Background to Patrick's mission

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Social and Political Make-up: Celtic people-Population 500,000


Binchy’s classification: “tribal, rural, hierarchical and familiar” (ie family based)


(a)    Tribal 150 tuatha each with own king or “Ri”.

Kings were chosen from the ruling “deirbfhine” and successors also decided.

King was a figurehead and had to be strong and morally superior. Had to

live in an appropriate manner to bring honour on his tribe to which he was effectively married. Would lead his people in war and could negotiate peace treaties but could not frame laws or act as judge. Inauguration took place at the “feis” which involved mating ceremonies and other pagan ****** rites which Patrick found objectionable.

Confederations of tuatha could band together and elect an over-king. Ordinary kings paid tribute and received payment from the over-king.


(b)   Rural  Mainly isolated farmsteads. Dense forestation made travel and   

communication difficult. Populations were insular, distrustful of strangers

and warlike. Most common dwellings were raths, crannogs and larger

constructions called duns or forts. (see page 13)


(c)    Hierarchical- Rank was determined by birth and wealth and a person could

rise or fall in status. At the top was the king then nobles, freemen and the


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