Social, Political, Religious Background

Ireland's Social, Political and Religious background to St Patrick's Mission

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  • Created by: amyharkin
  • Created on: 19-05-16 13:56

Social Structure

Four social levels: Kings - Nobles - Freemen - Unfree

King - weakest king politically but at the top of the social structure

  • High Kings - over a province/superior kings - no one ruler over all Ireland
  • Kings - rulers over simple tuatha, around 200 in number

King was a sacred person - morally and physically unblemished - married to his tuath - always had to be accompanied by a retinue and could never engage in anything considered degrading

Functions: to lead people in war, to preside over the Oenach, to represent people in peace time

  • King of a simple tuath was the weakest form of king - in own kingdom, powers were limited
  • Very little controlling authority
  • Not a judge over his people
  • Could not enact laws

As a result, it was convinient for kings to enter into relationship to boost his own profile.

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Social Structure

Nobles - druids, law givers, poets/seers and bards (druids and law givers recieved national recognition outside own tuatha - protected - others were respected but not of noble birth)

  • Druids - learned, respected advisers on gov't and religion, knowledge learned and passed orally, believed selves to have magical powers
  • Law Givers - gave advice in matters of justice, knowledgable of previous judgements of kings
  • Poets/Seers - knew ancient tales of heroes and kings, learned in matters of nature, believed to have power to foresee the future
  • Bards - memorised and recounted tales of warriors and gods, added new stories of their own


  • Farmers - those owning small scale land, or those with a trade


  • Slaves - captured on raids and sold to masters, also those without trade
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