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Title: Phases of Irish History
Author: MacNeill, Eoin
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Phases of Irish History" ***

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    _Professor of Ancient Irish History in
    the National University of Ireland_

    M. H. GILL & SON, LTD.

[Illustration: _Printed and Bound in Ireland by :: :: M. H. Gill &
Son, :: :: Ltd. :: :: 50 Upper O'Connell Street :: :: Dublin_]

    _First Edition_               1919

    _Second Impression_           1920


          FOREWORD                                          vi
       I. THE ANCIENT IRISH A CELTIC PEOPLE                  1
      IV. THE FIVE FIFTHS OF IRELAND                        98
     VII. THE IRISH KINGDOM IN SCOTLAND                    194
    VIII. IRELAND'S GOLDEN AGE                             222
      IX. THE STRUGGLE WITH THE NORSEMEN                   249
       X. MEDIEVAL IRISH INSTITUTIONS                      274
      XI. THE NORMAN CONQUEST                              300
     XII. THE IRISH RALLY                                  323
          INDEX                                            357


The twelve chapters in this volume, delivered as lectures before
public audiences in Dublin, make no pretence to form a full course of
Irish history for any period. Their purpose is to correct and
supplement. For the standpoint taken, no apology is necessary. Neither
apathy nor antipathy can ever bring out the truth of history.

I have been guilty of some inconsistency in my spelling of early Irish
names, writing sometimes earlier, sometimes later forms. In the Index,
I have endeavoured to remedy this defect.

Since these chapters presume the reader's acquaintance with some
general presentation of Irish history, they may be read, for the
pre-Christian period, with Keating's account, for the Christian
period, with any handbook of Irish history in print.



Every people has two distinct lines of descent--by blood and by
tradition. When we consider the physical descent of a people, we
regard them purely as animals. As in any breed of animals, so in a
people, the tokens of physical descent are mainly physical
attributes--such as stature, complexion, the shape of the skull and
members, the formation of the features. When we speak of a particular
_race_ of men, if we speak accurately, we mean a collection of people
whose personal appearance and bodily characters, inherited from their
ancestors and perhaps modified by climate and occupation, distinguish
them notably from the rest of mankind. It is important for us to be
quite clear in our minds about this meaning of Race, for the word Race
is often used in a very loose and very misleading way in popular
writings and discussions. Thus we hear and read of the Latin races,
the Teutonic race, the Anglo-Saxon race, the Celtic race. If these
phrases had any value in clear thinking, they would imply that in each
instance it is possible to distinguish a section of mankind which, by
its inherited physical characters, differs notably from the rest of
mankind. Now in not one of the instances mentioned is any such
distinction known to those who have made the races of man the subject
of their special study. There is no existing Latin race, no Teutonic
race, no Anglo-Saxon race, and no Celtic race. Each of the groups to
whom these names are popularly applied is a mixture of various races
which can be distinguished, and for the most part they are a mixture
of the same races, though not in every case in the same proportions.

In the case of the populations which are recognised to be Celtic, it
is particularly true that no distinction of race is found among them.
And this is true of them even in the earliest times of their history.
Tacitus, in the remarkable introductory chapters of his book, "De
Moribus Germanorum," gives a brief physical description of the Germans
of his time. "Their physical aspect," he says, "even in so numerous a
population, is the same for all of them: fierce blue eyes, reddish
hair, bodies of great size and powerful only in attack." Upon this the
well-read editor of the Elzevir edition of 1573 has the following
remarks: "What Tacitus says here of the Germans, the same is said by
Florus and Livy in describing the Gauls.... Hence," he continues, "it
appears that those ancient Gauls and Germans were remarkably similar
in the nature of their bodies as well as of their minds." He goes on
to develop the comparison, and sums up as follows: "Who then will deny
that those earliest Celts were similar to the Germans and were in fact

These Latin writers were contemporary witnesses, and among the
captives taken by Roman armies they must have seen the men that they
describe. Thus, in early times the Romans observed the same physical
semblance in the two peoples, Celts and Germans. It may be pointed
out, however, that the physical characteristics on which they lay
stress are those which exhibit the greatest difference between these
northern peoples and the peoples of southern Europe. For that reason
we may suspect a certain element of exaggeration in the description.
We may take leave to doubt whether all the Germans of antiquity were
fair-haired and blue-eyed, as Tacitus describes them. It was the
fair-haired and blue-eyed Germans and Celts that attracted the
attention of Latin writers, accustomed to a population almost
uniformly dark-haired and dark-eyed, and they would naturally seize
upon the points of distinction and regard them as generally typical.

If, then, by the name Celts we cannot properly understand a distinct
race, what are we to understand by it? By what criterion do we
recognise any ancient population to have been Celts? The answer is
undoubted--every ancient people that is known to have spoken any
Celtic language is said to be a Celtic people. The term Celtic is
indicative of language, not of race. We give the name Celts to the
Irish and the Britons because we know that the ancient language of
each people is a Celtic language.

A certain amount of enthusiasm, culminating in what is called
Pan-Celticism, has gathered around the recognition of this fact that
the Irish, the Gaels of Scotland, the Welsh and the Bretons are Celtic
peoples. So much favour attached to the name Celtic that in our own
time the Irish language was, so to speak, smuggled into the curricula
of the Royal University and of the Intermediate Board under that name.
What ancient writers called _opus Hibernicum_, "Irish work," is
popularly known in Ireland as Celtic ornament. In the same way people
speak of Celtic crosses, and there are even Celtic athletic clubs.
There is no small amount of pride in the notion of being Celtic. It is
somewhat remarkable, then, to find that throughout all their early
history and tradition the Irish and the Britons alike show not the
slightest atom of recognition that they were Celtic peoples. We do not
find them acknowledging any kinship with the Gauls, or even with each
other. In Christian times, their men of letters shaped out
genealogical trees tracing the descent of each people from Japhet--and
in these genealogies Gael and Briton and Gaul descend by lines as
distinct as German and Greek. This absence of acknowledgment of
kinship is all the more noteworthy because there is little reason to
suppose that, before Latin displaced the Celtic speech of Gaul, the
differences of dialect in the Celtic speech of Gaul, Britain, and
Ireland were sufficient to prevent intercourse without interpreters.

From this ignorance of their Celtic kinship and origin we must draw
one important conclusion. The extraordinary vitality of popular
tradition in some respects must be set off by its extraordinary
mortality in other respects. There must have been a time when the
Celts of Ireland, Britain and Gaul were fully aware that they were
nearer akin to each other than to the Germans and Italians, but this
knowledge perished altogether from the popular memory and the popular

It was re-discovered and re-established by a Scottish Gael, George
Buchanan, in the sixteenth century. Buchanan, in his history of
Scotland, published in 1589, dismissed as fabulous that section of the
Irish and British genealogies that purported to trace the origin of
each people, generation by generation, from Japhet. He was a man of
great classical learning. No better refutation could be adduced of the
notion that Bacon, who was a child when Buchanan wrote, established
the inductive method of scientific proof than the clear and
well-marshalled argument by which Buchanan proves from numerous Greek
and Latin sources that the Gaels and the Britons were branches of the
ancient Celtic people of the Continent.

An account of Buchanan's discourse on this subject will be found in an
article by me in the "Irish Review," of December, 1913. Buchanan's
discovery seems to have lain dormant, as regards any effect on
learning or the popular mind, for more than a century. In his argument
he dealt rather severely with the statements of a contemporary Welsh
antiquary, Humphrey Llwyd, and this controversy had probably the
effect of sowing the seed of what may be called Celtic consciousness
in the soil of Welsh learning. In Ireland, though Buchanan's work was
doubtless known and read, his theory of the Celtic origin of the Irish
people and their language, and of their kinship to the Britons and the
Continental Celts, does not appear to have been thought worth
discussion, so firmly established were the ancient accounts which
attributed to the Gaels of Ireland a Scythian origin. Yet these
ancient accounts, as I propose to show in the third lecture of this
series, did not belong to the true national tradition, ran counter to
tradition, and owed their invention to the Latin learning of Ireland
in the early Christian period.

In 1707 the publication of the first volume of Edward Llwyd's
"Archæologia Britannica" exhibits the first fruiting of Buchanan's
theory, in the form of a sort of conspectus of the Celtic languages
then extant, namely, the Gaelic of Ireland and Scotland, and the
British languages of Wales, Cornwall and Brittany. From this time
onward, the existence of a group of Celtic peoples may be taken as a
recognised fact in the learned world. I do not know whether anyone has
yet traced the early stages of the recognition of the same fact in
Continental learning.

The Celtic languages now began to attract attention from outside. I
ought, however, to note here that already for a brief period the Irish
language had seemed about to extend its influence beyond the limits of
its own people. It will be remembered that Edmund Spenser, during his
residence in Ireland (1586-1598), made some small acquaintance with
Irish poetry which was translated for him, and that he was pleased in
some degree with its peculiarities. About the same time an English
official in Dublin reports to his masters in London that "the English
in Dublin do now all speak Irish," and adds that they take a pleasure
in speaking Irish. A primer of the Irish language was composed by the
Baron of Delvin for the special use of Queen Elizabeth, and a
facsimile of portion of it may be seen in Sir John Gilbert's "National
Manuscripts of Ireland."

The growing interest in Celtic literature among outsiders is
exemplified in some of the work of the English poet Gray, who died in
1771. His poem of "The Bard," reflected, if it did not initiate, the
notions long afterwards fashionable of the character of the Celtic
bards and of the spirit of their poetry. Gray had the reputation in
his time of being an antiquarian. He made an English version of the
vision-poem on the battle of Clontarf from the Icelandic saga of Burnt
Njal, and from this same poem part of the inspiration of his "Bard" is
acknowledged by him to have been derived. Gray also wrote English
versions of some Welsh poems, and the novelty of poetic expression
which he borrowed here seems to have baffled for once the critical
experience of Johnson, who contents himself with saying that "the
language is unlike the language of other poets." "The Bard" was
published in 1755, and, if I am not mistaken, its weird rhapsodical
spirit contained the germ of the Celtic literary revival, for Gray's
"Bard" may be regarded as the literary parent of Macpherson's
"Ossian." In 1760, five years after the publication of "The Bard,"
appeared the first collection of Macpherson's pretended translations,
entitled "Fragments of Ancient Poetry Collected in the Highlands of
Scotland." The consequences of this publication are fitly described by
Dr. Magnus MacLean: "The arrival of James Macpherson marks a great
moment in the history of Celtic literature. It was the signal for a
general resurrection. It would seem as if he sounded the trumpet, and
the graves of ancient manuscripts were opened, the books were read,
and the dead were judged out of the things that were written in them."
In 1764 was published Evans's "Specimens of the Poetry of the Ancient
Welsh Bards"--which supplied Gray with fresh material. In 1784
appeared "Musical and Poetical Relics of the Welsh Bards," and from
that time onward the stream of translations from Welsh to English was
fairly continuous. Notwithstanding the controversy that soon arose
about the authenticity of Macpherson's compositions, their direct
influence and vogue went on increasing for half a century. Among those
who shared in the Macpherson craze were Goethe and Napoleon Bonaparte.
In France, de Villemarqué published his "Chants populaires de la
Bretagne," a collection of poems from the Breton. In Scotland,
Macpherson had several imitators. In Wales, the new movement took
shape in the revival of the National Eisteddfod in 1819. In Ireland,
the first fruits of Macpherson's genius are found in Walker's
"Historical Memoirs of the Irish Bards," published in 1786, and in
Charlotte Brooke's "Reliques of Irish Poetry," published in 1789. The
originals in this case were genuine, including a number of poems of
the kind called, since Macpherson's time, Ossianic.[1] The English
versions supplied by Miss Brooke were in close imitation of the style
and diction of Macpherson. The same influence extends to Hardiman's
"Irish Minstrelsy," published in 1831.

[Footnote 1: The Irish term for this class of poetry is
"Fianaidheacht," and is of great antiquity.]

The expansion of the new Celtic consciousness is exemplified in the
publication in 1804 of a tract in French on the Irish Alphabet by Jean
Jacques Marcel. The first important philological treatise on the
Celtic languages was published by the French philologist Pictet in
1837, dealing with "the affinity of the Celtic languages to Sanscrit."
Next year, 1838, appeared Bopp's work in German, showing the relation
of the Celtic languages to Sanscrit, Zend, Greek, Latin, German, etc.
The Celtic literary enthusiasm was henceforth supplemented by solid
scientific research.

In these particulars is presented, I think, a fairly accurate sketch
of the wholly modern development of the Celtic consciousness. I wish
to recall here the fact that from the earliest traceable traditions of
the Gaelic people down to the time of George Buchanan, there is not
found the slightest glimmer of recognition that the Celts of Ireland
were Celts, or that they were more nearly akin to the Celts of Britain
and the Continent than to any other population of white men. The
second fact which I wish particularly to emphasise is that throughout
all its history the term Celtic bears a linguistic and not a racial

It need hardly be re-stated here that the Celts are a linguistic
offshoot of a prehistoric people whose descendants--also in the line
of language--comprise many ancient and modern populations in Europe
and Asia. It would be out of place now to discuss the central location
from which the various branches of this prehistoric people spread
themselves over so wide an area. Indeed, it is a facile and fanciful
assumption to suppose that the spreading took place from one central
habitat. It is enough to say that, whereas the earlier philologists
took for granted that the original population, before its division
into various linguistic groups, was located in Western Asia, the later
philologists are strongly inclined to place its home in Europe, in the
region south-east of the Baltic Sea.

The oldest known geographical descriptions of Europe are those of
Hecatæus, who flourished about 500 years before the Christian Era, and
Herodotus, about half a century after him. Their knowledge of the
European mainland, north of the countries bordering on the
Mediterranean and its inlets, was of the most vague and general kind.
They divided the whole of northern and middle Europe between two
peoples, the Scythians in the eastern, and the Celts in the western
parts. They also knew of the Iberians in the south-west, in the
Spanish peninsula and the adjoining parts of France. Herodotus,
however, recognised to the west of the Celts a people whom he calls
Kunēsioi and Kunētai, and in the furthest north of Europe a population
distinct from the Celts and Scythians, but unknown to him by any name
of their own, for he calls them Hyperboreans, _i.e._, out and out
northerns. In the time of Eratosthenes, about 200 B.C., this knowledge
does not appear to have been very much increased among the Greeks.
They knew, however, of the existence of the islands of Ireland, which
they called Ierne, and Britain, which they called Albion, and also of
a country beyond the Baltic; but they still divided the northern
mainland of Europe between the Celts and the Scythians.

I have already remarked how ancient Irish tradition ignores the Celtic
origin and affinities of the Irish. We may go farther and say that our
ancient writers, when they set about exploring the geographical
knowledge of the world that came to them in Latin writings, had it
very definitely in their minds that the Irish were not of Celtic
origin; for, of the three great populations of northern and western
Europe known to the oldest classical writers--the Iberians, the Celts,
and the Scythians--they excluded the Celts, and included the other
two, some selecting the Iberians and others the Scythians as the
ancestral people from which the Gaels were descended.

The reason why to the Greek mind, in the early centuries of history,
the Celts appeared to occupy so much of Middle Europe and to occupy it
so exclusively, was I think this: the Celts at that time actually
occupied the upper valleys of the Danube, the Rhone, the Rhine, and
the Elbe, and the high ground between. These rivers were the principal
highways of such transcontinental commerce as then existed, and this
commerce was probably considerable, comprising various metals, salt,
amber, etc. Whatever came and went in the course of transcontinental
trade from north-western Europe to the Mediterranean countries
followed trade routes which lay through the central region north of
the Alps, and all this region was held by the Celts. In this way, the
Celts seem to be more extensively spread over northern middle Europe
than they actually were.

Archæology takes us back farther and tells us more than history in
relation to the Celts while they were as yet, so far as we know,
located solely or mainly in the mid-European region to the north of
the Alps. It is not questioned that the ancient cemetery discovered
and explored many years ago at Hallstatt in Upper Austria belonged to
Celts and that the curious remains of art and industry found there are
the work of a Celtic people. The period assigned for that work begins
in the ninth century before the Christian Era and may extend onward
for several centuries. The discoveries indicate an organised and
progressive community, among whose resources were agriculture and the
working of mines for metals and salt; but the principal fact disclosed
is that, already in that early time, the Celts were acquainted with
the use and manufacture of iron. In the northern parts of Europe, in
Scandinavia, Britain and Ireland, as archæologists are agreed, the
Iron Age did not make its appearance until several centuries later.

We need not doubt that it was this possession of iron in abundance
and of skill in its manufacture, at a time when neighbouring peoples
found in bronze the highest class of material for their implements of
industry and war, that gave the Celts the power and prosperity which
they long enjoyed in Mid-Europe and enabled them to conquer and
colonize all the countries that surrounded them.

One effect of the mastery of iron, for a people occupying an inland
region with small facilities for water-traffic, was that the Celts
acquired a notable skill in the making of vehicles. From them in a
later age the Romans borrowed the names of nearly every variety of
wheeled vehicle that the Romans used: _carrus_ or _carrum_,
_carpentum_, _esseda_, _rheda_, _petorritum_. From this it obviously
follows that the Celts were also great road-makers. During the nine
years that Julius Cæsar spent in the conquest of Transalpine Gaul, and
marched his legions in every direction over that vast region, it is
quite evident that he was operating in a country already well supplied
with roads.

The earliest recorded expansion of the Celts from the region north of
the Alps was over northern Italy, and no historian supposes or
suggests that the first Celtic occupation of northern Italy was
earlier than about 600 B.C. This item ought to be borne in mind, for
it has an important bearing on the date of the early Celtic migrations
to Britain and Ireland. It was probably about the same time that they
began to move westward across the Rhone, occupying the parts of France
between the Garonne on the south and the English Channel on the north,
which parts are specifically described by Julius Cæsar as Gallia
Celtica, Celtic Gaul. Between 500 and 400 B.C. they spread
south-westward into Spain, apparently more as conquerors than as
colonists, for the resultant of the Celtic occupation of the Spanish
Peninsula was the formation of a mixed people, partly Celts and partly
Iberians, whom ancient writers distinguish from the Celts by giving
them what we may call a hyphenated name, Celtiberians. We are not to
imagine from this that Celtic conquests elsewhere were of an
exterminating character, or that they did not result in a fusion of
peoples. The notion that the migratory conquests of antiquity resulted
in the displacement of one population by another is one of the
favourite illusions of popular history. In Spain no doubt the Celtic
element was relatively less numerous than in Gallia Celtica, and also
perhaps the Celtic civilisation became less dominant, for the Iberians
were in touch more or less with another and still more highly
developed civilisation, that of the Phœnicians. That there was a
somewhat distinctive civilisation south of the Garonne is clearly to
be inferred from Cæsar's account, which tells us that the people of
Celtic Gaul differed from those of Aquitaine, as well as from those of
Belgic Gaul, in language, culture, and institutions.

In the fourth century B.C. a second wave of Celtic migration poured
over Italy. The Celts in this movement captured and destroyed the city
of Rome. But they also appear to have destroyed the predominance of
the Etrurians, and thereby to have facilitated the later imperial
expansion of the Roman power. There was also an eastward Celtic
movement along the Danube. In the third century B.C. the Celts overran
most of what is called the Balkan Peninsula, including Greece, and in
278 B.C. large bodies of them passed over into Asia Minor and settled
in the country which after them was named Galatia.

Let it be noted at this point that so far as history casts light on
the subject, the known period of Celtic expansion on the Continent
lies within the years 650 B.C. and 250 B.C. We shall have to recur to
this fact when we come to consider, in the following lecture, the
probable date of the Celtic colonisation of Ireland. We shall see also
that the evidence from archæology leads to the same conclusion as the
evidence from history.

History recognises the expansion of the Celts from inland and central
Europe southward, westward and eastward, but is silent about any
expansion northward. No one doubts that in these early times the parts
of Europe northward of the old Celtic country already described were
occupied by the Germans, but Greek and Latin writings have no word of
the Germans until the last quarter of the third century B.C. Yet we
know from archæology that there was trade intercourse long before that
time between the Mediterranean countries and the shores of the Baltic,
extending even to Scandinavia. As geographical facts, the Baltic and
Scandinavia were known to the Greeks, if only vaguely known to them,
in the time of Eratosthenes, _i.e._, about 200 B.C. How is it, then,
that the Germans are not mentioned by that name or by any name? I
suggest that the reason was that the Germans of that period were so
much under Celtic domination that they were not recognised as a
distinct people of importance.

The first mention of Germans in history is found in the Roman Acta
Triumphalia for the year 222 B.C., in the record of the battle of
Clastidium. Clastidium, now called Casteggio, is in northern Italy, on
the south side of the river Po and a few miles from that river. It is
a little west of the meridian of Milan, which at the time of the
battle was Mediolanum, the chief town of the Insubrian Gauls. In the
battle, the Roman consul Marcellus overcame the Insubrians and gained
the _spolia opima_ by slaying with his own hand their commander
Virdumarus. The Acta Triumphalia state that he triumphed "over the
Insubrian Gauls and the Germans." Now so far as is known or thought
probable there was no German population at the time settled anywhere
within hundreds of miles of Clastidium, whereas the Insubrian Gauls
were settled on the spot or in its near neighbourhood. Moreover,
unless the Germans were there fighting in considerable force, it is
most unlikely that any notice of them would have appeared in the
record. The commander was a Gaul, bearing an undoubted Celtic name.
Therefore the Germans at Clastidium were not fighting for their own
hand, they had not come there as invaders. Thus we are brought to the
interesting conclusion that, on this first appearance of the Germans
in history, they had been brought from their own country, hundreds of
miles away, to assist a Celtic people resident in the valley of the
Po. To assist them in what capacity? Undoubtedly either as hired
troops or as forces levied on a subject territory. Whichever view we
take, the presence of German forces at the battle of Clastidium in 222
B.C. must be regarded as an indication that the German people, or
portion of them, were still at that time under Celtic predominance. I
say "still at that time," because it will be seen that the Celtic
ascendancy over the Germans soon afterwards came to an end.

What is thus inferred from the historical record is corroborated by
philology. A number of words of Celtic origin are found spread through
the whole group of Germanic languages, including the Scandinavian
languages and English, which was originally a mixture of Low German
dialects. Some of these words are especially connected with the
political side of civilisation and are therefore especially indicative
of Celtic political predominance at the time of their adoption into
Germanic speech. Thus the German word _reich_, meaning realm or royal
dominion, is traced to the Celtic _rigion_, represented in early Irish
by _rige_, meaning kingship. From the Celtic word _ambactus_, used by
Cæsar in the sense of "client" or "dependent," indicating one of the
retainers of a Gallic nobleman, but originally signifying "one who is
sent about," a minister or envoy--from _ambactus_ is derived the
German word _amt_, meaning "office, charge, employment." From
_ambactus_ are also derived the words _embassy_ and _ambassador_, with
their kindred terms in the Romance languages. From the Celtic word
_dunon_, a fortified place, represented in Irish by _dun_, is derived
the word _town_ in English and the cognate words in the other Germanic
languages. Professor Marstrander holds that several of the names of
the numerals in all the Germanic languages, and therefore in the
original German speech from which they have diverged, are formed from
or influenced by Celtic names of the same numerals. If this is so, it
indicates a thoroughly penetrating Celtic influence among the ancient
Germans, for the names of the numerals may be regarded as among the
most native elements of speech, so much so that it is said that
facility in the speaking of two languages rarely exists to the degree
of being able to reckon numbers with equal readiness in both, and that
the language a person uses in ordinary reckoning must be regarded as
his native and natural speech.

This matter of the early intermingling of Celts and Germans in
northern Mid-Europe will be afterwards seen to have a special interest
in reference to the Celtic colonisation of Britain and Ireland. Before
concluding the evidence I have to bring forward on the subject, it
will make the drift of the matter clearer if I state the later outcome
of the Celtic migrations northward among the Germanic population. We
have already seen that, as archaeologists are agreed, the Celts north
of the Alps were in possession of iron long before the use and
manufacture of iron was established in the more northern parts of
Europe. It is mainly to this advantage that we may ascribe the
predominance acquired by the Celts among the Germans. In the German
regions, however, the Celts were for the most part an ascendant
minority. Their domination must have lasted for several centuries. A
time came when, in those parts which in the Celts were numerically and
otherwise in greatest strength, a fusion of peoples took place,
resulting in a Celto-Germanic population, Celtic in language but
mainly Germanic in race. Meanwhile, the less blended section of the
Germans, retaining their native language, had acquired the craft of
ironwork, and were advancing in civilisation and no doubt increasing
at the same time in numbers. Eventually the German-speaking Germans
became more powerful than the once dominant Celtic minority and more
powerful also than the Celto-Germanic folk who had become Celtic in
language. A sense of distinct nationality grew up between the two
populations. The Celticised Germans were located in western Germany,
towards the Rhine, the un-Celticised Germans farther east. Under
hostile pressure from the German-speaking element, the Celtic-speaking
element were forced westwards across the Rhine into Gaul. Here they in
turn pressed back the Celts who had settled in north-eastern Gaul, and
modern events will help to fix in the mind the fact that this overflow
of Celto-Germans into Gaul extended as far west as the river Marne,
where it was brought to a stand by the resistance of the earlier
Celtic inhabitants. The date of this migration was probably later than
that of the battle of Clastidium, 222 B.C., when, as we have seen, the
Celts appear to have still held sway over the Germans. The
Celto-Germanic settlers between the Rhine and the Marne were the
Belgae of Cæsar's time.

At first sight, this account may seem to be too precise an effort to
fill up a blank in history, but the testimony of Cæsar and Tacitus,
witnesses of prime authority, seems to leave no room for any
alternative view.

Cæsar is the first writer in whom any mention of the Belgae is found.
Holding the Gallic command for about nine years, he reduced the whole
of Gaul to obedience to the Roman power. For him, Gaul, Gallia,
signified the whole country between the Rhine and the Pyrenees. All
its inhabitants in general were named Galli by him, but we also find
that he uses the name Galli in a more precise sense as proper to the
people of those parts which were not occupied by the Belgae. He also
calls this people Celtae, Celts. Therefore in Cæsar's mind the Belgae
were less Gallic and less Celtic than their neighbours to the west.
His evidence on this subject however is much more precise.

The Rhine was for Cæsar the main boundary line between Gaul and
Germany, between the Belgae and the Germans. The Belgae, he states,
differ from the Celtae, as these from the Aquitani, in language,
culture, and institutions. The difference between the Celtae proper
and the Aquitani has already been accounted for. The Aquitani,
bordering on Spain, were the same Celtiberian mixture as the people of
Spain; they were Celtic, or mainly so, in language, but otherwise
mainly Iberian. I am proceeding to show that the difference between
the Celtae and the Belgae is to be explained in a similar way. The
Belgae were likewise Celtic in language, at all events mainly so, but
otherwise they were mainly Germanic. When Cæsar says that the three
divisions of Gaul differed from each other in language, we must
understand that he refers to broad distinctions of dialect, for the
names of persons and places in Belgic Gaul at that time appear to the
reader to be quite as Celtic as those in Gallia Celtica or western
Gaul. Cæsar tells us that the Belgae are ruder, less civilised and
more warlike than the Celtae or Galli more properly so called, and his
explanation for this is that they have less commerce and less
intercourse with outsiders, and so are less softened by refinement and
luxury. This is interesting, because it implies that Gallia Celtica
had a sufficient degree of commerce, intercourse, refinement and
luxury to considerably soften down the character of its inhabitants.

The westward and southward pressure of the Germans, then a very
powerful and numerous people, was in full force in Cæsar's time, so
much so that it seems certain that Cæsar's conquest of Gaul came just
in time to stay and delay that tide of Germanic invasion which overran
Gaul some centuries later. His first operations in Gaul were against
the Helvetii, whose country corresponded to the modern Switzerland. He
tells us that the Belgae are at continual war with the Germans along
the Rhine, and also that the Helvetii in their own country fight
almost daily battles with the Germans. In the first year of Cæsar's
Gallic command, the Helvetii came to a decision to migrate from their
country westward, and Cæsar's first campaign was conducted with the
purpose of forcing them to return to their own country. He ordered
them to return thither, he states, lest the Germans should take
possession of the territory and thus become neighbours to the old
Roman province in southern Gaul.

Cæsar states plainly that the Belgae for the most part are of German
origin; that in former times they had crossed the Rhine and
dispossessed the Galli (here he used the name Galli as proper to the
other inhabitants of Gaul in distinction from the Belgae). He
indicates that, after this migration, they had offered a successful
resistance to the invasion of the Cimbri and Teutones (between 113 and
102 B.C.).

Modern Frenchmen, though their national name is in origin the name of
a Germanic people, show a tendency, easily understood, to minimise the
Germanic element in their composition, and M. D'Arbois de Jubainville,
dealing with Cæsar's statement that the Belgae were mainly of Germanic
origin, seeks to explain that this was true geographically not
ethnographically, that they came from German lands but did not come of
German ancestry. Against the plain statement of a contemporary
observer, such explanations are always to be received with caution. In
this instance, there is corroborative evidence which indicates that
Cæsar's words are to be taken at their face value. Cæsar also tells us
that the Condrusi, Eburones, Cærosi and Paemani "uno nomine Germani
vocantur"--are called by the common name of Germans. Again he says
that the Segni and Condrusi are "ex gente et numero Germanorum"--of
the German nation and so accounted. Strabo, writing within a century
of Cæsar, says that "the Nervii are a Germanic people." According to
Cæsar, the Nervii had no commerce, avoided wine and other luxuries,
and were fierce men of great valour. They led the rest of the Belgae
in opposing him. Tacitus is a hardly less valid authority, for his
father-in-law Agricola had been engaged in long campaigns against the
Germans in the Rhine country. "The Treveri and the Nervii," he says,
"are especially forward in asserting their German origin, as though by
this boast of race to be distinguished from the pacific character of
the Gauls." It was surely not a geographical origin that was claimed
in such a way. The Treveri dwelt on the west side of the Rhine. They
were a Celtic-speaking people, and unlike most of the inhabitants of
Gaul they seem to have retained their Celtic language throughout the
period of Roman domination, for St. Jerome, writing in the late part
of the fourth century, says that "the Galatians (of Asia Minor), apart
from the Greek language, which all the East speaks, have a language of
their own almost the same as the Treveri." In one respect the Treveri,
Cæsar tells us, resembled the Germans of his time--they excelled in
cavalry; and his continuator, Hirtius, writes that "in fierceness and
in manner of life they differed little from the Germans." The
Advatuci, he writes, "were descendants of the Cimbri and Teutoni."
All these peoples dwelt in Belgic Gaul and came under the common
appellation of Belgae. In addition to Cæsar's statement that the
Belgae as he learned, not supposed, were, for the most part of German
origin, we have detailed evidence that, of about eighteen States
composing Belgic Gaul, no fewer than eight, in Cæsar's time and long
after it, were still accounted to be German.

On the other hand, then and afterwards, a number of peoples reckoned
to be Celtic continued to inhabit countries to the east of the Rhine.
The Tencteri and the Usipetae, on the German side of the Rhine, were
Celts, according to Dio Cassius. Tacitus, speaking of the Helvetii and
the Boii, says that "both are Gallic nations," yet in another passage
he speaks of "the Boii, a nation of the Germans." Still further east
dwelt the Cotini and the Osi, of whom he writes: "The Cotini by their
use of the Gallic language and the Osi by their use of the Pannonic
language are proved not to be Germans": from which it appears that
language was the criterion by which the Romans were accustomed to
distinguish Germans from Celts. Again Tacitus writes: "The Triboci,
Vangiones and Nemetes are certainly Germans," but modern German
authorities recognise that the Triboci and Nemetes are Celtic in these
very names. Of the Aestyi, dwelling apparently on the northern
seaboard of Germany, Tacitus says that their language resembles that
of Britain.

Further evidence of Celtic occupation of regions considered German in
Cæsar's time and ever since then is afforded by a number of ancient
place-names. For example, there were two towns or stations named
Carrodunon, _i.e._ "wagon-fortress," one on the river Oder, the other
in the upper valley of the Vistula. Other Celtic place-names, like
Lugidunum, Eburodunum, Meliodunum, are found in central Germany.

Tacitus confirms the evidence of Cæsar to the effect that the Belgae
were a Germano-Celtic people who came westward over the Rhine and
conquered part of the country already occupied by the Celts. "Those,"
he says, "who first crossed the Rhine and expelled the Gauls were then
named Germans but now Tungri." The Tungri inhabited a part of Belgic
Gaul between the Nervii and the Treveri.

It seems to me, then, to be certain that the Belgae not only came into
Gaul from Germany, but were themselves a mixed population of Celts and
Germans speaking a Celtic dialect. Holder assigns their migration into
Gaul to the third century B.C. It is, however, undesirable to attempt
to fix anything but a somewhat extended period for migratory movements
of the kind. The instance of the Helvetii proves that down to Cæsar's
time the Celts in contact with the Germans were still in a very mobile

Before using the facts hitherto stated and the conclusions derived
from them to throw whatever light they can on the Celtic colonisation
of Ireland, it may be well to state in a general way what can be said
as to the stage of civilisation reached by the continental Celts
before their subjugation by the Romans.

Some modern writers, but not very recently, have written about a
Celtic Empire in ancient Europe. The nearest approach to authority for
the existence of such an empire is a statement by Livy, who says:
"While the elder Tarquin reigned in Rome, the supremacy among the
Celts belonged to the Bituriges. They gave a king to the Celtic land.
Ambigatus was his name, a very mighty man in valour and in his private
and public resources, under whose rule Gaul was so abounding in men
and in the fruits of the earth that it seemed impossible to govern so
great a population."

The most that can be made of this passage, supposing that Livy had it
on better authority than some other parts of his history, is that at
one time the Bituriges held what the Greeks called hegemony, a
political primacy among the Gauls, and this, too, only in the time of
a single king. It may reflect a genuine Celtic tradition, going back
to the time when the Celts were still a compact nation inhabiting a
relatively small territory.

When we come to contemporary evidence of the political condition of
the Celts, we find that everywhere on the continent and in Asia Minor,
their form of government resembles that of the Roman Republic. There
are no kings, and the power of the state is vested in a senate with
certain high executive officers. The Celtic form of government in
historical time was that of a patrician republic. The Celtic people
was divided into a large number of small states without any organised
superior power. From time to time, however, one or other of these
states might acquire a degree of political pre-eminence over a group
of neighbouring states, forming a loose federation in which it took
chief direction of the common affairs. We find the same tendency among
the states of ancient Greece. In Asia Minor, the three states of the
Galatae formed themselves into a strict federation, with a fixed
constitution, a common council of state and a common executive both
civil and military.

So far as I have been able to trace, wherever the Greeks and Romans
came in contact with Celts so as to acquire a closer knowledge of
Celtic affairs, they found this kind of patrician republican
government. Cæsar found no kings in Transalpine Gaul, and the
governing authority, when he mentions it, belongs to senates and
magistrates, _i.e._, chief officers of state. It was apparently so in
Spain a century earlier; and in distant Lusitania, corresponding to
the modern Portugal, the most western Celtic region on the continent,
in resisting the Roman conquest the chief command is held by Viriatus,
who is not called a king by the Roman and Greek historians, nor is any
king mentioned in his time. Nor do we read of kings in Cisalpine Gaul.
Thus from farthest east to farthest west, the patrician republican
form of government seems to have prevailed in all Celtic communities
with the probable exception of Ireland; and this was probably their
political condition as far back as 300 B.C., or earlier, before the
Galatians passed into Asia Minor.

At some earlier period, the Celts were undoubtedly governed by kings.
The word for king, represented by the Irish word _ri_, is widely
exemplified in ancient Celtic names. From it, as I have already
remarked, the Germanic languages took their word for kingdom or realm.
Sometimes it is found in the names of peoples, _e.g._, the Bituriges,
Caturiges, etc.; sometimes in the names of men, _e.g._, Dumnorix,
Ambiorix, Vercingetorix. We find evidence, too, of a strong
anti-monarchical sentiment, as among the Romans. The law of the
Helvetii made it a capital offence, under penalty of being burned
alive, to aim at autocratic power.

Not only the Celts, but the Germans of that time, were governed
without kings, as Tacitus records. He adds, however, that they
appointed kings to command them when they went to war. Here we have a
parallel to the Roman dictatorship, the vesting of the power of the
republic in the hands of a single ruler during a time of critical

I have already mentioned the proficiency of the Celts in the
construction of wheeled vehicles, and the consequent deduction that
they were practised in the making of roads. The passage already quoted
from Livy shows that, with all their military ardour, they were known
to be active in agriculture; and this is corroborated by other ancient
authorities. The countries occupied by the Celts excelled in ordinary
agriculture not only during what we may call Celtic times but in
subsequent ages, and it is these countries that have furnished the
most excellent breeds of domestic animals--cattle, sheep, poultry,

Originally an inland people, the Celts who occupied the seaboard soon
became proficient in navigation. Cæsar bears witness to their skill in
ship building, and he seems to have found no great difficulty in
collecting from the Belgic coast a sufficient fleet of ships to
transport his army and supplies to Britain.

From the Greek settlement at Massilia (Marseille) two arts especially
appear to have spread among the Celts of Transalpine Gaul: sculpture
and the use of letters. The remains of Celtic sculpture in Gaul show
evident signs of Greek origin. Cæsar makes the remarkable statement
that the Gauls in his time use Greek writing in almost all their
business, both public and private. The Romans of Cæsar's time had not
long emerged, under Greek influence, from a state of comparative
illiteracy, as every student of Latin literature must recognise. Among
the spoils of the Helvetii captured by Cæsar, he found a complete
census of the people written in Greek characters. Inscriptions in the
Celtic language before the Roman conquest are in Greek characters,
except in Cisalpine Gaul, where the characters are Etruscan.

On the subject of ancient Celtic art on the continent, reference may
be made to the book by Romilly Allen, from which also a good idea of
the skill and taste of the Celts in metal work may be obtained.

In general, it is clear that the Celts were a highly progressive
people with a strong civilising tendency. Under the Druids, the
western Celts developed a system of education and some kind of
philosophy. With regard to their religion and to the part played by
the Druids in Celtic life, I have summarised my own studies in a
brochure entitled "Celtic Religion," which is published by the
Catholic Truth Society of England.


In the preceding lecture, I have claimed to show that, so far as
positive knowledge goes, the period of Celtic expansion from
Mid-Europe lies between the years 600 B.C. and 250 B.C. The spread of
the Celtic peoples and of their power was arrested by a movement of
German expansion on the north, beginning perhaps about 200 B.C., and
by the growth of the Roman Empire, for which a starting point may be
found in the final subjugation of Etruria, 265 B.C. I have also
claimed to show that there was a large northward expansion of the
Celts, resulting in a partial fusion of Celts and Germans, and that
this Celto-Germanic population was afterwards for the most part, but
not all, forced westward across the Rhine by the more purely German
population, and was represented by the Belgae of Cæsar's time.

From the objects discovered at Hallstatt, the early period of Celtic
art in the Iron Age is called by archæologists the Hallstatt period.
It is succeeded by a later stage and higher development of ornamental
art, exemplified in discoveries at La Tène in Switzerland. The period
in which this higher development is found has been named the La Tène
period; but the same stage of Celtic art is exemplified by objects
discovered in the valley of the Marne in northern France, and the term
"Marnian period" is used by French archæologists as an equivalent of
"La Tène period." So far as I am aware these Marnian remains represent
the earliest known substantial appearance of Celtic work, of Celtic
activities of any kind, in the north-western parts of Europe. The La
Tène or Marnian period is estimated to begin about 400 B.C., and not
earlier than 500 B.C. This estimated date is an important part of the
evidence that goes to establish the date of the Celtic migrations to
Britain and Ireland.

Before going more fully into the evidence, it is necessary to deal
with the theory which at present holds the field in British
archæology, and which is based principally on the authority of the
late Sir John Rhys. So completely has his theory dominated, that we
find it stated in summary in books for general instruction. I find a
good exemplification in the volume on Lincolnshire of the Cambridge
County Geographies, a series devised for school study and general
information. The following paragraph purports to tell us how Britain
was peopled before the Roman occupation:

"We may now pause for a moment," says the writer, "to consider who
these people were who inhabited our land in these far-off ages. Of
Palæolithic man we can say nothing. His successors, the people of the
Later Stone Age, are believed to have been largely of Iberian
stock--people, that is, from south-western Europe--who brought with
them their knowledge of such primitive arts and crafts as were then
discovered. How long they remained in undisturbed possession of our
land we do not know, but they were later conquered or driven westward
by a very different race of Celtic origin--the Goidels or Gaels, a
tall light-haired people, workers in bronze, whose descendants and
language are to be found to-day in many parts of Scotland, Ireland,
and the Isle of Man. Another Celtic people poured into the country
about the fourth century b.c.--the Brythons or Britons, who in turn
dispossessed the Gaels, at all events as far as England and Wales are
concerned. The Brythons were the first users of iron in our country."

So far the quotation. The writer is a man of scientific education, a
master of arts, a doctor of medicine, and a Fellow of the Society of
Antiquaries. This is the age of science, not of credulity, and in
matters of science men of scientific education are believed to require
scientific proof before they state anything as a fact. If it is the
age of science, it is also the age of invention. The statements made
in the passage I have quoted are definite enough. In fairness to their
writer, however, I shall quote his next paragraph, in which this
definite assurance is somewhat qualified:

"The Romans," he writes, "who first reached our shores in B.C. 55,
held the land till about A.D. 410; but in spite of the length of their
domination they do not seem to have left much mark on the people.
After their departure, treading close on their heels, came the Saxons,
Jutes, and Angles. But with these, and with the incursions of the
Danes and Irish, we have left the uncertain region of the Prehistoric
Age for the surer ground of History."

From what is said just afterwards on the surer ground of History, we
are prepared in some measure to assess the value of what has been
said, very definitely indeed, in the uncertain region of the
Prehistoric Age:

"Of the Celtic population of this county [Lincolnshire]," we are told
in continuation, "at the time of the Roman invasion, but few traces
are left, thus contrasting greatly with what has happened in counties
such as Somerset, Cornwall, and the wilder parts of Wales, and the
Lake district, where the Brythons (hence the name Britain) fled before
the Roman advance and later from the Saxons. These Celts, belonging to
the tribe of Coritani, have left little impression on the names of
places (Lincoln itself being an exception), and probably none on the
actual people of Lincolnshire. On the other hand, the Saxon invasion
and settlement must have been complete early in the sixth century."

Now let us consider first what the English reader and student is asked
to believe in regard of the effect of strictly historical movements on
the population of an English county. "The Romans," we are told, during
about four centuries of occupation, "do not seem to have left much
mark on the people." The writer's object is to show from what early
population elements the modern population is composed. By what tokens
does he assure us that the prolonged Roman occupation left no
permanent element behind? Is it by the scarcity of Roman noses in the
Lincolnshire of to-day? Let us regard the facts.

For generation after generation, the Romans sent legion after legion
of their soldiers into Britain. These legionaries were not all
Italians. They were recruited from various parts of the Roman Empire.
We know that one of the Roman emperors, holding command in Britain,
took a woman of British birth to wife, and that Constantine the Great
was their child. Are we asked to believe that the thousands upon
thousands of Roman legionaries in Britain lived a life of celibacy,
and left no descendants after them? The city of Lincoln was itself no
mere military station but a Roman colony, Lindi Colonia, and the
volume from which I quote shows that Lincolnshire has produced very
extensive traces of its Roman occupation, civil as well as military.
The county appears to have contained no fewer than six Roman military
stations, and was traversed by four Roman roads.

