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One of those captured slaves helped to convert the Irish to Christianity - the Romano-British Saint Patrick in the mid-fifth century AD.

Thanks to that, and isolated from the chaos that swept Britain during the Anglo-Saxon invasion, Ireland was able to develop its own rich and prominent Christian culture.

More detail will be available under the individual pages for the traditional Irish kingdoms, but readers should keep in mind the fact that the locations of Ptolemy's tribes cannot always be transferred to locations of the kingdoms that succeeded them.

There were some signs that unity would eventually have come, however.

At various points in its early medieval history, from the eighth or ninth centuries onwards, Ireland was nominally united under the high kings (ard ri) and, but for many incursions by Danes, Normans and the Norman-dominated English, Ireland might have developed into a fully unified single kingdom in the same way as England had in the tenth century.

Trapped between this land bridge and the ice sheet to the north, the Irish Sea is filled by melt water that forms a vast lake.

At this time, the land bridge is finally submerged beneath the salt water of the Atlantic Sea.

At some point after about 500 BC, there were certainly arrivals by Indo-European Celts (and perhaps even as early as 2000 BC), and they remained fully independent as Ireland was never conquered by the Romans.

Instead the Celto-Irish helped to hasten the end of Roman control over Britain by constantly raiding the British coastline, capturing slaves and booty.

Then in the late fourth century, Niall of the Nine Hostages apparently dominated much of Ireland.

His offspring, the U Neill, used a descent system to describe themselves, and this appears to have been adopted by most of the island.

The last holdout may have been the Fir Domnann (the Dumnonii Men), possibly one of several British tribes who saw fragments of their number move to Ireland.

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