Irish identity is best understood from a maritime perspective. For eight millennia the island has been a haven for explorers, settlers, colonists, navigators, pirates and traders, absorbing goods and peoples from all points of the compass. The reduction of the islanders to the exclusive category ‘Celtic’ has persisted for three hundred years, and is here rejected as impossibly narrow. No classical author ever described Ireland’s inhabitants as ‘Celts’, and neither did the Irish so describe themselves until recent times. The islanders’ sea-girt culture has been crucially shaped by Middle Eastern as well as by European civilizations, by an Islamic heritage as well as a Christian one. The Irish language itself has antique roots extended over thousands of years’ trading up and down the Atlantic seaways.