In the preceding lecture, I have alluded to that common illusion of
popular history through which people are led to imagine that the
migratory conquests of ancient times led to the extermination of the
older inhabitants by the newcomers. On this same illusion, lodged in
the mind of a man of scientific education, is based the notion that
the Roman occupation left no mark, in the ethnographical sense, on the
later population. We find the definite expression of this illusion in
the words in which the writer professes to account for the total
disappearance of the Celtic population of Lincolnshire, on whose
people, he says, still speaking ethnographically, the Celts have
probably left no impression. "The Brythons," he tells us, "fled
before the Roman advance." Bear well in mind that we are now on the
surer ground of history. The Roman conquest of Britain was completed
by Agricola in the year 80 of the Christian era. We have the account
of this conquest from a contemporary authority, Tacitus, who was
son-in-law to the conqueror, Agricola. In a remarkable passage,
Tacitus tells how the Britons behaved after Agricola had warred down
their pride:

"During the following winter," he writes, "Agricola was occupied in
carrying out a most salutary policy. The Britons were a rude people,
dwelling in the open country, and for that reason they were readily
disposed to war. Agricola's aim was to reduce them to peace and a life
of ease by ministering to their pleasures. He exhorted them in private
and assisted them in public to build temples, places of assembly, and
houses. [He means, in the Roman manner, and obviously refers
especially to the noble and wealthy of the Britons.] Those who were
quick to act in this way he praised, those who were reluctant he
punished; so that they could not avoid competing with each other for
distinction. He set about providing the culture of a liberal education
for the sons of their chief men, and he used to award the Britons the
palm of excellence over the Gauls in their studies, so that those who
not long before refused to speak the Roman tongue were now actually
eager to exhibit their eloquence in Latin. Even our fashion of dress
became honourable among them, and the toga was quite generally worn.
By degrees they yielded to the attractive apparatus of vices, lounging
in covered walks, frequenting public baths, and enjoying elegant
banquets." The comment of the Imperial historian on the real aim and
character of this "salutary policy" carried out by his father-in-law
has a cynical frankness which is quite refreshing in comparison with
the studied attitude of moral justification that we might expect from
a modern Tacitus: "And this," he says, "was called civilisation by the
ignorant Britons, whereas it was in fact an element of their

We have here a graphic picture of the British nobility, under
distinguished patronage, making themselves familiar with the luxuries
and vices of Imperial Rome, and their sons at school learning to
become eloquent Dempseys in the conqueror's tongue. Compare it with
Dr. Sympson's statement on the surer ground of History: "The Brythons
fled before the Roman advance," to take refuge in the remoter and
wilder parts of the island. Having already fled before the Romans,
they again fled, we are told, before the Saxons. There is just as much
historical foundation for the one statement as for the other. I
remember reading, in one of Archbishop Trench's works on the origin
and growth of the English language, a list of words which passed from
the ancient British tongue into Anglo-Saxon--most of them being names
of things used in ordinary rural industry, and the conclusion drawn
from this class of words, that, under the Anglo-Saxon conquest and
occupation, the menial work of the country continued to be done by
the conquered Britons. There is an old yarn about a whaling crew in
the northern seas. The cold was so intense that, when the seamen tried
to speak, the words were frozen hard as they came from their lips and
could be heard falling on the deck. It must have been under the
operation of some similarly marvellous phenomenon, shall we say the
excessive coolness of the Anglo-Saxons, that they were able to capture
and preserve the vocabulary of the fugitive Britons.

In my first lecture, I have attempted to trace the somewhat academic
origin and growth of the modern Celtic consciousness. The Anglo-Saxon
consciousness has a very similar history. It begins in learned circles
of the reign of Elizabeth, when, under the stimulus of the Anglican
controversy and the special patronage of Archbishop Parker, a keen
interest was aroused in the remains of Anglo-Saxon literature. The
Anglo-Saxon craze appears to reach its high-water mark in some
American universities. I wonder if it will survive the war. The
compiler of the Cambridge Geography of Lincolnshire has outdone Attila
himself in extermination. He has completely wiped out five successive
populations to make Lincolnshire an exclusive habitat for pure-blooded
Low Germans.

Let us now return to the paragraph which summarizes Sir John Rhys's
theory of the peopling of prehistoric Britain. Its first article is
this: "Of Palæolithic man we can say nothing," and we pass on to "his
successors." The people who inhabited Britain in the Early Stone Age
are extirpated in a phrase of six words. It is a less interesting, if
less appalling fate than that which overtook Parthalon's people in the
Book of Invasions. They all died of a plague, and then apparently the
dead buried their dead in "the plague-cemetery of Parthalon's
people"--Támhlacht Mhuinntire Parthalóin, now called Tallaght.

Let us take up another current handbook of popular instruction, the
volume entitled "Prehistoric Britain," by Dr. Munro, in the Home
University Library series. The date of writing is 1913; the same as
the date of the Cambridge volume on Lincolnshire. Dr. Munro discusses
a certain type of skulls found in various parts of England. "All of
these," he says (p. 234), "are usually assigned to the Neolithic
period (the later Stone Age), and represent the prevailing type of
Englishman at the commencement of that period, and probably also in
the latter part of the Palæolithic period (the Early Stone Age). The
skulls mentioned may represent British men and women living thousands
of years apart. They clearly belong to the same race, which, for lack
of a better, we may name 'the river-bed race.' IT IS THE PREVAILING
TYPE IN ENGLAND TO-DAY, and from the scanty evidence at our disposal
we may presume that it _has been_ the dominant form many thousands of
years.... All trace of this race has disappeared in Switzerland,
whereas in England, in spite of invasion of Saxon, Jute, Dane and
Norman, it still thrives abundantly." And further he says (p. 235):
"According to Dr. Keith, Palæolithic blood is as rife in the British
people of to-day as in those of the European continent--a conclusion,"
adds Dr. Munro, "which entirely meets with the present writer's

Thus we see that, according to two eminent British authorities, the
race which inhabited Britain in the Early Stone Age is still the
prevalent type in that island, and has not been displaced by Celt or
Roman or Anglo-Saxon.

[It is, however, due to Dr. Sympson to say that a year earlier, in
1912, Dr. Munro, as he himself observes, thought it "possible that (at
the close of the Early Stone Age) the Palæolithic people would shrink
back to Europe and thus, for a time, leave a gap in the continuity of
human life in Britain" (p. 236); and this, he says, was formerly the
general idea.]

The second population of Britain, "the people of the Later Stone Age,"
says Dr. Sympson, "are believed to have been largely of Iberian
stock--people, that is, from south-western Europe."

Before the discovery of "the law of gravity" and of the operation of
atmospheric pressure, the old-fashioned scientists used to explain the
rising of water in a pump by saying that "Nature abhors a vacuum."
There is no doubt that when the human mind becomes interested in any
department of knowledge and inquiry, it abhors a vacuum, and this very
laudable abhorrence often leaves the mind a victim to almost any
plausible and positive effort to fill the vacuum. That is why such a
very precise and particular term as Iberian comes so handy and brings
so much satisfaction. Ethnologists, however, are agreed that in
prehistoric times, before the Celts had invaded south-western Europe,
there were already at least two very distinct races in that region,
and that both are still well represented in it. To speak of them as
one race, and to call that race Iberian, or to use the term "Iberian"
without distinguishing between them, is merely filling the vacuum.
Rhys has succeeded in popularising the term "Iberian" as a name for
the population which occupied Britain and Ireland before the first
coming of the Celts, and he has identified the Picts with this Iberian
stock. Politics, as well as war, is eager to turn to account the
services of science. There is, perhaps, no more acute and more highly
educated mind in England of to-day than that of Mr. Arthur Balfour. I
wish to remark here that I am only dealing with certain prevalent
views about ancient history, and that I am not arguing politically one
way or the other. But Mr. Balfour, in a written document supporting
certain political views of his with regard to the political claims of
a certain proportion of the Irish people, gave it as a reason for
rejecting the claims in question, that the people of Ireland were in a
large degree of the Iberian race, descendants of the primitive
inhabitants during the Later Stone Age. As for any political
controversy on that point, I have nothing at all to say. I should
prefer to hear it discussed between Mr. Balfour and the Portuguese
ambassador to London. I do confess that I am very curious to know
what political conclusion Mr. Balfour would derive from the scientific
conclusion of Dr. Keith and Dr. Munro, that the prevailing type in the
English population of to-day represents something still more primitive
than Sir John Rhys's Iberians, and is the survival of that "river-bed
race" who, in the words of Dr. Munro, were "miserable shell-eaters."

In Sir John Rhys's theory, the Iberians of the Later Stone Age are
succeeded by the Goidels or Gaels, of Celtic origin, who introduced
the Bronze Age in Britain and also in Ireland. Many centuries after
these came the Brythons, who introduced the Iron Age, and drove the
Gaels out of the greater part of England. Dr. Sympson says that the
Brythons of that invasion drove the Gaels out of Wales also, but for
this he has no warrant from Sir John Rhys. According to Rhys, the
Gaels continued to occupy the more westerly parts of the island, even
after the Roman occupation.

Rhys's theory is still more elaborate. The three divisions of Gaul
with which Cæsar begins the account of his Gallic war are familiar to
students of Latin. Rhys equates his Neolithic Iberians of Britain and
Ireland with the Iberian element in Aquitanian Gaul and Spain, his
Bronze-Age Goidels or Gaels with the Celtae of Cæsar's Gallia Celtica,
and his Iron-Age Brythons of England with the Belgae of Cæsar's Gallia
Belgica. He goes still farther with this process of equation. Finding
that the consonant Q, where it occurs in the most ancient forms of
the Irish language, is replaced by P in the corresponding forms of the
British or ancient Welsh language, he divides the Celts into two
linguistic groups which he labels the Q-Celts and the P-Celts, and
this division he makes to correspond to the other classification into
Celtae and Belgae. In this way, he produces a most interesting and
symmetrical set of equations showing the successive stages of
population-change in Britain.

First, there are the people of the Early Stone Age, not named.

Secondly, the people of the Later Stone Age, Iberians.

Thirdly, the people of the Bronze Age, Goidels or Gaels, or Celtae, or

Fourthly, the people of the Iron Age, Brythons or Britons, or Belgae,
or P-Celts.

For the present, let us pass away from the Iberians, and consider the
theory as it concerns the Celtic migrations to Britain and Ireland.
The earliest known habitat of the Celts is the region to the north of
the Alps. The earliest definitely known migration of the Celts is
their southward movement into Northern Italy. For this migration no
earlier date than 600 B.C. is assigned.

The chief authority on the Bronze Age in Ireland belongs to the late
Mr. George Coffey. In his book on the subject, "The Bronze Age in
Ireland," he hesitates to date the close of the Stone Age and the
introduction of the Copper Period as far back as 2500 B.C., which is
the approximate date estimated by Montelius. He puts the close of the
Copper Period between 2000 and 1800 B.C. and the first period of the
true Bronze Age between 1800 and 1500 B.C. Now, according to the
theory prevalent in Britain, the first Celtic invaders introduced the
Bronze Age, and these were the Gaels or Goidels. If we accept this
view and combine it with the best archæological authority, we shall
conclude that the Celts reached Ireland at least 1,200 years before
they are known to have entered Italy--that they pushed out to a
distant island in the ocean more than a millennium before they
occupied the fertile and attractive plains which lay on their very

But, it may be objected, is it not possible that the Celts of the
Bronze Age had settled far away from the Alps, on the coasts of
north-western Europe. Possible, perhaps, but what is the value of mere
possibilities? We have seen it stated, and the Cambridge handbook is
only a specimen of many publications that accept the view, stated most
definitely that the Gaelic branch of the Celts introduced the Bronze
Age to Britain and Ireland. Surely something more than a mere
possibility, some shade or degree of probability should appear in
support of teaching so positive.

Now let us suppose that the dominant Bronze Age population of Britain
and Ireland were Celts, as we are instructed to believe. Let us see
what would follow from this position. It would follow, beyond
question, that the peculiar art and works of the Bronze Age in Britain
and Ireland would be mainly connected with the art and works of the
Bronze Age in those parts of Europe which were likewise inhabited by
Celts, rather than with other parts of the Continent. I cannot find
that any such connection has been established or is believed in by

The Brythons, we are told, were Belgic invaders who introduced the
Iron Age. Not the faintest probability has been brought forward to
establish this very precise and positive doctrine. Coffey places the
close of the Bronze Age in Ireland and the coming of iron into general
use at about 350 B.C. It is admitted that the Celts of central Europe
were in possession of iron about four centuries earlier. This affords
a most cogent argument that, during the intervening four centuries,
there was no such social and industrial continuity between central
Europe and these islands as must undoubtedly have been if both regions
and the intervening parts of the Continent had been occupied by Celtic

Again, if the Brythons or Belgic Celts, armed with iron, were able to
cross the channel and displace the western Celts in Britain, it would
surely have been much easier for them to cross the Marne and the Seine
and displace the western Celts in Gaul. The theory seems to presuppose
that an invasion was necessary to bring the Iron Age into Britain, but
the same theory would have it that the Iron Age found its way into
Ireland without any invasion, for it leaves the Bronze Age Goidels of
Ireland to learn the use of iron in some more pleasant way than by
meeting iron-headed spears in the hands of Belgic conquerors.

It is certain that after the withdrawal of the Roman legions from
Britain and after the Anglo-Saxon invasions, there were Gaelic
populations in various parts of western Britain, in Argyllshire, North
and South Wales, and the Cornish peninsula. Rhys supposed these to be
the remnants of the Gaelic population which, in his view, had occupied
all England during the Bronze Age. There is sufficient evidence to
show that they were fresh settlements made by the Irish of Ireland
during and after the collapse of the Roman power in Britain.

The "P and Q" element in the theory is equally unsound. It is certain
that, where the Irish Celts retained the consonant Q in their
language, the British Celts replaced it by P. But no such distinction
has been shown to have existed between the language of the western
Celts and the language of the Belgic Celts on the Continent. Such
phonetic changes as the substitution of P for Q spread in an almost
mysterious way through languages. Their spread may be arrested by a
geographical barrier so considerable as the Irish Sea, but it was not
at all likely to have been brought to a stand by the waters of the
Seine and Marne. Nor can a phonetic change of the kind be taken as
necessarily corresponding to any racial or political boundaries. In
all the western dialects of Latin which grew into the Romance
languages, the initial W of Germanic words was changed into GW, and
this identical change also took place in the Welsh language, but not
in Irish. It took place in Spanish, yet that does not appear to prove
that the Welsh are more near akin to the Spaniards than they are to
the Irish, nor, if history happened to be silent, would it prove that
Britain after the Roman occupation was peopled by a Spanish invasion
which did not extend to Ireland.

There is one serious argument which has been adduced in support of the
view that Britain was in Celtic occupation during the Bronze Age. The
existence of the word _kassiteros_, meaning "tin," is traced in the
Greek language as far back as about 900 B.C. There seems very good
reason for thinking that _kassiteros_ was a Celtic word adopted into
Greek. From this it is argued that the metal itself came from the
Celts to the Greeks, which seems reasonable enough. It is further
argued that the Celts must accordingly have been in possession of the
country which produced the metal, and that this country was Britain.
The conclusion is that the Celts were in occupation of Britain earlier
than 900 B.C. It seems to me, however, that the fact, granting it to
be a fact, that the metal tin reached the Greeks bearing a Celtic name
is by no means proof that it came from a country inhabited at the time
by Celts. If you visit the Zoological Gardens in the Phœnix Park, you
will be invited, before you reach the entrance, to purchase for the
delectation of the monkeys a certain vegetable product, the name of
which, upon inquiry, you will learn to be "pea-nuts." No one will be
rash enough to deny that "pea-nuts" is an English word. I have not
the least idea where pea-nuts grow, but I am quite certain that the
fact of their being named "pea-nuts" is no proof that they grow in
England or in any English-speaking country. It is very good proof,
however, if proof were needed, that the trade in pea-nuts has passed
through the hands of English-speaking people. If _kassiteros_ is a
Celtic word, as I think it very probably is, it proves no more than
that, when the Greeks learned this Celtic name for tin, the trade in
tin passed towards them through the hands of a Celtic-speaking people.
If it was British tin, which again is not improbable, I suggest that
it came to Greece by an overland route through the Celtic region in
Mid-Europe, probably along the Rhine and the Danube or to the head of
the Adriatic. As a matter of fact, the Greek writer Poseidonios states
that in his time British tin reached the Mediterranean by an overland
route. "It is brought," he says, "on horses through the interior of
the Celtic country to the people of Massilia and to the city called

There is, then, no evidence from archæology, history, or language,
sufficient to establish even a moderate degree of probability for the
theory of a Celtic occupation of Ireland or Britain during the Bronze

On the other hand, taking Coffey's approximate date of 350 B.C. as the
beginning of the period of the general use of iron in Ireland, we
shall, I think, find sufficient evidence to warrant the belief that
the Celts reached Britain and Ireland about that time, and not
earlier, at all events not considerably earlier than that time.

Why not earlier? I think we have conclusive grounds for believing that
the Celtic migrations to Ireland cannot have begun very much, if at
all, sooner than the fourth century B.C. Before stating these grounds,
let us ask is there any discoverable reason for supposing that the
Gaels inhabited Ireland from a time many centuries farther back. I
think it possible that those who in modern times have entertained this
view have been influenced by the dates assigned to the Gaelic
immigration by Irish writers like the Four Masters and Keating. These
dates may be taken to correspond closely enough with the estimates of
archæological authorities for the commencement of the insular Bronze
Age, and, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it might be
imagined that they were founded on some basis of tradition.

It is not the habit of popular tradition to encumber itself with
chronology. There is no known instance of ancient reckoning in years
and periods of years that is not based on some era, on the accepted
date of some real or supposed event or events. Nowhere in Irish
tradition has any trace been found of the existence of a native system
of chronology before the introduction of Christian learning. In a
paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy (July,
1910), I have shown how the extant written chronology of the Irish
Invasions was first originated. The method was not unlike Sir John
Rhys's series of equations.

The Irish historian found in Latin histories a set of definite epochs
by which antiquity was divided: the beginning of the Assyrian empire,
the beginning of the Median empire, the beginning of the Persian
empire, the usurpation of the Magi in Persia, and the beginning of
Alexander's empire. The chronology of the Irish Invasions was settled
by the easy process of making each invasion coincide exactly in time
with each of these epochs. It is evident that no traditional value can
be attached to a chronological system of this kind.

But, it may be objected, the very remoteness of the time assigned to
the Gaelic invasion by Irish historians may reflect the popular belief
in its remoteness. If that be so, then the earlier the historian is
the more near he is to the popular tradition. In the paper just cited,
I have shown that, in the earliest known version of this chronology of
the Invasions, the Gaelic migration to Ireland coincides with the date
of Alexander's empire, 331 B.C. That is not very far from the date
assigned by Coffey for the end of the Bronze Age in Ireland, about 350
B.C. For my own part, I attach no traditional value to this
coincidence, but if it pleases anyone to insist that Irish prehistoric
chronology has a traditional value, then it must be conceded that
tradition, as far as it is valid, is altogether favourable to the view
that the Gaelic occupation of Ireland belongs to the end, and not to
the beginning, of the Bronze Age.

The migratory movements of the Celts on the Continent have a bearing
which cannot be ignored on the time of the Celtic migrations to
Britain and Ireland. So far as I am aware, no modern investigator has
suggested that the Celts were not already in the Iron Age at the time
of their expansion into Italy and Spain. Why then should it be
imagined, in the absence of any positive indication to the purpose,
that they occupied these islands more than a thousand years earlier?

If I am not mistaken, the archæological evidence is fairly decisive on
the point. Archæologists are agreed in dividing the Celtic Iron Age
into two main periods, the Early Celtic or Hallstatt period, and the
Late Celtic or La Tène period, also called the Marnian period. Each of
these periods is taken to consist roundly of about four centuries, and
the two periods on the Continent together correspond roughly to the
last eight or nine centuries before the Christian Era. The Late Celtic
period is abundantly represented in the antiquities of Great Britain
and Ireland, but the objects that have been found in either country
belonging to the Early Celtic Period are extremely rare. On this head
Coffey writes as follows ("Bronze Age in Ireland," page 5):

"It must be remembered that the Continental Hallstatt period is not at
present well represented in Great Britain and Ireland, and though,
under Hallstatt influence, certain Continental Iron-Age types such as
bronze caldrons, trumpets, round shields, etc., found their way into
Ireland, we cannot as yet definitely separate this period from the end
of the Bronze Age."

In fact, "sporadic finds" are all that represent the Early Celtic
period in Ireland, in Britain, and even in the neighbouring regions of
the Continent. It will not be questioned that during the Hallstatt
period there was quite sufficient intercourse of trade between the
islands and the Continent to explain these sporadic finds as

The main fact is that, so far as archæological research has
ascertained, the Early Celtic period of the Iron Age is substantially
absent from Ireland and Britain, whereas the Late Celtic period is
abundantly represented. The Bronze Age in Ireland comes down to about
350 B.C., and its Continental affinities are not specially or notably
Celtic. The Bronze Age is succeeded in both Britain and Ireland by the
Late Celtic period of the Iron Age. The inference, to my mind, is
obvious, that the Celts did not reach either Britain or Ireland until
the Late Celtic period, _i.e._, until the fourth or fifth century B.C.
This conclusion agrees well with all that is known of the migratory
movements of the Celts on the Continent.

Let us now revert to the Belgic migrations and consider their bearing
on the matter of the Celtic colonisation of Ireland. The Belgae, we
have seen, were a Celto-Germanic group which, according to Cæsar and
Tacitus, occupied the lands stretching from the Rhine to the Seine and
Marne, and expelled from that region the Celtae proper. There is no
indication in what Cæsar says that in his time this movement was one
of remote antiquity. In fact, it is perfectly clear that it was a
movement by no means exhausted but still in active progress when he
took command of the Roman armies in Gaul. The attempted migration of
the Helvetii in the first year of his command, B.C. 58, was a part of
this movement. A little later, Cæsar had to repel similar attempts of
the Usipetes and the Tencteri to cross the middle Rhine and settle in
Gaul; and these, according to Dio, were two Celtic peoples. Still
later, in the time of Augustus, the Ubii migrated from the eastern to
the western side of the Rhine. From all this it is clear that the
Belgic migration was a continuous movement and that its force was far
from being spent at the time of the Roman conquest of the country west
of the Rhine. Cæsar indicates that there were powerful Belgic
settlements west of the Rhine during the great wandering movement of
the Cimbri and the Teutones, _i.e._, about half a century before he
began his Gallic campaigns. There is nothing, however, to show that
these settlements were of earlier date than the second century B.C.,
and I have seen no reason for thinking that they could have been much

We now come to the question of the Belgic invasion of Britain and its
probable date. In Rhys's theory, which is still accepted in England,
the Belgic invaders were the first to establish the Iron Age in
Britain. I claim to have shown good grounds for believing that there
was no Celtic occupation of Britain before the Iron Age. I have
already suggested that, if this Celto-Germanic movement was brought to
a standstill on the banks of the Marne, it was not likely to have
succeeded in over-running all England at the commencement of the Iron
Age in England. It will be seen that the Celto-Germanic migrations
extended not merely to Britain but also to Ireland, and I suggest that
if these Celto-German Belgae had been the first people to come over
armed with iron, they would have made an easy conquest of Ireland as
well as of England.

Let us look at the actual evidence of the Belgic conquest of England.
The sole historical witness on the point is Julius Cæsar, and this is
his testimony:

"The interior of Britain is inhabited by those who say that, according
to tradition they are natives of the island; the maritime part by
those who had crossed over from Belgium [meaning Belgic Gaul] for the
sake of plunder, nearly all of whom are called by the same names of
states as the states from which they originated and came thither, and
having made war they settled permanently there and began to till the

From this it is clear that Cæsar was informed of two populations in
Britain, one which was more ancient and claimed to be native, another
which resulted from comparatively recent invasion. The older
population he assigned to the interior, the more recent to the
seaboard. What did Cæsar mean by the seaboard, the maritime part? Sir
John Rhys has no difficulty in supposing that Cæsar did not mean the
whole seaboard of Britain or if he did mean it that he was not fully
informed, for according to Rhys's theory, the older population, which
he supposed to be Gaelic, continued to inhabit the western seaboard of
England and Wales. I also agree that, whatever Cæsar may have
understood, his statement about the maritime part must be taken in a
restricted sense, for no one believes that the Celtic occupation in
Cæsar's time extended to the seaboard of the northern parts of the
island. I agree also with the view that the traditional natives of
whom Cæsar speaks probably included the earlier Celtic colonists,
whose settlements dated, according to my argument, from the fourth
century B.C., about three centuries before Cæsar's time. The more
recent maritime settlements, in that case, would have been very recent
in his time, and I think that his statement leads us to that
conclusion. These later settlers on the seaboard, he tells us, are
known collectively by the same names as the states on the Continent
from which they originated. Now this is a statement about a fact
likely to be within Cæsar's personal knowledge. He was certainly well
acquainted with the names of the states of Belgic Gaul, and there is
no reason why he should have said that populations retaining the same
names existed in his time on the British coast if he did not know it
to be a fact. His testimony on this point, touching a matter within
the scope of his personal observation, is of higher evidential value
than any other part of the statement quoted. Cæsar does not himself
name these states, but in the two following centuries the names of the
various states of Britain are given by Ptolemy and other writers, and
when we compare these names with those of the states of Belgic Gaul,
we find that they coincide only in three instances. These are the
Parisii on the foreland north of the Humber, the Atrebatii in the
district of Berkshire, and the Belgae, eastward from these to the
Bristol Channel. There are some eighteen other states enumerated in
Britain, so that the coincidence of names amounts to only one in
seven, a proportion which by no means corresponds to Cæsar's words,
_fere omnes_, "nearly all." Except for the Parisii, who occupied the
promontory north of the Humber, the states bearing names also found in
Belgic Gaul are located in southern England, south of the Thames and
the Bristol Channel. One of these, and the most extensive, bears the
general name Belgae, which certainly does not suggest that the
remainder of the population was also Belgic. Now the _fere omnes_,
"nearly all," in Cæsar's statement cannot refer to such a small
minority of the states of Britain. Therefore, either Cæsar was grossly
in error, in which case there is not much to be built on his whole
statement, or, if he stated the truth, which is much more likely, then
there were Belgic settlements on the British seaboard in his time
which had lost their identity and passed into insignificance a century
later. This I take to be true, for it will be seen that there were
also Belgic settlements on the Irish coast after Cæsar's time and that
as states they had disappeared a few centuries later. It is indeed
quite possible that the Belgae so named, in southern England,
consisted of a collection of colonies from various states of Belgic
Gaul, whose names were preserved in Cæsar's time, but not one of which
was sufficiently populous or otherwise considerable to be worth naming
by later writers. There may have been similar Belgic colonies on other
parts of the southern and eastern seaboard of Britain, none of them
considerable enough to be reckoned as a state. At all events, I submit
that Cæsar's statement, far from justifying the assumption of a Belgic
conquest on a grand scale, comprising the greater part of Celtic
Britain, is rather contrary to that assumption; also, that it cannot
reasonably be taken to refer to settlements made in Britain at the
close of the Bronze Age three or four centuries before Cæsar's time.

I have referred to the existence at one time of Celto-Germanic
settlements on the coast of Ireland. The authority on the point is
Ptolemy the geographer, who flourished about A.D. 150. In the
south-eastern angle of Ireland, the region of Wexford, he places a
population named Brigantes. There was a very extensive state of this
name in the north of Roman Britain. Its territory extended across the
country from the North Sea to the Irish Sea. Whether the Brigantes
were or were not Belgic colonists in Britain and Ireland, I find no
means to determine. North of the Brigantes, on the Leinster coast,
Ptolemy locates the Manapii. It can hardly be doubted that these were
a Belgic people, a branch of the Menapii,[2] whose territory on the
Continent lay in parts of the countries now called Belgium and
Holland. North of the Manapii on the Leinster coast, Ptolemy places
the Cauci. The topography of Ireland from the time of Saint Patrick
onward is very copious and minute, but no trace has been discovered in
it of these three peoples in the location ascribed to them by
Ptolemy. It seems to me possible that the Manapii may be represented
in later times by a scattered people called the Monaigh or Manaigh.
Some of these dwelt in eastern Ulster, near Belfast. Another branch of
them dwelt in the west of Ulster, and their name is preserved in that
of the county Fermanagh. It is interesting to note that the Irish
genealogists derive the origin of both from Leinster. The only trace
known to me in Irish tradition of a people similarly named on the
south-eastern seaboard is found in the name of Forgall Monach, the
father of Emer who was wife of Cú Chulainn. Who were the Cauci? Their
name, in the Germanic form Chauci, was that of a people of the German
seaboard bordering on the North Sea, who are described in Smith's
_Ancient Geography_ as "skilful navigators and much addicted to
piracy." Tacitus praises them for their love of justice and says that,
though ready for war, they do not provoke war. It must be remembered,
however, that Tacitus was an extreme "pro-German." Elsewhere, he tells
of incursions made by them against neighbouring peoples. We find,
then, two peoples, the Menapii and the Chauci, on the Belgic and
German shores of the North Sea, and also on the Leinster shores of the
Irish Sea; and this shows that in Ireland as well as in Britain there
were Celto-Germanic settlements about the beginning of the Christian

[Footnote 2: The syllables _en_ and _an_ are found interchangeable in
many Celtic words, perhaps varying according to dialect.]

Cæsar is the earliest known writer to give the name Brittania to the
island of Britain and the name Brittani to its people. In earlier
writings the name of the island is Albion. In Cæsar's term Brittani,
there seems to be a confusion of two existing names, one Brittani, the
name of a small local population, the other Pretani which is
recognised to be a British and probably Gaulish equivalent of the
Irish name for the Picts, Cruithin, more anciently Qreteni. Cæsar
fixed the name Brittani in Latin usage, but the form Pretanoi
continued after his time to be used by Greek writers. Polybius and
Ptolemy apply the adjective Pretanic to the two islands, and a still
later geographical tract in Greek says, "the Pretanic islands are two
in number one called Albion and the other Ierne." The Pretanic islands
means the Pictish islands, and this name for them must have been taken
from the Gauls. It points to a time before the Celtic occupation, when
the Pretani or Picts were still regarded as the principal people of
both islands. Here we have another indication of the relatively late
period of the Celtic occupation. Cæsar learned that the natives of
Britain had some curious marital customs which he did not observe
among the Gauls, including the Belgae, on the Continent. A later
writer, Solinus, in whose time the customs of the Britons were more
intimately known to the Romans, ascribes a similar custom, not to the
Britons but to the inhabitants of the Hebrides. Both accounts are
based on a well-established fact, recorded also in Irish writings, the
custom of matriarchy which was peculiar to the Picts. Cæsar's
statement is readily explained, if we understand that the Gauls, from
whom his information was likely to have been derived, still spoke of
Britain and Ireland as the Pictish islands, and regarded this social
custom, which was foreign to them, as a Pictish custom. In the time of
Solinus, the Romans knew that the Picts were limited to the northern
parts of Britain, and the story is accordingly told of the people of
the Hebrides. If a custom peculiar to the Picts was spoken of in
Cæsar's time as common to the inhabitants of Britain, and if Britain
and Ireland were then still regarded in Gaul as Pictish islands, I
suggest that this was because the Celts of Gaul did not look upon the
two islands as having been mainly occupied from any remote period by a
people akin to themselves.

The conclusions which I wish to draw in this lecture are: that neither
Britain nor Ireland was colonised by the Celts until the Late Celtic
period, corresponding to the period which followed the Bronze Age in
these countries; that the Belgic or Celto-Germanic settlements were of
still later date, and extended to Ireland as well as Britain; that the
Belgic settlements in England were not so widespread as they are
represented in modern British writers; and that the distinction
between the ancient Gaels and Britons does not correspond to the
distinction between the Celtae and Belgae of Gaul in Cæsar's time.


In the second lecture, I remarked how the name Iberians has been
adopted to fill a vacuum as regards the naming of the population which
occupied Great Britain and Ireland before the Celtic immigration. This
kind of naming is unscientific and misleading. It implies that the
ancient population thus artificially named can be identified as a
branch of the population which actually bore that name in Greek and
Latin literature. From this implied identification other equally
unwarranted assumptions are likely to follow. Rhys expended a vast
amount of study, ingenuity, and argument in the effort to show that
very definite traces of a language akin to modern Basque survived in
ancient Ireland and Scotland. On this point it may be remarked that we
do not even know that the Basque population was originally Iberian.
Ethnologists are agreed that, apart altogether from the Celtic
migrations, there must have been a mixture of very distinct races in
south-western Europe in prehistoric times. If there was a mixture of
races, there was also no doubt more than one language, and if the
Basque language has been able to survive the conquests of Celt and
Roman and Goth, and last until our own time it may also well have
survived the extinction of other languages in south western Europe.

So far as the Iberian theory is not mere vacuum-filling, it appears to
rest on a single passage of Tacitus. He is describing the Silures, a
British people whose territory was in the south of Wales, and who
offered a very fierce resistance to the Romans. "The swarthy
complexion of the Silures," he says, "the prevalence of curly hair
among them, and their position over against Spain, argue that the
ancient Iberians must have crossed over [from Spain] and occupied
their territory." We have often heard the occurrence of similar
physical traits in the west of Ireland ascribed to a more recent
Spanish mixture. It all amounts to this, which Irish tradition bears
out, and which nobody questions, that these western isles contain
descendants of an ancient dark-complexioned population, probably
already of mixed race, which existed in western Europe before the
arrival of the fair-complexioned people, whose distinctive features
appear by all indications to have originated in the lands forming the
basin of the Baltic Sea.

If I am right in suggesting that the Greeks adopted from the Gauls the
name Pretanic Islands, as a joint name for Britain and Ireland, it
follows that the Gauls themselves supposed the chief population of
both islands, before the Celtic occupation, to have been the Pretani,
_i.e._, the Picts. During the early historical period, the Picts are
chiefly known as the people of the northern mainland of Scotland,
north of the Grampian mountains. The Venerable Bede speaks of their
language as still existing in his time, the early part of the eighth
century, and as being distinct from the Irish and British languages.

We have abundant and clear evidence that the Picts were at one time
widely spread throughout Ireland. Early Irish writings recognise the
existence, in their own time, of sections of the population known to
be Pictish. The Picts were especially numerous in Ulster. They are
described as a subject population, spread over the whole of ancient
Oriel, which at that time comprised the counties of Armagh, Monaghan,
Tyrone and the greater part of Derry and Fermanagh. There was also a
large Pictish element in Connacht, and there were smaller groups,
traditionally known to be Pictish, in Munster, Meath, and various
parts of Leinster. In Ulster, the ruling or dominant population of a
large belt of territory, extending from Carlingford Loch to the mouth
of the Bann, is named in the Annals both by the Latin name Picti, and
its Irish equivalent Cruithni or Cruithin, which is the Irish form
corresponding to Pretani. They continue to be so named until the
eighth century, when apparently their Pictish identity ceased to find
favour among themselves. It may be observed, however, that, while some
proper names which contain non-Gaelic elements survived in ancient
Ireland, no trace has been discovered of any language other than
Gaelic continuing to be spoken in any part of Ireland within the
traditional memory of the people. From this it will appear that the
Gaelic language had become universal throughout Ireland some centuries
before Irish history and traditions began to be written. The earliest
writing of Irish history still extant belongs to the closing years of
the sixth century.

In the case of the Picts, we find an interesting example of the method
that recommended itself to the learned folk of ancient Ireland when
they desired to fill the vacuum. In the Irish "Nennius," the Picts are
said to have come of the stock of the Geloni, a people of Scythia
mentioned by Herodotus. The explanation of this curious piece of
history is found in a passage of Virgil, in which he speaks of the
_picti Geloni_, i.e., the painted Geloni. They were supposed to dye
their skin with some colouring stuff. In one of the versions of the
wanderings of the Gaels before they reached Ireland, instead of
sailing the Mediterranean they marched from Scythia across Europe. On
their way they fraternised with a people called the Agathyrsi, who
dwelt in Thrace. They made a compact with these people, with the
result that later on a body of the Agathyrsi, having taken the name of
Picts, followed in the track of the Gaels and came to Ireland. On
their way they passed through a part of Gaul, where some of them
remained, and were afterwards known as Pictavi. From these is named
Poitou in France. Virgil is at the back of this story also. In a verse
of the Æneid, he speaks of the _picti Agathyrsi_, "the painted

From these instances, we can see how closely Virgil was read in the
ancient Irish schools. We can also see from what materials our ancient
scholars could weave their legends of antiquity. And later on we
shall see how similar materials and a similar process enabled the
Latin scholars of ancient Ireland to construct their accounts--for
they have more than one account--of the origin and early wanderings of
the Gaelic people.

Another considerable element of the ancient population was the Iverni,
as they were called by Ptolemy in the second century. Ptolemy locates
them in the middle of southern Ireland. The Irish form of their name
in the time of our most ancient writings was Érainn, more familiar in
later usage in the accusative form Érna. They have been sometimes
called Erneans in English. In the older heroic literature, the Iverni
or Érainn are the chief people of Munster. In an important early
tract, which gives the names and distribution of the principal subject
communities throughout Ireland, the Sen-Érainn are placed in the
district of Luachair, _i.e._, in the north of Kerry and the adjoining
parts of the counties of Limerick and Cork. The peoples enumerated in
this tract are regarded as being not of Gaelic origin. Sen-Érainn
means the old or original Iverni, and the term is used to distinguish
them from others also called Érainn, who were of free status and are
attached by the genealogists to the Gaelic stock. My opinion is that
the dominant element in every part of Ireland during the historical
period, including the dynastic families and higher nobility, was
Celtic. Otherwise, if we suppose that large communities of pre-Celtic
inhabitants continued to exist under rulers and nobles of their own
stock down to medieval times, the universality of the Gaelic language
as far back as tradition reaches would be hard to account for. I
suppose that, when a Celtic dynasty and nobility became established
over a non-Celtic commonalty, the old name of the community became
attached to them all. So we find that Giraldus calls the nobles who
invaded Ireland in his time Angli, giving them the name of the subject
people over whom they had ruled in England, though they had been
barely a century in England and some of them not nearly so long. I
think the same is probably true of the free and dominant Picts in the
north-east, _i.e._, that they consisted of a common population of
Pictish stock ruled by kings and nobles of Celtic origin.

Not only in Munster but also in Connacht, Meath and Ulster, our
ancient genealogists recognise the existence of Ivernian communities.
Rhys put forward the view that the Iverni were only a southern
division of the Picts, but this view cannot well be reconciled with
Irish tradition, which seems always to distinguish between Picts and
Iverni, and recognises Picts in southern Ireland and Iverni in
northern Ireland. For example, in county Antrim, Dál Riada, the
north-eastern portion, was Ivernian, and the rest of the county for
the most part was Pictish. We are on safer ground in regarding the
Picts and the Iverni as two fairly distinct peoples.

From the Iverni the whole island took the names by which it was known
to the ancient Irish, the Britons, the Greeks, the Romans, and
therefore no doubt to the Celts in the neighbouring parts of the
Continent. But we have seen that the original Iverni, in Irish
tradition, were a remnant of the pre-Celtic population. Ireland
therefore was named by the Celts, as Britain and Ireland were jointly
named, from an older population which the invading Celts found in
possession. The Romans changed Iverni into Hiberni, through a process
known as popular etymology. Hiberni suggested to them the Latin word
meaning "wintry." Though Ireland was known to some Latin writers to be
by no means a wintry country, but quite the contrary, this verbal
resemblance naturally caught the imagination, and one Latin poet
actually speaks of "glacialis Ierne," ice-cold Ireland.

The Irish and Welsh names of Ireland are not directly taken from the
name of the Iverni, but evidently from an older form which must have
been Ivéri. Both the Irish name _Éire_ (formerly Ériu) and the Welsh
_Iwerddon_ go back to an older name _Iverio_, and this older name is
actually found in the writings of Saint Patrick in the slightly
disguised Latin form _Hiberio_. The Irish genealogies corroborate this
view that the name _Iverni_ is itself a derivative from an older name
_Iveri_. A common feature in genealogical lore is the tracing of a
people's descent from an ancestor of the same name. It is found in the
Bible, in the genealogies of the Arabs, in the legends of the Greeks,
and in our own legends, for example, when the Gaels are said to have
taken their name from an ancestor named Gaedheal Glas. In like manner
all the pedigrees of the Érainn or Iverni in the Irish genealogies are
traced to an ancestor named _Iar_. Iar is a word of two syllables,
and represents an older form Iveros. From this and from the Irish and
Welsh names of Ireland, I infer that the people called Iverni were at
a still earlier period called Iveri. The change in the name of a
people from a simple to a derivative form is of very common
occurrence. Thus, instead of Angles, people now say the English,
instead of Scots, the Scotch; in Irish, the names for the English and
the Welsh have undergone a similar change; and so with numerous other
names in many countries and languages.

Rhys derives the old Celtic name of Ireland, Iverio, from a word
cognate with the Greek _piaira_, meaning "fat," and understands Iverio
to mean the fat, _i.e._, the fertile country. This explanation,
however, will not hold good if, as I think, the name Iverio means the
country of the Iveri, unless we suppose the name Iveri to be Celtic
and to mean "the fat people!" But we have seen that, in Irish
tradition, the original Iverni were a pre-Celtic people, and we are
under no necessity to discover a Celtic origin for their name.

For my part, granted that this people bore the name Iveri, changed
afterwards into the adjectival form Iverni, I see no serious
difficulty in supposing that this name was a local variant of Iberi,
the name by which the people of Spain were known to the ancient Greeks
and Romans.

Authorities on Irish archæology are agreed that the Early Stone Age is
not exemplified in the most ancient remains of human occupation that
have been discovered in Ireland. The explanation for this is supplied
by the geologists. Some thousands of years ago, the conditions of
perpetual snow and ice that at present prevail in the Arctic regions
extended much farther into the temperate zones. The northern parts of
Europe were covered with perpetual ice. Ireland lay entirely within
this glacial zone. The southern limit of the ice ran through the south
of England and eastward across the Continent. The time during which
this southward extension of ice lasted is called the Glacial Period.
Already before that time, Europe was inhabited by man, and the Early
Stone Age or Palæolithic Age is held to have preceded the Glacial

The condition of Ireland during that period was like the present
condition of Greenland, under a heavy covering of ice formed by the
accumulation of snow. By its own weight the ice kept moving from the
mountains into the valleys and plains, and from the higher land level
into the surrounding seas. Under its moving action, the solid
rock-formation of the mountains was ground down and rounded off and
scooped into hollows, and great sheets and ridges of stones, gravel,
sand and boulder-clay were accumulated on the slopes and low grounds.
It is evident that any traces of human life and habitation that may
have existed before this process were not likely to be found after it.

