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IrelandIreland is an island country lying to the west of Great Britian Itis separated from Great Britain by St Georges Channel the Irish Seaand the Northern Channel At its greatest length from northeast tosouthwest it measures three hundred and two miles The first humansettlements on the island on the northeastern edge of Europe were maderelatively late in European prehistory about six thousand BC Itremained relatively uninhabited and uninvaded The only knowledge ofthis Ireland is through references in Greek and Roman literature andpagan legends that survived into the Christian period Sometime betweensix hundred and one hundred fifty BC Celtic peoples from westernEurope Known as Gaels invaded and subdued the inhabitants The basic units of the Gaelic society were the tuatha which werepetty kingdoms They remained independent of each other but shared thesame common language Gaelic There were also a class of men calledbrehons who were learned in customary laws and helped topreserve throughout Ireland a uniform yet archaic social systemGrolier One reason for the unique nature of their society was that theRomans who had transformed the Celtic societies of Britain and othersocieties with their armies roads administrative system and townstructures never tried to conquer Ireland A result of Irelands isolation from RomanizedEurope was the development of a distinctive Celtic type of ChristianityWhile Saint Patrick introduced Latin Christianity into the country inthe fifth century the system of bishops with territorial dioceses which wasmodeled on the Romans administrative system it could not find securityin Ireland at the timeGrolier Though the independent tuath remainedthe basic unit of Gaelic secular society the sovereign monastery becamethe basic unit of Celtic Christianity During the sixth and seventhcenturies Irish monasteries were great centers of learning Suchmissionaries as Saint Columba and Saint Columban were sent out to therest of Europe While the rest of Europe was in the Dark Ages thiswas Irelands golden ageGrolierIn the late Eighth century Vikings from Scandinavia began toraid Ireland The other parts of Europe about this time wereresponding
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