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DUBLIN PREVIOUS TO THE ELEYENTH CENTURY
The earliest authentic notice of Dublin occurs in the geography of Ptolemy, who flourished in the second century of our era. His description of the world as then known begins with Hibernia, an honour which the country received from him because of its being the most western in Europe. His map of Ireland is much more correct in its outline than the one he has furnished of Great Britain ; in the latter, the portion now called Scotland is made to bend off eastward, nearly at a right angle from the southern portion. He marks “Eblana" just where Dublin at present stands, and he describes it as " Todis," a city. The people inhabiting the range northward as far as the river Boyne, including part of Meath, he calls “Eblani, probably as belonging or subject to " Eblana," though some conjecture that the place took its name from the people, not the people theirs from
That the words “ Dublin” and “ Eblana" were at first one, is obvious. Indeed, it has been more than supposed that a letter has been lost from the original, and that Ptolemy wrote 16 Deblana." Dublin” is composed of two Irish words“ Dubh,” Black, and
“ Linn," water--the river which here empties itself into the sea being of a dark colour from its flowing over a bog.
The city was otherwise called " Ath-Cliath,” the "Hurdle-Ford,” and “Bally Ath-Cliath,” the “ Town of the Hurdle-Ford.” Both names indicate that a passage was here made or marked by “hurdles” across the stream. Tradition reports that it was constructed for more safely conveying sheep from one side to the other; but whether it had at all the form of a “ suspension-bridge” the account does not explain.
A fourth name given to the city in olden time, was “ Droom-Choll-Coil," the " Brow of a Hazel-Wood," from its occupying the upper front of a rise of ground, other parts of which were covered with a wood of the kind mentioned.
Dublin must have been in Ptolemy's day, by report at least, a place of some size and importance, or he would not have styled it a city." We should, however, greatly mistake if we conceived it to have been then an aggregation of houses, streets, and public buildings, such as the word suggests to us now. " The ancient Irish were at no trouble in providing for themselves
habitations of solid and lasting materials. Their houses were built of twigs and hurdles, and covered with sedge or straw.” Buildings of stone and mortar are believed to have been unknown in Ireland before the sixth century. For the introduction of what we call “ architecture," the country is indebted to Christianity. The population of "Eblana" were unacquainted with our often costly and trouble-causing superfluities of boarded floors, glazed windows, paved ways, gas-lights, scavengering, sewerage, and police, matters which we moderns are apt to reckon among
the necessaries of life. Let the reader, for a moment, in his conception sweep away the present “Dublin ;" then group, without much regard to order, a few hundred
cabins," some of them larger than the rest, along the upper part of the range fronting the Liffey, from Cork-hill to Bridge-street; next, clothe the top and southern descent of the ridge with a hazel-wood, which he may also carry round the eastern and western sides of the “ city," and along between it and the river ; finally, let him place a "hurdle-ford” where Whitworth Bridge now stands; and he will perhaps have as correct an idea of Ptolemy's
Eblana" a model by Brunetti could supply.
Three orders of royalty then existed in Ireland. The country had its unity, its divisions, and its sub-divisions of sovereignty. It was parcelled out under a large number of toparchs, or petty chiefs, each of whom bore the
title of “ king," as was the case in the early times of Palestine and its neighbour lands. Above these were five provincial monarchs, "kings" of a higher grade. One of the five reigned over all as “ king of Ireland ;" his palace was on the hill of Tarah, in Meath, where he triennially convened the states of his realm, for enacting laws and other national business, and where he entertained his dignitaries with hospitality and magnificence worthy of his supremacy. “ Eblana” had its “ king," one of the lowest order of royal personages.
The food of the common people of ancient Ireland is said to have been to
very mean and slender, namely, milk, butter, and herbs; from whence," writes Ware," the Epitome of Strabo calls the Irish, herb-eaters.” The gentry and nobility lived in higher style. Had we entered a banqueting-hall of the Eblani on a great festival day, we might have found the company reclining on couches of grass or rushes, round a table furnished with griddle-baked bread, milk-meats, and varieties of fish and flesh, both boiled and roast. The cup too, made of wood, or horn, or brass, filled with beer or mead“whiskey” was then unknown-was passed joyfully from guest to guest; while the metalstrung harp, obedient to the touch of skill and taste, sent forth stirring sounds, with which oft mingled those of the martial drum, accompanying the bard's recital of warm affection, of illustrious ancestry, and of heroic deeds.
Of trade and commerce Eblana had not