The consequence is that the earliest traceable population of Ireland
was Neolithic, _i.e._, belonged to the Late Stone Age. By the Stone
Age is meant that time in which the use of metals was still unknown,
and in which the most durable material of implements used by men was
stone. Needless to say, they also used wood, bone, and any other
material that came to hand. The Late Stone Age is distinguished from
the Early Stone Age by the use of polished and finely shaped stone

In England, according to eminent authorities already quoted, the
descendants of Palæolithic Man survived and are still the prevalent
type. In Ireland, they did not survive, and whatever Palæolithic blood
is in our veins to-day is due to immigration. Regarding the Neolithic
population of Ireland, whatever is to be said belongs rather to
archæology than to history. In Britain, we are told, the Neolithic
population consisted of at least three distinct races, one which had
remained there from Palæolithic times, and two new races, or rather a
mixture of two races, which came in from the Continent. One sees how
futile it is to attempt to fix upon such a population a name like
Iberian. It is assuming a knowledge which does not belong to us.

The Late Stone Age was followed by the Bronze Age, but between the two
came a transitional period now generally recognised, in which copper
replaced stone as the most durable material of manufacture. This
Copper Period is well exemplified in Ireland. Bronze, the distinctive
material of the Bronze Age, was made by adding a small proportion of
tin to copper, producing a metal very much superior to pure copper for
the manufacture of tools and weapons. So far as I have been able to
learn, the presence of tin in quantities that could be worked is
unknown in Ireland. There seems to have been no scarcity of bronze,
and from this I conclude that during the Bronze Age, Ireland had an
import trade in tin, and probably therefore an export trade in copper
or some other product. This is the earliest evidence of Irish
commerce. Bronze cannot have been the material of ordinary industry,
nor, unless the inhabitants were very unwarlike, can bronze have been
the material of ordinary weapons of war. It is a very durable
material, almost unaffected by the action of the elements during
centuries. Numerous as the finds of bronze tools and weapons have been
in Ireland, they should have been immeasurably more numerous if tools
and weapons of bronze had been in every man's hands throughout the
Bronze Age, which, according to Coffey, lasted from about 1800 B.C. to
about 350 B.C. In fact, Sir Robert Kane, in his work on "The
Industrial Resources of Ireland," in a footnote regarding the once
extensive copper mines of the Danes' Island on the Waterford coast,
supplies an interesting proof of what otherwise we should reasonably
expect to be true, that the ordinary working population of the Bronze
Age continued to use the implements of the preceding Stone Age.[3]
Weapons and tools of bronze must therefore have been in the hands
chiefly of a more opulent class than the general population. Gold was
also used for ornaments, and Ireland is noted for the abundance of its
gold ornaments dating from the Bronze Age. Native Irish gold was
worked from very remote times, but it is also certain that in the
early Christian period gold was brought to Ireland by Oriental
merchants in exchange for other products of the country. Sickles of
bronze bear witness to the tillage of the soil for corn during this
period. It will be seen that there was a mixture of various peoples in
Ireland at the time. From this we might expect that there were various
degrees of civilisation, and so the remains of Bronze Age sepulchres
indicate. The simpler and ruder forms of these are found all over the
country. The highly elaborate sepulchres of the region of the lower
Boyne, its tributary the Blackwater, and the lower Liffey, are
indicative of a relatively high civilisation in those parts, the
ancient territory of Bregia. Along with these we may take into account
an old Gaelic tradition. It tells that when the Gaels came to Ireland
many of the fertile plains had still to be cleared of forest, but
there was one plain, Magh n-Ealta, stretching northward from Dublin,
which was called the Ancient Plain and was already clear of forest
before they arrived. Its name is interpreted as meaning "the plain of
the flocks of birds," by which we may understand that it was
frequented by the various kinds of gregarious birds which we see in
our own time hovering around the plough, rooks, jackdaws, starlings
and seagulls. It is worth noting that towards the opposite border of
the same region of Bregia there is another plain of the same name,
still represented in the name of Moynalty village, about four miles
north of Kells and on the Moynalty river, which is a tributary of the
Meath Blackwater.

[Footnote 3: "In the abandoned workings, antique tools have been
found, stone hammers and chisels and wooden shovels."]

I shall here mention an additional indication that the Gaels were not
in occupation of Ireland during the Bronze Age. In ancient Gaelic
tradition, the great chambered tumuli of the Boyne are taken to be the
tombs or the dwellings of an earlier race.

We pass on now to consider some of the evidence supplied by our
ancient literature regarding the population which inhabited Ireland
before the coming of the Gaels, that is, according to the conclusions
I have already drawn, before the Iron Age. The Gaels occupied Ireland
as a conquering and dominant people. During the early centuries of
their occupation, whatever language or languages had been spoken in
Ireland before them completely disappeared as languages, leaving no
doubt some traces behind in the names of places, etc., and probably
also influencing to some degree the Gaelic language itself. But for a
long time there was nothing like a complete fusion of the old and the
new population. The older population remained, not as a mere
promiscuous swarm of subject folk, but preserving in a large measure
its ancient organisation and sub-divisions. This state of things
continued during the early centuries of Christianity in Ireland.

Most of the manuscript evidence concerning these ancient communities
is still awaiting collection, publication, and study. Some of it is to
be found here and there in the old genealogical tracts, which are
still unpublished, and some in the annals. There is a good deal of
very ancient material on the subject quoted in the introductory part
of the great Book of Genealogies by Dubhaltach Mac Fir-Bhisigh. There
is one particular tract dealing specially with the names and
topography of these ancient subject communities. It exists in a number
of MSS., and has been printed by Craigie in the Revue Celtique from a
single MS. of the Edinburgh collection. From internal evidence I think
that this tract is of not later date than the eighth century. I
mention these facts to show how much has still to be done before we
can claim a near approach to full and accurate knowledge of the
existing evidence.

There are, however, some larger divisions of the ancient population,
spread over wide areas and comprising in each instance several of the
smaller named groups; and about these larger divisions there is
sufficient information to warrant the essaying of some account of
them. Chief among these may be reckoned the Picts. The tract just
mentioned shows that there were subject communities of the Picts
around Cruachain, the seat of the Connacht kings, and all over
Mid-Ulster, from Meath to Loch Foyle.

Along the lower part of the Shannon, in the counties of Galway,
Tipperary and Limerick, there was an ancient population known as Fir
Iboth, or by the adjectival name Ibdaig. These names contain the Irish
equivalent of the name by which the western islands of Scotland were
known to Greek and Latin writers of the first and second centuries of
the Christian era, _i.e._, Ebudae. The modern name Hebrides originated
in a mistaken writing of this name, and it is curious that the most
celebrated island of the group got its English name, "Iona," in the
same way. Ptolemy makes these islands belong to Ireland not to
Britain. Solinus says the inhabitants in his time grow no crops and
live on fish and milk. It is possible that an ancient branch of this
population preserved their identity by forming, so to speak, a
fisherman caste on the banks of the Shannon. There is evidence that
something like the Hindu caste system, in so far as it is linked with
the occupations of the people, existed among the descendants of the
Pre-Celtic population in Ireland. One of these subject communities is
known by the variant names Tuath Semon, Semonrige, Semrige, and
Semaine. Each of these names contains the Irish word seim, meaning a
rivet, and may be translated the Rivet-folk. This people dwelt in the
Desi territory of Munster, where those copper-mines are found which
were worked in the Bronze Age by miners using tools of stone and wood.
Taking the facts together, it seems reasonable to infer that the
Semonrige tribe were the descendants of the ancient copper-smiths of
the district, and that they obtained their name from the commodity in
which they paid their tribute to the dominant Celts, for the name is
Celtic. It should be well noted here that these Irish metal-workers
are presented to us in early Irish records as descendants of the
pre-Gaelic population; whereas, as we have seen, the current theory in
British archæology assumes that the occupation of working bronze was
distinctive of the Gaels themselves and was introduced by them.

Another copper-producing district is that of Béarra in West Munster,
bordering on Berehaven. Here in ancient times dwelt another
"rent-paying" community bearing the significant name of Ceardraighe,
"the Smith Folk." There was also either a branch of this folk or
another community of the same name situate around the ancient seat of
the Munster kings, Teamhair Luachra, a suitable locality in which to
find constant employment for a caste of workers in bronze.

According to the tract on the Rent-paying Communities, all over the
parts of Munster which, in historical time, were regarded as being
specifically Ivernian, including large districts in the present
counties of Tipperary, Limerick, Cork and Kerry, there was distributed
one of these subject communities which bore the name Tuath Cathbarr,
_i.e._, "the people of helmets." Since there is no record and no
likelihood that this subject people were a fighting caste, as
undoubtedly some of the subject-communities were in other parts of
Ireland, we may infer that they got their name from being employed in
the manufacture of battle-gear.

I come now to the most celebrated of all the pre-Celtic folks that
inhabited Ireland, the Fir Bolg. In including these among the
industrial castes of ancient Ireland, I claim the support of the
oldest written traditions, which clearly tell that the Fir Bolg, or
"Men of Bags," obtained that name from an industrial connection with
leathern bags. The story of the origin of the name, as found in the
Book of Invasions, Keating's History, etc., is no doubt well-known.
They migrated, we are told, from Ireland to Greece (Greece in ancient
Irish writings means the Eastern Empire). There, being outlanders,
according to the ideas of our forefathers, they did not obtain the
local franchises and became a serf people. Their occupation was to
carry sand and earth in leathern bags and spread a soil over rocky
places, as is still done in parts of Ireland, to make fertile land.
From this occupation, they were named Fir Bolg. They afterwards used
the hides in which they worked to construct ships in the ancient
fashion, and in these ships they escaped back to Ireland and liberty.

Quite a different version of the story is found in the Book of Lecan,
a book which contains a great miscellany, awaiting most desirable
publication, of excerpts from older writings, especially excerpts of
material which does not accord with what one may call the received
teachings of later times on matters of Irish legend and tradition.
This particular passage contains what is doubtless the oldest extant
account of the Fir Bolg. Its language, in my opinion, is of not later
date than the eighth century. Like the accepted story, it says that
they were a branch of the race of Nemed, but unlike the accepted
story, it does not say that they left Ireland in a body and came back
to it in a body after many years. On the contrary, it tells us that
they continued to inhabit Ireland all the time, but carried on a
particular trade with the eastern world. The manner of their trade was
this. They put Irish earth into leathern bags and exported it to the
east, where they sold it to the Greeks to be spread on the ground
around their cities as a protection against venomous reptiles. From
this trade they got the name of Bagmen.

Dubhaltach Mac Fir Bhisigh, in the unpublished introduction to his
Book of Genealogies, tells us that Fir Bolg was the specific name of a
particular section of the pre-Gaelic population, but became extended
in common usage so as to be applied to the whole of that population.
Of this statement we have abundant corroboration, with details
enabling us to locate the abode of various sections of the Bag-folk
properly so called. One section, called Bolgraighe, was the principal
Rent-paying community of the ancient Tir Conaill, a territory of much
smaller extent than the Tir Conaill of later times. Another section
inhabited the district of Sliabh Badbgna (Slieve Baune) in the east of
County Roscommon, where, I have been told, popular tradition still
recognises their descendants. Another section dwelt in the district of
Cong in the south of County Mayo, another in Sliabh Eachtgha (Aughty)
in the south of County Galway.

The manufacture of bags from hide or leather was no doubt not a highly
esteemed occupation, and it was probably out of contempt that the name
Fir Bolg was extended to the whole conquered population by the Celtic
ascendancy. The subject communities produced not only skilled artisans
but men of great piety and learning in early Christian times. Saint
Mo-Chuarog, for example, who is called _Sapiens_, "the Learned," and
who introduced a reform into the Irish chronography of his time, was a
member of the Rivet-folk, the Seamonraighe of the Déisi. But the
general attitude of the Gaels towards the older population was
undoubtedly disdainful. The passage quoted by Dubhaltach from "an
ancient book" is familiar to many in O'Curry's translation:

"Every one who is black-haired, who is a tattler, guileful,
tale-telling, noisy, contemptible; every wretched, mean, strolling,
unsteady, harsh and inhospitable person; every slave, every mean
thief, every churl, every one who loves not to listen to music and
entertainment, the disturbers of every council and every assembly, and
the promoters of discord among people--these are the descendants of
the Firbolgs, of the Galians, of the Liogairne, and of the Fir
Domhnann in Eirinn. But the descendants of the Fir Bolg are the most
numerous of all these."

This is fine old ascendancy talk, the sort of language that has served
in many ages to justify the oppression of liberty; and there is plenty
of evidence that the older population was in some instances subjected
to very harsh treatment--in some instances, not in all, nor were the
ancient communities always spoken of in such terms of contempt.

Among them, besides industrial groups or castes, there were also
others which appear to have followed the profession of arms. Cú
Chulainn, according to one tradition preserved by Dubhaltach, belonged
to a non-Gaelic tribe called Tuath Tabhairn, and it will be remembered
that he is once described as "a small dark man." "Thou little elf!"
his charioteer used to call him, to provoke him to do his utmost in
the fight. His rival, Fear Diadh, was a noble of the Fir Domhnann from
Connacht, and the Fir Domhnann still existed as a subject community in
the times to which the tract on the Rent-paying Folks has relation.
They are located in a stretch of country comprising the greater part
of the counties of Mayo and Sligo. In the eastern Midlands, from the
Shannon to the Irish Sea, the same tract places another of these
ancient tribes named the Luaighni--a name still preserved in that of
the barony of Lune in Meath. These are represented as forming the
chief fighting force of the kings of North Leinster in the heroic
period. When Conchobhar sets out to exact reparation for the Táin and
the invasion of Ulster, he is met by the forces of the Luaighni at
Rosnaree on the Boyne, his heroes one after another are worsted in the
fight, his army almost routed, and it is only when their king has
fallen in single combat that the Luaighni abandon the field. In the
curious story of the revolution brought about by the revolt of the
Rent-paying tribes against the oppressive rule of the Gaelic nobility,
it is the chief of the Luaighni, Cairbre of the Cat's Head, who
becomes king of Ireland for twenty years.

Still more remarkable is the tribute of the ancient saga to the valour
and discipline of the Galians. In the ninth century the Galians are
still described by the poet Mael Muru as one of the outstanding
sections of the population who are not Gaels. The tract on the
Rent-paying Folks divides them into three _tuatha_ and gives the
location of each. They inhabited the northern parts of old Leinster,
in the present counties of Wicklow, Kildare, and King's County. The
story of the Táin tells how the Galians excelled all the other troops
that joined Medb on her march from Cruachain for the invasion of
Ulster. "This enterprise," said the warlike queen, "will be a barren
one for all of us, except for one force alone, the Galians of
Leinster." "Why blamest thou these men?" said her consort. "Blame them
we do not," replied Medb. "What good service then have they done that
they are praised above the rest?" said Ailill. "There is reason to
praise them," said Medb. "They are splendid soldiers. When the rest
are beginning to make their pens and pitch their camps, the Galians
have already finished setting up their booths and huts. When the rest
are still building booths and huts, the Galians have finished
preparing their food and drink. While the others are getting ready
their food and drink, the Galians have done eating and feasting, and
their harps are playing for them. When all the others have finished
eating and feasting, by that time the Galians are asleep. And even as
their servants and thralls are distinguished above the servants and
thralls of the Men of Erin, so shall their heroes and champions be
distinguished above the heroes and champions of the men of Erin on
this hosting. It is folly then for the rest to go, for the Galians
will enjoy the victory." And in fear and jealousy the queen declared
that nothing would please her but to fall upon the Galians and destroy
them. Her husband expostulated. "Shame on thy speech!" he said, "a
woman's counsel, for no better reason than because they pitch their
tents and make their pens so promptly and unwearily." And Fergus
interposing swore that he and his Ulstermen would stand by the Galians
to the death. The Galians, he said, are but one division in eighteen
of our army. Even so, we shall take care that they shall be no danger
to us. And he took and divided the forces of the Galians among the
rest so that not five of them were in one place together.

Of this Galian stock came Fionn and Oisin and Oscar and all their
kindred, according to some accounts. They were of the sept Ui
Tairsigh, one of the three folks who, says Mael Muru, are not of the
Gaedhil. This sept dwelt at Drumcree in the barony of Delvin in
Westmeath. Their name and existence as a sept is probably not so
ancient as the time of Fionn, but we may suppose that in their own
time they claimed descent from the family of Fionn, from Clann

Other possible instances of occupation-castes are found in the names
Céchtraighe "plough-folk," Corbraighe and Corbetrighe "chariot-folk"
(Carbantorigion, the name of a town of the Selgovae in southern
Scotland), Gruthraighe "curd-folk," Lusraighe "herb-folk," Medraighe
"weight or balance-folk," Rosraighe "linseed-folk," Rothraighe
"wheel-folk," Sciathraighe "shield-folk."

The tinker clans of recent times in Ireland and Scotland may well be
survivals of some of these ancient industrial communities.

It is certain that ancient tribes remained in every part of Ireland
after their conquest by the Gaels, and retained in some measure during
the early Christian period in Ireland their ancient organisation,
often under their own ancient lines of chiefs. This is matter of
strictly historical record, and if any similar records had existed and
were still extant in Britain, we should hear less of the cheap and
easy history of successive populations, each of them completely
exterminating those that inhabited the land before them. Writers on
history would not find themselves flatly contradicting ethnologists on
the strength of their own gratuitous assumptions, when ethnologists
say that the modern English race is largely composed of descendants of
the primitive inhabitants.

On this subject of primitive races, there is one point which, in
passing, I desire to bring out. One of the founders of the modern
study of ethnology, Quatrefages, has given a good illustration of a
sort of scientific method akin to some that we have had already under
consideration. A glance at the map showed him that Ireland represented
a north-western limit of the likely spread of the human race in remote
times. The migratory movements of antiquity were thought to have,
generally speaking, a western trend in Europe. Ireland besides was an
island, which in the distant past must have been reached through
Britain. Conclusion: Ireland was the place in which to look for
primitive European types, and in Ireland the surest place to find the
primitive types must be the extreme north-western part. Accordingly,
M. Quatrefages packed his portmanteau in Paris and labelled it for
Belmullet. This kind of scientific quest is usually successful. It
succeeds after the manner of the schoolboy who, before entering into
the intricacies of a question in algebra, takes the precaution of
providing himself with the answer from the end of the book. M.
Quatrefages found the Mayo seaboard swarming with a primitive race of
men. I do not propose to examine his discoveries in detail. Anyone who
is curious about them is referred to the late Dr. Hogan's little book
on "The Irish People," which is the source of my information. In a
paper contributed by me to the Royal Irish Academy's "Clare Island
Survey," on the Place-names and Family-names of Clare Island, I showed
that nearly half of the families now living there could be traced to
an earlier home in distant parts of Ireland. I pointed out that in
remote ages, the parts of the sea that adjoin the land and the parts
of the land that adjoin the sea must have afforded the freest highway
for movements of population. It must have been so in the glacial
period and during its decline, when the scanty population must have
lived a life like that of the modern Eskimos who travel long journeys
in their canoes and change their habitation at will. It must have been
so in the barren period that succeeded the age of ice, when animal and
vegetable food was much more abundant on the sea-shore than inland.
And it must have been so in the succeeding forest period, when the
inland regions became difficult to traverse. In fact, until men became
tillers of the ground and road-makers, the sea-edge was their grand
highway. Hence it is that the population of the seaboard is always the
most mixed and variable. The place to look for the least movement and
least variation is inland, especially in deeply wooded, swampy or
mountain areas, which offer the least attraction to newcomers and from
which an older population is hardest to dislodge. And this, I think,
is also the lesson of ethnological research conducted without foregone
conclusions. In all western Europe, there is no region that contains a
larger proportion of a late-coming population than the Orkneys,
Shetlands and Hebrides and distant Iceland, the uttermost extremes of
the north-west.

The ancient legends of Ireland tell of certain peoples which are not
represented by territorial groups in the historical record. Most
conspicuous among these are the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Fomori
("Fomorians"). The late D'Arbois de Jubainville showed very clearly
that these two peoples belonged to pagan mythology. His work on the
subject can be read in the English translation by Mr. Best, "The Irish
Mythological Cycle." I cannot now attempt to go over the ground it
covers, even in summary, but shall content myself by adding a few
cogent proofs to those which it supplies. About the year 1000 the poet
Eochaidh O'Flainn wrote a poem on the Tuatha de Danann. He began by
setting himself the question, were these folks human or were they
demons. He answers that they were mortal men of Adam's race, and we
are even told by what deaths they died. The very fact that the
question had to be asked is conclusive as to the popular belief. But
the poet was not satisfied with having brushed this popular belief, a
survival of paganism, to one side. In his concluding verses he
protests "I do not worship them, I worship the one true God." So that
as late as the year 1000 people in Ireland still spoke of the Tuatha
De Danann as objects of heathen worship.

An older writer, quoted in the Book of Lecan, tells a plainer tale. He
does not admit the truth of the ancient mythology, and says that the
Tuatha De Danann were a remnant of the fallen angels. They assume, he
says, bodies of airy substance so as to become visible to men, the
better to tempt them. They come at the call of sorcerers and those who
practise malevolent incantations by walking in circles lefthandwise.
They used to be worshipped, and it was they who invented the spells
sung by smiths and druids and wise-women and pilots and cupbearers.
From them druidism came in Ireland.

The poet-historians did not succeed in killing off the Tuatha De
Danann. In 1088 the annalist Tigernach died, and in 1084, four years
before his death, his chronicle contains an account of a pestilence
which visited Ireland at that time. The cause of this pestilence, says
the chronicler, was revealed in that year to a certain man, Gilla
Lugán, who was in the habit of frequenting a fairy mound at
Hallowtide, the old heathen festival of Samhain. There in the year
1084, Oengus appeared to him and told him that the plague was brought
to Ireland by legions of evil spirits from the islands of the northern
ocean, who spread it over the country with their fiery breath. And
Gilla Lugán himself, says the chronicler, afterwards saw one of these
demon legions on the rath of Mullaghmast, and in whatsoever direction
their fiery breath came on the land, there the plague broke out among
the people.

In _Agallamh na Seanorach_, the rulers of the Tuatha Dé Danann are
still alive in St. Patrick's time, and inhabit the hills associated
with their memory. One of them has recently come to life once more in
Dublin, Finnbheara of Cnoc Meadha. From the hills at Tourmakeady you
can see Cnoc Meadha, a low round hill, on the eastern horizon. It was
pointed out to me by a man who knew all about it. That is where Finn
Bheara lives, he said. He is the king of the Good People. He is not
always there. When Finn Bheara is living in Cnoc Meadha, it is a good
year for the country. When he goes away, it is a bad year.

A poem in Duanaire Finn tells how Oengus aided the Fiana in their
hostilities with king Cormac, and, like the gods in the Homeric poems,
remained invisible while he fought on their behalf.

The passage already cited from the Book of Lecan tells how the Tuatha
De Danann arrived in Ireland. They came, it says, without ships or
boats and first alighted on Sliabh an Iarainn, in the heart of the

The mythology of the Irish Celts was not originally shaped in Ireland.
They brought it along with them from central Europe, and just as the
ancient scriptures of the Hindus bear traces of having been originally
composed in a climate very different from that of Hindustan, so I
think the Irish mythology shows some traces of its continental origin.
The Fomori of Irish tradition were not inhabitants of Ireland. They
always appear as invaders. They come from the north, from the unknown
places of the northern ocean. The demons who brought the pestilence to
Ireland in 1084 were Fomorians. They are always enemies of the people
of Ireland. They were enemies to Parthalon's people, and after them to
Nemed's people, the Fir Bolg, and after them to the Gaels. They were a
malevolent race of immortals. In the popular view, among heathens, a
people expected to be defended by the gods of its own worship. If a
hostile people had other gods, these were expected to fight on the
other side. Hence there was a natural tendency to regard a double set
of immortals, one party being foreign and malevolent, the other
domestic and benevolent. But the Irish people, before the Norse
invasions, knew no human enemies in the northern ocean. Accordingly, I
think that the Fomorians originally belonged to the continental
geography of Celtic mythology, and that the sea from which they came
was not the ocean to the north of Ireland but the Baltic and the North
Sea, and that their islands were originally perhaps Britain and
Ireland and the islands of the Baltic and the Scandinavian peninsula
itself, which was thought to be an island when it first became known
to the Greeks. The Fomorians would be perhaps in part identical with,
in part associated with, the gods of the peoples dwelling on the
shores of those northern seas before the Celtic expansion northward
and north-westward.

We have glanced at the process by which one of our poet-historians
endeavoured to transform popular tradition into a kind of history more
acceptable to his own school. Christian learning brought into Ireland
a double stream of history, derived from the Old Testament and from
the Greek and Latin historians. The two streams had already been
mingled in one by early Christian historians like Eusebius and
Orosius. The works of these writers were well-known in early Christian
Ireland. The Chronicle of Eusebius, a history of the ancient kingdoms
of the world, written in parallel columns, a column to each kingdom,
was known through the Latin translation by St. Jerome and its
continuation by Prosper of Aquitaine in the fifth century. It became
the basis of the writing of Irish history, and was continued in
Ireland, with an Irish section added, down to the early years of the
seventh century. By adopting this basis and model, the early Christian
historians of Ireland brought themselves inevitably face to face with
the task of linking and fitting the old Gaelic tradition to this
existing framework of Biblical and Greco-Latin history.

We cannot doubt that the Celts, like the Greeks, Persians, Egyptians,
Northmen and other ancient peoples, had what is called a cosmogony of
their own, an account of the beginning of the world. Cæsar tells us
that the Druids expounded the nature of the gods and also of the
material universe. This cosmogony could find no place in the new
scheme, and it disappeared, leaving perhaps a few traces in the
genealogies. In like manner, other parts of the popular tradition and
native lore required to be transformed and recast to find a place in
the accepted scheme of world history. That is why the Tuatha De Danann
became mortals in the teaching of the learned while they remained and
still remain immortal in the traditions that come down from heathen

The native tradition had its own account of the origin of the Celtic
people. That account, as we shall see, was not such as could be
adopted into the Christian world-history received from Eusebius and
St. Jerome. It was completely rejected by the Irish historians, as
completely as modern Irish people reject the substituted account when
they say that their ancestors were Celtic.

To provide a theory of the origin of the Gaels more in keeping with
the received world-history, a search was made through the Latin
historical and geographical writings that were used in the Christian
schools of Ireland and suitable discoveries were made. The most
serviceable material for the purpose was found in the world-history of
Orosius, a Spanish historian who wrote in Latin about the year 400.
Quotations from Orosius by name and word for word show that his book
was well-known in the Irish schools. It had the advantage of combining
a geography of the world with a history of the world.

In those times, the ordinary Latin name for the people of Ireland was
Scotti, Scots. It is the name used for them by Orosius, and also by
St. Patrick, and it was accepted by all the early Irish writers who
wrote in Latin. But this name Scotti does not appear in Latin before
the fourth century and gave no direct clue to trace the origin of the
Gaels. In the historical and geographical Latin writings to hand, the
people's name that most nearly resembled Scotti was Scythi,
Scythians. Accordingly, we are told that the Gaelic people were of
Scythian origin.

There was an independent and evidently earlier effort to account for
their origin in a precisely similar way. The man of learning who
undertook this effort fastened his attention not on the name Scotti
but on the older Latin name Hiberni, and searched his Latin
authorities for a corresponding name of some ancient people. He found
that there was an ancient people in the region of the Caucasus
mountains who bore the name Iberi, and we have the result in an old
tract quoted in the Book of Lecan:

"Question: what is the true origin of the Sons of Mil [_i.e._ the
Gaels]? Answer: A race there is in the mountains of Armenia, Hiberi
they are named. They had a famous king, Mil, son of Bile, son of Nem.
He was contesting the kingship with his father's brother, Refellair
son of Nem, and he went into exile with the manning of four barks, and
twelve married couples to each bark, and a soldier over and above
without wife...." And so the story goes on until the descendants of
these Iberi come to Ireland.

It is not unlikely that this account was known to Saint Columbanus of
Bobbio. In letters written about the year 600, he speaks of his own
people not as Scotti or Hiberni, but as Iberi.

The two accounts appear to have been blended together by making the
Scythians, before they reached Ireland, sojourn for a time in Spain,
the country of the western Iberi. This gave a satisfactory
explanation of both names, Hiberni and Scotti.

The story of their wanderings through the world is itself a
geographical description of the ancient world, based in detail on the
geographical chapters of Orosius. Of this story also there are two
distinct versions. In one they travel overland through the continent
of Europe, passing through the various peoples and territories named
by Orosius. It was on this journey that they fell in with the Picts,
for whom also a close scrutiny of Virgil provided two distinct
origins, as already told. In the other account they sailed round the
world, and the names of the various places they touched or passed in
the narrative are also taken from the geography of Orosius. A
noteworthy feature of that geography is that it is based on the early
writings of Eratosthenes and Strabo and entirely ignores the much
larger and more accurate knowledge recorded by Ptolemy in the second
century. For example, according to Orosius, the Caspian Sea opens by a
strait directly into the northern ocean, and the river Ganges flows
into the eastern ocean on the eastern side of Asia. Accordingly we
find in the Irish story that our ancestors sailed right out of the
Caspian into the northern ocean, then turning eastward came round by
the eastern coast of Asia, and passed on that coast the outlet of the

This view of the world's geography continued to be taught in the Irish
schools for centuries. It may be remarked here that the rotundity of
the earth was also the common teaching of these schools.

It is still more curious to note how the wording of Orosius has
supplied some remarkable details in the Irish story. It will be
remembered how Bregon, chief of the Gaels in Spain, built a tower on
the northern Spanish coast, the Tower of Bregon, and how, one fine
evening in spring, his grandson went up to the top of this tower and
from it descried the land of Ireland. When the Gaels afterwards took
ship and came to Ireland, the place where they landed was Inbhear
Scéine. All this comes from the actual phraseology of Orosius.

"The second angle of Spain," he writes, "points to the north-west,
where Brigantia, a city of Galicia, is situated and rears its lofty
lighthouse, of a structure with which few can be compared, looking
towards Britain." The last words might also be taken to mean "for a
view of Britain," and it was in this sense that they struck the
imagination of the Irish schoolman. He thought of a tower so tall that
Britain was actually visible from it. A few chapters further on he
read that "Hibernia is an island situated between Britain and Spain,"
a notion of its position due to the fact that ships sailing by the old
Atlantic trade route were accustomed to call at some Irish harbour on
their voyages between Spain and Britain. If then Britain was visible
from the lofty tower of Brigantia, and Ireland lay between Britain and
Spain, Ireland must also be visible from the tower. Bregon or Breogan
appears to have been a real name in Irish tradition. It resembled the
name Brigantia. So we are told that Brigantia took its name from
Bregon, the Gaelic chief, and that the tower there was built by him.
This impression of Ireland lying within sight of Spain was confirmed
by other passages of Orosius. "The ocean," he says, "has islands which
they call Britain and Ireland, which are situated over against one
side of Gaul and looking to Spain (_ad prospectum Hispaniae_)." And
again speaking of Ireland: "The fore parts of this island, stretching
towards the Cantabrian ocean (_i.e._, the Cantabrian part of the
ocean, the Bay of Biscay) behold far away over a wide intervening
space Brigantia, the city of Galicia, facing them towards the
north-west, especially from that promontory where the mouth of the
river Scena is, and where the Velabri and Luceni inhabit." The tower
of Brigantia "looked towards" Ireland, and the south-western parts of
Ireland "beheld" Brigantia. It is quite possible that Orosius himself
used these expressions in their literal sense. At all events they were
so interpreted by his Irish reader. The Irish legend tells us that the
Sons of Mil, who was grandson of Bregon, having learned that a land
was seen to the north-west from the tower of Bregon, set sail for that
land and, after certain adventures, put into a haven called Inbhear
Scéine. Where was Inbhear Scéine? Its locality has been the subject of
some discussion. If you turn up the name in Dr. Hogan's Onomasticon,
you will find that there are no data to enable you to decide which of
the havens of south-western Ireland bore that name, and for a very
good reason. The name Inbhear Scéine did not belong to Irish
topography. It belonged to this story, and is a translation of the
words of Orosius, _ostium Scenae_. There is no river of the name and
no known record of the name as that of any river in Ireland: nor is
there evidence that those who wrote and re-wrote the story of the
Gaelic invasion in ancient times had any more definite notion of the
locality of Inbhear Scéine than you or I have.

The fact is that the whole story of the origin of the Gaels in Scythia
or in Armenia, their wanderings by land and sea, their settlement in
Spain, and their landing in Ireland, is an artificial product of the
schools, and does not represent a primitive tradition. It must have
displaced the popular tradition. If so, can we find any surviving
traces of the older native account of the origin of the Irish Celts? I
think we can. We have seen that the Tuatha Dé Danann were an immortal
race. They were not all gods. We are expressly told that they were
gods and non-gods. They were _tuatha_, i.e., states or communities
like those of the ancient Irish people. Their chiefs were gods. When
they first came to Ireland, their king was Nuadu Silverhand. As a god,
Nuadu was worshipped also in Britain, as several inscriptions of the
Roman period testify. From him, according to several genealogical
tracts, the whole Gaelic population of Ireland was descended. Other
gods as well as Nuadu are clearly named in the ancient pedigrees.

We have seen how the divine race of the Tuatha De Danann came to
Ireland in the clouds of the air, without ship or boat, and alighted
on the Iron Mountain in the heart of the country. I have found
nothing to show clearly whether their human descendants, the Gaels,
were thought to have originated in Ireland or outside of it, except
perhaps one scrap of ancient tradition. It was from the northern parts
of Europe that the Tuatha De Danann came. The Gaels, according to the
learned legend already discussed, came from Spain to south-western
Ireland. There is, however, a totally distinct version of their
arrival, which says that they first arrived at the opposite corner, in
the north-east, in the locality of Fair Head. If this is genuine
tradition, it would follow that the Gaels, the offspring of the gods
they worshipped, were thought to have originated outside of Ireland,
somewhere in northern Europe.

The Book of Invasions, of which a convenient summary is given by
Keating, forming the first part of his history, is in its true aspect
a national epic which took shape gradually in the early Christian
period and under the influence of Christian and Latin learning. It
treats the principal elements of the ancient population, both Celtic
and Pre-Celtic, as offshoots of one stock, united in ancestry, and it
thus symbolises the effective national unity and fusion which had come
about. The land of Ireland is the unifying principle, and all the
children of the land are joined into one genealogical tree. Some
recent writer, I think it is Mr. George Moore, has remarked how Irish
people, apparently quite naturally and unconsciously, speak and think
of their country as a person. This they have been accustomed to do
through all the ages of their literature. The first words spoken by a
Gael on Irish soil, in the ancient legend, were an invocation
addressed to Ireland herself by the druid Amorgen: "I entreat the land
of Eire," and the land itself, under its three names, Éire, Fódla, and
Banbha, when the Gaels arrived, was reigning as queen over the Men of
Ireland. Thus we find the clearly formed idea of one nation, composed
of diverse peoples, but made one by their affiliation to the land that
bore them--the clearest and most concrete conception of nationality to
be found in all antiquity.


We have seen how the poet-historians of early Christian Ireland took
over certain Latin histories of the world, especially St. Jerome's
translation of Eusebius and the history of Orosius, and adopted these
as the established framework of the world's history, thereby
compelling themselves to adjust their own accounts of the Irish past
to that framework. In the process of adjustment they did not all work
hand in hand, and so we have different and sometimes contradictory
accounts and at least half-a-dozen distinct chronologies. They found a
mass of Irish traditions and legends embodied in stories long and
short. They set to work on this material, endeavouring to arrange it
all in sequence and to provide it with dates--the original matter
being largely independent of date or sequence. This task became in
fact the principal work of a certain school or class of poets, as we
learn from a passage which, though found in the Book of Leinster, is
held to date from about the eighth century. It is headed: "Of the
Qualification of Poets." The word translated "qualification" by
O'Curry, and not inaptly so translated, is _nemthigud_, derived from
the word _nemed_, the Old Celtic adjective _nemetos_, meaning
"sacred." A sacred place was called _nemed_, and a sacred person was
also called _nemed_. The old law tract which deals with the
privileges and rights of the poets is entitled _Bretha Nemed_, i.e.,
decisions regarding sacred persons. The tract in the Book of Leinster
tells us that certain kinds of knowledge were necessary qualifications
for certain classes of poets, in order that they might be entitled to
the privileges of their class and become in that sense sacred persons,
who, in virtue of the reverence due to them, might enjoy special
rights and immunities. The knowledge required of them was not a
knowledge of prosody or grammar, nor of chronology or geography, or
any other science of the times. It was a knowledge of the stories of
ancient Ireland, so thorough that they should be able to recite these
stories in the presence of kings and chiefs, not a select few of the
stories but scores and fifties of them. A mere memorised knowledge of
the stories, however, was not sufficient, and something more than the
ability to recite them to the satisfaction of courtly patrons was
deemed essential to qualify the person as a poet, for the tract
concludes by saying: "He is no poet who does not synchronise and
adjust together all the stories." This means clearly that it was, at
the time, an essential part of the poet's work to make a consecutive
and dated history out of the sagas of antiquity.

In this way was produced a history of Ireland from the beginning down
to Saint Patrick's time. From that time onward the ancients, like
ourselves, relied on the written chronicles of Ireland.

Among the written stories of antiquity, the primacy was accorded to
those of the Ulster epic, Táin Bó Cuailnge and the other tales that
range around it. Evidence of this primacy will be found in the oldest
known Irish chronicle, in poems assigned by Meyer to the seventh
century, and in the framework of the ancient genealogies. A number of
modern investigators assure us that the antiquarian tradition of the
Ulster sagas is marvellously true to the facts established by
archæological research in regard of the age to which those sagas
relate, the beginning of the Christian era. Their historical tradition
was adopted without question by our medieval historians. The main fact
of that historical tradition was that Ireland, in the time of Cú
Chulainn, was divided into five coordinate chief kingdoms, whose kings
were equal in rank and were not subordinate to a central monarchy. The
old historians consequently call this period _Aimser na Cóicedach_
(Aimsir na gCúigeadhach), the Time of the Pentarchs (the five equal
kings), and leave the monarchy a blank at that time, though they
profess to be able to give a list of kings of all Ireland for the
earlier and later periods. This list of the pagan Monarchs of Ireland
is not historical. It is compiled in a very artificial way from the
pedigrees of various Irish dynasties, in a way so artificial that one
name, the origin of which can be traced to the sleepy blundering of a
copyist, a name which never belonged to any man, is found as the name
of a king of Ireland in the list, with appropriate details telling how
he acquired the sovereignty and how he lost it, and how many years he
reigned. On the other hand, we are told that the fivefold division of
Ireland was older than the Gaelic occupation. In fact, its origin was
prehistoric, and the Pentarchy is the oldest certain fact in the
political history of Ireland. That it is a certain fact, nobody who is
acquainted with Irish literature and tradition will be disposed to
question. To this day the word _cuigeadh_, "a fifth," is in general
use among speakers of Irish as the term to denote each of the
principal sub-divisions of the country; and _cuig cuigidh na
hEireann_, "the Five Fifths of Ireland," is an expression familiar to
all who speak the Irish language. This term _cuigeadh_, in this sense,
is found in every age and generation of our written literature. And
yet it is certain that throughout the whole period of our written
literature, the political division of Ireland represented by this word
_cuigeadh_, "a fifth," and "the Five Fifths of Ireland," had no
existence. Already in St. Patrick's time the Five Fifths were only a
memory of the past. Then and for centuries afterwards, instead of
five, there were seven coordinate chief kingdoms and a monarchy over

It is evident that a political fact which impressed itself so
permanently on the vocabulary, the literature, and the folk-memory of
the people for at least fifteen hundred years was not the transitory
thing that appears in the lists of Irish monarchs before Christianity,
a Pentarchy which lasted only during a few years and interrupted for
that time the course of an earlier and later Monarchy. The details of
tradition, upon examination, indicate that the Pentarchy preceded the
Monarchy and lasted for a long time, long enough to become the chief
outstanding fact in tradition as regards the internal political state
of Ireland in the early Celtic period.

Now we come to the question, what were the five principal divisions of
Ireland under the Pentarchy? In my experience, the less erudite who
are interested in such matters usually answer, Ulster, Leinster,
Munster, Connacht and Meath. Those who are better read in Irish
history will answer, as a rule, leaving out Meath and will say that
there were two Fifths comprised in Munster, and this is the teaching
of Irish historians for some centuries back. In this case, it will be
seen that the less learned folk are nearer to the truth.

Let us first consider what our information is regarding the Two Fifths
comprised in Munster. Keating gives two alternative divisions of
Munster to form the Two Fifths. In one division, the dividing line
runs north and south, from Limerick to Cork Harbour. This delimitation
seems to be based on the ancient extent of Munster, which did not
include County Clare. The second partition of Munster, according to
Keating, is by a line running from Tralee to Slieve Bloom, a very
unlikely boundary, as will be evident to anyone who tries to place it
on the map. The portion south of this line, we are told, was the realm
of Cú Raoi, and the portion north of it was the realm of Eochaidh
MacLuchta. These two names belong to the Ulster cycle, and we should
expect the division connected with them to hold good in the topography
of the Ulster tales, but we shall find that the Ulster tales speak of
Eochaidh MacLuchta as king of all Munster and speak of Cú Raoi as a
great Munster hero, but not as king of half Munster. That is not the
whole story. Keating tells us that Tuathal Teachtmhar, when he became
king of Ireland, established a small domestic realm for himself in the
centre of Ireland, around Uisneach, by cutting off a section from each
of the Five Great Fifths, and that the boundaries of all five, until
his time, met at one point, the rock called Aill na Mireann, on the
slope of Uisneach hill. Look at the map of Ireland, bearing in mind
that the county Clare was not at that time and long after it a part of
Munster, and ask yourself what possible dividing line between two
kingdoms of Munster could have terminated in the hill of Uisneach,
which stands ten or twelve miles westward from Mullingar.

The Five Great Fifths of Ireland are a living fact in the political
framework of the stories of the Ulster Cycle. Surely then it is in
those stories themselves and in the antiquity of their tradition that
we must seek the evidence about these divisions, their location and
extent, and not in the unreconciled statements of writers in a later
age. The teaching of the Ulster stories on this matter is clear and
unmistakable. It is the same throughout all of them and will be found
summarised in a few sentences of the story of the Battle of Rosnaree.
First we are told how this battle was caused. In the great expedition
of Táin Bó Cuailnge, four of the Great Fifths had joined together for
the invasion of Ulster. The invasion was not a military success, but
it had secured its object, the carrying away of the Brown Bull in
spite of the Ulster king, and Ulster had suffered from the ravages of
war. Conchobhar, following up the retreating army of Connacht, had
overtaken and defeated it on the banks of the Shannon, but he had not
recovered the Brown Bull, and the other three Fifths of Ireland had
got away without making any reparation for the great raid. And
Conchobhar vowed that he would exact reparation or inflict punishment.
He called the forces of Ulster together. These things were speedily
reported to the other four Fifths of Ireland, and without delay the
king of each Fifth prepared for resistance and summoned his forces to
meet him at his royal seat. Here follows a recitation of the names of
the four kings and their four capital places in which their armies
were mustered.

The king of Tara, Cairbre Nia Fear, called out the Luaighni of Tara to
meet him at Tara. It is to be remembered that in these stories Tara is
not the royal seat of kings of all Ireland. There are no kings of all

The Galians of Leinster are summoned to meet their king, Fionn File,
at Dinn Riogh on the banks of the Barrow.

