill, who had recently come to power as head of the southern Uí Néill. The latter's force consisted of troops from his home province of Mide (the Kingdom of Meath), probably with strong support from troops from Leinster and Ulster.

The battle ended in a devastating defeat for the Norse of Dublin. Olaf abdicated and died in religious retirement in Iona.[1] Dublin was besieged by the victorious Máel Sechnaill, who forced it to surrender slaves and valuables, as well as give up all its prior claims to Uí Néill-held territory.[1] In the following decade, Dublin was more or less under the control of Máel Sechnaill and the Southern Uí Néill.

The Battle of Tara is regarded as a far more decisive defeat for the Norse of Dublin than the later, and much more famous, Battle of Clontarf. Olaf Cuaran was the last of the great Norse kings in Ireland, and following him the status of the Kingdom of Dublin was never the same again.[citation needed]


The battle took place near the Hill of Tara in Ireland, which is an ancient ceremonial burial site and the location of the Lia Fáil (Stone of Destiny) which was a place of inauguration and the seat of power for the High Kings of Ireland. It is assumed by historians that the defence of this sacred site, which also appears in Irish mythology, against the foreign Norse Vikings would have been a rallying point for many local Irishmen.

The Hill of Tara
The Hill of Tara


There are very few records from this period in time so it is not possible to identify all of the causes for the Battle of Tara. However, it is possible to state that combat between minor Irish kings was common in this time period and that about a year prior to this battle an obvious 'casus belli' was the kidnapping (for ransom) of the King of Leinster by the foreign viking king of Dublin:

Primary Sources

There are three contemporaneous accounts of the battle: recorded in the :

See also


  1. ^ a b c Hudson, Benjamin T. (2005). Viking Pirates and Christian Princes: Dynasty, Religion, and Empire in the North Atlantic. Oxford University Press. pp. 51–53, 111. ISBN 978-0-19-516237-0.


Coordinates: 53°34′39″N 6°36′43″W / 53.5775°N 6.6119°W / 53.5775; -6.6119