The Clanna Deadhadh, which is another name for the Iverni or Érainn of
Munster, are summoned to meet their king, Eochaidh MacLuchta, at his
royal seat of Teamhair Érann.

The muster of Connacht is held by Ailill and Meadhbh at Cruachain.

In this account of the five musters, there is no room for
misconception. The author of the story was not in the slightest doubt
as to the identity of the Five Fifths. His account is in complete
harmony with the whole tenour of the stories relative to that age. In
it, there is one Fifth of Munster, and all possibility of another is
precluded. There is one Fifth of Connacht and one Fifth of Ulster. How
are the two remaining Fifths constituted?

The capital of one of them is Tara, that of the other is Dinn Riogh on
the Barrow. We learn from Keating and all other authorities and
traditions that, in the period of Cú Chulainn and the Ulster hero
tales, the river Boyne, in its lower course, separated Ulster from
Leinster. Tara, on the south side of the Boyne, was in Leinster
territory. Hence it is plain that Leinster and not Munster comprised
two of the Five Great Fifths.

People sometimes say to me and have said to me since these lectures
began, "You are very ruthless in tearing away from us some of our most
cherished traditions." Now, if I showed any contempt for tradition,
this reproach would be altogether too mild. Tradition, if it is indeed
tradition, is worthy of all reverence. It is not infallible. Tradition
is a people's memory, and a people's memory, like yours or mine, has
its limitations. We are all agreed that the Gaels are of Celtic origin
and that their language is a Celtic language, but there is no
tradition for it. From the earliest recorded traditions of Ireland
and Britain down to the writing of the history of Scotland by
Buchanan, not the faintest trace of such a tradition has been found.
Nevertheless there are fields of historical inquiry in which tradition
is the most faithful witness, and one such field is the internal
polity of Ireland during the centuries that precede the written
record. In that field, so far am I from despising tradition, that my
main effort is to find tradition and establish its authority. We must
get away from the notion that everything that is written by Keating or
the Four Masters or in the Book of Invasions about that early time is
tradition. The Scythian origin of the Gaels, the geographical details
of their wanderings, the tower of Bregon, the landing at an unknown
Inbhear Scéine--these things do not belong to tradition, they are the
inventions of Latin scholars, suggested to them by ancient Latin

The evidence on which I rely with regard to the Five Fifths of ancient
Ireland is unquestionably traditional. The evidence that I have quoted
on the point does not stand alone. It is not singular and
inconsistent. On the contrary, it will be found to fit in with the
whole body of ancient tradition, and taken along with the other
evidences, it will be found to give life and reality to the history of
an obscure yet most interesting period.

Following up the ancient testimony, we find that Cairbre Nia Fear, the
king of Tara in Cú Chulainn's time, was brother to Fionn File, the
king of Dinn Riogh. Both were Leinstermen, Lagenians. Turning to the
genealogies we find that the descent of all the Leinster kings in
Christian times is traced from Fionn File. Tara therefore was the
capital or royal seat of a Leinster kingdom, and that kingdom was one
of the Great Fifths. If we look up Father Hogan's Onomasticon, we
shall see that this fact was otherwise clearly recognised. The kingdom
of which Tara was the capital was named in ancient writings by the
name "Cairbre's Fifth," Cóiced Coirpri.

Further we find that in many old documents the former existence of two
Fifths belonging to the Laighin, or ruling folk of Leinster, is
definitely recognised. One of these divisions is called Cúigeadh
Laighean Tuadh-Gabhair and the other Cúigeadh Laighean Deas-Gabhair.
These names mean that one of the Fifths lay to the north and the other
to the south of a place or district called Gabhair. There were a
number of places so named in various parts of Ireland, several of them
in ancient Leinster. The word _gabhair_ was evidently a topographical
term having a definite meaning indicating some physical feature of the
country, but I have not found it defined in any dictionary or
glossary. Examining the various instances of its use in place-names
and the conformation of the localities so named, I have come to the
conclusion that _gabhair_ most probably denoted a low broad ridge
between two river valleys. There were two localities so named in the
middle of Leinster. One was called Gabhair Life, with reference to the
river Liffey. In the first poem of _Duanaire Finn_ it is mentioned as
the place where dwelt the maiden Life from whom the river, we are
told, took its name: "In Gabhair between two mountains, there the
modest maid abode." This probably refers to the district of Donard in
Co. Wicklow, between the waters of the Liffey and the Slaney. The two
valleys are separated by a low watershed, and bounded on their outer
sides by mountainous country. Westward from this, in the south of
County Kildare, is a district which was anciently called Gabhair
Laighean. This means Gabhair of the Lagenians, and the name suggests
that it was the distinctive boundary between the two Fifths of the
Lagenians. It is situated between the valleys of the Barrow, the
Liffey and the Slaney, and may be regarded as the westward extension
of Gabhair Life. Further evidence on the point is supplied by two
glosses in the Book of Rights. One of these says that Laighin
Deas-Gabhair is Ui Ceinnsealaigh, the other says it is Osraighe. I
think we may take both together and regard the southern Fifth of
Leinster as comprising both territories, which are represented by the
dioceses of Ferns and Ossory. If O'Donovan is right in identifying
Dinn Riogh with a site near Leighlin Bridge, on the bank of the
Barrow, we should add to the territories named the diocese of
Leighlin, which lies between Ossory and Ferns. But there is good
evidence that the ancient Fifth of South Leinster was still more
extensive. It extended over a considerable part of eastern Munster,
taking in almost the whole county of Tipperary and a small part of
County Limerick.

The territory of Ossory, we are told, stretched from Gabhrán to Grian,
_i.e._, from the district of Gowran in County Kilkenny to the
district of Pallasgreen in County Limerick.

There were several stories which explained how and why this western
part of Leinster was transferred to Munster. According to one account

    Osraige ö Gabrán co Gréin
    tucad i n-éiric Eterscéil.

The territory of Ossory was forfeited to Munster in consequence of the
slaying of Ederscél, king of Ireland, father of Conaire Mór. Ederscél
was of the Ivernian race. A second account is alluded to by a poem in
the Book of Rights, claiming that Ossory was rightfully subject to the
kings of Munster, having been forfeited for the killing of Fergus
Scannal, king of Munster. The third account is much more elaborate. It
is found in the story of the Migration of the Déisi, a story which in
its extant form dates from about the year 750. It tells how the Dési
were expelled from the region of Tara; how one part of them crossed
the sea and settled in Wales; how another part sojourned for a long
time in Leinster, but at last entered the service of the king of
Munster and acquired a territorial settlement by conquering and
annexing to Munster the western part of the territory of Ossory. The
story relates that the men of Ossory were first driven eastward over
the Suir; they rallied near Clonmel and were again defeated and driven
across the Anner; were followed up by the Déisi and finally forced
over the Lingaun river, which to this day forms part of the boundary
between Ossory and Munster. The baronies of Iffa and Offa took their
name and origin from a branch of the Déisi settled in the conquered
territory. West of the Suir in County Tipperary are the baronies of
Upper and Lower Kilnamanagh. These were formerly O'Dwyer's country,
and the territory was ruled by the ancestors of the O'Dwyers from time
immemorial. But the line of the O'Dwyers and their forefathers was an
offshoot of the ruling people of South Leinster. In the genealogies,
Fionn File is their ancestor, the same who was king of South Leinster
in Cú Chulainn's time. Of the same Leinster stock came the sept Ui
Cuanach, whose name and territory is represented in the present barony
of Coonagh in County Limerick, adjoining O'Dwyer's country. On the
western side of this territory was the district of Grian, the western
limit-point of ancient Ossory.

I have found no very decisive indication of the westward extent of
ancient Leinster along the southern coast. However, the story of the
Déisi migration shows no distinction between the Déisi settlements
south of the Suir in County Waterford and those north of the Suir in
County Tipperary. There is nothing to indicate that the Munster king
settled one portion of his allies on conquered territory and another
portion on territory already in his possession, and the whole tenour
of the story associates the settlement with the displacement and
dispossession of the Men of Ossory. Therefore, I think it probable
that the territory of Ossory included the greater part of County
Waterford, as far west as Cappoquin and the Blackwater from Cappoquin
to the sea.

As in the case of the eastern parts of Munster so in the case of the
part beyond the Shannon, now County Clare, there is more than one
story to account for the annexation. When several stories are given to
explain a fact, though they contradict each other in the manner of the
explanation, they form a strong corroboration of each other as to the
fact itself. That Clare was at one time part of Connacht is the
universal testimony of antiquity.

Ancient Munster, therefore, the Munster of the heroic period,
comprised the counties of Cork and Kerry, the greater part of Limerick
and some small area of Tipperary and Waterford. It was the smallest of
the Five Great Fifths and there is no need to bisect it to form two of
them. The bisecting lines mentioned by Keating, however, are not
likely to have been purely imaginary. They refer in my opinion to
political boundaries of a later age. We have evidence of the division
of Munster in early Christian times into what may be called two
distinct spheres of influence. Besides the Eoghanacht dynasty which
then ruled in Cashel, there were other branches of the same dynasty
ruling in various parts of Munster. Of these the most powerful was the
Eoghanacht of Loch Léin, also called the Eoghanacht of Iarmuma, "West
Munster." Some of its kings are reckoned as kings of Munster, and
hostile to the kings of Cashel. The dividing line from Limerick to
Cork Harbour may indicate the boundary between the groups of states
which acknowledged the eastern and the western authority. As regards
the other line from Tralee to Slieve Bloom, I think it is founded on
the fluctuating extent of the rival authority of the Dalcassian and
Eoghanacht dynasties during the period between the battle of Clontarf
and the Norman invasion. During that period we read of kings of the
Eoghanacht lineage who are called kings of Cashel and Desmond. They
are of the family of MacCarthaigh. North of the line, the power of the
kings of Thomond was predominant.

The boundaries of ancient Connacht are fairly certain. The Shannon
throughout its course formed the principal limit. From the head of the
Shannon to the sea at Donegal Bay the boundary was nearly the same as
it still is.

Between Ulster and North Leinster, the boundary ran from Loch Bóderg
on the Shannon through the southern part of County Leitrim, and thence
in the direction of Granard; thence by the present boundary of Ulster
eastward as far as the Blackwater, down along the Blackwater to Navan
and from Navan along the Boyne to the Irish Sea. On the expedition of
the Táin, Medb's army skirted this boundary, keeping on the Leinster
side, until they reached the Blackwater; and the story tells how they
looked across the Blackwater at "the foreign territory" (_in chrich

Such was the division of Ireland under the Pentarchy at the beginning
of the Christian Era, as disclosed by the oldest traditions.

When we come to St. Patrick's time, the fifth century, we feel
ourselves within the scope of clear and definite written records.
These ancient boundaries are for the most part only memories. There is
no longer a Pentarchy but a Heptarchy, which remains substantially
unchanged for several centuries and is described in detail by the Book
of Rights, compiled about the year 900 and revised about a century

In this new arrangement, Munster has its present extent plus the
southern angle of King's County. Connacht has lost County Clare, but
has annexed territory east of the Shannon as far as Loch Erne and Loch
Ramor in County Cavan. This territory has been taken from Ulster,
which no longer exists as a political unit, but is divided into three
of the seven chief kingdoms. These are the kingdom of Ailech on the
west, the kingdom of Ulaidh on the east, and the kingdom of Airgialla
or Oriel in the middle. The Fifth of North Leinster has ceased to be a
kingdom. There is only one kingdom of Leinster, which extends as far
north as Dublin, the river Liffey and its tributary the Rye, which
runs by Maynooth. This kingdom contains what remains of North and
South Leinster and is ruled by the ancient dynasty of South Leinster.

The seventh chief realm is that of Meath which has been formed from
parts of North Leinster and of Ulster. Its northern boundary is nearly
but not quite the same as the present northern boundary of Leinster.
It takes in part of County Cavan and excludes the northern part of
County Louth, north of Ardee.

The strictly historical period in Ireland begins with St. Patrick. The
authentic writings of St. Patrick are the earliest written documents
of Irish history. But I do not think it would be just to say that all
before that time is prehistoric. If all we had for the first four
centuries of the Christian Era was a slender thread of narrative like
Livy's story of ancient Rome, we might wonder how much profit, if any,
could come from examining it. We are not in so poor a case. We have a
substantial mass of traditions, connected and disconnected, which, I
think, enable us to supply the void of written documents in a manner
that will carry conviction.

The period in question begins with the solid background of the
Pentarchy. It ends with the solid foreground of the Christian
Heptarchy. The problem before the student is not merely to fill up the
intervening space with a random collection of traditional material,
but to find out by what stages and through what causes the
transformation took place; how a central monarchy came into being; how
Ulster was broken up into three distinct realms; how Leinster
contracted from two great kingdoms into one; how the new and powerful
kingdom of Meath was established; and how Munster grew to about twice
its ancient extent.

Our old native historians did not concern themselves with accounting
for anything. Their chief model was Eusebius, and Eusebius was content
to give lists of kings with the length of each king's reign as the
sole history of various realms of antiquity throughout centuries. So
the only consecutive history we find of Ireland before St. Patrick's
time consists in like manner of regnal lists with little bits of
anecdotal matter added here and there. Even these regnal lists are not
authentic. They are made up artificially from pedigrees, and I have
already shown that the method was so recklessly artificial as to make
a king out of a misread note to one of the pedigrees. Even the oldest
written history of Ireland extant follows this method. It does not
indeed extend the Irish monarchy back to the Gaelic invasion. It
declares the authentic history of Ireland to begin with the foundation
of Emain Macha, dated 305 B.C., and it begins the Tara monarchy in
A.D. 46. But from this date onward it gives the succession of the
high-kings, and that succession is one of a kind unknown in the
historical period. It is a succession from father to son, which is
contrary to the known custom of all the insular Celts, in Ireland,
Wales, and Scotland. In other words, it is again merely a pedigree
converted into a dynastic succession.

When a single pedigree is utilised in this way, the fact is easily
discovered. Later historians adopted a less obvious artifice, and one
at the same time which made their account more widely acceptable. They
shortened the reigns of the kings in the earlier history so as to
leave gaps between them, and into these gaps they inserted names from
other pedigrees besides that of the Tara monarchs. They took these
names in turn from the genealogies of the kings of Munster, Leinster,
Oriel, etc., and thus, by giving every part of Ireland a share in the
monarchy, they produced a regnal history which was flattering in an
all-round way and which succeeded in relegating the earlier device to
comparative oblivion.

I had become familiar with this plan of transforming pedigrees into
regnal lists before I first read Buchanan's history of Scotland. In
that book I found a list of forty-three kings who reigned over
Scotland before Fergus of Dal Riada went over from Ireland. All the
names seemed strange. They were apparently Latinised from some other
language, the history being written in Latin. Were they invented, like
the names in "Gulliver's Travels," or, if not, where were they found?
Can it be, I asked myself, that the Scottish historians, like the
Irish, filled the vacuum out of pedigrees? And if so, out of what
pedigrees? Now it is a matter of historical record that, on the
inauguration of a king of Scotland, a part of the ceremony consisted
in the recitation of his pedigree, and this custom was kept up until
the Dal Riada line died out with Alexander III in 1285. Therefore, I
argued, the pedigree most familiar to an early Scottish historian was
that of the kings of Dal Riada. I turned up this pedigree in the Irish
genealogies and my conjecture was confirmed. Scotland and Ireland are
all along agreed that Fergus MacEirc, an Irish prince, settled in
Scotland and founded there a new kingdom and dynasty. But the
forty-three kings of Scotland named before Fergus are nevertheless the
forty-three ancestors of Fergus, from father to son, in the Irish
genealogy. The list comprises names so well known in Irish story as
Ederscél, that Munster king, whose death is said to account for the
forfeiture of Leinster territory to Munster; his son Conaire Mór,
whose tragic fate is told in the story of Da Derga's Hostel; and the
younger Conaire, son of Mugh Lámha, who also figures in the Irish
hero-lore. All these and their forefathers, up to the eponymous Iar,
head of the Ivernian stock, figure one after another in the artificial
history of the first Scottish dynasty beyond the sea.

Let us get away then from such unprofitable material and let us see
what comes to us in the guise of traditions of substance. We start off
from the Pentarchy and the Ulster cycle. The Ulster stories have for
their main basis the hostile relations between Ulster and Connacht.
Being Ulster stories, they do not prolong their scope beyond a time in
which Ulster has generally the best of it. Ulster's mishaps merely
serve to heighten the effect, which is Ulster's heroism and victory.
It was when this time of glory was but a memory, when Emain was a
deserted site and the remnant of the Ulaidh occupied only a tiny
fraction of their former territory, that these stories took their
present shape and were committed to writing. We have to turn to
another set of traditions, to those connected with the monarchical
kindred of historical time, to learn how things developed from the
stage depicted in the Ulster tales.

The course of development will be more clearly followed if it is
stated in summary beforehand. The hostile relations between Ulster
and Connacht continued, but the kings of Connacht grew gradually more
powerful. They extended their power step by step over central-eastern
Ireland, the ancient Fifth of North Leinster, and then step by step
over all Ulster except what is now comprised in the counties of Down
and Antrim. Upon the increase of power thus acquired they established
a hegemony or primacy over all Ireland. This primacy found its
definite expression in the institution of the high-kingship or

The first stage in the process was the occupation of Uisneach by
Tuathal Teachtmhar. Who was this Tuathal? According to the genealogies
he was sixth in descent from Eochu Feidlech, who was the father of
Medb, queen of Connacht. Accepting Medb's date as fixed or estimated
by all our ancient writers, she flourished just at the commencement of
the Christian Era. Tuathal was five generations later, and from dated
Irish pedigrees we can calculate an average of almost exactly three
generations to a century. Tuathal therefore would have flourished in
the third quarter of the second century, say between A.D. 150 and A.D.
175. Exact dates are assigned to him in the extant regnal lists, but
these lists do not agree with each other, and it is safer to rely on
the law of averages. Tuathal, we are told, set up a new kingdom for
himself around Uisneach. The territory surrounding Uisneach was part
of the old Fifth of North Leinster. Consequently the alliance of the
Four Great Fifths against Ulster was no longer operative. Tuathal was
a prince of the Connacht dynasty, and his occupation of Uisneach was
an invasion of North Leinster and the first stage in the break-up of
the Pentarchy.

With regard to Tuathal we are told that before his birth the
Rent-paying tribes throughout Ireland revolted against the Gaelic
ascendancy and overthrew it. Tuathal's mother fled to Britain and in
Britain he was born. By the time he came of age the revolution had
spent its force and a reaction set in. Tuathal returned to Ireland, by
some he was welcomed, others he overcame by force, and he became the
strongest king in Ireland. It was then that he took possession of

It is difficult to know what exactly to make of this story of a
plebeian revolution. In its actual terms, the story is full of
improbabilities, and reads like a fairy tale for children. Another
difficulty about it is that a similar story is told of Tuathal's
grandfather. There is no inherent improbability in the main fact of
the story, the occurrence of a plebeian revolution which for a time
displaced the Gaelic ascendancy, and the occurrence of a subsequent
complete reaction. Something like it happened in France little more
than a century ago and in England under Oliver Cromwell. The
occurrence of a revolution and the successful survival of the Connacht
dynasty may help us to understand how the kings of Connacht were able
afterwards to make such headway not only against their ancient rivals
in Ulster but against their former allies in North Leinster; that is,
if we understand that Connacht was less shaken and weakened by the
revolution than the other provinces were. Again, in the Ulster
stories, we hardly hear of the existence of the Picts in Ulster; they
are completely dominated by the Ulaidh. But when Ireland emerges into
the full light of written history, we find the Picts a very powerful
people in east Ulster, Cuailnge itself, the home of the Brown Bull,
and the neighbouring plain of Muirtheimhne, Cú Chulainn's patrimony,
being now Pictish territory. This may well have been the consequence
of some such revolution as the story indicates.

The next stage is the occupation of Tara, the old capital of North
Leinster, by Cormac, who is fourth in descent from Tuathal, and who
should therefore have flourished in the period A.D. 275-300, a time
corresponding closely enough with that to which the regnal lists
assign him. The fact of the annexation of Tara and the surrounding
region, the territory of Brega, is always glossed over by our old
historians. This tacit treatment may perhaps be explained. In their
histories generally, the monarchy goes back to the Gaelic invasion,
and Tara is the seat of the monarchs in remote antiquity, as it
actually was in the early Christian period. This location of the
monarchy in Tara from time immemorial, like the assumed existence of
such a monarchy, exemplifies a very common tendency, the tendency to
project the known present into the unknown past.

The fact of the annexation of Tara and eastern Meath underlies the
story of the Battle of Crinna. The cause of this battle, as stated,
was the continued hostility of the Ulstermen to king Cormac's line.
One king after another of this line, which, be it remembered, was the
Connacht dynasty and still ruled over Connacht, had fallen in fight
with the Ulster enemy. Cormac had forced Ulster to give him hostages.
Such hostages were by custom honourably entertained according to their
rank. The Ulster hostages sat at Cormac's own table. So unsubdued was
their spirit that on one occasion they did the king the gross affront
of setting fire to his beard. After this, Ulster again took up arms
and drove Cormac out of Meath, forcing him to take refuge in his
native realm of Connacht. There he gathered his forces and took a
Munster prince, Tadhg, son of Cian, into alliance. This Tadhg figures
in the genealogies as being the ancestor of a group of dynastic
families which in later times ruled over certain states of Connacht,
Meath and Ulster, the Luighni, Gaileanga, Cianachta, etc. These
states, when we trace them back as far as possible, are native to
Connacht; their branches in Meath and Ulster are frontier colonies
planted to guard the conquests of the Connacht kings. Tadhg macCéin,
in the story, is the personification of these colonies.

Before going into battle, Tadhg made a compact with Cormac the king.
They agreed that, if Tadhg came off victorious, Cormac would grant him
as much territory as he could ride around in his chariot on the day of

In the battle of Crinna, Tadhg engaged the Ulstermen and completely
defeated them. He himself was sorely wounded. He mounted his chariot
and set out to ride around the territory he desired to win for
himself and his descendants, and he commanded the charioteer to take
such a course as to bring Tara within the circuit. Then, overcome with
loss of blood from his many wounds, he fell into a swoon and lay
unconscious in the chariot.

King Cormac had foreseen that Tadhg would try to get possession of
Tara. He desired Tara for himself, and he bribed the charioteer to
leave Tara out of the circuit of the ride. At intervals during the
ride, Tadhg awoke from his swoon and on each occasion he asked the
charioteer "Have we brought in Tara?" and the charioteer answered "Not
yet." At nightfall, Tadhg came to his senses and saw that they had
reached the banks of the Liffey near Dublin. "Have we brought in
Tara?" he asked again. The charioteer could not answer yes. Tadhg saw
that he had been cheated, and he slew the charioteer.

Now the territory that fell to Tadhg's share in the story extended
along the coast from Ardee to Dublin and inland along the northern
frontier of Meath to Loch Ramor--and these territories in later times
were occupied by the Connacht colonies whose rulers claimed descent
from Tadhg. Roughly speaking the whole stretch of country forms an L
inverted and in the angle of this L stands Tara the ancient capital of
North Leinster, but henceforth the capital of Cormac's kingdom.

Except this story of the Battle of Crinna, there is no other story or
even title of a story known to me which explains how Tara ceased to be
the seat of the North Leinster kings and passed into the possession of
the kings of Connacht and Uisneach. There is no other account which
explains why or how the Leinster frontier, which formerly lay along
the Boyne and the Blackwater, was afterwards pushed back to the Liffey
and the Rye. The territory which fell to Tadhg was partly Ulster
territory and partly Leinster territory. Yet in the story itself,
there is no mention of Leinster and Cormac's only enemies were the
Ulstermen. The story, which in its extant form belongs to a very late
period, is evidently defective. It is written in conformity with the
theory that the Monarchy existed before the Pentarchy and that Tara
was the seat of the Monarchy from time immemorial. Consequently it
ignores what we may call the Leinster aspect of the matter, and the
conflict seems to be altogether between Cormac and Ulster. Ulster lost
land on the north side of the Boyne, and this conquered territory,
under the compact, fell to the share of Tadhg. The underlying notion,
in this episode of the chariot-ride, is obviously that the victor is
to be rewarded with a share of the spoils. If, then, the conquered
part of Ulster formed part of his reward, and if in the same bargain
he gained part of Leinster between the Boyne and the Liffey, and if he
expected to gain Tara, we must, I think, infer that this part of
Leinster and Tara likewise were no less conquered territory than the
piece of Ulster that fell to Tadhg.

Therefore, there should have been an earlier version of the story, now
lost, which showed that not Ulster alone but North Leinster also
resisted Cormac and suffered defeat from him and his ally. Such an
account would explain, what remains a complete blank, so far as I
know, in this traditional history, how the dynasty of North Leinster
came to an end and how Tara and Bregia, south as well as north of the
Boyne, passed into the possession of the kings of Connacht and

The reign of Cormac is regarded in our earliest histories as an epoch
in Irish history. This, I think, was because it marked the end of the
Pentarchy and the rise of the Monarchy seated at Tara.

The next stage in the growth of the Connacht power brings us to the
overthrow of the Ulster kingdom and the conquest of the greater part
of Ulster. In the century after Cormac, his descendant Muiredach
Tireach becomes king of Tara. Muiredach, we are told, in his youth
took command for his father, Fiacha Sroibhtine, king of Tara, and was
successful in establishing his father's authority in southern Ireland.
His uncles, the three Collas, became jealous of his success. The young
prince, they said, will be chosen king when his father dies, and we
shall be shut out from the succession. They then conspired to
overthrow their brother and win the kingship for one of themselves
while Muiredach was still absent in the South. They raised an army
against the king. Fiacha consulted his druid. The druid answered: You
have two alternatives. You can be victorious. If you are, the kingship
will pass from your son and your descendants. But if you are defeated
and slain, your son and your posterity will rule Ireland. It is the
symbol in Irish story of the Triumph of Failure. The king said, Then
I choose defeat and death. The three Collas were victorious, the king
fell in the fight. Then all Ireland arose against the victors.
Muiredach was chosen king, and the Collas were banished over the sea.
They dwelt in exile for some years in Britain, but the guilt of their
brother's blood oppressed their souls, and at last they said, We can
bear it no longer, we shall go back to Ireland and lay down our lives
for our crime. The young king forgave them and took them to his
favour. After this, they spoke to him one day and said: Though thou
and we are at peace, our sons will grow up and contend with thy sons
for the kingship. Give us a kingdom for ourselves and our posterity.
It shall be so, said the king. What part of Ireland will you give us?
said they. The Ulstermen, said the king, have ever been hostile
towards me and towards our fathers. Go and conquer their kingdom, and
it shall be yours.

The Collas then went to Connacht, which was still the homeland of the
new Tara dynasty, raised an army there, invaded Ulster, were
victorious, and captured the Ulster capital. The conquered territory
comprised the present counties of Armagh, Monaghan, Tyrone, and the
greater part of Fermanagh and Derry.

I wish to dwell on the fact that the conquerors were princes of the
Connacht dynasty, then ruling also in Tara. Their army was drawn from
Connacht. In fact, all this chain of events is the direct sequel of
the old rivalry between Connacht and Ulster that forms the basis of
Táin Bó Cuailnge and the Ulster cycle in general. The inhabitants of
the conquered parts of Ulster got the significant name of Airgialla,
Oirghialla, "the eastern subjects." In relation to Meath and Tara,
they were northern not eastern subjects. The name Airgialla then is
based on the fact that the conquering power at the time when the name
came into use was still regarded as the western power, its home was

Thus ended the Fifth of Ulster. Let us see what was happening
meanwhile in southern Ireland. In Munster, under the Pentarchy, the
kings of the Érainn or Iverni held rule. In St. Patrick's time, these
no longer ruled in Munster. The kings of Munster belonged to a
distinct line, called the Eoghanachta. Their capital was no longer in
the west. It was Cashel, not far from the eastern border of their
kingdom and in territory formerly part of Leinster. To the original
extent of the Munster Fifth had been added in the meantime the
counties of Clare and Tipperary, a small part of Limerick, and the
larger part of Waterford, making the bounds of Munster almost but not
exactly what they are at present.

In face of the growing power of the kings of Connacht, how it came
about that Clare was detached from Connacht and added to Munster, I
cannot explain to my own satisfaction, beyond saying that, within a
smaller scope, the Eoghanacht kings of Munster became even more
powerful than the kings of Connacht and ruled over a more firmly
consolidated realm. During the early Christian centuries, before the
Norse invasions, Munster appears to have enjoyed greater tranquillity
than any other realm in Western Europe. The genealogies show that
there was an early Eoghanacht settlement in the Clare area, called
Eoghanacht Ninuis, and another, still called Eoghanacht, in the island
of Arainn Mhór, to the north of Clare.

There were at least two accounts in ancient story of the transfer of
Clare to Munster. The time of this event differs by centuries in the
two stories, and I shall not endeavour to reconcile them or to choose
between them. There are three distinct accounts of the eastern
annexation from South Leinster. The only one of these that is full and
explanatory, and that fits with the known later stage of things, is
the account connected with the Migration of the Déisi.

Let it be noted that Cashel, the seat of the Munster kings in
Christian times, stands outside of ancient Munster. Keating relates an
ancient story telling how Cashel was "discovered" in the time of Corc,
king of Munster, _i.e._, about A.D. 400, and got a new name. This new
name was a Latin one, for Caiseal is the Irish representative of the
Latin word _castellum_, "fortress." These things show how late was the
use of Cashel as the seat of Munster sovereignty.

What and whence was this new ruling power in Munster, the Eoghanachta?
Their genealogies show that at one time they were worshippers of a god
named Segomo--one of their ancestors is named Nia Segomon, "Segomo's
champion." This god Segomo is unknown to Irish tradition, in which his
name is never found outside of the Eoghanacht genealogy. He was
known, however, and worshipped in Gaul, where he is commemorated in
several inscriptions of the Roman period. He was a war-god and is
equated, according to the fashion of Roman Gaul, with the Latin god
Mars--"Deus Mars Segomo." The descendants of Segomo's Champion are
named in three Ogham inscriptions, all found in the district of
Dungarvan and Ardmore, on the southern seaboard. The indications
therefore are that the Eoghanachta represent a relatively late Gaulish
settlement in that part of Ireland. The story of the Déisi Migration
mentions several bodies of Gaulish settlers.

The Migration of the Déisi is an evident sequel of the conquest of
Tara and eastern Meath under Cormac. Déisi means "vassal communities."
These particular vassal communities dwelt around Tara, and were
possibly identical with the Luaighni, who formed the chief fighting
force of North Leinster in Cú Chulainn's time. They quarrelled with
Cormac, we are told, and he drove them, or a large part of them, out
of Meath. They migrated in two bodies. One body crossed the sea and
settled in southern Wales where the descendants of their princes still
held sway in the eighth century. The other body settled for a time in

Later on this Leinster section entered into an alliance with the
Eoghanacht king, Oengus, whose queen was the daughter of their chief.
By their aid, Oengus conquered what is now the south-eastern part of
Munster, and he settled the Déisi as frontier colonists on the
conquered territory. Oengus flourished in St. Patrick's time, the
second and third quarter of the fifth century.

The loss of the large territories about the Boyne and the Suir reduced
Leinster to much smaller dimensions. What remained of the two ancient
Fifths was now united in one kingdom, ruled over by the line of the
ancient kings of South Leinster. This reduction and unification means
the final passing away of the Pentarchy described in the Ulster tales.
The seat of the Leinster kings is no longer either Tara or Dinn Riogh,
but Ailinn, which lies between them, on the southern side of the
Curragh of Kildare.

The Connacht kings continued, however, to extend their conquests and
their power. A grandson of Muiredach Tirech was king of Tara at the
beginning of the fifth century (_c._ A.D. 400), Niall of the Nine
Hostages. His brother, Brión (or Brian) took possession of a
south-western section of Ulster, comprising a large part of the
counties of Leitrim and Cavan, afterwards called Brian's Land--Tír
Briúin. Three sons of Niall took possession of what remained of
western Ulster, now comprised in the county of Donegal. Their names
were Eoghan, Conall, and 'Enda, and the territories occupied by them
were called Eoghan's Land, Conall's Land, and 'Enda's land.

Another son of Niall, named Coirbre, obtained a piece of Leinster, now
the barony of Carbury in Co. Kildare.

The Connacht dynasty and its branches now ruled over the northern half
of Ireland, with the exception of the eastern seaboard region from
Ardee to the Giant's Causeway. It ruled in Tara, and its chief kings
were recognised also as Monarchs of Ireland.

The Connacht power, after the time of Niall, was regarded as
comprising three chief divisions--the kingdom of Connacht, the
Airgialla, and the territory of the descendants of Niall (Uí Néill).
All Leinster was laid under tribute to them, and a note in the Book of
Leinster says that this Leinster tribute was divided equally among the
three sections. This subdivision of the Connacht power, in my opinion,
was what gave rise to the ancient term _Teora Connachta_, "the Three
Connachts"--a term which seems to have caused some trouble for its
explanation to writers of a later age.

An unpublished tract in the Book of Lecan, also found in the
introductory part of the Book of Genealogies by MacFir Bhisigh, tells
us that during this period, the succession to the Monarchy was
regulated in this way: On the death of the Ardri, the king of Connacht
took his place as king of Tara. A new king of the same family was
elected in Connacht, and this process went on during several
generations. Niall was king of Connacht first, of Tara afterwards. And
so, in like manner, the high kingship was filled from Connacht until
the death of Ailill Molt in A.D. 483 or thereabouts.

The two facts, then, that explain the transformation of the Pentarchy
at the beginning of the Christian Era into the Monarchy and seven
principal kingdoms of St. Patrick's time, are these: In the northern
half of Ireland, the gradual conquest achieved by the Connacht
dynasty; in southern Ireland, the rise of a new power, that of the
Eoghanacht kings, centred in Cashel. Along with the direct control of
northern Ireland, the Connacht dynasty obtained predominance over the
country in general, and this predominance found its natural expression
in the high kingship.

Between the establishment of the Connacht dynasty in East Meath and in
Tara, the ancient seat of the North Leinster kings, and the overthrow
of the Ulster kingdom, there is a period of more than half a century,
during which the Ulster power stood at bay. Of this state of things we
have a very remarkable record, not written on paper, but graven on the
face of the country. The Ulster kings endeavoured to defend themselves
against further aggression by fortifying their entire frontier except
where it was already protected by strong natural obstacles such as
lakes, forests or broad rivers. Linking these natural barriers they
raised a massive earthern rampart which, with these barriers, formed a
continuous line of defences from the Irish Sea on the east to Donegal
Bay on the west. Details of the extant remains of this Great Wall of
Ulster and of the popular traditions connected with it will be found
in Mr. Kane's paper on the Black Pig's Dyke in the Proceedings of the
Royal Irish Academy. These details I am able to supplement with
others, but it would be out of place to go into particulars in such a
historical sketch as the present. What I wish to bring under special
notice is this--that the Ulster frontier was fortified alike against
Meath and Connacht--a further illustration of the fact that during
that period Meath and Connacht were politically united under one
dynastic power.


The earliest known mention of Ireland in literature appears to be
found in a passage of the Greek writer Poseidonios which is quoted by
Strabo. Poseidonios flourished about 150 B.C.

His information about Ireland is vague, and he says expressly and
candidly that his authorities are not trustworthy. Whereas later
writers erred in supposing that Ireland lay between Britain and Spain,
Poseidonios says that Ireland stretched farther northward than
Britain. We have nothing definite to tell about Ireland, he continues,
except that the inhabitants are fiercer than those of Britain, being
man-eaters and eaters of many kinds of food [we may understand perhaps
that he supposed them to eat various foods not eaten by the Greeks].
They think it worthy to devour their own fathers who have died. Their
marital customs are of the most unrestricted kind, disregarding even
the closest ties of kindred. "This, however, we state as having no
reliable testimony." For the custom of cannibalism, he says, is also
ascribed to the Scythians, and the Celts and Iberians and many others
are likewise said to practise it when reduced to great straits by a

The name of Ireland, as quoted from Poseidonios, is Ierne,
representing an old name Iverna. In Greek, as well as in the early
Celtic language of Ireland, the sound of _v_ or _w_ had a tendency to
disappear from words. I think, however, that the Greeks may have taken
the name Ierne, without the _v_, direct from a Celtic source, for the
dropping of the _v_ or _w_ sound in Greek took place earlier than the
writing of the oldest extant Greek prose, and if the name of Ireland
had been known to the Greeks at so early a time, we should expect to
find mention of Ireland in early prose writers like Herodotus.

The next known writer who mentions Ireland is Julius Cæsar. The island
Hibernia, he writes, is half the size of Britain, and as far distant
from Britain as Britain is from Gaul. He calls Ireland Hibernia.

Strabo, who wrote in Greek in the first years of the Christian era,
also thought that Ireland extended farther north than Britain, and
that Ireland had a colder climate than Britain. This notion, I have
already suggested, originated in the Latin name _Hibernus_, which as a
Latin word meant "wintry," and was substituted for the Celtic
adjective _Ivernos_. The people of Ireland, says Strabo, are quite
wild and have a poor way of living owing to the cold climate.

A somewhat later anonymous writer in Greek has more accurate
geographical information, perhaps based on the brief statement by
Cæsar, placing Ireland to the west of Britain.

Pomponius Mela, whose date is about A.D. 40, calls Ireland Iuverna, a
name also used about the same time by Juvenal. It is a nearer approach
to the Celtic form as used in Britain, which at the time was partly
occupied by the Romans. Mela says that Ireland is hardly equal in size
to Britain, but has an equal length of coastline opposite to Britain.
Apparently he supposed Ireland to be a long narrow island, about as
long as Britain from north to south, but less in breadth. The climate,
he says, is unfavourable to the ripening of seeds, but there is such
an abundance of excellent pasturage that cattle get enough food by
grazing for a short part of the day and, if they are not restrained,
they eat until they burst.

This is fairly accurate. The Irish climate is less favourable to the
ripening of certain seeds, such as wheat, than the climate of
neighbouring countries. It is not likely that any other seed but wheat
is referred to, and we may take the testimony of Mela as evidence that
wheat was known in his time to be grown in Ireland, but not so
successfully grown as in other countries.

Mela adds: The inhabitants of Ireland are uncivilised and beyond other
nations are ignorant of all the virtues, and extremely devoid of
natural affection.

A little later, in Pliny's time, the knowledge of Ireland among the
Romans was far from being exact. Pliny, on the authority of Agrippa,
gives the length of Ireland as 600 Roman miles, its breadth as 300. He
thus doubles each dimension and multiplies the size of the island by

Tacitus writes that Agricola made special military dispositions on
that side of Britain which faces Ireland; and this he did more through
hope than through fear, that is to say, rather in view of conquest
than of protection. Ireland, he says, is situate between Britain and
Spain. It is of smaller area than Britain. In soil and climate and in
the character of its inhabitants it differs little from Britain. Its
inland parts are little known, its approaches and harbours are better
known through commerce and merchants. Agricola received one of its
petty kings who had been expelled in a revolt and kept him, under the
guise of friendship, against a suitable opportunity. From Agricola, I,
says Tacitus, have often heard that Ireland could be conquered and
held by a single legion with a moderate force of auxiliaries, and that
this would be of advantage as regards Britain, if the Roman military
power were established everywhere and freedom, as it were, were put
out of sight. Later he writes that Agricola had led his forces to a
point close to the Irish Sea when he was brought back by an outbreak
among the Brigantes and thought it better to solidify the conquests he
had already made than to undertake a new conquest.

The next writer in point of date is Ptolemy the Geographer, who
flourished in the middle of the second century. Ptolemy names sixteen
peoples, tribes or states, and gives their relative positions on the
Irish coast. He names no people or state away from the coast. About
half of the names can be authenticated from other sources. The others
have been the subject of much fruitless conjecture. It is noteworthy
that all the authenticated names belong to the eastern and southern
coasts and that the names on the northern and western coasts are still
names and nothing more. This shows that Ptolemy's information came
from sea-going traders. The northern and western coasts of Ireland are
among the most stormy in the world and must have been avoided in those
days by ocean-going craft. Ptolemy names several estuaries, and from
Irish writings we know that in early times estuaries were the
favourite havens. Ships could run in by the main channel and could be
grounded without injury on the sandy tidal banks. Several "cities" are
likewise named by Ptolemy. These, no doubt, were places of assembly or
royal towns--"oppida," like Tara and Emania. None of them can be
identified with any approach to certainty. Two bear the name _Regia
polis_, and this I think is taken from Latin, meaning "royal city."

On Ptolemy's description are based one or two learned fancies which
may almost be said to have become popular. One of these is that the
ancient name of Dublin is Eblana. Ptolemy places a people named Eblani
on the eastern side of Ireland and assigns them a city which he calls
by their name, _Eblana polis_. This cannot be Dublin, for no trace has
been found in Irish records or tradition of anything approaching in
character to a city on the site occupied by Dublin until the Norsemen
fortified themselves here in 841. We cannot give the name of either
record or tradition to a fabulous poem appended to the Book of
Rights, a poem which relates how St. Patrick visited and blessed the
Norsemen of Dublin. The poem has this value historically, that it
shows how far some of our medieval writers were ready to go in the
audacity of their invention.

The location which Ptolemy indicates for the Eblani and their city is
certainly farther north than Dublin, probably on the coast of Louth.
As Ptolemy's information was derived through traders, it is not
unlikely that some of the places which he calls cities were ancient
places of assembly. From the poem on the Fair or Assembly of Carman,
we know that these were places of resort for traders from the
Mediterranean who brought with them "gold and precious cloth" in
exchange for products of the country. No doubt they timed their visits
for the periodical assemblies, and from the same poem on the Fair of
Carman and from other documents we also know that during the time of
assembly the place of assembly bore the aspect of a city. In it at
those times there was a great concourse of people of all orders; there
was a royal court; a kind of parliament; many sorts of public
entertainment; and a general market. Somewhere about the middle of
County Louth one of these assemblies used to be held. It is called
Oenach Descirt Maige "the Assembly of the South of the Plain"--probably
the Plain of Muirtheimhne in the district of Dundalk. This place of
assembly may have been the city of the Eblani named by Ptolemy, but the
name itself has not been traced in Irish writings. Dublin lay almost
certainly in the territory of the Manapii or of the Cauci, the two
Germano-Belgic colonies about which I have spoken in the second of these

Another place of note which has taken its modern name straight out
of Ptolemy's description is the sweet Vale of Ovoca. A few years
ago, a lively controversy about the name Ovoca was carried on by
correspondence in a Dublin newspaper. One of the disputants undertook
to show that the name consisted of two Gaelic words and meant "shadowy
river." The fact is that the river called Ovoca received the name in
quite modern times from some resident or proprietor who had a moderate
taste for the classics. He found the name in Ptolemy "Ὀβόκα ποταμου
ἐκβολαί [Greek transliteration: Oboka potamou ekbolai]," the mouth of
the river Oboca. It is one of the few river-mouths in Ireland named by
Ptolemy, and must have been known to traders as a haven. The modern
name Ovōca is Ptolemy's Obŏka mispronounced and does not belong to
Irish tradition.

Pliny names several islands between Ireland and Britain, one of which
he calls Andros. It seems to be the same place that Ptolemy calls
Adros. I venture the suggestion that the proper form is Antros or
Antron. At the mouth of the Garonne there was an island which bore the
name Antros in the time of Pomponius Mela. Its modern name has become
widely known as the name of its chief product, Médoc. In the river
Loire, there was also an island named Antron, which became the site of
a monastery and is now called Indre. Antros or Antron becomes Édar in
Irish, and Édar is the Irish name of the Howth peninsula. Our
forefathers use the terms for island as the names of peninsulas also,
for example, Inis Eoghain and Islandmagee, just as they applied the
term _loch_ indifferently to an inland lake and to an inlet of the
sea. In our ancient tales, Howth harbour is one of the most noted and
most frequented of Irish havens, and so it is not unlikely to have
received notice in Ptolemy's description.

Our next notice of Ireland is written by Solinus, about A.D. 200. He
begins by repeating in other words what was already said by Mela:
"Hibernia is barbarous in the manner of living of its inhabitants, but
is so rich in pasture that the cattle, if they be not kept now and
then from grazing, are put in danger from over-eating. There are no
snakes." So we see that Solinus, writing two centuries and a half
before St. Patrick's time, has robbed our national saint of one of his
traditional glories. He is not the only one to blame. One of the
Fenian lays tells how Fionn mac Cumhaill cleared the island of all
serpents. Even Fionn cannot be allowed the credit without question,
for it is evident there were no snakes in Ireland when the Fir Bolg
supplied the Eastern World with Irish earth to protect cities from
these venomous reptiles. Solinus goes on to say: "Birds are rare. The
nation is inhospitable and warlike. The victors in combat smear their
faces with the blood of their slain enemies. They make no difference
between things lawful and unlawful. There is not a bee anywhere, and
if anyone scatters dust or gravel from Ireland among beehives, the
swarms will desert their combs." Here we have another variety of the
snake-story. Possibly Solinus, in his reading, mistook the word
_aspis_, the name of a kind of snake, for _apis_, "a bee," and
adjusted the popular legend about the virtue of Irish earth to suit
his mistake. "The sea," he continues, "which flows between this island
and Britain is billowy and restless and throughout the whole year it
is navigable only during very few days." Here perhaps we have the
current explanation of Ireland's immunity from invasion by the Romans.
Ireland, at all events, was still a country about which the Latin
world was ready to accept travellers' tales from the untravelled.

The Irish appear in a new role, that of invaders of Britain, in a
panegyric of the emperor Constantius Chlorus, written in A.D. 297. The
same document and passage contains the earliest known mention of the
Picts by that name. "The Britons," says the panegyric, "even then an
uncivilised nation and accustomed to no enemies except the Picts and
the Irish [Hiberni], still half-naked, readily yielded to the Roman
arms and standards." In my last lecture, I have suggested that the
overthrow of the old Ulster kingdom is the explanation of the later
prominence of the Picts in eastern Ulster. The sudden emergence of the
Picts of Britain as a warlike and aggressive people at the close of
the third century is susceptible of a similar explanation. Under the
Ulster kingdom, the Picts were subject to the Ulaidh. As the Ulaidh
declined in power, the Picts became relatively prominent. So in
Britain, before the Roman conquests, the Picts, I suggest, were
subject to the Celts. The name Calédones or Calédonii, belonging to
the principal people of southern Scotland during the early times of
the Roman occupation of Britain, is a Celtic name. It is formed by
adding a very usual termination to the Celtic adjective _caledos_,
meaning "hard" or "hardy." Calédos was in fairly frequent use as a
Celtic personal name. Seven instances are quoted by Holder from
inscriptions. It is found in Irish, _e.g._, in the term _caladcholg_,
"a hard sword." It is the common Irish word for a landing-place from
boats, originally no doubt having been applied to firm ground, as
distinguished from swampy ground, on the banks of a river, and in this
sense it has passed into Anglo-Irish vocabulary in the form
"callow"--the "callows" of the Shannon. That the Calédonii did not
belong to the old dark-complexioned population is the testimony of
Tacitus, who says: "The reddish hair of the inhabitants of Caledonia
and their large limbs indicate a Germanic origin." That this Celtic
people at one time held sway in a region afterwards dominated by the
Picts is witnessed by the place-name Dunkeld in Perthshire. The older
Gaelic name is Dún Cailden, _i.e._, Dunon Caledonon, the stronghold of
the Calédones. The Celts, who naturally would have been strongest in
Lowland Scotland, were so weakened there, I suggest, by the Roman
power, that they could no longer maintain their predominance over the
Pictish population of the Highlands, and so, towards the close of the
third century, the Picts emerge as new and formidable adversaries of
Roman Britain on its northern frontier.

In the fourth century, the Irish are named by a new name in Latin
writings. The earliest known instance of this name, Scotti, Scots, is
found in a passage of the historian Ammianus with reference to the
events of the year 360. "In that year," he writes, "the raids of the
Scots and Picts, wild nations, had broken the agreed peace in the
British provinces and were devastating the places near the frontier;
terror was involving the provinces worn out by the accumulation of
past defeats; the emperor, passing the winter at Paris and harassed by
anxieties from one side and another, was afraid to go to the relief of
his subjects across the sea, lest he might leave Gaul without a ruler
a prey to the Alamanni, who were already stirred up to cruelty and
war." In this single passage a great deal is implied. We see the
Western Empire now beginning to totter, its ruler's conduct shaped no
longer by hope of conquest but by fear of disaster. We learn that on
the British northern frontier some sort of terms had previously been
made with the Picts and Scots, who were the aggressive party. We learn
the manner of their warfare, which is similar to that of the Norsemen
during the first half-century of their wars in Ireland. They make
plundering raids across the frontier, not in small parties but in
considerable force, defeating again and again the local defences, and
no doubt carrying off booty and captives. It was in one of these
raids, a few years after the date above referred to, that the boy
Patrick was carried off and sold into slavery in Ireland.

In the year 365, Ammianus further records that "the Picts and Saxons
and Scots and Atecotti harassed the Britons with continual
afflictions." In 368, "the Picts, divided into two nations,
Dicalydones and Verturiones, and also the Atecotti, a warlike nation
of men, and the Scots, roving here and there, did many devastations."
Later on, the writer of a panegyric on the emperor Theodosius asks,
"shall I tell of the Scot driven back to his swamps?" And the poet
Claudian, in a eulogy of the emperor Honorius, sings: "He has tamed
the active Moors and the Picts, whose name is no nick-name, and the
Scot with wandering dagger he has followed up, breaking the waves of
the far north with daring oars"; and again, "Ice-cold Ireland has
mourned the heaped-up corpses of her Scots." Praising the Roman
general Stilicho, Claudian says: "The Scot set all Ireland in motion";
and later, referring to Stilicho's muster against the Goths in the
year 416, he writes: "Came also the legion that protected the furthest
bounds of Britain, that bridled the cruel Scot and scanned the
lifeless face of the dying Pict tattooed with iron point."

In all these writings, from the first mention of the name Scots down
to the fall of the Western Empire in the fifth century, the Scots are
Irish raiders of Roman Britain. Whitley Stokes took the name Scottus
to be cognate with certain Slavonic and Germanic words and to mean
"master" or "possessor." But why should a people who until the fourth
century were named Iverni or Hiberni acquire in the fourth century a
new name meaning "masters" or "possessors"? It is not in the quality
of possessors that they appear in the records of the time, but rather
in the quality of dispossessors. Raiding, fighting, wandering,
wasting, these are the occupations of the Scots in that age; and if
they acquired a new name, it is to these occupations that we might
expect the new name to have reference. Therefore, though it may appear
audacious on my part, I venture on a different explanation.

A gloss on the name of St. Scoithín in the Festilogy of Oengus says
that he was named Scoithín _ar in scothad imdechta dognid.i. dul do
Ruain i n-oenlo ocus toidecht uathi i n-oenló aile_, "from the
_scothadh_ of travelling that he practised, namely, going [from
Ireland] to Rome in a single day and returning thence [to Ireland] in
another single day." The verb _scothaim_ or _scaithim_ has a group of
meanings all signifying a rapid cutting or striking movement.
Dictionaries give the meanings "I lop, prune, cut off, strip, destroy,
disperse, scutch [flax], beat a sheaf of corn to make it shed its
grain." _Scothbhualadh_ means a light threshing; _scoithneán_, a sieve
for winnowing grain. _Scottus_, then, in this view, was originally a
common noun meaning a raider or reaver, a depredator who worked by
rapid incursions and retirements. It was probably a Gaulish word, for
its earliest known use is in various inscriptions of Roman Gaul, in
which it is used as a personal name. For example, an inscription of
the year 224 records a votive offering by Marcus Quintius Florentinus
and others, the children of Caius Quintius Scottus. Here Scottus is
the distinctive byname of the father and is not found in the names of
his children.

The old story about promiscuous marriages, which in Cæsar's time was
told of the Britons, and later on, when Britain became better known to
the Romans, was told of the islands of western Scotland, continued
until the fifth century to be told of the Irish, who, like the
Hebrideans, dwelt beyond the bounds of the Empire. St. Jerome writes
that "the Scotti and Atecotti, in the manner of Plato's Republic, have
wives promiscuously and children in common"; and again, "the nation of
the Scotti do not marry wives of their own; as if they had read
Plato's Republic and adopted the example of Cato, no wife among them
belongs to a particular husband; but each according to his pleasure
they live without restraint, as cattle live." There is no mention of
these evil customs a half-century later when Saint Patrick tells how
he won over the Scots and their children from Paganism, and the oldest
traditions show that the pagan Irish followed the law of monogamy with
as much fidelity as did the ancient Greeks and Romans. St. Jerome
tells another story, this time on his own direct testimony: "In my
early youth in Gaul I have myself seen the Scots, a Britannic nation,
feeding on human flesh, and, when they might find herds of swine and
cattle through the forests, [I have known them] to be wont to cut off
the hips of shepherds and the breasts of women, and to regard these as
the only delicacies of their food." Instead of Scotti, some texts of
Saint Jerome have Atecotti in this place. It matters little, for all
agree in adding the words _gentem Britannicam_ "a Britannic nation."
We have seen that the Atecotti were associated with the Scotti in
raiding Roman Britain, and we must come later to the question, who
were the Atecotti. St. Jerome's testimony is valuable on the point
that these invaders of Roman Britain, whether Scotti or Atecotti, also
roved about Gaul. We may take it that there were bands of them in the
woods, in which he tells us they might have found swine and cattle to
provide them with food, had it not been for their barbarous preference
for special cuts of shepherd and shepherdess. He states that he was a
boy at the time (_adolescentulus_). He does not say that he saw the
barbarians in the act of catching and killing a shepherd or a
shepherdess, and we may be certain that he did not, otherwise he would
not have stayed on to see the preparation and consumption of the
tit-bits. It has been suggested that he was probably accompanied by a
very wise elderly woman who told him, as a precaution, the sort of
people these roving banditti were, and that his childish imagination
confirmed the tale. He may have seen the wandering islanders feasting
round their fire in the forest, but how did he contrive to identify
the viands? Once more, let it be said that tradition is old enough and
history reaches far enough back to assure us that cannibalism, like
promiscuous polygamy, was no custom of the inhabitants of Ireland or
of Britain in the fourth century of the Christian era.

We have seen that Latin writers of this period make mention of the
Atecotti, usually in conjunction with the Scotti. Some have assumed
that the Atecotti were a branch of the Picts. So far as positive
evidence goes, it is against this assumption. Ammianus speaks of the
Picts, subdivided into two nations, Dicalydones and Verturiones, and
then adds that "the Atecotti, a warlike nation," and the Scotti, were
engaged with these in the work of devastation. This implies that the
Atecotti, like the Scotti, were distinct from the Picts.

A verbal resemblance in the names led some Irish writers, from the
close of the eighteenth century down to O'Curry, to identify the
Atecotti with the Irish Aithech-thuatha, the ancient Rent-paying
communities referred to in my third lecture. I do not think that the
philologists will sanction the identification so far as it is based on
verbal resemblance. The name Atecotti has not been found in any form
in the native records of Ireland or Britain as the name of any nation
or sub-nation or in the topography of either island. Nevertheless
contemporary evidence during the second half of the fourth century
shows that not only on the frontier of Roman Britain but also on the
Continent there was a numerous and warlike collection of men known by
this name. As in the case of the name Scotti, the conclusion I would
draw is that Atecotti was a name for a general class of men not for a
particular nation, tribe, or political community. The name, in its
best authenticated form, is a Celtic word, consisting of the adjective
_cottos_ preceded by the prefix _ate_. _Cottos_ means "old," or
"ancient." The prefix _ate_, which becomes _aith_ or _ath_ in Irish of
the MS. period, means "back" or "again," like the Latin _re_, and like
this, too, it often has a strengthening or intensifying force. Thus,
Atecotti may be taken to mean the very ancient, the primitive, the
pristine folk; and so it is explained by Whitley Stokes. Who then were
these very ancient people who were associated with the Scotti and were
not identified with the Picts? We are reminded at once of the Irish
traditions of non-Gaelic and pre-Gaelic communities which formed the
main fighting strength of the kings of North Leinster and South
Leinster, and of the non-Gaelic origin ascribed to Cú Chulainn, Fear
Diadh, and to the kindred of Fionn mac Cumhaill and of Goll mac Morna.
Of course, on this point we are far from complete certainty, but the
probability, in my opinion, is that, when the Irish went to war in the
fourth century, they still adhered to the politico-social distinction
between the Gaelic ascendancy and the conquered plebeian race, and
that this was the distinction between the Scotti and the Atecotti. The
adjective _cottos_ does not appear to belong to the vocabulary of
Irish, but it is found in the various Brittanic dialects and was a
frequent element in Gaulish nomenclature. The Atecotti, therefore,
probably received their name not in Ireland but in Britain or Gaul.
The view I put forward reaches, but by a different path, a similar
conclusion to that adopted by the Irish writers who sought to identify
the Atecotti by name with the plebeian communities of ancient Ireland,
the Aitheach-thuatha.

Contact with the Roman military system reacted on the domestic
condition of Ireland. To this cause we may ascribe the origin of the
Fiana as a definite military organisation at a definite period. The
word _fian_ is collective, signifying a band of fighting men, not
merely a band of men called out upon occasion for military service,
but a permanent fighting force. From it is derived _feindid_,
_feinnidh_, a professional soldier. Normally, the ancient nations
depended in warfare on their citizen soldiers who in time of peace
were engaged in the works of peace. The great imperial states, for
their plans of conquest and dominion, or for the protection of their
artificial realms, relied on standing armies. In the stories of the
Ulster cycle, though, as we have seen, there are certain castes or
communities with a special tradition of warlike service and
efficiency, there does not seem to be any permanent military
organisation. The cycle of the Fiana, on the contrary, is concerned
with fighting men whose principal occupation is warfare. The two epic
traditions are quite distinct. Chariot-fighting is characteristic of
the Ulster tales. The Fiana fight on foot. The time to which the Fiana
belong is the time of the conquests made by the Connacht kings in
North Leinster, the time of Conn, Art, Cormac, and Cairbre
Lifeachar--roughly speaking, the third century of the Christian era.
During that century, the Britons were "accustomed to war with Irish
enemies," and the Irish therefore had opportunities of learning
something of the Roman manner of warfare and military organisation.
Again, to the third century and later belong those great earthen
frontier walls in Ireland spoken of in the foregoing lecture. The
erection of these walls, we may well believe, was inspired by
acquaintance with the Roman frontier fortifications in northern
Britain, constructed in the second century and in the early part of
the third century.

Accustomed to military life, numbers of the Scotti and Atecotti took
service under Roman commanders, especially under Stilicho, who
enlisted troops wherever he could raise them to defend the Empire
against the Goths. The time was during the last years of the fourth
century and the opening years of the fifth. A number of Latin
inscriptions on the Continent bear witness to the existence, in the
later days of the Western Empire, of a military force in the Imperial
service under the name of Primi Scotti--"the First Scots." The
majority of these inscriptions are found near the ancient frontier
between the Roman Empire and western Germany, showing that the Scots
or Irish were engaged to defend the line of the Rhine against the
Germans. A few of the inscriptions are found in the interior of Roman

About the same time, under the emperor Honorius and his general
Stilicho, a number of distinct bodies--cohorts or regiments--of the
Atecotti served in the Imperial armies. The military records known as
_Notitiae Dignitatum_ have mention of the following forces: Atecotti
seniores; Atecotti juniores; Atecotti Honoriani seniores; Atecotti
Honoriani juniores; and Atecotti Gallicani juniores; to which by
implication we must add Atecotti Gallicani seniores. All these were
serving in the Western Empire, and in addition to these there was a
body called simply Atecotti serving in the Eastern Empire. Those in
the west formed part of a force which included also Moors, Germans,
and others drawn from countries outside of the Empire. The general
name for these troops appears to have been Honoriani, from the emperor
Honorius in whose service they were enlisted. The chief military task
of the Roman armies under Honorius was to resist the Goths who were
threatening to overrun his dominions. The Spanish historian Orosius,
who lived in Spain at that time, calls the barbarian forces of
Honorius the Honoriaci, _i.e._, he substitutes a Celtic form for the
Latin Honoriani. (St. Patrick, a little later, uses a similar Celtic
form Hiberionaci, instead of the usual Latin name Hiberni, for the
Irish.) In 409, the year before the capture of Rome by the Goths under
Alaric, the German nations of the Suevi, Vandals, and Alans overran
southern Gaul as far as the Spanish borders. The passes of the
Pyrenees were held at this time by the Honoriani. Orosius says that,
on the approach of the Germans, the Honoriani in the Pyrenees made
common cause with them, and shared with them in the invasion of Spain
and the partition of the conquered territory. He adds that the
Honorians were more clement than the Germans towards the conquered
people, and extended some degree of protection and assistance to them.
This conquest was of short duration. A few years later the Goths in
turn invaded Spain and established a Gothic kingdom over it.

These events belong to a period for which Ireland has no contemporary
documents of history, but for which, as it borders on the more
strictly historical period, Irish traditions have their highest
validity in evidence. The testimony of native tradition, as we might
expect, is in accord with that of external history.

The third and fourth centuries of the Christian era were a time in
which nearly all the peoples of Europe outside of the Roman Empire
were, so to speak, on the march with arms in their hands. At the
beginning of the Christian era and before it, we have seen that this
state of unrest already pervaded the Celts and Germans of Mid-Europe.
A few centuries earlier still, the Celts almost alone are found in
this condition of warlike mobility; for the radiation of the Celtic
migratory movements in every direction--southward into Italy, westward
into Gaul, Spain, Britain, and Ireland, northward into the Baltic
basin, and eastward along the Danube valley and into Asia Minor--is
evidence that, unlike the movements which led to the break-up of the
Western Empire, the earlier Celtic migrations were not accompanied by
pressure from other moving populations on their borders.

I have ascribed the early expansion of the Celts to iron. The
possession of iron had a two-fold effect. The natural condition of the
greater part of Europe is forest. If man were absent or idle-handed,
nearly all Europe in a few generations would revert to the forest
state. To clear the land of woods, or even to prevent the fresh growth
of woods after clearance, the implements of the Stone Age, Early and
Late, cannot have been effective. Even let us suppose that large
clearances could have been made by burning, at once the thickets would
again spring up, and under their protection the forest trees. Nor can
the possession of bronze have sufficed to subdue the natural tendency
towards forest. Bronze, in the Bronze Age, was not the industrial
material of the many; it belonged to the privileged few who were not
hewers of wood. Iron, when it came, introduced an industrial
revolution relatively greater than that which has been introduced in
modern times by the steam-engine. Once people knew how to work it,
iron was abundant enough to be in the hands of every worker. Iron
became and has ever since remained the sole master of growing wood.
With the conquest of the forests came a great extension of tillage.
Iron not only cleared fertile tracts but tilled them more rapidly and
deeply than was possible with the wooden spade which, as the old Irish
copper mines have taught us, was the digging implement of the Bronze
Age. Thus food became abundant, and with it a density of population
which, before iron, was possible only in fertile and forestless
regions like the flood areas of Egypt and Mesopotamia. Road making,
too, progressed, and the use of vehicles. As iron furnished the many
with better implements of work, it furnished them also with better
implements of war. An overflowing population and warlike arms for
all--here we have the conditions for migratory conquest. On these
conditions the Celtic migrations were based. The spread of these
conditions to the Germans led to the later Germanic expansion, and
their further spread brought about the Slavonic and Turanian
migrations which drove the Germans down upon the subject peoples of
Rome, peoples whose power of resistance and will to defend themselves
had been already broken by that Roman policy so frankly described by

Just as the universal subjection of science and invention to the
purposes of warfare has reduced Europe to its present condition, so
the universal possession of iron made Europe in the third and fourth
centuries a scene of universal war. Though Ireland was fortunately
untouched by the great migratory movements of the Continent in that
age, these movements reacted on Ireland by weakening the neighbouring
provinces of the Empire.

The raids on Britain and Gaul for booty and captives--raids from
which, as I have argued, the Irish got their new name of Scots--were
followed by Irish settlements on various points of the British coast.
The conquest of eastern Meath or Bregia by the kings of Connacht and
Uisneach forced a part of the population to migrate, and one body of
the migrants settled in Demetia, in the south of Wales. We can safely
place the conquest of Bregia in the second half of the third century,
but it does not follow that the settlement in Wales was made at the
same time, for the story of the Déisi migration makes it appear that
the expelled population remained for many years in Leinster before the
settlement in Munster. There may have been a similar delay before
their kindred crossed over to Wales.

In south-western Britain, there was also an Irish colony, apparently
from Munster and headed by princes of the Eoghanacht dynasty which
displaced the earlier line of the Iverni. Cormac's Glossary mentions
in the Cornish region a stronghold named Dinn Map Lethan. This name, a
mixture of Cymric and Gaelic, means the fortress of the Sons of
Lethan. The Ui Liatháin, or descendants of Liathán, were one of the
principal septs of the Eoghanachta, and their territory adjoined the
Munster coast in the district immediately to the west of the Déisi.

The most noted and most permanent of the Irish settlements in Britain
was that of Argyleshire and the adjoining islands. The kings of Dál
Riada, according to the Annals of Tigernach, did not take up their
abode in that region until far on in the fifth century, A.D. 470.
This, however, does not imply that the Irish migration to Scotland
began at that time. It rather means that the Irish colonies of
Argyleshire and the islands became subject at that time to the kings
of the nearest territory in Ireland. There is no record known to me of
the Irish migration to Galloway, the south-western angle of the
Scottish mainland, a region formerly occupied by the Picts. Though the
Norsemen settled in Galloway in a later age, a glance at the map will
show that the place-names of Galloway are almost as purely Gaelic as
those of any part of Ireland. Gaelic was the prevalent language of
Galloway in the sixteenth century and continued to be spoken there in
the eighteenth century.

These Gaelic settlements on the western seaboard of Britain appeared
to Sir John Rhys to be the remnants of a Gaelic population which, he
thought, preceded the British or Brythonic conquest.

There are stories of the Fiana and even of the heroes of the earlier
Ulster cycle that reflect in tradition those raids on Britain which
are recorded in Latin writings. As we approach the borderland of
documentary history, the evidences are still more definite. The death
of Niall of the Nine Hostages, king of Ireland, is assigned to the
year 404. At the time of his death, he was at the head of an
expedition in the English Channel, and he was slain on board ship by a
Leinster prince. He was succeeded by his brother's son Nath-Í,
commonly called Dathi in later writings. Nath-Í in turn met his death
at the head of an oversea expedition in the year 429. He is said to
have been killed by lightning in the Alps. At this time, the Roman
Empire was making its final struggle in Gaul under Aetius "the last of
the Romans," against the Visigoths who held all the southern parts
from Italy to the Bay of Biscay, and the Franks and Burgundians who
had occupied the parts along the Rhine. It does not seem likely that
an Irish raid, in these circumstances, could reach the Alps, nor can
we well imagine what it could expect to gain by such an inroad. The
Alps are probably a circumstantial ornament to the story, and we may
content ourselves with the main point that this Irish king, three
years before St. Patrick's mission began, led a raiding expedition to
Gaul and met his death there. The story contains an additional proof
that the kings of Ireland, who reigned in Tara in those days,
represented the ancient dynasty of Connacht. The remains of Nath-Í
were brought back to Ireland and laid to rest in the ancient pagan
cemetery of Cruachain, beside the royal burg of the Connacht kings. It
was the old line of the kings of Cruachain that had now become kings
of Ireland seated in Tara. There is another interesting piece of
evidence on this point which did not escape the notice of the late
Father Hogan. Loeguire, son of Niall, succeeded his cousin Nath-Í as
king of Ireland, and was reigning at Tara when St. Patrick began his
missionary work. But it was at Cruachain and not at Tara that St.
Patrick met and baptised the daughters of Loeguire. Tara, in fact, was
the official seat of the monarchy, but Cruachain in Connacht was still
the real home of the kings of Tara.

The condition of Europe at this time, the first half of the fifth
century, is terrible to contemplate, and many must have thought that
the ancient civilisation was at an end. The Roman legions had
abandoned Britain a prey to the Picts, the Scots, and the
north-western Germans. Gaul and Spain were in the hands of the Franks,
Burgundians, Visigoths, Alans, Suevi, and Vandals. Genseric, king of
the Vandals, had overrun the opulent Roman province of Africa, which
never afterwards recovered its ancient prosperity, and the greatest
intellect of the time, St. Augustine, passed away in his episcopal
city while the Vandals were besieging it. Rome itself was twice
captured and sacked, first by the Goths and afterwards by the
Vandals. Attila, the Scourge of God, led immense armies from one end
of Europe to the other, and boasted that where his horse had trodden
the grass grew no more. St. Patrick, in his Confession, relates that
after his escape from captivity in Ireland he and his companions
travelled for thirty days on the Continent through an unpeopled
wilderness. It seems a miracle that hope and courage could have
survived in any mind. Yet the spirit of peace and gentleness and mercy
was stronger than all the violence and blood-thirst of all the
nations. Some have complained that St. Patrick, in his simple
narrative, tells little but his own heart, but his Confession is one
of the great documents of history, and explains to us better than all
the historians how barbarism was tamed and civilisation saved. Imagine
a young lad of tender years, son of a Roman citizen, torn away by
fierce raiders from his parents and people, no doubt amid scenes of
bloodshed and ruin, and sold into slavery among strangers; kept for
years, the despised chattel of a petty chieftain, herding flocks in a
bleak land of bog and forest. Think that the ruling sentiment that
grew out of this pitiful experience was one of boundless love and
devotion towards the people that had done him such terrible wrongs, so
that when he had regained his freedom by flight, in nightly visions he
heard their voices calling him back to them and freely and eagerly
made up his mind to spend himself altogether in their service. It was
this spirit that subdued the ferocity of fierce plundering rulers and
warlike peoples. The Irish ceased from that time to be a predatory
nation. Two centuries later, the king of the Northumbrian Angles
invaded and devastated a part of eastern Ireland. His own subject, the
Venerable Bede, denounces this violence done to "a harmless people who
have never injured the English," and finds a just retribution in the
misfortunes that afterwards befell the king and the Northumbrian

In St. Patrick's time, the headship of Tara was not yet firmly fixed
in the national tradition. He founded various churches in the
neighbourhood of Tara. Tirechan names eight of them. To none of these
he attached the primacy, but to the church he founded close by the
ancient capital of Ulster. The story of this foundation illustrates
another trait of Patrick's character besides his wonderful charity.
The nobleman, Dáire, from whom he asked the land for his church,
refused the site that Patrick wished and gave another instead. He
afterwards presented Patrick with a fine vessel of bronze. Patrick
said simply "Gratias agimus." This curtness displeased the magnate, so
that he sent again and took away the gift. Patrick again said,
"Gratias agimus." Hearing this, Dáire came in person and restored the
vessel to Patrick and said: "Thou must have thy vessel of bronze, for
thou art a steadfast and unchangeable man. And moreover that piece of
land for which thou once didst ask me, I give to thee with all my
rights in it, and dwell thou in it." And that, says the ancient life,
is the city which now is named Armagh.


In our early literature there are many traces of an abiding tradition
that already before St. Patrick's mission there were Christians and
small Christian communities here and there in Ireland. Some of the
statements, especially as to the founders of certain sees, have been
discredited, being imputed to a desire to make out that these sees,
alleged to have been founded before St. Patrick's time, were therefore
independent of the jurisdiction and claims of Armagh, especially of
the temporal claims for revenue. It was claimed in particular for St.
Ailbhe and St. Iubhar, of the see of Emly, St. Declan of Ardmore, and
St. Ciarán of Saighir that they were already bishops in St. Patrick's
time. These things are stated in documents in which other things are
said that cannot be reconciled with historical fact. The date of St.
Iubhar's death, according to the Annals of Ulster, was 500, 501, or
504; of St. Ailbhe's, 534, or 542; and SS. Ciarán and Declan are both
said to have lived into the sixth century. Saint Iubhar appears to
have been the earliest of them and there is evidence that he received
episcopal consecration at the hands of St. Patrick. The case, however,
does not rest wholly or mainly on such unstable premises.

The genealogists of Corcu Loegdae, or Dáirine, claim that the people
of that state were the first in Ireland to receive Christianity; and
the claim at all events cannot be dismissed on the ground of
improbability. The diocese of Ross appears to represent the extent of
this little state in the twelfth century, but in earlier times its
territory covered a much larger area. Dwelling around several good
havens, which were most favourably situated in relation to the old
Atlantic trade route, the people were always a sea-going people. We
read of an O'Driscoll at the head of his fleet attacking the English
of Waterford. One of their chiefs takes his distinctive byname from
Gascony, another from Bordeaux. Thomas Davis's spirited ballad on the
Sack of Baltimore brings home to our minds how direct hostile
relations could exist between this region and the Mediterranean; and
where such hostile relations were possible, trade relations may be
taken as normal. It is by no means unlikely, then, that where the
Crescent could come on pirate galleys from Algiers, the Cross might
well have come in some early merchant ship from the Loire or the

St. Patrick himself, in his Confession, seems to testify by
implication to the existence not merely of individual Christians but
of Christian communities with their clergy in and before his time in
Ireland. "For your sake," he writes, "I have faced many dangers, going
even to the limits of the land where no one was before me, and whither
no one had yet come to baptise or ordain clergy or confirm the
faithful." This surely implies that there were places in Ireland, not
in the remoter parts, places where some had come before Patrick and
had performed the purely episcopal functions of ordination and

More definite still is the evidence of Prosper's Chronicle--direct
testimony, for the chronicler was in Rome at the time. Under the year
431, the chronicle has this entry: "To the Scots believing in Christ,
having been ordained by Pope Celestine, Palladius is sent as first
bishop." The natural interpretation of this statement, I think, is
that some Irish Christians sent a request to Rome to have a bishop
sent to them. The mission was considered an important one, for
Palladius, before his consecration as bishop, held a high
ecclesiastical office at Rome. He had also interested himself in the
religious concerns of Britain, having induced Pope Celestine two years
earlier to send a special mission to Britain to counteract the
teachings of a Pelagian bishop. In another work, St. Prosper refers to
these two missions together. Pope Celestine, he writes, "while he
laboured to keep the Roman island (_i.e._ Britain) Catholic, also, by
ordaining a bishop for the Scots, made the barbarous island
Christian"--barbarous meaning external to the Roman Empire. Even this
does not necessarily imply that before Palladius there were no bishops
in Ireland, but it does imply that these particular "Irish believing
in Christ," to whom Palladius was sent, had no bishop in communion
with Rome.

Pelagius, the author of the Pelagian heresy, was, according to St.
Jerome, a man "of the Irish nation, from the vicinity of the Britons,"
and St. Jerome again, in his vigorous style, speaks of Pelagius as one
"swelled out with the porridge of the Irish." Other contemporary
witnesses say that Pelagius was a Briton. This leaves us in doubt,
for, on the one hand, these may have applied the term Briton to anyone
from any part of the Pretanic islands, and on the other hand, St.
Jerome's language about Pelagius is the language of rhetorical
depreciation, and from what I have quoted from him in the foregoing
lecture, we may perhaps judge that by calling Pelagius a Scot, he
thought the more effectually to discredit him. The known career of
Pelagius lies between the years 398 and 418. One thing comes out
clearly enough from the contemptuous phrase--the Irish were known
abroad in St. Jerome's time as eaters of porridge.

The late Professor Zimmer, finding a somewhat obscure early reference
to the flight of learned people from Gaul during the Gothic and
Frankish invasions and to their finding a place of refuge in another
country, founded on this an interesting theory regarding the early
stages of Christianity and letters in Ireland. It was in Ireland, he
contends, that the refugees found a home, for Ireland was the only
land in Western Europe that escaped the Germanic invasions. To Ireland
they brought with them a certain devotion to the ancient literatures
of Greece and Rome. The limits of date for this learned migration,
according to Zimmer, are the years 419 and 507, and he holds that it
actually took place about midway between those dates, _i.e._, about
the middle of the fifth century.

To make this theory of a learned migration from Western Gaul to
Ireland more easily accepted, Zimmer gives a valuable collection of
facts in historical evidence, showing that there was a regular course
of trade between the two countries at this time and for centuries
before and after it.

Zimmer applies his theory to the explanation of certain remarkable
facts. In the first place, he explains by it the pre-eminence in the
knowledge of Latin and Greek that belonged in the following age to
Irishmen and the pupils of Irishmen. Secondly, he explains by it the
reference made by St. Patrick in his Confession to certain critics who
despised his rusticity, _i.e._, his want of a classical grounding in
Latin. St. Patrick calls these critics "rhetoricians," a term which
certainly seems to imply that they belonged to a professional academic
set. Zimmer thinks that these "rhetoricians" were some of the learned
refugees from Western Gaul. A third fact which Zimmer explains by his
migration theory is the fondness of the early Irish poets and
grammarians for certain artificial super-refinements of language and
grammar, and in particular for the production of a learned jargon in
Irish by making deliberate changes in the form of words, substituting
one letter for another, and adding, transforming or removing letters
or syllables. This trait, he argues, was adopted from a certain
learned school of Aquitaine, who played similar tricks with Latin, and
produced by such means not one but a dozen Latin jargons; and Zimmer
goes so far as to insist that the supposed Irish poet-grammarian who
is named "Fercertne the Poet" was actually and personally identical
with one of the chief exponents of this artificial Latinity, Virgilius

The difficulties I find in accepting this theory of Zimmer are chiefly
two. The first is that Zimmer, when he set out to establish a novel
theory, was quite as ingenious in weaving an argument as Virgilius
Grammaticus could be in concocting a Latin jargon. My second
difficulty is that, if such a school of foreign Latinists existed in
Ireland in St. Patrick's time, I cannot understand why neither the
school itself nor any individual belonging to it is mentioned in any
Irish document. St. Patrick does not say that his critics lived in

On the other hand, in a passage which Zimmer has not noted, there is
reference to a high degree of Christian learning in Ireland possibly
as early as St. Patrick's time. It is in a letter on the Paschal
controversy written by St. Columbanus of Bobbio within the years 595
to 600. It may be remarked that St. Columbanus writes in a remarkably
pure Latin style, founded on good sound Latin teaching, and in no way
reflecting the ingenuities and puerilities of the Aquitanian school.
He is speaking expressly in this letter about the chronological system
devised by Victorius of Aquitaine, who flourished in the middle of the
fifth century. "Victorius," he writes, "was regarded with indulgence,
not to say contempt, by our masters and by the ancient Irish
philosophers." Here, in the last years of the sixth century, we find
an Irishman placing a higher value on the Christian learning of
"ancient Irish philosophers" than on that of a noted Aquitanian

I do not propose here to deal with the life and work of St. Patrick.
Let me escape with the apology made by the writer of the Irish
Nennius: "It would be carrying water to a lake, to relate the wonders
of Patrick to the Men of Ireland."

Let the beginnings of letters and literature in Ireland now occupy our
attention. Cæsar's testimony will be remembered in regard of the Celts
in Gaul: "They make use of Greek letters in almost all their affairs,
both public and private." This use of the Greek alphabet is
corroborated by the fact that the oldest Celtic inscriptions in Gaul
are in Greek characters. The accompanying sculptures also demonstrate
Greek influence. This influence radiated, no doubt, from the early
Greek colony of Massilia or Massalia (Marseille) and its daughter
colonies along the Mediterranean coast. It extended as far as to the
Helvetii in the modern Switzerland, among whose spoils Cæsar captured
a census of the entire people written out in Greek characters. On the
other hand, the Cisalpine Gauls in Northern Italy used the Etruscan
alphabet, from which the Roman alphabet was also in part derived, and
a number of their inscriptions in the Etruscan characters have been

We can trace no such early use of the alphabet in Britain or Ireland.
The earliest known use of letters in Britain appears to be in the
coinage of the sons of Commius.

Tacitus has told us that the states of Britain were governed, not by
kings, but by nobles and factions--just as Rome was governed in the
later centuries of the Republic. In Gaul also there were no kings. It
is interesting to examine how, in the period between the temporary
invasions of Britain by Julius Cæsar and the permanent Roman conquest
of southern Britain about a century later, a people of the southern
seaboard happen to have kings, and these kings happen to have a
coinage inscribed after the Roman fashion.

One of the Belgic States that had an offshoot in Britain was that of
the Atrebates close to the Straits of Dover. The town of Arras
preserves their name. In Britain, they were settled in the valley of
the Thames and their chief place was Calleva, now Silchester in the
north of Hampshire. Cæsar took a special interest in the Atrebates,
perhaps for the two reasons, that their territory was so near to
Britain and that a part of their people were settled in Britain. In
the early and insecure stages of his conquest of Gaul, he did not find
it practicable to establish at once the Roman form of government.
Instead he adopted a device which had already succeeded in the case of
the Galatian republic in Asia. The Romans changed Galatia into a
monarchy under a Galatian king Deiotaros, believing that they would
secure their own authority more effectually by making one of the
Galatians, so to speak, their chief policeman. A son and grandson of
Deiotaros succeeded him as kings, and after these Augustus abolished
this appearance of autonomy and made Galatia a Roman province under
Roman governors. Cæsar, having overcome the resistance of the
Atrebates on the Continent, appointed one of themselves, Commius, a
noble of great influence, to be their king. Commius, he tells us, was
a man both courageous and politic, and he considered him loyal. He
afterwards used Commius as his intermediary in treating with the
Britons, and through him received the submission of Cassivellaunus,
whom the Britons had chosen to command their forces. After this
service, Cæsar freed Commius from tribute, restored the rights and
laws of his people and gave him sovereignty also over the Morini, a
neighbouring state on the Belgic seaboard. In the sixth year of
Cæsar's command, B.C. 53, a wide revolt of the Gallic states took
place, and this time Commius took the side of his fellow-countrymen
and was one of the four chiefs to whom they committed the principal
charge of the war. In the suppression of the revolt, Commius was one
of the last to hold out. He called in the help of the Germans, and
when all failed, he took refuge among the Germans. Hirtius, the
continuator of Cæsar's narrative, relates how Labienus, one of Cæsar's
generals, considered that, in view of the disloyalty of Commius and
his entering into conspiracy to revolt, it would be no perfidy to have
him done away. Accordingly he sent one Volusenus to him in the guise
of an envoy but with private instructions to have Commius murdered.
The plot failed, and Commius declared that he would never again
consent to speak to any Roman. He continued the war, and had the
satisfaction of once meeting and wounding the treacherous envoy
Volusenus in single combat. At last he was forced to submit upon terms
and to give hostages, but even in his submission he made it a
condition that he would not be required to hold direct intercourse
with any Roman. He seems to have taken refuge finally in Britain.

Under the rule of Commius over the Atrebates, coins were struck
bearing his name in its Celtic spelling Commios, but in Roman
lettering, probably about the earliest examples of the use of the
Roman alphabet in northern Gaul. Three of his sons appear to have
reigned as kings in southern Britain, where, as already said, a colony
of their people the Atrebates was settled. Their names, Tincius (or
Tincommius), Eppillus, and Verica or Virica, are on numerous coins
found in the south-east and middle south of England. One of these
coins bears the name of Calleva, chief place of the Atrebates in
Britain, now Silchester. The coins are inscribed with Roman letters,
the name of Eppillus has already exchanged a Celtic for a Latin ending
in the nominative, and the letters R and F, abbreviations for the
Latin _rex_ and _filius_, appear on most of the coins. In this way the
Latin alphabet found a foothold in Britain about the beginning of the
Christian era.

No use of letters nearly so early can be traced in Ireland. When Irish
traditions began to be written, the Ogham alphabet was thought to be
of remote antiquity, its invention being ascribed to the eponymous god
Ogma. This god is apparently identical with the Gaulish Ogmios, a god
of eloquence, about whom there is a remarkable passage in the Greek
writer Lucian. In the story of Táin Bó Cuailngi, Cú Chulainn cuts a
message in Ogham on a branch and sets it up in the middle of a ford
for his approaching enemies to read. Nevertheless, I think that the
use of Ogham characters cannot be quite as old as the Cú Chulainn
period. I see two reasons for thinking so. The first is that the Ogham
alphabet is based on the Latin alphabet. The second is that, if the
Irish god Ogma mac Eladan ("son of science") is to be identified in
any way with the Gaulish Ogmios, god of eloquence,--and it seems
impossible to dissociate them--then the name of the god must have come
into the Irish language at a very late date before the use of writing.
Philologists tell us that, when _g_ was followed by _m_ in the early
unrecorded stage of the Irish language, _g_ disappeared, and the
preceding vowel, if short, was lengthened "by compensation," as it is
called. Accordingly, an ancient name _Ogmios_ would be represented in
early MS. Irish by _Óme_ not _Ogme_, and in later Irish by _Uama_ or
_Uaime_ not _Oghma_.

At first sight, it may appear too much to say that the Ogham alphabet
was founded on the Latin alphabet. Why, let us ask, might it not have
been a quite independent invention? A little reflection will convince
us that it could not have been an independent invention. There is no
limit, practically, to the possible varieties of alphabet, _i.e._, of
graved or written symbols used to represent words. There are pictorial
systems, and derived from these the so-called hieroglyphics, systems
in which every word has a distinct syllable, systems in which each
character stands for a symbol, systems in which no vowels are written,
and systems which have distinct symbols for vowels and consonants. To
the last class belong the Greek and Latin alphabets. There are systems
in which the long and short vowels are distinguished, for example, in
Pitman's shorthand alphabet; and this is partly the case in the Greek
alphabet. The Ogham alphabet belongs to the class in which there are
distinct symbols for vowels and consonants. All its consonants but one
are found in the Latin alphabet. Except for this one, representing the
sound of _ng_ in _song_ or _sing_, it is content with the Latin
consonants, though each of them has to express two very distinct
sounds in Irish, the mute or stop sound and the spirant or "aspirate"
as it is popularly called. Lastly, it has the five Latin vowels,
without distinction of long or short. Hence its Latin origin is hardly
open to question. Until Cæsar's time, the Greek, not the Latin,
alphabet was in use among the Gauls, the nearest people to Ireland by
whom writing was then used. The Ogham alphabet and the Latin alphabet
differ, generally speaking, in the same respects from the Greek
alphabet. The latter therefore cannot have furnished the Irish model.
The conclusion is that the Ogham alphabet, based on the Latin, was
devised at some time later than the introduction of the Latin alphabet
into neighbouring countries, that is to say, about the beginning of
the Christian era or some what later. It was suitable only to the
purposes for which it is known or related to have been used, _i.e._,
for brief inscriptions or brief messages or statements. It was not
suitable for the ordinary expression of written thought, for
literature in the wide sense.

The range of the use of Ogham in inscriptions outside of Ireland
corresponds to the range of Irish settlements and of Irish influence,
at the time of the collapse of the Western Empire. In general the
range is that of the Irish language at the time, but a number of Ogham
inscriptions are also found in parts of Scotland which at that time
were inhabited and ruled by the Picts. Apart from the Pictish
instances, the farthest outlying Ogham that has been discovered is
curiously enough found at Silchester, the ancient Calleva, the capital
of the Atrebates in Britain, and the place in which the coins of the
sons of Commius were struck, the coins that exhibit the earliest known
use of the Roman alphabet or of any alphabet in Britain.

The dating of the extant Ogham inscriptions is a matter of very great
difficulty, and the more closely I have attempted to examine them, the
greater the difficulty has become. I shall only say that the latest
forms of Irish names that they contain appear to be about identical in
their stage of phonetic change with the earliest forms found in Irish
writers, for example in the Life of St. Columba by Adamnanus who
quotes from older documents--probably forms of the latter part of the
sixth century. The weight of evidence, in my opinion, goes to show
that the cult of the Ogham inscriptions was mainly associated with

The manuscript literature of Irish does not come in a line of
continuity from the Ogham writing. The system of spelling in the
oldest specimens of MS. Irish has its basis in a British pronunciation
of Latin--that is, in Latin modified and changed as a spoken language
among the Britons during the centuries of the Roman occupation. One of
the tasks incidental to the work of St. Patrick and his helpers in
missionary work in Ireland was to give lessons in Latin to those who
were to be the future clergy of the country. Thus we read again and
again that St. Patrick wrote an alphabet for this and that
convert--alphabet in this case meaning a primer or possibly a book of
psalms--at all events a set of lessons in Latin. It is easy to show
that a similar pronunciation of Latin prevailed in the early Christian
schools of Ireland and in Britain at the same time; that this
pronunciation differed systematically from the Italian pronunciation;
that the differences represent changes which had taken place also in
the British language, though not in Irish; and that the orthography of
Old and Middle Welsh and also of Old and Middle Irish was moulded by
this modified British pronunciation of Latin. The peculiarities of
spelling produced in this way do not appear at all in the Ogham
inscriptions; and on the other hand, there are peculiarities in the
orthographic system of the Ogham inscriptions which leave no trace in
Irish MS. writing. The oldest Irish grammarians speak of the Ogham
method of writing as the Irish method and of the MS. method as the
Latin method; and they report current sayings which show that among
the early Irish Christians the use of the Irish method was regarded as
profane and even tainted with impiety--meaning, beyond doubt, that it
was closely associated in their minds with heathenism. On the other
hand the earliest specimens of written Irish are distinctively
Christian. The oldest known piece of Irish MS. writing is, or was
until recently, preserved in Cambrai and is ascribed to the seventh
century--but pieces as old or older exist in various transcripts.

In a paper on the Annals of Tigernach, I have shown that a chronicle
of the world, written in continuation of the Chronicle of Eusebius,
Jerome, and Prosper, and embodying a skeleton of Irish history, was
brought to conclusion in Ireland in the year 609. From certain
indications this chronicle would appear to have been commenced in the
closing years of the sixth century--say between 590 and 600. Part of
this chronicle is embodied in the Annals of Tigernach and in the
Annals of Ulster, and extracts from it in the Annals of Innisfallen.
What survives of it with relation to Ireland is the oldest known
history of Ireland. From its manner of dealing with Irish affairs, I
think we must conclude that even before its time, a certain body of
Irish heroic literature existed in MS. and consequently that the
writing of this literature had already begun in the course of the
sixth century. There are other evidences that during the sixth century
a blending of the old heathen lore and learned tradition with the new
Christian learning was taking place--the native schools of poets,
originally druids, becoming Christian and adopting the apparatus of
Christian learning. St. Columba, we are told, had a poet named Gemmán
for tutor, and we may be quite certain that the friendship which
Columba is said to have shown to the poets as a body in the Assembly
of Druim Ceata in 575 was not extended to a class which he associated
with heathenism.

Nevertheless, a good deal of specifically heathen practice and
teaching was preserved, more or less covertly, among the secular poets
of Ireland for centuries after St. Columba's time.

In the seventh century, writing in Irish appears to become very
common, but Adamnanus, about the beginning of the eighth century,
writing from the standpoint of Latin and Christian learning, still
speaks of his native tongue in depreciation. This sentiment did not
extend to the Irish secular school of _literati_. An old grammar of
Irish, dating in part from the seventh century, speaks of Irish as a
"choice language," and proclaims its superiority over other languages.
In the seventh century, too, new metrical forms in Irish poetry, based
on Latin hymns, make their appearance, and afterwards develop into a
varied and elaborate system of metric.

Let us now return to the political side of Irish history. I have
endeavoured to trace the stages by which the Pentarchy of the old
heroic tales became broken up and transformed into a quite different
state of things when the early Christian period is reached. The chief
agencies in this transformation were the extension of the power of the
Connacht dynasty and its branches over northern Ireland, and the rise
of the Eoghanacht dynasty in southern Ireland, with its seat at
Cashel. The growth in power of the two ascendant dynasties, those of
Tara and Cashel, is marked by a sort of colonising process. Offshoots
from each dynasty are planted in authority over petty kingdoms,
displacing or rather depressing the rulers previously in possession.

Something similar took place in later times under the Feudal system.
In virtue of the supposed Donation of Constantine, now long recognised
to have been fabulous, but accepted as genuine in the Middle Ages, the
Popes claimed temporal dominion over all the islands of the ocean. In
exercise of this temporal claim, Adrian IV conferred the lordship of
Ireland on Henry of Anjou. But in virtue of the same supposed right,
Adrian had already an immediate feudatory for Ireland in the person of
the king of Ireland--Ruaidhri. Henry thus took the place of a "mean
lord" or intermediate feudatory between the existing lord and the
overlord. Henry himself repeated this process. He granted the lordship
of Ireland to his son John, and this grant was confirmed by the Pope
then reigning, Alexander III. Sir John Gilbert has pointed out that,
had the issue of John's elder brothers survived, John would not have
become king, and the lordship of Ireland would have been separate from
and independent of the Crown of England, and subject only to the
feudal overlordship of the Pope while it lasted. The result of
granting the lordship of Ireland to Henry II was that the existing
possessor was depressed in rank, not dispossessed--this apart from the
cession of rights which Ruaidhri made to Henry by the short-lived
Treaty of Windsor.

An almost identical process was a staple part of the policy of Irish
kings from the beginning of the fourth century until the middle of the
sixteenth. Such lordships can be shown to have been created either by
Shane O'Neill or his father Conn, acting as king of Ulster. During the
whole intervening period, we can trace the same process, the creation
of mean lords, in every part of Ireland under Irish kings. In most
cases the new lord was a member of the king's family, a brother, a
son, or other near relative. A number of very clear and noteworthy
instances of this exercise of royal dominion by Irish kings took place
in consequence of the Norman conquest.

Events of this kind are not recorded in the Irish annals, except in a
few instances when the exercise of power was somewhat abnormal. Since
we have now reached a point at which the annals begin to figure as
chief witnesses, some notice of the general character of the annals
will be in place. At first sight, the pages of our native chronicles
appear as a sort of trackless morass to the inquirer after Irish
history. The reason is this--the chroniclers hardly ever tell us
anything that an Irish reader of their times could be expected to know
as a matter of course. They say almost nothing about institutions or
about anything that is normal. Just as they record earthquakes,
comets, eclipses, excessive frosts or floods or droughts, but say
nothing about the normal course of the stars or the seasons, so, in
regard of human affairs, they are silent about all that is regular or
institutional, about matters of common knowledge in their time, and
they are silent also, as a rule, about the institutional aspect, so to
speak, of events which they relate. We are told, for example, that a
certain king puts a prince of his own house to death--and that is all.
From some subsidiary document we may learn that the act was a judicial
act, done after trial and sentence. Or we are told that a certain king
leads his forces against another king and how the battle went--but we
have to consult some other source to find that the action was taken in
consequence of the refusal to pay tribute according to ancient claim
and precedent.

Among the subsidiary material which helps to explain the annals, and
to give their events a place in historical sequence, the genealogies
have the highest importance. In particular, they throw a great deal of
light on the process above-mentioned, the extension of the power of
dynastic families by the creation of lordships over the head of
existing feudatories--to use a borrowed term.

An early instance of the process in question is found in an account
quoted by O'Donovan from a MS. life of St. Greallán. Maine, he tells
us, from whom the sept of Ui Maine took its name and descent, was
settled in the territory of Ui Maine by a king of Connacht in the
fifth century, dispossessing the "Firbolg" king of that district.
(This instance, by the way, further exemplifies the unity still
subsisting at that time between the different branches of the Connacht
dynasty. Maine, to whom a kingdom in Connacht was thus granted by the
king of Connacht, belonged to the Oriel branch of the royal house, a
branch which had settled in Ulster early in the preceding century.)
When O'Donovan, or the narrative which he quotes, says that the
dispossessed king was of the Fir Bolg stock, he uses the term Fir Bolg
in its late and wide application. The older possessors of the
territory were Picts. Moreover, they were depressed rather than
dispossessed, for the descendants of the ancient rulers continued to
dwell as subordinate chiefs in their old territory. The family of Ó
Mainnín, called Manning in English, is one of those descended from the
ancient Pictish rulers of this district, which comprised the southern
part of County Roscommon and the south-eastern part of County Galway.
Still earlier appropriations of this kind can be traced to the time of
Niall of the Nine Hostages, his brothers and sons. The old territory
of the Fir Domhnann in northern Connacht became Tír Fiachrach,
"Fiachra's Land," being appropriated to Fiachra, brother of Niall, and
his descendants. Another branch of Fiachra's sept become possessors of
the kingdom of Aidhne, lying between Galway Bay and the old Pictish
territory before-mentioned. From Brión or Brian, another brother of
Niall, is named Tír Briúin or Brión's Land, extending over parts of
the counties Roscommon, Leitrim and Cavan. Brion's sept, the Ui Briúin
also obtained a territory in the district of Tuam and another
territory called Umhall, around Clew Bay. From a third brother of
Niall named Ailill is named Tír Ailello, "Ailill's Land," represented
by the barony of Tirerrill in Co. Sligo. In like manner, various
territories were appropriated to sons of Niall of the Nine Hostages.
The western part of Ulster, which was not brought under conquest by
the settlement of the Airghialla, and which is now represented by
Donegal county, was partitioned among three sons of Niall, Conall,
Énda, and Eoghan, and bore afterwards their names Tír Conaill,
"Conall's Land"; Tír Énda, "Enda's Land"; and Tír Eoghain, "Eoghan's
Land." It should be noted that the original Tír Eoghain was the
peninsula now called Inis Eoghain. The country now called Tyrone was
then a part of Oriel. This settlement of the sons of Niall in western
Ulster was, however, rather by way of conquest than of grant. No
element of conquest enters into the settlements of the other sons of
Niall or of the septs descended from them.

Cairbre, or his sept, for we have no record by which the grant can be
dated, obtained that territory in the north-eastern corner of
Connacht, bordering on Ulster, which still retains his name in that of
the barony of Carbury in Co. Sligo. A second territory appropriated to
Cairbre or his sept was around Granard in Co. Longford. A third was on
the Leinster border, and it still preserves the name in that of the
barony of Carbury in the north of Co. Kildare.

Loeguire, son of Niall, who became king of Ireland, obtained, or his
near descendants obtained, a territory on the Connacht side of Loch
Erne, another in Westmeath, another in East Meath or Bregia. Maine,
son of Niall, obtained a territory on the east side of the Shannon;
Fiachu, son of Niall, a territory in Westmeath; Ardgal, a grandson of
Niall, a territory in East Meath.

It seems quite clear that no appropriations of this kind took place
before the time of Niall, the close of the fourth century. Had there
been earlier appropriations in Connacht or Meath, then there must have
been royal septs, offshoots of the Connacht-Meath dynasty, in
possession of the appropriated territories and claiming descent from
earlier kings of Connacht or Meath. Nor was this claim of descent
likely to be forgotten, for, as the Book of Rights shows, in each of
the principal group-kingdoms, the kings whose kinship to the principal
dynasty was acknowledged, were free of tribute to the principal king.
The Book of Rights shows that, except the descendants of Niall and of
his brothers, all the petty kingdoms of Connacht and Meath were
tributary to the over-kings; and the genealogies show that the ruling
families of the tributary kingdoms were as a rule of quite distinct
lineage from that of the over-kings. The natural inference from these
facts is that this process of superimposing new lords of the dominant
dynastic blood over old rulers of a different lineage begins in the
time of Niall of the Nine Hostages, about A.D. 400.

Some of the petty dynasties thus created were themselves in later
times subjected to the same process and reduced to a lower degree.
Thus when the O'Conor family, which was itself a branch of the sept of
Brión above-mentioned, acquired exclusive succession to the kingdom of
Connacht, one of its branches, bearing the distinctive name of
O'Conchubhair Ruadh, obtained the lordship of Cairbre in north-eastern
Connacht, over the heads of the ancient lords descended from Cairbre
son of Niall. In like manner, Ailill's land, Tirerrill, after having
been ruled for centuries by his descendants, passed under the lordship
of the families of MacDonnchadha and MacDiarmada, descendants of his
brother Brión, whose line held the kingship of all Connacht. The sept
of Ailill, reduced in degree, gradually passes into obscurity. About
the thirteenth century, even the genealogists cease to be interested
in them; and in the seventeenth century, the last genealogist of the
old school, Dubhaltach Mac Fir-Bhisigh, says that those who then
remained of Ailill's race are no longer reckoned among the nobles of
the territory. Let me repeat that, with the help of the genealogies,
it is possible to trace this process at work in various parts of
Ireland from the fifth century until the abolition of Irish law in the
sixteenth century. I shall have to recur to these facts when I come to
deal with the so-called "clan-system" or "tribal system," convenient
terms with which some modern writers contrive to fill up the vacuum
of their knowledge in regard to the general political condition of
ancient and medieval Ireland.

Breifne, under the rule of Brión's sept, was regarded as permanently
annexed to Connacht. In its early extent Breifne comprised about the
northern half of Co. Leitrim and the western half of Co. Cavan; these
territories having been annexed from the ancient Ulster. In later
times, when the O'Ruairc and O'Raghallaigh chiefs extended their
power, Breifne comprised the whole of the present counties of Leitrim
and Cavan.

The territories of the sons of Niall were separated by Breifne and
Oriel into two groups, a north-western group and a Meath group. The
north-western group of Niall's descendants are called the Northern Ui
Néill, the Meath group the Southern Ui Néill. One frequently meets
with the error of supposing Ui Néill to mean the Ó'Néills--I find it
in a paper of Zimmer's published after his death. It is true that Ui
Néill, as a matter of grammar, is the plural of Ó'Néill, but it is not
the plural of the surname Ó'Néill in Irish usage. The sept-names with
Ui prefixed belong to an earlier age than surnames like O'Neill. The
surname O'Neill belongs to the descendants of Niall Glúndubh, king of
Ireland, who was reigning a thousand years ago. The sept-name Ui Néill
includes all the descendants in the male line of Niall of the Nine
Hostages who reigned 500 years earlier.

The chief king of the Northern Ui Néill was called king of Aileach,
from the prehistoric stone fortress of Aileach near Derry, which was
occupied by kings of that line as late as the tenth century. They are
sometimes called kings of the Fochla, _fochla_ being an old Irish word
meaning the North. Their territory in the fifth century comprised the
county of Donegal and possibly also Cairbre's country, the northern
limb of Co. Sligo.

The eastern side of Ulster nominally constituted another chief
kingdom, which was regarded as the remnant of the ancient Ulster, and
so is sometimes called by chroniclers "the Fifth" or "Conchubhar's
Fifth." It seems, however, to have consisted of four practically
independent kingdoms, no one of which held any permanent authority
over the others. These were Dál Riada in the North-East, on the Antrim
seaboard; Ulaidh, on the Down seaboard--retaining the name of the
ancient dominant people of Ulster; Dál Araidhe, at the head of a
Pictish people, occupying the inland parts of Down and Antrim and also
the Derry side of the Bann valley from Loch Neagh northward to the
sea; and Conaille, likewise a Pictish kingdom, in the north of Co.

The remainder of Ulster, excluding Breifne, the kingdom of Aileach,
and the eastern group, formed the kingdom of Airghialla or "Oriel." It
should be borne in mind that this ancient Oriel of the fifth century
extended northward to the mouth of Loch Foyle, and included the
present Tyrone and most of Co. Derry, which were afterwards annexed to
the kingdom of Aileach.

The territories of the Southern Ui Néill lay in the counties of
Meath, Westmeath, Longford, King's County, and Kildare; they were not
continuous, being merely appropriated portions of the kingdom of Tara.

Connacht extended eastward to the Erne and its lakes and to Loch Ramor
in Co. Cavan.

Munster comprised its present extent and also the two southern
baronies of King's County.

The northern boundary of Leinster ran by the Liffey, its tributary the
Rye, south of the barony of Carbury in Co. Kildare, and included part
of King's County bordering on Queen's County and Kildare.

There were then seven chief kingdoms in Ireland, each of them
containing a number of minor kingdoms. The seven chief kingdoms were
(1) the kingdom of Tara, the midlands east of the Shannon; (2) the
kingdom of Leinster; (3) the kingdom of Cashel or of Munster; (4) the
kingdom of Cruachain or of Connacht; (5) the kingdom of Aileach, the
Fochla, or the Northern Ui Néill; (6) the kingdom of Ulaidh or the
lesser Ulster; (7) the kingdom of Oriel.

In Munster, a sort of partitioning or appropriation was effected by
the ruling Eoghanacht dynasty, similar to what has been described as
taking place in Connacht and Meath. At the head of all was the
Eoghanacht of Cashel. Cashel was surrounded by a zone of tributary
States, whose rulers were not of the Eoghanacht lineage. Westward of
these was a belt of Eoghanacht States extending across Munster from
the Shannon to the southern coast. These comprised the Ui Fidhgheinte
in County Limerick, the Eoghanacht of Aine, in the middle, and the Ui
Liatháin to the south in parts of Cork and Waterford counties. There
was another Eoghanacht kingdom in the region of Bandon. Finally there
was the Eoghanacht of Loch Léin in the region of Killarney, called
also the Eoghanacht of West Munster. I have already shown reason to
think that the Eoghanachta represented a relatively late immigration
from Gaul; that their original settlement was probably in the west of
County Waterford; and that their conquest of south-western Leinster
and occupation of Cashel may have taken place about the beginning of
the fifth century. I have no means of fixing the date of their
occupation of other parts of Munster, but these settlements are not
likely to have been later than the fifth century.

In like manner, we find located in various parts of Leinster the septs
that branch out from the royal line. I shall not cumber your attention
with the details, which can be found in O'Donovan's notes to the Book
of Rights. A much larger proportion of Leinster was appropriated in
this way than of any of the other chief kingdoms, except Oriel. Oriel,
being the main part of Ulster conquered by the Connacht-Meath princes
in the fourth century, was treated entirely as a land of conquest, no
portion of it remaining under the rule of its earlier dynasts.

In the case of Leinster, the relative lateness of these appropriations
is proved by one fact. The septs that became possessed of territories
in this way all belonged to the old ruling house of South Leinster,
but the territories appropriated to them are very largely situate
within the bounds of the old kingdom of North Leinster. Hence the
resettlement of these territories took place after the extinction of
the North Leinster kingdom and the unification of what remained under
the South Leinster dynasty. This shows that the process belongs to the
same period in Leinster as in Connacht, and Meath, and Munster.

Though the annexation of Tara and Bregia was a fully accomplished fact
long before St. Patrick's time, and though in his time the monarchy of
Connacht origin was securely seated in Tara, the annals, whose details
of history begin with St. Patrick, show that the claim to their
northern territories was not yet relinquished by the Leinstermen. Time
after time they invaded the lost land, and battle after battle was
fought by them on its borders and even far within its borders. This
continued struggle to recover possession is perhaps most clearly seen
in a list of the battles from the year 432 onward--before that year we
have no details.

    A.D. 452. A great slaughter of the Leinstermen.

    A.D. 453. The Leinstermen defeated in battle by Loeguire
        son of Niall [_i.e._ by the King of Tara].

    A.D. 458. The battle of Áth Dara. Loeguire, king of Tara,
        is defeated by the Leinstermen and taken prisoner.

    A.D. 464. Leinstermen win the battle of Ard Corann.

    A.D. 473. Ailill Molt defeats the Leinstermen at Brí Éile.
        Ailill was king of Tara at this time. Brí Éile was in the
        kingdom of Meath.

    A.D. 474. The Leinstermen defeat Ailill Molt at Dumha

    A.D. 486. Battle of Granard. Finchath, a Leinster king,
        was defeated and slain. The sept of Cairbre, son of
        Niall of the Nine Hostages, was victorious. This sept
        held territory around Granard, and they were therefore
        resisting invasion by the Leinster king.

    A.D. 487. Battle of Gráine in Kildare. Muirchertach, king of
        the Northern Ui Néill, defeats the Leinstermen.

    A.D. 494. Battle of Tailltiu (=Teltown, near Navan). The
        Leinstermen are defeated by the sept of Cairbre, son of

    A.D. 498. Battle of Inne Mór in Kildare. Leinstermen defeated
        by Muirchertach, king of the Northern Ui Néill.

    A.D. 499. Battle of Slemain, in Westmeath. Leinstermen
        defeated by the sept of Cairbre, son of Niall.

    A.D. 501. Battle of Cenn Ailbe in Kildare. Leinstermen
        defeated by the sept of Cairbre.

    A.D. 503. Battle of Druim Lochmhuidhe. The Ui Néill
        defeated by the Leinstermen.

    A.D. 510. Battle of Fremu, in Westmeath. The Leinstermen
        are victorious over the sept of Fiacha, son of Niall.

    A.D. 517. Battle of Druim Derge. The Leinstermen are
        defeated by the sept of Fiacha. This was regarded
        as the final and decisive battle, which forced the Leinstermen
        to relinquish their attempts to recover the lost
        territory in Meath. "By it the plain of Meath was lost
        and won," says the poet-historian Cenn Faelad in the
        following century.

Thus we see that the Leinstermen maintained a prolonged struggle to
recover possession of the midland country that belonged to them under
the Pentarchy when a Leinster king reigned in Tara. There are no
recorded particulars of this struggle before the year 452, but from
that date onward, during two-thirds of a century, fourteen battles
were fought on one side or other of the border. In four of these
battles, the Leinstermen were victorious. The septs of Cairbre and
Fiacha, which appear so prominently in the defence of the conquered
territory, were among those descendants of Niall who were settled in
the lordship of lands in Meath. One Leinster dynastic sept continued
to hold its territory in Meath, in submission to the new rulers. It is
known by the name of Fir Tulach, "Men of the Mounds," and the name is
perpetuated in that of the barony of Fartullagh in Westmeath.

While this struggle was going on, another event took place, which is
marked as an epoch in Irish history by the ancient annals. The event
is thus related:

    A.D. 483. The battle of Ocha, in which Ailill Molt fell, was won
    by Luguid son of Loeguire and Muirchertach MacErca. From
    Conchobhar MacNessa to Cormac son of Art, 308 years. From Cormac
    to this battle, 206 years.

This summing of years in the old chronicle is in direct imitation of
the Chronicle of Eusebius, upon which the Irish chronicle was founded.
In Eusebius, or at all events in St. Jerome's Latin translation--for
the original Greek chronicle now exists only in fragments--it is
customary to divide the course of history by epochs connected with
great events. As each of these epochs is reached, a summary of the
years between all the preceding epochs is set out. Hence we see that
the chronicler from whom this entry is taken--his name is Cuanu--had
in his mind three principal epochs of Irish history. The first was the
reign of Conchobhar MacNessa, the celebrated king of Ulster. The
second was the reign of Cormac. The third was the battle of Ocha.

The epoch of Conchobhar MacNessa in the chronicle is interesting as a
further proof of the primacy, so to speak, which the Ulster hero-tales
acquired in the earliest age of our written literature.

The reign of Cormac is an epoch, because, as I have shown in the
fourth lecture, it is associated with the dissolution of the
Pentarchy, the annexation of Tara to the realm of Connacht and
Uisneach, and the definite beginnings of the Monarchy.

What then is the epochal significance of the battle of Ocha, in which
Ailill Molt, king of Ireland, is defeated and slain, and Luguid son of
Loeguire and his cousin MacErca, king of the Northern Ui Néill, are
the victors?

Ailill Molt was son of Nath-Í, that king of Ireland who died somewhere
on the Continent, whither he had led an expedition in 429, and whose
body was brought back to Ireland by his men and buried at Cruachain in
the ancient cemetery of the kings of Connacht. Nath-Í, who succeeded
Niall of the Nine Hostages, was the son of Niall's brother Fiachra,
whose descendants were settled in Fiachra's Lands in the north-west
and south-west of Connacht. The line of Fiachra was closely associated
with Connacht and had no settlement elsewhere. At this period, the
line of Fiachra alternated with the line of his brother Brión in the
succession to the kingship of Connacht, until, by the operation of a
law of succession which I shall have to describe in a later lecture,
the descendants of Brión obtained exclusive possession of the
kingship. Thus, Ailill Molt, who was cut off in the battle of Ocha, in
483, may be described as a king of Ireland from Connacht.

Who were the victors in the Battle of Ocha? They were Luguid, son of
Loeguire, son of Niall, and Muirchertach, grandson of Eoghan, son of
Niall. Luguid, son of Loeguire, thereupon became king of Ireland. His
ally in the battle, Muirchertach, appears from this time forth at the
head of the Northern Ui Néill, he is king of Aileach. Luguid, since he
succeeded to the monarchy, must have been at the time recognised head
of the Southern Ui Néill, his patrimony being in Meath. Consequently,
this battle is the outcome of a combination of the Ui Néill, north and
south, whose lands are outside of Connacht, against their kinsfolk,
whose lands are in Connacht. From this date, 483, until the eleventh
century, no king from Connacht became monarch of Ireland, and the
monarchy remained in the exclusive possession of the Northern and
Southern Ui Néill. That is why the battle of Ocha is marked as an
epoch by the ancient chronicler.

The line of Niall in like manner is excluded from the kingship of
Connacht, which had been held by Niall himself and by his son
Loeguire, before they became kings of Tara. Henceforth there is no
longer a joint dynasty of Connacht and Meath.

The clue to the main path of Irish history during the partly obscure
period of the first five centuries of the Christian era is the gradual
expansion of the power of the Connacht dynasty over northern Ireland
from the occupation of Uisneach until this year 483, when expansion
reached the point of rupture. To trace this process and the concurrent
or partly concurrent growth of the Eoghanacht power in Munster, has
been the matter of my fourth, fifth, and sixth lectures. It is evident
that the chronicler Cuanu, who wrote early in the eighth century, had
some such general view before his mind of the history of this period
based on the traditions and records known to him. His three epochs
stand good as bearings for our guidance--first, the Pentarchy at the
height of its traditional celebrity; second, the extension of the
Connacht power to Tara, and the rise of the monarchy; and third, the
disconnection of Connacht from Tara and the monarchy, and the dominant
position acquired by the line of Niall. The old chronicler, with his
three epochs, saw something more in the dim morning twilight of those
centuries than a procession of names and dates and disconnected
anecdotes. He saw something of a story with its sequence, a drama in
three acts; and we are entitled to share in his satisfaction.


               Eochu, K.I.
    Fiachra                    Niall, K.I.
       |                          +--------------------+
    Nath-Í, K.I.  Loiguire, K.I.           Eogan
       |                          |                    |
    Ailill K.I.               Luguid, K.I.          Muiredach
                                                 Muirchertach, K.I.

    Loiguire, K.       Eogan          Coirpre    Conall Cremthainni
          |              |               |                |
    Luguid, K.        Muiredach       Cormac        Fergus Cerrbel
                         |               |               |
                 Muirchertach, K.     Tuathal, K.    Diarmait, K.


It was about the year 470 when the sons of Erc, Fergus and his
brothers went from Ireland to Scotland. Fergus was king of Dál Riada
in the north-eastern corner of Ireland. We are not to understand that
the main Irish migration to Scotland took place at that time. There
are no data to show when the earliest Irish settlements were made in
Argyleshire and the adjoining islands, but we have seen that, at the
close of the third century, when Constantius Chlorus commanded the
Roman power in Britain, the Britons were already "accustomed" to Irish
enemies. If the Irish were then strong enough to raid the Roman
frontier, they were probably in possession of the Cantire peninsula.
The crossing over of the Sons of Erc means that these princes
established their rule over the Irish settlements in that region. It
is a common mistake of histories to suppose that Fergus, when he
became king on the other side, established there a new dynasty.
Editors of the Irish annals, taking this for granted, actually
undertake to tell us that certain men whom the annals style kings of
Dál Riada were kings of the Scottish Dál Riada, and certain others who
are also entitled kings of Dál Riada, were kings of the Irish Dál
Riada. Here again the genealogies supplement the annals and show
clearly that all these kings belonged to one undivided dynasty. Dál
Riada in Ireland and the Irish settlers in Scotland were ruled by the
same kings from the time of Fergus macEirc until the Norsemen occupied
Cantire and the neighbouring islands, and thus cut off the Irish
territory of these kings from the Scottish territory in which the
kings of Dál Riada had become resident. When this separation took
place, the title "king of Dál Riada" was abandoned. The last king who
bears that title in the Irish annals is Donn Coirci, who died in 792;
and in 794 the same annals record "the devastation of all the islands
of Britain by the heathens."

The account of the Irish migration given by the Venerable Bede has
often been repeated. It is true in so far as it indicates that the
migration did not begin under the Sons of Erc. In other respects it is
a fictitious legend. "In process of time," writes Bede, "besides the
Britons and Picts, Britain received a third nation, the Scots, who,
migrating from Ireland under their leader Reuda, either by fair means
or by force of arms, secured to themselves those settlements among the
Picts which they still possess. From the name of their commander they
are to this day called Dalreudini; for in their language _dal_
signifies a part.

"Ireland," he goes on to say, "in breadth and for wholesomeness and
serenity of climate far surpasses Britain; for the snow scarcely ever
lies there above three days; no man makes hay in the summer for
winter's provision or builds stables for his beasts of burden. No
reptiles are found there and no snake can live there; for, though
often carried thither out of Britain, as soon as the ship comes near
the shore, and the scent of the air reaches them, they die. On the
contrary, almost all things in the island are good against poison. In
short, we have known that when some persons have been bitten by
serpents, the scrapings of leaves of books that were brought out of
Ireland, being put into water and given to them to drink, have
immediately expelled the spreading poison and assuaged the swelling."
(We see that when people in Britain in those days wanted something
that came from Ireland, the first thing and the sure thing was a
book.) "The island," he continues, "abounds in milk and honey; nor is
there any want of vines, fish or fowl; and it is remarkable for deer
and goats." (But vines were not cultivated in Ireland, and if Bede
supposed they were, it must have been because wine was abundant, as an
article of continental trade imported in exchange for Irish products.)
"It is properly," he adds, "the country of the Scots, who migrating
from thence, as has been said, added a third nation in Britain to the
Britons and the Picts. There is a very large gulf of the sea [he
refers to the Firth of Clyde] which formerly divided the nation of the
Picts from the Britons. It runs from the west very far into the land,
where to this day stands the strong city of the Britons called
Alcluith [Dumbarton]. The Scots arriving on the north side of this
bay, settled themselves there."

Bede gives no date for this event, but relates it before the invasion
of Britain by Julius Cæsar (B.C. 54). No Irish leader Reuda headed an
Irish migration to Scotland. The Irish genealogists tell us that Dál
Riada takes its name from Cairbre Riada, an ancestor of Fergus and
nine generations (_i.e._ about three centuries) earlier than Fergus;
and they agree with the annals in saying that the first of Cairbre
Riada's line who settled in Scotland were Fergus and his brethren.

In 563, Conall, great-grandson of Fergus, granted the island of Iona
to St. Columba. Conall was succeeded in the kingship by Aedán, with
whom St. Columba lived on most friendly terms. It was in Aedán's
reign, in 575, that the relations between his kingdom and the kingdom
of Ireland were decided at the assembly of Druim Ceata, St. Columba
being present. A great deal of fanciful comment has been made on this
decision. One writer after another assures us that St. Columba secured
a declaration of independence for the kingdom beyond the sea. The sole
ancient authority on the subject is the commentary on Dallán's Eulogy
of St. Columba. It says nothing about independence, nor does it
suggest that the independence of the Irish kingdom in Scotland was
ever called in question. The problem that demanded adjudication was
this: the old territory of Dál Riada in Ireland had become attached to
two independent jurisdictions. Being part of Ireland, it was subject
to the suzerain claims of the kings of Ireland. But its kings, as we
have seen, were kings also of a realm beyond the sea over which the
Irish monarch had no authority. A conflict of rights and claims was
possible. The decision at Druim Ceata, pronounced by a lawyer of
celebrity and accepted by the assembly, was in the nature of a
compromise: Dál Riada was to serve the Irish monarch with its land
forces, and to serve the king who reigned in Scotland with its sea
forces. Obviously it is the services of the Irish territory that are
the subject of this judgment. It would be absurd to lay down that the
Irish colony in Scotland was to serve the king of Ireland with land
forces and not with ships.

Scottish writers look upon the Life of St. Columba by Adamnanus as the
oldest native document of Scottish history. It was written about the
year 692. If I am not mistaken, we have a document about twenty years
older, written in Scotland, probably in Iona, and now preserved in the
preface to the genealogy of the Scottish kings in the Books of Lecan
and Ballymote. At the time when it was written, the realm of the Scots
in Scotland did not extend beyond Argyleshire and the adjacent
islands. That was about the year 670. Northwards of Argyleshire, the
Picts held sway. On the eastern side, the Pictish territory extended
southward to the Firth of Forth. From the Firth of Forth to the Tweed,
along the eastern coast, the country now comprised in the Lothians and
Berwickshire was occupied by the Angles under the king of Northumbria.
The south-western portion was held by the Britons, who, in Bede's
time, half a century later, possessed the strong fortress of Dumbarton
on the Clyde. The frontier between the Britons and the Angles was
probably no certain line. In the south-western corner, in Galloway,
there was an isolated Pictish population. The borders separating these
four nations, Scots, Picts, Angles, and Britons, speaking four
distinct languages, were a land of constant war.

St. Columba, we are told by his biographer, warned the king of Dál
Riada to refrain from making war in Ireland on the king of Ireland,
and foretold that, if this warning were disregarded, disaster would
befall the line of Aedán. Adamnanus goes on to say that this prophecy
was fulfilled many years after St. Columba's death. This was written
by Adamnanus about fifty years after the event to which he alludes,
which was therefore within the memory of many who read his words.
Domhnall Breac, king of Dál Riada, he relates, invaded the realm of
the king of Ireland. And now, he says, the fulfilment of the warning
is visible in the miserable condition to which the kings of Dál Riada
are reduced, humiliated by their triumphant enemies.

He refers to the events connected with the battle of Moira in 637. The
king of Ireland at the time was Domhnall son of Aedh, that is, son of
the king who presided over the Assembly of Druim Ceata. Taking
advantage of a quarrel between the Irish monarch and a prince of the
north-eastern Picts of Ireland, the Scottish king, as we may call him,
put himself at the head of a combination of the north-eastern province
and took the field in Ireland. The battle between the two Domhnalls
took place at Moira, near Lisburn, and the king of Ireland was
victorious. Here we have an instance of the method of contemporary
Irish chroniclers. To the chronicler's mind, everybody knew everything
that was to be known about this battle and its circumstances, and his
record of the event is a mere memorandum in two words. But what were
the disastrous results, which, on the testimony of Adamnanus, were
notorious when he wrote, _i.e._ about the year 690? The Irish kingdom
in Scotland seems as strong as ever, and is on the eve of a great
increase of its power and territory. Once more, as in the instance of
the judgment of Druim Ceata, the reference must be particularly to the
old Irish kingdom of Dál Riada, which drops into obscurity in the
Irish records about that time, possibly becoming tributary either to
the neighbouring Picts or to the Northern Ui Néill, whose territory
had then extended to the banks of the Bann.

Bede, writing about forty years after Adamnanus wrote, tells about
certain things that happened in the lifetime of both, and shows how
great an expansion was made by the Irish kingdom of Scotland in the
meantime. In the year 684, he relates, his own sovereign, "Egfrid,
king of the Northumbrians, sending Beorht, his general, with an army
into Ireland, miserably wasted that harmless nation, which had always
been most friendly to the English." This statement shows that the
power of the Northumbrian Angles extended at the time to the Irish
Sea. "In their hostile rage," says Bede, "they spared not even the
churches or monasteries." The contemporary Irish chronicler says
briefly: "The English devastate the plain of Bregia and many churches
in the month of June." Bede continues: "Those islanders, to the utmost
of their power repelled force with force, and imploring the assistance
of the Divine mercy prayed long and fervently for vengeance; and,
though such as curse cannot possess the kingdom of God, it is believed
that those who were justly cursed on account of their impiety did soon
suffer the penalty of their guilt from the avenging hand of God; for
the very next year, that king, rashly leading his army to ravage the
province of the Picts, much against the advice of his friends and
particularly of Cuthbert of blessed memory who had been lately
ordained bishop, the enemy made show as if they fled, and the king was
drawn into the straits of inaccessible mountains, and slain, with the
greatest part of his forces, on the 20th of May." The Irish chronicle
says: "On the 20th of May, on Saturday, the battle of Dún Nechtain was
fought, in which Ecgferth, king of the English, was slain together
with a great multitude of his soldiers."

Bede, writing forty-six years later, says that from the time of this
overthrow the power of the Northumbrian Angles began to decline, and
the Picts recovered some of their territory which had been in the
possession of the Angles, as well as some which had been taken from
them by the Scots. The ancient territory of Northumbria extended to
the Firth of Forth. Skene identifies the scene of the battle with a
narrow pass in the Sidlaw Hills, north of the Firth of Tay. The
territory which the Picts recovered from the Angles must have been
between these two firths, corresponding to the modern Fifeshire; and
this is apparent from a further statement by Bede. Among the English
fugitives from the lost territory, he says, was Bishop Trumwine, who
had been made bishop over the English settlers, and who withdrew along
with his people who were in the monastery of Abercorn. Abercorn is
near the Forth Bridge, about ten miles west of Edinburgh. If the
Anglian bishop and his people were forced to abandon this place, it is
clear that the recovered Pictish territory reached the Firth of Forth
on the opposite side, the north side. But, writing forty-six years
after these events, Bede calls the Firth of Forth "the arm of the sea
which parts the lands of the Angles and the Scots," not the lands of
the Angles and the Picts. Consequently, within those forty-six years,
the Scots, who a little earlier appear to have held little or nothing
of the mainland outside of Argyleshire, must have extended their power
eastward into Fifeshire, occupying that district from which the Picts
had expelled the encroaching Angles.

The Britons of south-western Scotland appear to have been hard pressed
by this eastward expansion of the Scots and by the Angles of
Northumbria, and modern Welsh historians trace an extensive southward
migration of Britons through Cumberland and Lancashire into Wales.
These migratory Britons, headed by the sons of Cunedda, became
thenceforward the dominant people in Wales. They completely displaced
the power of the Irish settlers in North Wales, and the descendants of
the Irish in South Wales became subordinate to them. About this time,
too, many of the displaced Britons took service in Ireland under Irish
kings. In 682, a victory was won near Antrim, we are not told by whom,
over a combination of Britons and Ulster Picts. In 697, the district
of Dundalk was devastated by Britons in alliance with the Ulidians. In
702, Írgalach, king of Bregia, was killed on Ireland's Eye by a party
of raiding Britons. In 703, the Ulidians defeated a body of Britons
near Newry. In 709, Britons are found fighting in the service of a
king of Leinster. In 711 and again in 717, forces of Britons were
defeated by Dál Riada. These events all occur within a period of
thirty years, about the year 700, and after this time the British
incursions are no longer heard of. The movements of the Britons thus
chronicled correspond in time with the eastward and perhaps southward
expansion of the Scots from Argyle.

Some of the Venerable Bede's pupils must have lived to witness the
first appearance of the swarming fleets of heathen Norsemen, towards
the close of the eighth century. Within a few decades, the Norsemen
held possession of nearly all the islands of Scotland. They also
settled on the mainland in Caithness, Argyle, Cunningham and
Galloway--at what dates does not appear to be recorded. By thus
infesting the entire coast of Scotland, they weakened the power of the
Picts in the North and the Angles in the South-east. That there is no
sign of any concurrent weakening of the Scots may be taken as proof
that the Scots by this time, the early part of the ninth century, had
a firm grip of the interior. It may well have been, indeed, that their
displacement from Argyle and the islands--their sole possessions in
Scotland in the seventh century--may have strengthened the hand of
Cinaedh, son of Ailpín (called "Kenneth MacAlpin" in English
writings). As arrows in the hand of the mighty, so are the sons of
them that have been beaten out. Cinaedh died in 858 after a reign of
sixteen years, during which he overthrew the kingdom of the Picts and
became ruler of the main part of the country afterwards called
Scotland. In recording the death of Cinaedh the Annals of Ulster style
him "king of the Picts," meaning that he had brought the Picts under
his authority. According to later histories he also obtained the
submission of the Britons and Angles of southern Scotland; they
certainly ceased to have any considerable power after his time. The
Britons held out in their fortress at Dumbarton until 870, when, after
a siege of four months, the place was taken by Olaf and Imar, the
joint-reigning Norse kings of Dublin. These kings, with a fleet of 200
ships, returned next year to Dublin, "bringing a great spoil of men,
Angles and Britons and Picts, in captivity." The Northumbrian kingdom,
even south of the Tweed, was crumbling away. In 867, the Norsemen
occupied York and defeated the Angles who came against them; and in
876, Halfdene, a Norse commander, parcelled out the remnant of
Northumbria among his followers, who settled upon the lands, says the
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and thenceforth set about ploughing and tilling
them. In the same year, 876, Rolf the Ganger, of the line of the Norse
earls of the Orkneys, took possession of Normandy.

Here it is well to consider the various fortunes of the Norsemen in
different countries. About this period, they became masters of a large
part of Russia. In France, they were able to wrest the northern
seaboard, between Flanders and Brittany, from the powerful Frankish
kings. Over England they effected a gradual conquest, which was only
checked, not overcome by the stout resistance of Athelstan and Alfred.
In 1013, the year before the battle of Clontarf, all England submitted
to Sveinn, king of Denmark. The Normans mastered southern Italy and
Sicily. But the Celtic countries, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and
Brittany, though particularly exposed to conquest by a people who were
then undisputed rulers of the seas on every side, yielded them only a
small fraction of their mainland territories. The resistance of
Scotland is especially noteworthy. From Norway and Denmark, Scotland
was then two days' sail. All the islands and forelands of Scotland
were occupied by the Norsemen--the Orkney and Shetland Islands, the
Hebrides, Arran and Bute, Caithness, and the peninsulas of Argyle and
Galloway; as well as the Isle of Man. But the recently established
Scottish monarchy checked all further attempts at conquest, and
ultimately recovered the whole country, both mainland and islands.

Another noteworthy fact about this new kingdom was its adoption of a
polity quite distinct from that of the older established Britons and
Irish in their own countries. In Ireland, the population ranged itself
around local places of assembly, according to the traditional habit
and convenience of coming together; and the chiefs who presided over
these local assemblies took the rank and title of kings. Each of these
assemblies was a court of law as well as a court of state. For modern
convenience, there are about 150 places in Ireland in which courts of
quarter sessions are held. In ancient Ireland, in the ninth century,
there were a little more than 100 courts, and the president of each
was a king. Everywhere, there was a strong sentiment of local autonomy
and the strongest and most ambitious of the superior kings could only
maintain a limited degree of centralised power. Probably the Celts
came into Ireland in small separate bodies, each colony having its own
government, and so no tradition of centralisation ever grew up. In
Scotland, on the contrary, from the fifth century onward there was but
one kingdom of the Scots, and this one kingdom effected a gradual
conquest of the whole country. Thus the Irish system of petty states
was not transplanted to Scotland. The highest magnates under the
Scottish monarchy bore the title of _mór-mhaor_, "great steward,"
which in later times was regarded as the equivalent of "earl." This
title is mentioned in the Annals of Ulster under the year 918 and in
such a way as to show that it was then a recognised and customary
dignity among the oversea Scots. In that year, just 1,000 years ago,
Raghnall or "Reginald," founder and king of the Norse colony of
Waterford, carried his forces into Britain, finding a small part of
Ireland large enough for him. On the banks of the Tyne, in
Northumbria, he was met by the army of the Scots--the place indicates
how far the power of the Scots at that time extended. An indecisive
battle took place, in which, says the annalist, the Scots "lost
neither king nor _mór-mhaor_."

That the conquest of the mainland was followed by a very extensive
Gaelic colonisation is evident from the abundance of Gaelic
place-names in almost every part of Scotland. They are least numerous
in the old Anglian territory of the Lothians and Berwickshire, and
from this it is evident that the Anglian population was left for the
most part undisturbed. The surname Scott indicates that, among their
Anglian neighbours, the great border sept that bore the name was
recognised to be of Irish origin. Even in Galloway, a region of Picts
and Britons and Norsemen, the Gaelic language became prevalent and the
Gaelic people abundant--for in the twelfth century the population of
Galloway was known to the Irish and also to the Norsemen as
Gall-Ghaedhil, _i.e._, "Norse-Irish." Though Alan, the Norse earl of
Galloway, set himself up as an independent sovereign about the year
1200 and formed an alliance with the English under King John, his
language was Irish, for he gave his daughter a name that bespeaks an
Irish-speaking household--Dearbhorgaill. The Irish annals call him
"king of the Gall-Ghaedhil."

The Scots opposed a successful resistance to William the Conqueror and
his successors, whenever they attempted a conquest. To the Conqueror
they were especially obnoxious, for Maol Choluim Ceannmhór ('Malcolm
Canmore') took under his protection the refugee royal family of
England, the Athelings. In 1067, Malcolm married a princess of this
line, Margaret, grand-daughter of the Saxon king Edmund--St. Margaret
of Scotland, for she was canonised after her death. This queen
exercised great influence over her husband, and brought about a
partial feudalisation of the Gaelic system in Scotland. From her time
onward, the small Anglian population not merely acquired a favourable
status but gradually took on the appearance of being the most
considerable element in the kingdom. Various causes contributed to
this end. The Northumbrian dialect of English, now chiefly represented
by the Lowland Scotch dialect, became the most convenient medium of
intercourse not only with England but also with the Norsemen and the
people of the Low Countries. To this day Lowland Scotch bears a close
resemblance to Dutch and Flemish, and we have it on the ancient
testimony of the Norsemen themselves that they were able to hold
speech with the Angles, each people using their own language. In
consequence, the Anglian dialect of Scotland spread westward across
the Lowlands and northward along the coast of the North Sea. There is,
however, one little fact which shows us how effectively Margaret's
influence operated against the Gaelic tradition of the Scottish court
and its outlook. Before her time, the kings of the Dál Riada line
bore Irish names. Only two names that are not Irish are found in their
list--Constantine and Gregory, the names of a celebrated Emperor and a
celebrated Pope. The names of the six sons of Malcolm and Margaret
were: Edward, Edmund, Edgar, Ethelred, Alexander, and David; of their
two daughters, Maud and Mary--not one of them Gaelic; and with the
exception of Malcolm's immediate successor, Domhnall, and another
Malcolm, no king of the Scots after his time bore a Gaelic name.

Malcolm's kingdom, though it did not extend over the Norse settlements
in the north and west of Scotland, included a territory roughly
corresponding to Cumberland and Northumberland in the north of

A frequent effect of the feudal law of succession by primogeniture was
the breach of succession owing to the failure of heirs in the male
line. Under the Irish (and also Welsh) law of succession, by election
from a family group, this difficulty was avoided. After Malcolm's
death in 1093, his brother, Domhnall Bán, secured the kingship and, we
are told, expelled all the foreigners who had come to Scotland under
the protection of Malcolm and Margaret. In effect, the reign of
Domhnall represents a brief Gaelic reaction against the new-come
feudalism. In 1097, Domhnall was overthrown by Malcolm's eldest
surviving son Edgar, with the assistance of the English, and
thenceforward the feudal system took hold and the Irish kingdom may be
said to have come to an end. Nevertheless, the Irish tradition was
not wholly abandoned. The last of the Dalriadic kings was Alexander
III who reigned from 1249 until 1285. In his reign, all the Norse
possessions formerly subject to the suzerainty of the kings of Norway,
comprising the Orkney and Shetland islands, Caithness, the Hebrides
and Argyleshire, became subject to the kingdom of Scotland. The
failure of the direct line, upon Alexander's death without male heir,
brought about the wars of the Scottish succession, terminated by the
battle of Bannockburn in 1314. An interesting account has been
preserved of the coronation ceremony as exemplified at the accession
of this last king of the direct Irish line in Scotland, Alexander III.
"The ceremony was performed by the bishop of St. Andrews, who girded
the king with a military belt. He then explained in Latin, and
afterwards in Gaelic, the laws and oaths relating to the king....
After the ceremony was performed, a Highlander"--we may understand
that he was the official _seanchaidh_--"repeated on his knees before
the throne, in his own language, the genealogy of Alexander and his
ancestors, up to the first king of Scotland." Gaelic, therefore,
continued to be the language of the Scottish court, of king, bishop,
and courtier, until 1285, when the direct line of Fergus son of Erc
became extinct.

Having endeavoured to trace the principal phases in the history of an
Irish kingdom which, established in Argyle and the western islands of
Scotland, became gradually more and more alienated from the mother
country, let us now glance through the history of another kingdom, a
foreign kingdom established in the same forelands and islands, a realm
which became gaelicised as the Scots kingdom became feudalised and
anglicised, and which drew closer and closer to Ireland, so as to
bring a decisive element into the affairs of this nation during a
critical period in its history.

I have already shown how, while the Scots were becoming masters of the
mainland in northern Britain, the Norsemen took possession of the old
Dalriadic territory of Argyle and the islands. On the mainland, the
Norsemen also occupied Cunningham in Ayrshire, Galloway to the north
of the Solway Firth, and Caithness in the far north. In the Gaelic of
Scotland, both Galloway and Caithness are named Gallaibh, _i.e._ the
Foreigners' territory, and the Irish name of the Hebrides after they
passed into Norse hands is Innse Gall, "the Foreigners' islands."

We have no records to show the precise date at which these colonies
were established, but in view of the Norse supremacy on the seas from
the close of the eighth century, their establishment is not likely to
have been later than the foundation of the first Norse colony on the
Irish mainland, namely, the colony of Dublin, in 841. The year after
this, 842, Cinaedh, the future conqueror of the Picts and Britons and
Angles, became king of the Scots.

The first clearly defined authority found among these Norse
settlements is that of the Orkney earls, dating from before 880.
Before that time, a mixed Norse and Gaelic population, called
Gall-Ghaedhil, is seen taking part in the Norse wars in Ireland, some
on the Norse and some on the Irish side, as may be seen from the
annals of the years 856 and 857. These people doubtless came from
Scotland, perhaps also from the Isle of Man, also occupied by the
Norsemen. Their language was broken Irish, as may be judged from the
words of an Irish tract which, in praising the accurate utterance of a
speaker, says "it is not the _giog-gog_ of a Gall-Ghaedheal." But they
must also have used the Norse language.

About the year 880, Harold the Fair, king of Norway, came over and
established the supremacy of Norway over the settlements in the
Orkneys, the Hebrides, Argyle and the Isle of Man.

A century later, in 980, we find the Hebrides used as a recruiting
ground by the Norse king of Dublin. In that year Mael Sechnaill, king
of Ireland, won the battle of Tara against "the Foreigners of Dublin
and the Islands." After this defeat, Olaf, king of Dublin, laid down
his kingship and retired into religious life in Iona, where he died
not long later. The incident shows that the Norse islanders had by
this time accepted Christianity, and that Iona, which they had
barbarously ravaged again and again, had regained among them the
religious prestige that it held before among the people of Ireland and

About this time, the Danes, who first appear on our coasts in
hostility to the Norwegians, established a kingdom of the Hebrides,
under Godred, son of Harold. Godred invaded Dál Riada in Ulster in
989, and was killed there. His son Rögnvald became king of the
Hebrides and died in 1005. With his death, the Danish kingdom in the
islands appears to cease.

In 1014, the chief magnate of the Hebrides was Earl Gilli. He held
aloof from the great muster of Norsemen from many regions that came to
Clontarf to win the sovereignty of Ireland for Earl Sigurd of the
Orkneys. From 1041 till 1064, the Hebrides appear subject to the
Orkney earl Thorfinn. During this time, the islands supplied forces to
Harald Hardrada, king of Norway, for an invasion of England. After
this time, there are indications that the predominance of the Orkney
earls was replaced in the Hebrides by that of the kings of the Isle of
Man. Later on, the kings of Man are seen to occupy a middle position
of authority between the kings of Norway and the local rulers of the
Hebrides. In the title of the bishops of Sodor and Man, the name Sodor
is an abbreviation for Sudreyar, "the southern isles," this being the
ordinary Norse name for the Hebrides, in contradistinction to the
northern isles of Orkney and Shetland.

In 1098, Magnus Barefoot, king of Norway, came with a fleet and
re-established the somewhat shaky Norwegian sovereignty over the
Orkneys, the Hebrides, Cantire, and the Isle of Man. Four years later,
in 1102, he again visited these dominions and was received without
opposition. The following year, 1103, king Magnus landed in eastern
Ulster and was cut off and slain.

In 1134, a young Hebridean named Gilla Críst, claiming to be a son of
Magnus, became king of Norway under the name of Harald Gilli. About
this time, the most prominent magnate in the Hebrides was named
Holdbodi, who lived in the island of Tiree. The Norse documents
dealing with these times and with the succeeding century never suggest
that the masters of the Hebrides use any language but Norse, though
some of them bear Gaelic names; and the same documents apply the name
Scots to the mainlanders only, never to the people of the islands.

In 1157, we find the first mention of a ruler named Sumarlidi, who
dwelt on the mainland of Argyleshire. In Irish he is called
Somhairlidh, and in recording his death in 1164, the Annals of
Tighernach entitle him "king of the Hebrides and Cantire." Fordun's
Chronicle calls him "king of Argyle." Sumarlidi was in fact the
founder of a new Norse kingdom of the Hebrides and Argyle, which
lasted from his time, about 1150, until 1499, when the last king of
his line was captured by the king of Scotland and hanged, along with
his son and grandsons, on the Boroughmuir at Edinburgh. Sumarlidi was
killed in 1164, in an attempt to invade the mainland south of the

This Sumarlidi was the ancestor of the families of MacDomhnaill
(MacDonnell, MacDonald), Mac Dubhghaill (MacDugall, MacDowell, etc.),
and Mac Ruaidhri (MacRory). More than two centuries after his time,
when many of his descendants had settled in Ireland, a pedigree was
forthcoming to trace his descent from one of the Three Collas who
overthrew the ancient kingdom of Ulster in the fourth century. In
Scotland, his descendants seem to have been provided with another
pedigree, which established their descent from Fergus, son of Erc, who
founded the Irish kingdom in Scotland. Ultimately a blend of the two
pedigrees found acceptance, and no doubt there are many MacDonnells
and MacDugalds and MacRorys who believe in it. Apart from its other
weak points, this genealogy of the race of Sumarlidi is too short by
about nine generations or three centuries.

Scottish writers in general show a remarkable shyness in dealing with
this kingdom of Argyle and the Hebrides, and the highest title they
are accustomed to accord to its rulers is that of "Lords of the
Isles." In contemporary Norwegian and Irish records, the title is
always "king."

Internal dissensions in Norway left the Hebrides practically
independent for half a century after the rise of Sumarlidi. In 1210,
when these dissensions were composed, the kings of the Hebrides and
the Isle of Man made haste to Norway and renewed their fealty to King
Ingi. On the death of this king without heir in 1217, and the renewal
of the disorders of Norway, the Hebrides again fell away from their
allegiance. In 1224, Hakon, of doubtful paternity, was accepted as
king of Norway. At this time Alan of Galloway threatened to extend his
dominion over the Hebrides and the Isle of Man. King Hakon found a
Hebridean adventurer named Ospak, who had long lived in Norway and had
taken part in the wars of the factions. He appointed this Ospak king
over the Hebrides. For greater prestige he re-named Ospak after
himself, Hakon, and sent him with a small fleet in 1230 to bring the
Hebrides under his authority. After a partial success, Ospak fell sick
and died. Fresh troubles breaking out in Norway prevented Hakon from
following up his Hebridean policy and encouraged the king of Scotland,
Alexander II, to aim at the recovery or annexation of the islands. To
this end, in 1242, Alexander sent an embassy to Norway offering to buy
out the Norwegian claims. This proposal was rejected by Hakon. It was
afterwards renewed and again rejected.

In the meantime, Alexander, stronger by land than by sea, made war on
the Hebridean kings for the possession of Argyle, Arran, and Bute, and
appears to have gained a strong foothold in those parts. In 1248 a
dispute arose between two of Sumarlidi's descendants over the
kingship. Both went to Norway to seek a decision from King Hakon.
Hakon disliked decisions, and was content to keep the claimants for a
year in Norway. Next year Alexander of Scotland renewed his efforts.
He sent a third offer of purchase to Hakon and at the same time made
open preparations for conquest. He also endeavoured to win over Jon,
king of the Hebrides, from his allegiance to Norway. Jon held out, and
in the midst of the preparations for invasion, Alexander died (1249).

He was succeeded by his son, Alexander III, already spoken of in this
lecture, last of the Dalriadic kings in the direct line. When that
interesting coronation ceremony in Latin and Gaelic was performed,
Alexander III was only nine years of age. During his minority, the
connection between Norway and the Hebrides was maintained. In 1252,
Archbishop Sorli of Drontheim in Norway, being then at Rome, assisted
in the consecration of a bishop named Rikard for the Hebrides. In
1253, Jon and Dubhghall, joint kings of the Hebrides, went again to
Norway to assist king Hakon in a war against Denmark.

In 1261, Alexander III, having come of age, took up his father's
policy of annexing the Norse dominions adjoining Scotland, and sent a
fresh embassy to Norway. Failing to make terms, he began next year the
invasion of the islands. He reoccupied Bute and Cantire, and sent a
marauding expedition under the Earl of Ross into the island of Skye.
King Jon of the Hebrides wrote informing Hakon of what was going on,
and from the sequel we may judge that he held out no hope of being
able to resist Alexander. Hakon called together his council, some of
whom proposed to relinquish the islands to Scotland, but the king
ordered that an expedition at full strength should be raised next
year. It was always the next opportunity with King Hakon. Next year,
1263, he spent the time until the end of July in making ready. In the
meantime, King Jon made terms for himself with Alexander and
transferred his allegiance to Scotland. Hakon made a slow progress
with his fleet through the islands and reoccupied part of Cantire and
also Arran and Bute. Alexander, relying on the approach of winter,
re-opened negotiations and kept them going till the arrival of the
equinoctial gales. On October 1, Hakon's fleet was partly scattered by
a violent storm. Some ships were driven on the coast of Ayrshire. Here
a trifling encounter took place with the Scottish forces. It has been
magnified in Scottish histories into the battle of Largs, in which, we
are told, 16,000 Norwegians were slain.

The misadventures of his fleet and the defection of Jon convinced
Hakon that he could only hold the Hebrides by main force, and he
decided to return to Norway and come again next year with a still
stronger expedition. When he reached the Orkneys, he fell sick and

In the meantime, he had received an embassy from the Irish offering
him the kingdom of Ireland on condition of expelling the English
power. I propose to deal with this occurrence in a later lecture.

With the death of Hakon in 1263 the Norwegian sovereignty over the
Hebrides and Argyle came to an end; and in 1265 his son Magnus made a
formal cession of the territory to Alexander.

During all this time, the chief power in the Hebrides belonged to the
MacDubhghaill line, the sons and grandsons of Dubhghall son of
Sumarlidi. In the wars of the Scottish succession, these kings
supported the side of John Balliol and the English. Their kinsfolk,
the MacDomhnaill and MacRuaidhri chiefs took the side of Robert Bruce.
After Bruce's triumph at Bannockburn in 1314, MacDomhnaill became king
of Argyle and MacRuaidhri became king of the islands. These two kings
joined Edward Bruce in Ireland and along with him fell fighting in the
battle of Fochairt in 1318.

In 1387, Domhnall of Isla, head of the MacDomhnaill line, became king
of the Hebrides, and through his mother inherited also the great
earldom of Ross on the mainland, his power becoming thus a menace to
the kingdom of Scotland. The regent Albany sought by legal chicane to
deprive him of Ross. Domhnall took up arms and engaged the regent's
army in the bloody battle of Harlaw near Aberdeen in 1411. The battle
was not decisive in the military sense, but Domhnall succeeded in
keeping the earldom of Ross.

His brother Eoin Mór, about the year 1400, by marriage with the
heiress of Biset, lord of the Glens in Ireland, came into possession
of that lordship, extending from the Giants' Causeway to a line a
little south of Larne. In 1431, James I of Scotland sent an army into
Argyle. This army was defeated in the battle of Inverlochy by Domhnall
Ballach, son of Eoin and at that time king of Argyle and the Islands.
In 1462, Eoin son of Domhnall entered into a secret treaty to assist
Edward IV of England in the conquest of Scotland. This pact was
discovered by James III of Scotland in 1475. An expedition was
prepared against Eoin by land and sea, but he obtained peace by a
timely submission and by relinquishing the lordships of Ross, Knapdale
and Cantire. In 1493, Eoin again became obnoxious. He was attainted
in the Scottish parliament and his feudatories were forced to swear
direct allegiance to the Scottish crown. James IV made a new grant of
Cantire to a son of Eoin Mór, named Eoin Cathanach from his having
been fostered by O'Catháin in Ulster. The Scottish king came in person
to Cantire in 1499 and placed a garrison in the castle of Dunaverty
which he had reserved to the crown. James had only put out to sea from
Dunaverty when, still in his sight, Eoin Cathanach attacked and
captured the castle and hanged the governor from the wall. This time
there was no forgiveness. Before the year was out, Eoin Cathanach and
his aged father, the king of the Hebrides, fell into the hands of
Giolla Easpuig, the new earl of Argyle, head of the house of Campbell
which the Scottish kings aggrandised as a check on the power of the
MacDonnells. The captives were handed over to King James. The sequel
is recorded by a contemporary Irish chronicler in the Annals of

"A sad deed was done in this year (1499) by the king of Scotland,
James Stewart. Eoin MacDomhnaill, king of the Foreigners' Isles, and
Eoin Cathanach his son, and Raghnall the Red and Domhnall the
Freckled, sons of Eoin Cathanach, were executed on one gallows the
month before Lammas."

So ended the kingdom of the Hebrides, which the line of Sumarlidi had
held for three centuries and a half.

Another son of Eoin Cathanach escaped, and retained the lordship of
the Glens. This was Alasdair Carrach, father of the celebrated
Somhairle Buidhe and ancestor of the Earls of Antrim. A grand-daughter
of Alasdair Carrach was the Inghean Dubh, mother of Aodh Ruadh


As the conversion of Ireland to Christianity did not begin with Saint
Patrick, so also he did not live to complete it. To say this is not to
belittle his work or to deprive him of the honour that has been
accorded to him by every generation of Irishmen since his death. No
one man has ever left so strong and permanent impression of his
personality on a people, with the single and eminent exception of
Moses, the deliverer and lawgiver of Israel. It is curious to note
that the comparison between these two men was present to the minds of
our forefathers. Both had lived in captivity. Both had led the people
from bondage. Some of the legends of St. Patrick were perhaps based on
this comparison, especially the account of his competition with the
Druids. Some of his lives go so far as to give him the years of Moses,
six score years, making him live till the year 492, sixty years after
the beginning of his mission. There is good evidence, however, that
the earlier date of his death, 461, found in our oldest chronicle, and
also in the Welsh chronicle, is the authentic date. Father Hogan, in
his "Documenta Vitae S. Patricii," has drawn up a table of the acts of
St. Patrick, and after this date, 461, the table is a blank. I have
already alluded to the feature adopted by our early chroniclers from
St. Jerome's version of Eusebius--the marking of certain epochs by
giving the sum of years from a preceding epoch. We must remember that
in those days the custom so familiar to us of giving an arithmetical
name to every year, all in one series, was quite unknown. The first
historian to use this method consistently was Bede, and it did not
obtain general vogue until long after his time. In Ireland, though
Bede's writings were intimately known, his method of dating by the
year of the Christian era does not appear to have been taken up until
the eleventh century--nearly three centuries after his time. What then
was the ordinary method of dating? It was by regnal years. For
example, the beginning of St. Patrick's mission is thus dated in the
ancient chronicle:

"Patrick came to Ireland in the ninth year of Theodosius the younger,
in the first year of the episcopate of Sixtus, forty-second bishop of
the Roman Church." The Irish Nennius gives an Irish regnal date for
this event--"the fifth year of King Loiguire."

It may be noted that this manner of dating lasted until our own time
in the dating of the statutes of the English parliament.

Our present method of dating by a continuous era, giving each year its
number in the series as its ordinary name, has this great convenience
that we can calculate the space of years between two dated events by a
simple subtraction. But if we find, to take an actual example from our
oldest chronicle, that a certain event is dated in the ninth year of
the emperor Theodosius II, and another event in the second year of the
emperor Phocas, then in order to calculate the distance of years
between, we must first know the length of each imperial reign from
Theodosius to Phocas. The old chroniclers were constantly at the
trouble of making calculations of this kind, calculations to which
certain errors were incidental. Small errors accumulating become great
errors, and so as a safeguard and corrective, here and there in the
chronicle, at the record of some important event, we find these
summaries of years. In the year 664, a very destructive plague broke
out in Ireland. To the record of the event, the chronicler adds: "From
the death of Patrick, 203 years." So the seventh-century chronicler
knew 461 as the year of Patrick's death.

There are various things that indicate that professed paganism
continued to exist in Ireland in the second half of the sixth century,
_i.e._ for a century at least after Saint Patrick's death. By that
time, however, as I have shown in the sixth lecture, a blending of the
old native culture and the newly introduced Christian learning had
taken place. And just as two elements in the chemical sense unite to
form something that seems to have a nature and virtue all its own and
not derived from the quality of either component, so this blending of
two traditions in Ireland brought forth almost a new nation, with a
character and an individuality that gave it distinction in that age
and in the after ages.

Mr. Romilly Allen, in his book on "Celtic Art," has something to the
purpose. "The great difficulty," he writes, "in understanding the
evolution of Celtic art lies in the fact that, although the Celts
never seem to have invented any new ideas, they professed an
extraordinary aptitude for picking up ideas from the different peoples
with whom war or commerce brought them into contact. And once the Celt
had borrowed an idea from his neighbour, he was able to give it such a
strong Celtic tinge that it soon became something so different from
what it was originally as to be almost unrecognisable."

There is a mixture of truth and error in this statement that is
characteristic of a great deal of modern scientific comment. For the
explanation of a fact, something is offered which, upon close
examination, is seen to be no more than the unexplained thing stated
again in different terms. Why do masses of matter tend to approach
each other? Because of the law of gravity. What do we mean by the law
of gravity? We mean that masses of matter tend to approach each other.

It is to be seen from the quotation I have made that Mr. Romilly Allen
starts with the idea of evolution. So does Professor Bury. His "Life
of St. Patrick" is a sustained effort to prove that the singular
chapter in the world's history opened by Saint Patrick's work in
Ireland finds its explanation in this, that Saint Patrick was an
evolved product, a resultant, a force naturally generated by the Roman
Empire, of which Professor Bury is a distinguished historian. His
"Life of St. Patrick" is designed to bring the singular and
outstanding phenomenon of Ireland in the sixth, seventh, and eighth
centuries, into the direct series of cause and effect with which the
historian's greater work has dealt. He writes, he tells us, as one of
"the children of reason." But the children of reason cannot explain
water as the resultant of its known physical components, oxygen and
hydrogen, or salt as the resultant of chlorine and sodium. The
properties of water and salt, so long as these substances remain water
and salt, are not the properties of their component substances or any
combination thereof. In like manner the historian or the archæologist
will set himself an impossible task if he undertakes to explain every
fact of history or archæology as a sort of mechanical resultant of
pre-existing forces.

What Romilly Allen says about the Celts is true of every people that
has developed and maintained a distinctive nationality. The Romans
themselves borrowed from Greece and from Etruria--but the resultant
was neither Greece nor Etruria nor Greece plus Etruria nor any
permutation or combination of Greek and Etruscan factors. The Greeks
borrowed from Crete and Phœnicia, but no mere adding together of
Cretan and Phœnician elements produced the Attic salt.

Herein lies the justification of nationality, of intense, distinctive
and highly developed nationality. In it resides the elemental power of
transformation. To it belongs the philosopher's stone. If the Greek
people had possessed but a feeble individuality as a people, if they
had resembled Cretans and Phœnicians and Persians, if they had not
felt instinctively that they had something precious in themselves,
something that was worth Thermopylae, then it would never have been
written in a later age that:

    Greece and her foundations are
    Built beneath the tide of war,
    Throned on the crystalline sea
    Of thought and its eternity.

In every intense and distinctive development of a nation, there dwells
the actuality or the potentiality of some great gift to the common
good of mankind; and I rejoice, I am sure we all rejoice, to see, in
these days of clashing and crashing empires, that the clear idea of
nationality, as if by the wonderful recreative power that is in
nature, is rising in the esteem of good men all over the world, above
and beyond the specious and seductive appeal of what has been called
"the wider patriotism." In this regard, too, our own country in that
most remarkable period of its history may furnish something of a
model. With all the singularity of its insular character, it
maintained the fullest intercourse with other countries, and its
written mind exhibits no trace of those international prejudices and
hatreds which, for whatever ends stimulated, are the disgrace of our
modern civilisation.

We must not pretend that Ireland in that age was in a condition
approaching ideal perfection. Far from it--the country was ruled by a
patrician class to whom war was a sort of noble pastime. When we read
of war in ancient Ireland, however, we must bear one thing in mind: a
prolonged contest like that of the Leinster kings for the recovery of
Meath was altogether singular, and is not heard of from that time
until the Norse invasions, three centuries later. A war, as a rule,
meant a single battle, and in the early annals, which were written in
Latin, the word _bellum_, which in Latin means a war, is always used
to mean a single battle.

Though Christianity did not make the Irish desist from this kind of
warfare, it certainly changed their outlook on warfare in general. Men
who had taken part in bloodshed were excluded from the immediate
precincts of the churches. In the wars carried on by the heathen Irish
in other countries, the principal gain was in captives who were sold,
like St. Patrick, into slavery. In his epistle to the soldiers of the
British ruler Coroticus, St. Patrick condemns this practice along with
the killing of non-combatants. "These soldiers," he writes, "live in
death, the associates of Scots and Picts who have fallen away from the
Faith, the slayers of innocent Christians.... It is the custom of the
Christians in Roman Gaul," he adds, "to send chosen men of piety with
so much money to the Franks and other heathens, to ransom baptized
captives. Thou slayest all, or sellest them to a foreign nation that
knows not God. I know not what to say about the dead of the children
of God upon whom the sword has fallen beyond measure. The Church
deplores and bewails her sons and daughters whom the sword as yet hath
not slain but who are carried far away and transported into distant
lands, reduced to slavery, especially to slavery under the degraded
and unworthy apostate Picts."

This, therefore, was also St. Patrick's teaching to the Irish; and in
and after his time, not a single raiding expedition goes forth from
Ireland. Kuno Meyer has shown that the military organisation of the
Fiana still existed to some degree in early Christian Ireland; but it
gradually disappears, and in the seventh century the Irish kings cease
to dwell, surrounded by their fighting men, in great permanent
encampments like Tara and Ailinn. In the eighth century, we hear the
testimony of Bede, that the Irish are "a harmless nation, ever most
friendly to the English."

Another change that came about, not suddenly, but gradually during
this period, is the extinction of the old lines of racial demarcation
in Ireland. The Church did not recognise these boundaries. Many noted
ecclesiastics belonged to the old plebeian tribes.

In this connection, we may note one feature of the Irish secular law,
not traceable to the influence of Christianity. The word _soer_, used
as a noun, has two special meanings; it means a freeman and it means a
craftsman. The contrary term _doer_ means unfree--in the sense of
serfdom rather than of slavery; there is a distinct term for "slave,"
viz., _mugh_. The plebeian communities are called _doerthuatha_. The
inference, therefore, is that a skilled craftsman of unfree race
became by virtue of his craft a freeman.

Let us now take a cursory view of the course of political events
during the sixth, seventh and eighth centuries, or rather, from the
battle of Ocha, which secured the monarchy for the descendants of
Niall in 483, till the coming of the Norsemen in 793.

We have seen that the effect of the battle of Ocha was to exclude the
Connacht branches of the monarchical family from the succession. The
successful princes were a grandson and a great-grandson of Niall of
the Nine Hostages; and these two princes, one of the Southern, the
other of the Northern Ui Neill, became the next two kings of Ireland.

To understand this event more clearly, it is necessary to take a view
of the Irish law of succession or inheritance. Under this law, a man's
heirs were a family group called the _derbfine_ or true family. At the
head of this group was the great-grandfather of its youngest members,
whether he happened to be dead or alive. The _derbfine_ consisted of
this family head, his sons, grandsons and great-grandsons--four
generations. When the fifth generation came forward, the _derbfine_
subdivided itself, forming a new set of similar groups, the head of
each being one of the sons of the man who was head of the older group.

When a man died, all the living members of the _derbfine_ to which he
belonged became his heirs, and the inheritance, if capable of
division, was divided among them in proportions fixed by law. Thus, if
the deceased belonged to the third generation of the four which formed
the _derbfine_, his heirs comprised all his grandfather's living
descendants--_i.e._ his own children, his brothers and their
children, and his uncles and their children and grandchildren. In
each case, the _derbfine_ or group of heirs was ascertained by
counting back to the great-grandfather of the youngest member and
comprised all his descendants.

Kingship was not divisible, though it was a heritable property. When a
man became king, then all male members of his _derbfine_ became
potential heirs to the kingship. Each member became capable of
succession. For a man who thus came into the line of succession, there
was a legal name--he was called _rigdamna_, "king-material," or in
homely phrase, "the makings of a king." When a vacancy occurred, it
was filled up by election from among those in this way qualified.

A glance at the genealogical tree (p. 193) will show how this law of
succession influenced the action of the principals in the battle of
Ocha. Muirchertach, king of Ailech, as the annals show, was the most
active and daring of the Irish princes in his time. But neither his
father nor his grandfather had held the high-kingship. If he himself
failed to secure it, then the whole branch of the Northern Ui Néill
ceased to have any lawful claim to the monarchy. He did not belong to
the same _derbfine_ as the reigning monarch Ailill Molt, but he was
eligible to the monarchy because his great-grandfather, Niall, had
held it. It was therefore his interest, and that of his kinsfolk in
the north-west, to strike in, cut out the Connacht branch, and secure
the potential succession for himself and his posterity. Not relying on
his own power to effect this, he came to an understanding with
Luguid, king of the Southern Ui Néill, who belonged to his own
_derbfine_. From the sequel, we may judge that the price of Luguid's
adhesion was immediate succession to the monarchy. He became king of
Ireland after the battle of Ocha, and Muirchertach became king of
Ireland after him.

It is evident that this law of succession, a part of the ordinary law
of inheritance, was, from the point of view of the public peace, a bad
law. There were always branches of the ruling lines which, like the
Northern Ui Néill in this instance, were on the point of falling
outside of the group of eligibles; and the chiefs of these branches
were always under the temptation to use violent measures, if they felt
themselves strong enough, to retain the legal qualification in their
own line.

In 534, Muirchertach died and was succeeded peacefully by Tuathal
Maelgarb, another great-grandson of Niall. Contemporary with him,
there was another of Niall's great-grandsons, Diarmait, whose father
and grandfather had not reigned, and whose line therefore was in
danger of exclusion from the monarchy. In 544, Tuathal was
assassinated by a foster-brother of Diarmait, and Diarmait secured the
monarchy. He is the last of the great-grandsons of Niall of whom we
hear, and consequently the family of Niall ceases in his time to
preserve its legal unity. From his death in 565 until the year 734,
though the power and prestige acquired by the Ui Néill enabled them to
keep the high-kingship among themselves, there is no regularity of
succession. The Ui Néill held a number of small kingdoms in Meath and
western Ulster, and whatever king of them showed himself to be the
strongest is recognised as king of Ireland.

The Northern Ui Néill, occupying a compact territory side by side,
continued to hold together in political unity until the seventh
century, their chief king being at one time of the line of Conall
Gulban, at another time of the line of Eogan. In 563 they conquered
from the Picts a belt of territory on the western side of the Bann,
between Loch Neagh and the sea. This territory came into the
possession of a branch of Eogan's line, represented in later times by
the family of O'Catháin (O'Kane). In 615, we see the first appearance
of a break in the unity of the Northern Ui Néill. Mael Chobo, of the
line of Conall, was then their king and king of Ireland. He was
overthrown in battle by Suibne Menn, king of Cenél Eogain, who then
became king of Ireland. Thenceforward, Cenél Conaill and Cenél Eogain
become rival powers in the North. Their rivalry lasted, with
intervals, for a thousand years, until the battle of Kinsale in 1601,
where it was a contributary cause of the final overthrow of both their
houses. Cenél Eogain, from the position of its territory, held the
advantage, and gradually extended its power eastward and southward
over Ulster. Cenél Conaill on the other hand, holding the natural
fastness of the Donegal Highlands, was never forced to take a
permanently subordinate position.

Most modern writers on Irish history have accepted as historical the
romantic story of the cursing of Tara and its desertion during the
reign of Diarmait. There is not a word about it in the ancient annals,
though our earliest known chronicler wrote within half a century of
the supposed event. A son of Diarmait, Aed Sláne, became king of
Ireland, and died in 604, within the chronicler's time of writing
which ends in 610. Aed Sláne shared the high-kingship with Colmán,
king of the Northern Ui Néill, and the chronicle says expressly that
"they ruled Tara in equal power." As late as the year 780, Tara was
neither an accursed nor a deserted place, for in that year an
ecclesiastical synod was held "in the town of Tara" (_in oppido
Temro_). The extant stories of the cursing of Tara are all writings of
the Middle Irish period, written centuries later than the supposed
event. They tell us that the trouble began with the outlawry of Aedh
Guaire, king of Ui Maine, who refused to submit to a quite
unprecedented exercise of authority on the part of the monarch
Diarmait. I have not been able to find this Aedh Guaire's name either
in the annals or in the genealogy of Ui Maine, or anywhere except in
this story. Aedh Guaire sought sanctuary. Diarmait violated the
sanctuary. Twelve saints, called "the twelve apostles of Ireland,"
thereupon laid siege to Tara with fastings and curses, and Tara ceased
to be the home of the monarchy. The annals show that some of these
saints were dead at the time and others of them were still in their
childhood. These so-called historical tales are seldom troubled about
anachronisms. The celebrated "Colloquy with the Ancients" brings St.
Patrick and Oisin into conversation with the same Diarmait. Apart from
anachronisms, the story of the cursing has other features which should
suffice to warn any reader from taking it for serious history.

The desertion of Tara does not stand alone, and can be explained
without resort to imaginative tales of a later age. Cruachain, the
ancient seat of the Connacht kings, and Ailinn, the ancient seat of
the Leinster kings, were also abandoned during this period. It was
military kings who ruled from these strongholds, surrounded by strong
permanent military forces. My first visit to Tara convinced me that
what we see there is the remains of a great military encampment. So it
appeared or was known to the tenth-century poet Cinaed Ua h-Artacáin,
whose poem on Tara begins with the words _Temair Breg_, _baile na
fian_, "Tara of Bregia, home of the warrior-bands." When the booty and
captives of Britain and Gaul ceased to tempt and recompense a
professional soldiery, and when the old fighting castes became
gradually merged in the general population, military organisation died
out in Ireland, not to reappear until the introduction of the
Galloglasses in the thirteenth century. That is one reason why Tara
was deserted.

There is another and perhaps more cogent reason. Diarmait left his
son, Colmán the Little, king over Midhe proper, _i.e._ Westmeath and
most of King's County and County Longford; and another son, Aedh
Sláne, before mentioned, king over Bregia, _i.e._ County Meath and
parts of Louth and Dublin counties. This is a further instance of that
process, described in a former lecture, of creating mean lords. From
these two kings sprang two distinct dynasties. Colmán's line, Clann
Cholmáin, dominated the western territory; Aed Sláne's line, Síol Aeda
Sláne, the eastern territory. The process of appropriation was
continued in detail by their descendants. "Clann Cholmáin," says an
ancient genealogist, "were distributed throughout Midhe so as to
possess the lordship of every tuath and perpetual sovereignty over
them." In like manner, an old genealogical poem relates the
distribution of Aedh Sláne's descendants in lordship over various
territories of Bregia.

The annals show that, between these two families so closely related, a
fierce and bloody feud broke out, with continual reprisals, lasting
for many years. Tara was in the possession of Aed Sláne's line. After
the year 734, the kings of this line were excluded from the
high-kingship, but nevertheless continued to hold undisputed authority
over all Bregia, including Tara, until the close of the tenth century,
when their dynasty was suppressed by the high-king Mael Sechnaill, who
was also the chief of Clann Cholmáin. These facts quite sufficiently
explain why, after 734, no king of Ireland could occupy Tara without
an army.

The political affairs of southern Ireland during this period are
remarkably tranquil and undiversified. In Munster, there was probably
more abiding peace than in any equal extent of country in western
Europe. The kings of Cashel appear to have steadily consolidated
their authority and to have been content to do so without seeking to
extend it beyond the bounds fixed in the fifth century. In the Book of
Rights, the tributes payable to the king of Cashel far exceed those to
which any of the other six principal kings in Ireland laid claim.
There is an allegory related in the genealogies which indicates that
at one time the supremacy of Cashel was challenged by the Eoghanacht
kings of West Munster. This may have particular reference to one of
these, Aedh Bennán, who died in 619, and who seems to have grouped
under his own authority the western states in opposition to the king
of Cashel. It is doubtful whether this ambition outlived him. His
daughter, Mór Mhumhan ("Mór of Munster," as she is called), figures in
ancient story. She became the wife of Fínghen, king of Cashel, and the
ancestress of the most numerous family in Ireland, the O'Sullivans.

The most powerful of the kings of Cashel during this period was
Cathal, who died in 742. The annals indicate that he held virtually
equal authority with the contemporary high-kings. One of the
prerogatives of the high-king was to preside over the Assembly of
Taillte ("Teltown," near Navan). In 733, Cathal seems to have
attempted to preside over this assembly, in the absence of the
high-king Flaithbertach, who was engaged at the time in a losing
struggle to preserve his own authority in the north-west. Cathal's
attempt to preside over the high-king's assembly was forcibly
prevented by Domhnall, king of Midhe. In 734, Cathal appears to have
secured the adherence or submission of the king of Ossory in an effort
to extend his power over Leinster; and a fierce battle ensued, in
which the king of Ossory was killed and the king of Cashel escaped
alive. In 737, a convention was held between Cathal and the high-king,
Aedh Allán, at Terryglass in Ormond, and apparently an agreement was
made between them securing the claim of the church of Armagh to
revenue from all Ireland. In 738, Cathal again invaded Leinster and
exacted hostages and a heavy contribution from the king of Naas. In
view of all this, the name of Cathal was afterwards included by some
southern writers in the list of monarchs of Ireland.

In Leinster, a factor against peace was the ancient claim of the
high-kings to tribute from the Leinster kings. The origin of this
tribute, called the Bóramha or "kine-counting," is explained by two
different stories. Possibly it originated in the conquest of northern
Leinster. The tribute was seldom conceded but to main force. To exact
it at least once in a reign was a point of honour, a test of the
monarch's authority; and an invasion of Leinster for that purpose is
an almost regular item in the annals under the first or second year of
each high-king.

The irregular succession to the monarchy ends in the year 734. In that
year the high-king Flaithbertach, who was king of Tír Conaill, was
compelled to abdicate by Aedh Allán, king of Cenél Eogain, who then
became high-king. Flaithbertach retired into religious life at Armagh
where he died thirty-one years later. From the year 734 until 1022,
except for two interruptions, the succession to the high kingship was
reserved to two dynasties, one at the head of the Northern Ui Néill,
the other at the head of the Southern Ui Néill, to the kings of Ailech
and Midhe; and these succeeded each other in the monarchy in regular
alternation. There is no record of any express constitutional pact to
secure the succession in this manner, but the alternation was a well
recognised fact; and on this fact the medieval reconstructors of Irish
history for the prehistoric period modelled part of their work--so
that we read of an alternate sovereignty over Munster in remote
antiquity, and of another alternate sovereignty, in which the
Eoghanacht and the Dalcassians were the partners, at a later period;
and the history of the monarchy is projected back to the first arrival
of the Gaels in Ireland, by a device already alluded to, that is, by
selecting names in turn out of the pedigrees of the principal

It is not my purpose in these lectures to give a complete scheme of
Irish history, allotting to each set of facts its due proportion of
the discourse. My aim is rather to supplement what appears defective
and correct what appears misleading in the treatment of early Irish
history as the public has been accustomed to it. In regard of the
great activity of religion and learning during the period between St.
Patrick and the Norsemen, I shall not attempt to give even in summary
what has been so eloquently described in detail by others, for
example, by Archbishop Healy in his valuable work on "Ireland's
Ancient Schools and Scholars," and, in the continental and missionary
aspect, by Margaret Stokes. We have noted that the Irish civilisation
of this period stands out so brightly from what are called the Dark
Ages that it has commanded the special attention of an eminent
historian of the Roman Empire, and evoked the resources of German
scholarship. When I see the eulogist of Anglo-Norman feudalism in
Ireland sitting in judgment upon the political institutions of a
people which he has never studied and does not at all understand, I
call to mind the estimate formed by "the ancient philosophers of
Ireland" about Victorius of Aquitaine--that he was deserving of
compassion rather than of ridicule. A barbarous people in "the tribal
stage"--every item culled out that might suggest comparison with the
head-hunters of New Guinea and the Hottentot--and beside this and in
the midst of it schools everywhere, not schools but universities--books
everywhere, "the countless multitude of the books of Éire,"--yes, we
can still use the scrapings of our Irish vellum as a cure for the foreign
snake-bite--and on the other hand, the pomp and circumstance of Feudalism,
with its archiepiscopal viceroys, its incastellations and its
subinfeudations, its charters and its statutes, its registers and its
inquisitions, but during four centuries not one school of note, not even
one, and one abortive university, no literature except the melancholy
records of anti-national statecraft, and whatever learning there was for
the most part suborned to the purposes of a dominating officialdom, just
as in our own day we have seen the highest achievements of science and
invention suborned to the service of the war departments.

As regards the actual scope of Irish learning, at that period, our
data are not sufficient to determine it. I do not know whether anyone
has yet attempted to draw up a complete conspectus of the Latin
literature that has been preserved in MSS. copied by Irish scribes,
and of Latin authors quoted in ancient Irish books. In my opinion, the
formation of a sane estimate of the Latin learning of that age, in the
case of Ireland as of other countries, has been hindered by what I
will call the intellectual snobbery of the Renaissance--an attitude of
mind in which scholars think to dignify themselves by despising
everything in Latin that was not written in the time of the first
twelve Caesars. It should not be ignored that for centuries after the
fall of the Western Empire, though Latin existed among the common
people only in the form of broken and breaking dialects, the Latin of
the grammarians continued to be the language of thought and of
education throughout the western half of Europe, and remained for the
educated a truly living language. If it did not retain its classical
elegance, it still had an unbroken vital tradition. Above all, the
later Latin writings contain the contemporary record of the most
progressive section of the human race in those times. I have often
thought that I should like to see our universities break away from
that sentiment of intellectual snobbery and open up opportunities for
their students to become familiar with the late Latin literature.
There can be no doubt that it was this late Latin literature that was
chiefly read in the ancient Christian schools of Ireland, and properly
so, for its content was of more vital interest to their teachers and
scholars than the matter of producing elegant yet artificial
imitations of the Latin classics. In that later Latin and through its
medium, Western Christendom was joined in an international
common-wealth of mind. The Irish schools were familiar with works
written in Spain like those of Orosius and St. Isidore, or in Gaul
like those of St. Jerome and Victorius. Perhaps the intimacy and
frequency of this intellectual intercourse is best illustrated in a
letter written by the celebrated Alcuin no doubt from the palace
school of Charlemagne, to Colgu, a professor in Clonmacnois, just
before the ravages of the Norsemen began. "The writer complains that
for some time past he was not deemed worthy to receive any of those
letters 'so precious in my sight from your fatherhood,' but he daily
feels the benefit of his absent father's prayers." Here we have clear
testimony that, for personal correspondence, there existed a way of
sending letters from Ireland to the Rhineland and receiving replies,
approaching as near to a regular postal service as we could expect to
find in that age. The sequence of the letter shows that the medium of
this correspondence was merchant shipping engaged in trade between the
two countries. Alcuin adds "that he sends by the same messenger an
alms of fifty sicles of silver from the bounty of King Charles (_i.e._
Charlemagne) and fifty more from his own resources for the
brotherhood. He also sends a quantity of olive oil ... and asks that
it may be distributed amongst the Bishops in God's honour for
sacramental purposes."

And what about Greek? Much has been written about the singular
knowledge of Greek possessed by Irish scholars and their pupils of
other nationalities in the time of Charlemagne and thereabouts. Zimmer
in particular has laid great stress on this proposition. Some years
ago, I went one day to look for help from Professor Corcoran in
something I was trying to work out. I found him in his room, busy with
his students. I retreated, but he called me back. "We are discussing,"
he said, "the question of the knowledge of Greek in the ancient Irish
schools. You have come in a good time to let us know your view about
it." "Well," I said, "I cannot claim to have examined the matter at
all. I know that some remarkable things have been said about it. I can
only claim to have formed a general impression from what I have
observed." "Will you let us know what impression you have formed?"
"Certainly," I said. "My impression is that such evidences of a
knowledge of Greek as have been found are well enough explained as the
outcome of the teaching of Greek in Canterbury by Archbishop
Theodore." Since that time, Mr. Mario Esposito has discussed the
matter at length in "Studies," and his conclusion is that the
knowledge of Greek in those Irish schools was very meagre indeed and
mainly or wholly based on mere vocabularies. Kuno Meyer, I think,
disagreed with this conclusion. I can remember that Mr. Esposito's
treatment of the question jarred on me to some extent--I thought his
argument was too sharp in some places and too flat in others.
Nevertheless, I think he was in the right on the main point. Knowledge
of a language means either conversational knowledge or textual
knowledge or both together. I certainly could not name a single Greek
author who was textually known in the Irish schools--on the evidence;
and I know no evidence of the conversational use of Greek in those
schools. It may have been in them for a time. Bede, a contemporary,
says that Theodore's pupils learned to speak Greek with fluency.
Theodore was in Canterbury from 664 till 690, and it is very likely
that Irishmen would go there to learn from him. But notwithstanding
Bede's testimony, it does not appear that Theodore's teaching had the
effect of establishing the study of Greek on any permanent basis in
England, not to say in Ireland.

Without making any claim that does not rest on unquestionable
evidence, there is enough to show that during the sixth, seventh, and
eighth centuries, Ireland, enjoying freedom from external danger and
holding peaceful intercourse with the other nations, made no
inglorious use of her opportunity. The native learning and the Latin
learning throve side by side. The ardent spirit of the people sent
missionary streams into Britain and Gaul, western Germany and Italy,
even to farthest Iceland. And among all this world-intercourse there
grew up the most intense national consciousness. It pleases me to see
a certain school of writers say certain things, so that the truth may
be established by its opposite. "The Irishman's country," I read,
"was the _tuath_ or territory belonging to his tribe.... The clansman,
while ready to lay down his life for his chief, felt no enthusiasm for
a national cause. The sentiment for 'country' in any sense more
extended than that of his own tribal territory, was alike to him and
to his chief unknown." The implication is that, in the twelfth
century, to which these words refer, the statement made in them is, in
the first place, true of the Irishman, and in the second place,
especially and peculiarly true of the Irishman. If it be peculiarly or
especially true of the Irishman, then the writer, Mr. Orpen, has in
mind other nationalities about which the same could not be stated.
What and where were they? Suppose we read instead, "The feudal
vassal's country was the fief or territory belonging to his lord....
The vassal, while ready to lay down his life for his lord, felt no
enthusiasm for a national cause. The sentiment for a 'country' in any
sense more extended than that of his own feudal territory, was alike
to him and to his lord unknown." Would this be untrue of England,
France, Germany, or Italy in the twelfth century? If quite applicable
to all these countries, why is it so particularly and specially said
about the Irishman? For what purpose? To what end? Is it to bring out
historical truth? What is the motive? What is the objective?

The fact is that, while the statement is true in a limited sense about
Ireland, it is not especially and peculiarly true, as its writer would
have himself believe, about Ireland, and it is less true about
Ireland than about any country in western Europe at that period--the
twelfth century. You will not find anywhere in Europe during that age
any approach towards the definite and concrete sense of
nationality--of country and people in one--which is the common
expression of the Irish mind in that age. Beginning with the sixth
century chronicle, every Irish history is a history of Ireland--there
is not one history of a tribal territory or of any grouping of tribal
territories. Every Irish law-book is a book of the laws of
Ireland--there are no territorial laws and no provincial laws. The
whole literature is pervaded by the notion of one country common to
all Irishmen. So far as Mr. Orpen's statement is concerned with the
expression of historical truth, it has this much of truth--that
neither in Ireland nor in any other country was the modern sentiment
of political nationality fully formed in the popular mind. Mr. Orpen
goes on to contrast Irish localism with the centralised monarchies of
Europe. Let us hope he does not imagine that any one of those
centralised monarchies was the expression of the sentiment of country
in the popular mind or in the mind of the ruler. It is true that the
sentiment of country sometimes obtained its delimitation from
centralised power--but the sentiments which found expression in
centralised power were those of fear on the one side and domination on
the other; and students who study medieval history with a map will
quickly apprehend that these two sentiments, fear and domination,
shaped the boundaries of country in defiance of the sentiments
connected with country, race, language, nationality. In Ireland, on
the other hand, we find the clear development of the national
consciousness, associated with the country, to a degree that is found
nowhere else. Just as we must reject the ridiculous notion that the
Irish were a perverse people, with a double dose of original sin, and
therefore a people about whom the more incredible are the things said
the more worthy they are of belief; so, too, we must avoid the
contrary extreme and refrain from insisting that everything in ancient
Ireland was perfect, deriving this perfection from the angelic virtue
of the national character. In Ireland it was impossible to escape the
sentiment of country. So an ancient poet figured to himself that the
first poem in the Irish language began thus: "I invoke the land of
Ireland." Another poet puts this sentiment in the mouth of Columba--

    Here is a grey eye
    that looks back to Ireland
    an eye that never more shall see
    Ireland's men nor her women.

Now, Columba's "tribal territory" was Tír Conaill. Again, Columba is
supposed to say--

    Gaedheal! Gaedheal! beloved name--
    My one joy of memory is to utter it.

But Columba's clan was the Ui Néill--not the Gaedhil. Shall we be told
that national sentiment was an esoteric doctrine of the poets; that in
lines like these, they were not appealing to the sense of country
which they knew to be in the minds of their audience, but were seeking
subtly to indoctrinate with a nationalism peculiar to themselves a
public which could only think of tribal chiefs and tribal territories?
Well and good. In what other country of that age was there even a
small class of the people who held and expressed this definite
sentiment of country? A Leinster poet sings the glories of the Curragh
of Kildare and the royal fortress of Ailinn--seat of the Leinster
kings; but in the middle of this theme, he says, "Greater than telling
at every time hath been God's design for Ireland"; can this expression
be paralleled in the literature of any other country in that age? Or
let us look at the words with which Gilla Coemáin begins a metrical
list of the Irish monarchs:

    High Éire, island of the kings,
    illustrious scene of mighty deeds--

These are only casual examples that rise to the mind. The plain truth
is this--and the writer who denies it does so because he has set out
to write a political pamphlet in the guise of history--that,
notwithstanding an extensive intercourse with neighbouring and distant
peoples, and notwithstanding an extremely decentralised native polity,
the Irish people stand singular and eminent in those times, from the
fifth century forward, as the possessors of an intense national


The Norsemen or Northmen were the people of Norway, Sweden and
Denmark. They always call themselves Northmen. This implies that they
regarded themselves as being the northern branch of a larger
people--and that larger people can only have been the Germans.
Northmen means North Germans. On their first appearance on the Irish
and Scottish coasts, the Irish called them simply "the Heathens"--Genti:
all the other peoples with whom the Irish came in contact at that time
being Christians. Afterwards they were called in Irish _Lochlannaigh_.
The origin of this name is unknown. Professor Marstrander thinks it must
mean the men of Rogaland, an old division of Scandinavia.

The Norse invasions are seen to go through several phases. In the
first phase, the islands and coasts are fiercely devastated, and the
Northmen make away again with their booty and captives, or hold the
captives to ransom. In the second phase, they occupy islands and
outlying forelands. They are thus able to gather strong bands and plan
out incursions into the interior. These two phases cover about half a
century, from 790 to 840. Gradually the leaders are learning the
geography of Ireland, especially of its harbours and navigable

The rapid development of these raiding enterprises has been explained
as caused by political changes in Norway. But these changes did not
take place until about eighty years after the Norse raids began. They
amounted to a strong centralisation under king Harald the Fairhaired
and a diminution of the power of the nobles; and they were perhaps
rather a consequence than a cause of the raiding movement. We have
seen how, some five centuries earlier, an almost similar outbreak of
raiding activity brought the Irish into touch with Roman Britain and
Gaul, and how the rewards of plunder enabled Irish kings to maintain a
permanent military organisation and to acquire thereby much greater
power, leading to a depression of the old nobility. I think it likely
that the chief cause of the Norse movement of invasion was the
development of a particularly suitable style of ship-building; the
building of long undecked ships of light draft and very strong
construction, very seaworthy; in which, during a sea-fight, every man
could take a hand.

The third phase was the occupation of inland waters. The invaders ran
their ships, which were propelled by oars as well as by sails, up the
navigable rivers, if necessary dragging them overland where the
navigable parts were interrupted by shallow rapids, for example on the
Bann and the Shannon. Thus they could place a whole fleet on a lake
like Loch Neagh or Loch Ree. There they were safe from attack and were
in a position to choose the place on a large shoreline for their
incursions. It is to be borne in mind that, during the period of the
Norse wars in Ireland and for some centuries before and after it, the
Irish had no permanent military organisation. Their largest military
operations never extended beyond a few weeks. Their fighting men were
called out for the purpose from their ordinary peaceful occupations,
and could not lawfully be held to military service for more than a few
weeks in any year. Thus there was no effective means of fighting down
a hostile force encamped on its ships in a large inland water. It was
by a crafty lure, we are told, that Turgesius, commander of the Norse
fleet on the Shannon, was captured.

The fourth phase was the occupation of a fortified station on some
haven, so that the ships, drawn up on land, were secure from attack.
The earliest of these Norse stations in Ireland were at Dublin and at
Annagassan in Co. Louth. Annagassan, now a mere hamlet, was a port of
note in ancient times. Its sandy estuary suited the shipping of that
age. Irish folk-tales still describe the old way of bringing ships to
land in such places. The ships were of very light draft. Those made in
Ireland had the strong framework covered with hides not planks. They
were run ashore in a sandy rivermouth and dragged up on land beyond
the reach of the tide. What gave Annagassan importance was that at
this point the old great northern highway, the Slighe Midhluachra,
touched the coast. It is in describing the fortified stations of the
Norsemen at Dublin and Annagassan, in the annals under the year 841,
that we first find the Irish term _long-phort_. This word, about
seventy years afterwards, has come to mean an entrenched or stockaded
position for an army, a fortified camp; and its use in this sense
shews us what was the character of these first Norse stations on the
Irish mainland.

The occupation of these fortified stations enabled the invaders to
accumulate force for strong expeditions overland. Such expeditions
were soon undertaken with success.

Dublin was well chosen. The Liffey here was the boundary between two
of the greater kingdoms--Leinster and Bregia. The Norsemen of Dublin
were thus in a position to take advantage of the ancient hostility
between the Leinstermen and the Ui Néill who had wrested the plain of
Meath from Leinster and imposed a hated tribute on the Leinster kings.
So, as a rule, we find the Norse of Dublin and the kings of Leinster
in close alliance.

The Irish annals indicate an earlier date for the centralising policy
of the kings of Norway than Norwegian historians seem to accept. In
849, they tell us, eight years after the occupation of Dublin, the
king of Norway (Lochlainn) sent a fleet to establish his authority
over the Norse settlers in Ireland; and four years later, in 853, they
say that Olaf, whom they call son of the king of Lochlainn, assumed
kingship over the Norsemen in Ireland. He became joint king of Dublin
with Ivar.

Soon after this, in 856 and 857, the Gall-Ghaedhil or Norse-Irish,
make their appearance in various parts of the island--in Meath and
Ulster and Munster. These were the people of the generation following
the Norse occupation of the Scottish islands and the Isle of Man.
They spoke a broken Irish and no doubt also a broken Norse dialect.

In 851, a new variety of Norsemen arrives on the Irish coast. They are
called the Black Heathens, the Black Foreigners, the Black
Lochlannachs, in contradistinction to the Fair Heathens, Fair
Foreigners, or Fair Lochlannachs who had been here before them. The
Welsh chronicle, the Annales Cambriae, makes it fairly clear that
these Black Heathens were the Danes. They came in hostility to the
Norwegians, with whom they fought fierce battles; and we have already
seen that for a number of years the Danes held the chief power in the

At this point of time, about the middle of the ninth century, the
Norsemen must have seemed to be about to become masters of all
northern Europe from the west of Ireland to the banks of the Volga.
England was crumbling under their attacks. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
tells how Norse armies marched up and down through the country without
resistance, then moved off to the Continent. They occupied Ghent in
Flanders for a year. They defeated the Franks in battle and supplied
themselves with horses from their captures, pushed up the Meuse into
France, encamped there for another year; went up the Scheldt to Condé
and sat there for a year; up the Somme to Amiens, and sat there for a
year. Then up the Seine, and took up their winter quarters beside
Paris. Then the "army went up through the bridge at Paris, and thence
up along the Seine as far as the Marne, and thence up the Marne to
Cheny, and then sat down, there and on the Yonne, two winters in the
two places." Then they crossed from the Seine to the borders of
Brittany, where the Bretons attacked and defeated them, driving them
into their ships, which apparently had been sent round by sea to
co-operate with them. Turning again eastward they were defeated next
year in Germany, but held together in France for two years more, when
they came down to Boulogne, and finding shipping for their whole
force, including horses, crossed over to England in two hundred and
fifty ships, Alfred being then king in England. Afterwards they
crossed England, passing up the Thames and then up the Severn. Alfred,
assisted by the Welsh, defeated them. They fell back on Essex,
mustered fresh forces there, once more crossed England and laid siege
to Chester, invaded Wales and were driven out of it. Some settled down
in the conquered lands of East Anglia and Northumbria, the rest made a
fresh expedition into France. Though Alfred was a great and admirable
king, and justly held up to renown in English history, he could do no
more than hold a minor part of England against these invaders, and at
his death in 901 they were undisputed masters of about two thirds of
that country.

Several causes operated in checking the growth of Norse power. One was
the rivalry between the Danes and the Norwegians. Another was the
consolidation of Scotland under Cinaeth Mac Ailpin. A third cause
undoubtedly was the tenacious resistance of the "Celts." Had the
Norsemen been as successful in Scotland and Ireland, Wales and
Brittany, as they were in England and Normandy, Harald the Fair might
have been the head of a new empire. The annals give a long list of
pitched battles in Ireland, in some of which the invaders were
victorious but for the most part they were defeated. Mr. Orpen
ascribes their failure to the fact that the Irish were not politically
centralised and were therefore harder to break down; yet he goes on to
censure this defect in the Irish polity. Are we to conclude that it
was a misfortune for Ireland and other countries that Ireland was not
subjugated by the Scandinavian Heathens?

As a matter of fact, it was under the personal command of the
high-king, Aedh Finnliath, that the Irish resistance took a definitely
successful turn. In 866, this king captured all the strongholds of the
Norsemen in the northern half of Ireland; and from this time on, they
made no settlements to the north of Dublin and Limerick. Olaf and
Ivar, the two kings of Dublin, turned their arms against Britain. In
870, as already related, after a siege of four months, they captured
the last stronghold of the northern Britons at Dumbarton. In recording
the death of Ivar in 873, the Irish annals entitled him "king of the
Norsemen of Ireland and Britain."

Ireland, however, was not at peace from the invaders. Under the same
year, 873, we find a characteristic entry in the annals. I have
already said that those who resort to these chronicles for a record
of the normal affairs of Ireland mistake the character of the record
and expose themselves to deception. One of the institutions connected
with the Irish monarchy was the "Fair" or Assembly of Taillte near
Navan. This was considered to be the principal assembly in Ireland,
and to preside over it was a function of the king of Ireland. Yet
during more than four centuries before this year 873, the Assembly is
only five times mentioned, and in each instance it is not the normal
fact but an abnormal incident that is recorded. In the year 717, the
Assembly was disturbed by Foghartach, king of Bregia. Foghartach was a
claimant to the high-kingship. In 714, he was deposed and exiled to
Britain. In 716, he is recorded as reigning again. His disturbance of
the Assembly of Taillte in the following year marks therefore an
attempt on his part to assert his position as monarch. The effective
high-king at the time was Fergal, king of Ailech. In 733, Cathal, king
of Munster, made a similar attempt to preside, and was prevented by
the king of Meath. After this event, there is no mention of the
Assembly until 811. In that year, the Ui Néill having done something
in violation of the sanctuary rights of the monastery of Tallaght near
Dublin, the monastic authorities placed the Assembly under an
interdict. The high-king nevertheless proceeded to hold it. He was
Aedh Oirdnidhe, king of Ailech; and so we see that whether the monarch
had his domestic realm in Meath or in the far North, it was equally
his custom to preside over this Assembly. He failed to hold the
Assembly. In face of the ban "neither horse nor chariot came
thither." And the violated sanctuary of Tallaght received reparation
after this in the form of many gifts.

In 827, the Assembly was broken up "against the Gailings" by the
high-king Conchobor. The explanation of this event is possibly that
the high-king failed to hold the Assembly, being preoccupied with the
hostile activities of the Norsemen who in that year were plundering,
burning and wasting the Bregian seaboard, not far from Taillte; also
with the equally troublesome activities of Feidlimid, king of Cashel,
about whom there is more to be said. The Gailings, whose territory lay
close by, were loth to be deprived of the customary celebration, and
attempted to hold the Assembly on their own account, but were forcibly
prevented by the high-king.

In 831, the annals record a disturbance in the courts of the Assembly,
owing to some dispute regarding reliquaries of St. Patrick and St.
MacCuilinn of Lusk, the reliquaries no doubt being brought there for
the purpose of administering oaths in litigation.

Let it not be thought that the silence of the annals in other years is
compatible with the absence of the unrecorded event. The entry of the
year 873 puts this possibility out of question. It says: "The Assembly
of Taillte is not held, in the absence of just and worthy cause, a
thing which we have not heard to have befallen from ancient times."
Nevertheless, that there was sufficient cause in the disturbed
condition of the country owing to the Norse wars is made evident, for
the chronicler has to record the abandonment of the Assembly three
years later, in 876, when again he denies a just and worthy cause; and
again in the second year after that, in 878, without just and worthy
cause. When we come to 888, we are told only that the Assembly fell
through. This is repeated in 889, and then, when the failure to hold
the Assembly becomes annual and, so to speak, normal, the annalist
ceases to record it. The next we hear of this institution is in 916,
and once more it is the unwonted thing that is chronicled. In that
year, the Assembly of Taillte was restored by the high-king, Niall
Glúndubh. Hence it would appear that the half-century preceding 916
was the period during which the disturbance of normal conditions in
Ireland reached its maximum; and this is also the period of maximum
activity for the Norsemen in neighbouring countries.

Aedh Finnliath died in the monastery of Dromiskin in 879. Dromiskin is
in Co. Louth, near the sea-coast, and the fact that it was there the
high-king "fell asleep," _i.e._ died a peaceful death in religious
retirement, testifies to his success in checking the menace of the
Norsemen in northern Ireland. He was succeeded in the monarchy,
according to the custom of alternation, by Flann Sinna, king of Meath.

In the meantime, the power of the kings of Cashel continued to
increase. It is a remarkable thing that at least four kings of Cashel
during this period were ecclesiastics. These were Ólchobor, who died
in 796, a scribe and a bishop; Feidlimid, who reigned from 820 to 847,
described in his obit as "scribe and anchorite," but in an earlier
annal he is mentioned as carrying his crozier to battle; Cormac, the
learned bishop, who fell in battle in 908; and Flaithbertach, the
chief cause of Cormac's tragedy, who was abbot of Inis Cathaigh,
afterwards became king of Cashel, abdicated or was deposed, and died
in 944. The career of Feidlimid reads like that of a Heathen king of
Norsemen. There are some churchmen who stand upon the letter of the
law, and consider themselves thereby entitled to do things that are
hard to reconcile with the spirit. Feidlimid began his reign by
proclaiming the Law of Patrick over Munster, _i.e._ by enforcing there
the primatial claims of Armagh. In the same year he burned the
monastery of Gallen, a foundation of the Britons in the west of Meath,
destroying all its dwelling places and its oratory. Three years later,
in 826, he led the army of Munster into the same district and wasted
it. In 827 the king of Ireland, Conchobor, met him in convention at
Birr; this indicating that the two kings were on terms of equality. In
830, he was again burning and wasting over his borders in Meath and
Connacht. In 831, he appeared at the head of an army of Munster and
Leinster in Bregia. In 833, he attacked Clonmacnois, slaughtered its
monks and burned its termon-lands up to the church gates; then handled
the monastery of Durrow in the same fashion. In 836, he attacked
Kildare, then a purely ecclesiastical and monastic settlement, and
finding the abbot and other dignitaries of Armagh there on
visitation, he carried them off as captives, no doubt holding them to
ransom. Next year he again invaded Connacht, and in 838 another king
of Ireland met him in convention at Cloncurry, and doubtless came to
terms with him; in 840 he attacked Meath, Bregia, and Connacht, and
exacted the hostages of Connacht; in 841, the year in which the
Norsemen established themselves at Dublin, Feidlimid with his army
encamped on Tara. This, along with his taking the hostages of
Connacht, shows that his aim was to secure the high-kingship. In the
same year he marched to Carman, near Mullaghmast; Carman was the
assembly-place of the kings of Leinster, and Feidlimid no doubt wished
to preside and so assert his sovereignty over Leinster. This time,
however, he overstretched his power. The reigning high-king, Niall,
came in force against him and drove him out, and a poem on this event
says that in his flight the vigil-keeping Feidlimid left his crozier
behind. After this check, he is not further heard of until his death
in 847. In his obit he is called by the northern chronicler "optimus
Scottorum," the best man of the Irish. His reign exhibits the
high-water mark of the power of the Eoghanacht kings of Munster.

After 500 years of undisputed sovereignty in Munster, the Eoghanacht
dynasty of Cashel reached a turning point in the battle of Belach
Mugna in 908. In that year, urged on by Flaithbertach, abbot of Inis
Cathaigh, an eligible prince and afterwards king of Cashel, king
Cormac, the bishop, invaded Leinster. The high-kings of the line of
Niall regarded the Leinster kings as their own choice vassals and
jealously reserved to themselves the privilege of exacting homage and
tribute from Leinster. We have seen how a high-king allowed a king of
Cashel to plunder and harry in Connacht and Meath, and interfered with
effect only when the Assembly of Carman and the sovereignty of
Leinster were involved. So it befel with Cormac. Advancing through
Ossory he compelled the king of Ossory to join forces with him, and
crossing the Barrow they were confronted by the Leinster king and his
army. They encamped for the night, prepared to do battle on the
morrow. Flann Sinna, the high-king, must have been well warned, for
when the morning came, the Munster army found not only the Leinstermen
against them in front, but the high-king and the king of Connacht
coming upon their left flank. The king of Ossory attempted to retreat
but was cut off and killed. The battle became a rout. King Cormac was
unhorsed and beheaded. Two Munster abbots fell in the slaughter. The
abbot of Inis Cathaigh escaped.

A graphic account of this expedition, with all the appearance of
authentic detail, is found in a book of annals apparently compiled at
Durrow in Ossory. The memory of King Cormac was held afterwards in
great veneration. To him is ascribed the compilation of the Irish
glossary that bears his name, also of the Psalter of Cashel and the
Book of Rights. The Psalter of Cashel survives only in excerpts and
quotations, and to judge from these it was a collection of historical
and genealogical matter. Of the Book of Rights, Professor Ridgeway
once said to me that it was the most remarkable state document
produced by any European country outside of the Byzantine empire in
that age. We must consider its character and content on a later

This tragic battle, fought in the year 908, ended the long-established
prestige of the Cashel dynasty. Six years afterwards, in 914, the
Norsemen took possession of Waterford without opposition; and still
six years later, in 920, they took possession of Limerick. Until these
years, they had gained no foothold on the land of Munster. Another
result of the weakening of the Eoghanacht power was the rapid rise of
the Dalcassian kings.

Closely connected with the events of this time, a thousand years ago,
was the remarkable story of Queen Gormlaith. She was daughter of the
king of Ireland, Flann Sinna. Apparently she had been betrothed to
Cormac, king of Cashel. He having become an ecclesiastic, Gormlaith
was given in marriage to Cearbhall, king of Leinster, the same
Cearbhall, victor over Cormac at Belach Mugna, to whose sword an ode
written by a Leinster poet is preserved in the Book of Leinster. The
Ossory collection of annals, which differs from the ordinary
chronicles in expanding into narrative, tells that Cearbhall, wounded
in the battle, lay long a-healing, and that once, as the queen sat on
the couch at his feet, he boasted rudely over the death of Cormac.
Gormlaith reproached him for his disrespect to the memory of so good a
king. Her husband, remembering that she had been promised wife to
Cormac, became enraged, and with his foot cast the queen from the
couch to the floor. Thus affronted in the presence of others,
Gormlaith left her husband and went back to her father. Flann refused
to receive her, not desiring a quarrel with the king of Leinster.
Gormlaith then sought protection from Niall Glúndubh, king of Ailech.
Cearbhall died of his wounds the year after the battle, and Niall
married Gormlaith. On the death of Flann in 916, Niall became king of

I have shown that the annals are a record of abnormal rather than of
normal matters. Another character of the annals is that they are in
the main an aristocratic and personal record, having chief regard to
great personages in Church and State and to the personal aspect of
events as they concerned these magnates. A good exemplification of
this feature of the annals is shown in the record of king Flann's
death. It says: "Flann, son of Mael Sechnaill, king of Tara, who
reigned thirty-six years, six months, and five days, died in the
sixty-eighth year of his age, on Saturday, the 25th of May, about the
hour of 1 _p.m._" So Gormlaith, daughter of a king of Ireland, chosen
to be queen of Munster, became queen of Leinster, then queen of
Ailech, and lastly queen of Ireland. There is an old poem which
represents her standing by the grave of her husband Niall and
commanding a monk not to set his foot upon that clay. She died in
religious retirement in 948, forty years after the battle of Belach

In the first year of his reign as king of Ireland, 916, Niall
Glúndubh, as already told, restored the Assembly of Taillte. In the
following year, 917, he marched against the Norsemen of Waterford.
They came out to meet him. An indecisive action was fought. Then both
armies fortified themselves in the field, anticipating the modern
manner of warfare, and remained thus face to face for three weeks.
Niall meanwhile sent to the king of Leinster requesting him to attack
the Norsemen from that side. The Norsemen, however, did not wait for
this attack. Keeping enough force to hold their position against
Niall, they sent their main body to meet the Leinstermen, whom they
completely defeated. The place of this encounter is named Cenn Fuait,
and was absurdly identified by O'Donovan with Confey in Co. Kildare,
apparently on the principle that there is an M in Macedon and also in
Monmouth. The battle must have taken place close to Waterford Harbour
on the Leinster side. Other editors of the annals content themselves
with repeating O'Donovan's conjecture as authentic. After this
failure, Niall withdrew, and the Norsemen held Waterford from that
time until the Norman invasion.

Next year 918, Niall opened war on the Norsemen of Dublin. That is
just 1000 years ago. The following year, 919, he led an army against
Dublin. The Norsemen met him on the north bank of the Liffey at
Islandbridge. Niall was defeated and mortally wounded. This battle is
sometimes called the battle of Dublin, sometimes the battle of
Cell-mo-Shámhóg, from a church in the vicinity. The latter name
furnished O'Donovan with the occasion for another conjectural
identification, which other editors have blindly followed. He made
Cell-mo-Shámhóg to be the same as Kilmashogue, six or seven miles
from Dublin on the south side and among the hills. A little reflection
would have assured these editors that, just as a Leinster army coming
to the relief of an army near Waterford was not likely to encounter
the Norse of Waterford in the north of Leinster, so also an army from
northern Ireland was not likely to meet the Norsemen of Dublin in the
mountains to the south of Dublin. For the full identification of the
battle site, the student may refer to the name Cell Mo Shámóc in
Father Hogan's Onomasticon.

From Niall Glúndubh the O'Neills of Tyrone derive their surname and

The Norsemen were now no longer the ferocious heathens of their
earlier record. Most of them had adopted Christianity. Intermarriages
between them and the Irish were quite frequent. Their towns soon
developed into trading communities, though it is clear enough from
Norse documents that a Norse trading ship went to sea well prepared to
make gains by less patient methods than buying and selling. Wexford
seems to have been pre-eminently a trading settlement, and the first
part taken by the Wexford Norsemen in Irish wars was apparently the
defence of their town against the Anglo-Normans. With their Irish
neighbours they lived in peace and security. In the tenth century the
Norse settlements in Ireland became part of the Irish body politic,
and if they went to war in Ireland, as often as not, it was in
alliance with one Irish king against another. There were still
incursions of the Norsemen of outlying parts, the Isle of Man,
Galloway, the Hebrides, etc., and in Ireland the struggle takes the
form of resistance to these invaders, under a number of leaders of
note. One of these leaders, Cellachán of Cashel, king of Munster, has
a saga all to himself, but I think the story contains more than
history. Some of its striking events, which we might expect to find
recorded in the chronicles, find no place in them. However that may
be, Cellachán's activity against the Norsemen is the last glory of the
Cashel dynasty, the flame that shoots up from the candlestick before
the candle goes out. Already the Dalcassian line was preparing to take
the place of the declining Eoghanacht power in Munster. In the year
944, the father of Brian Bóramha, Cennétig, king of Dál gCais, with
the title of king of Thomond or North Munster, gave battle to
Cellachán, but was defeated. Brian was born in 941, three years before
this battle. Cellachán died in 954.

In northern Ireland at this time the head of resistance to the
Norsemen was Muirchertach, son of the high-king Niall Glúndubh who
fell in the battle of Dublin. A list of his victories is given, a
century after his time, by the poet-historian Flann of Monasterboice.
Among them is mentioned an expedition by sea against the Norsemen of
the Hebrides--it is also mentioned in the genealogies but not in the
contemporary annals. The annals on the other hand record that in 939
Muirchertach was captured in Ailech and carried off by the Norsemen to
their ships but was immediately ransomed. The event shows that Ailech,
one of the great prehistoric stone fortresses, was still occupied in
the tenth century by the kings who took their title from it.
Especially interesting in Muirchertach's career are his relations with
the high king Donnchadh. In the ordinary course of the alternate
succession, Muirchertach, as king of Ailech, was the designated
successor in the high-kingship to Donnchadh, who was king of Meath. At
times he appears prepared to dispute the authority of Donnchadh, at
other times he is active in upholding it. His most remarkable action
is what is known as his Circuit of Ireland, in 941, briefly noticed in
the Annals but described at length in a poem by Cormacán Éces, who
accompanied the expedition. With a picked force, said to number 1000,
Muirchertach marched through all the principal kingdoms of Ireland,
and exacted hostages from each king. In Cashel, he took the king
himself, Cellachán, as a hostage. The Dalcassians alone stood off, and
after four days marching here and there in their territory,
Muirchertach passed on to Connacht without the hostages of Dál gCais.

The fact of this expedition illustrates what I have already said,
that, from the sixth to the thirteenth century, there was no military
organisation in Ireland. The hostages were brought to Ailech and there
hospitably entertained by the king and queen for some weeks, after
which Muirchertach, so to speak, regularised his position in the
matter by handing over all the hostages to the high king Donnchadh.

Two years later, in 943, Muirchertach fell in battle with the Norsemen
near Dundalk. The high king Donnchadh died in the following year, 944.
In the ordinary course of the alternate succession, he should have
been succeeded by the king of Ailech, but Muirchertach's death left
this kingship either disputed or divided, and the high-kingship was
assumed by Congalach, king of Bregia, who reigned for twelve years and
fell in battle with the Norsemen. This reign of Congalach is the only
breach in the alternate monarchy between the years 734 and 1002.

The kingdom of Dál gCais occupied the eastern half of the present
county of Clare. Its prominence dates from the time of Lorcán,
grandfather of Brian. Being a border state, it was able to form
relations of mutual advantage with the border states of Connacht, with
Aidne, Ui Maine, and the Delbna. In the wars between Mathgamain and
the Limerick Norsemen, the Delbna were his allies. The kings of Aidne
and Ui Maine, Connacht states, were allies of Brian, and gave their
lives, as he did, on the great day of Clontarf.

The killing of Mathgamain in 976 appears in later writings in a more
odious light than it could have appeared to contemporaries. We can
recognise that the ancient Eoghanacht dynasty of Cashel, which
Mathgamain overthrew, had already lost its prestige and was no longer
able to rule and protect Munster. It has always happened in the
world's history, and is probably happening to-day, that institutions
and established powers appear to contemporary people to be full of
vigour and likely to last, whereas to people of a later time it is
clear that they resembled the hollow tree awaiting the blast that was
to lay it low. To the Eoghanacht princes who compassed the death of
Mathgamain, he was the successful usurper who had broken into the
ancient right of their kindred and held it by the strong hand.

With regard to Brian, there are some noteworthy things to be said
which even enthusiastic eulogists have ignored. Brian had one or two
ideas which, in the Ireland of his time, were revolutionary. He had
the idea of a more centralised authority than any Irish king in
history before him had attempted to create. To this end, he designed
holding in permanent garrison a number of fortified places in various
parts of Munster. This design is clearly expressed in a poem added in
his time, and no doubt under his direction, to the Book of Rights; and
the annals show that he endeavoured to give effect to it.

Brian had also definite notions on the subject of what in our time is
called sovereign independence. This is one of many matters about which
we must be on our guard against thinking the present back into the
past--an obvious precaution yet one which many writers on Irish
history have neglected. It can be shown, and it would have interested
Professor Bury had he known it, that from the earliest Irish
chronicle, from the sixth century, down to the eleventh or twelfth
century, the dominant idea in Ireland with regard to international
relations was this--that as in Ireland there were many little States
and over them all, in primacy rather than in operative authority,
there was a chief king, the monarch of Ireland, so in the world there
were many kingdoms and over all these a chief king whom Irish writers
called the king of the world. This idea was adopted from Latin
historians, especially from St. Jerome and Orosius. In our earliest
histories, the emperor reigning at Constantinople was regarded as king
of the world. A metrical list of the kings of the world from Noah's
Flood down to the eighth century was written by the poet-historian
Flann of Monasterboice, who died in 1056. The prevalence of this idea
probably facilitated Henry of Anjou in obtaining the submission of the
Irish princes. The annals, in relating Henry's arrival in Ireland in
1171 and his departure in 1172, say nothing about the papal grant, but
describe Henry as "the son of the Empress." The same idea lingered in
western Europe down to the time of the emperor Charles V, and was the
cause of no small anxiety to the mind of Henry VIII, with all his
bluffness. Nevertheless, it was very much shaken and confused by the
creation of the Western Empire under Charlemagne. That made two kings
of the world. If two why not more?

About the year 1000, under Brian, that portion of the Book of Rights
which concerns Munster was rewritten, and we have now the new version
side by side with the old one. The new poem on the rights of the king
of Cashel asserts that Cashel is subject to no king in Ireland but its
own. But what about the king of the world? On that point the old idea
still holds. This is what the poem says:

    Cashel overheadeth every head
    Except Patrick and the King of the Stars,
    The high-king of the world and the Son of God
    To these alone is due its homage.

But a few years later when Brian was king, not only of Cashel but of
all Ireland, his view about the high-king of the world, the
Emperor--eastern or western--had undergone a change. He recognised the
spiritual primacy of Armagh, and when he visited Armagh, which now
holds his dust, he offered a tribute of twenty ounces of gold. The
Book of Armagh was displayed to him, and in his presence his official
historian wrote in Latin these words, which are still upon the page:

"I Mael Suthain write this in the presence of Brian, Emperor of the

This title, "emperor of the Irish," is not a mere high-sounding
epithet. It means that, as Basil was then supreme temporal ruler in
the East and Henry of Bavaria in the West, so was Brian in this

Another trait in Brian's policy was his avoidance of battle when, by
delay or otherwise, he could hope to establish his authority. In 1001,
when Brian's aim at supremacy was clear to the high king Mael
Sechlainn, the latter prepared to resist with the effective
co-operation of the king of Connacht, and to this end built a new
causeway of stone across the Shannon at Athlone. Brian's first move
the following year was to occupy Athlone and prevent co-operation; and
it was at Athlone that he received the submission of both kings. Year
after year he led his army into the North to obtain the submission of
the northern states; and when he was opposed in force he retired
without battle, until at length it became evident that he had the
power to enforce submission and the northern hostages were yielded to
him in peace.

Some writers have been at pains to argue that the popular view of the
battle of Clontarf as a national victory over foreigners is a
delusion; and would have it that this battle was either a mere
incident in the domestic wars of Ireland or was rather a struggle
between the forces of Christianity and Heathendom. It is enough to say
that the Norse sagas regard the battle as the Irish popular view
regards it--a contest between Irishmen and Norsemen about the
sovereignty of Ireland. The kingdom of Ireland was the prize which
king Sigtrygg of Dublin offered to Earl Sigurd of the Orkneys. It was
to win Ireland that the Norsemen came from distant Iceland and from
Normandy; and the Norse poet who tells of the event says, "Brian fell
but saved his kingdom." "This Brian," too, says the Norse account,
"was the best of kings."

If the battle of Clontarf ended the prospect of a Norse conquest, it
brought no advantage to the internal peace of Ireland. The effect of
Brian's assumption of the monarchy is visible. The year after the
battle, Flaithbertach Ua Néill, king of Ailech, came southward with
his hosting, plainly with the aim of restoring the alternate
succession, under which he would become next king of Ireland after
Mael Sechnaill. Mael Sechnaill resumed the high-kingship and held it
until his death in 1022. The king of Ailech seems then to have made no
attempt to assert his claim to the high-kingship; and for half a
century afterwards no high-king is recognised. Towards the end of the
century, the monarchy is restored, going now always to the strong
hand--two O'Briens from Thomond, two O'Conors from Connacht, and two
O'Lochlainns from Tyrone; an irregular hegemony, without even the
semblance of an institution.

The Icelandic saga of Burnt Njal shows us in the most vivid possible
way how great a shock Clontarf sent through the Norse world. The
battle, it tells us, was accompanied or followed by apparitions and
dreadful portents seen in the Hebrides, in the Orkneys, in the Faroe
islands, and in distant Iceland. In truth a victory for Earl Sigurd
might have been, as his defeat must have been, a decisive event in
European history. The Norse of Dublin were comparatively not much
affected. They maintained their alliance with Leinster. Three years
after the battle, these confederates are again seen on the offensive,
invading Bregia, and their joint forces sustain a heavy defeat from
Mael Sechnaill.

Though a close intercourse was maintained with Norsemen in other
countries, the colonies of Dublin, Wexford, Waterford and Limerick
became a domestic factor in the life of Ireland. Intermarriage with
the Irish was quite common. We find Norse names in Irish families and
Irish names in Norse families, and a considerable vocabulary of Norse
words became at home in the Irish language. A new element, the
commercial life of towns, was introduced by these colonies.


The Book of Rights divides Ireland into a little more than a hundred
petty states (owing to certain peculiarities of treatment, the number
cannot be stated definitely.) These are arranged in seven groups, with
an over-king at the head of each group. The principal matter of the
book is to define certain relations between the over-king of each
group and the petty kings under him. All this is told in verse. The
plan of the book is to allot two poems to each of the over-kingdoms or
groups of states. One of the two poems relates the tributes payable by
the petty states to the over-king at the head of the group. The other
poem relates the customary gifts given by the over-king to the petty
kings. Great importance was attached to this giving and receiving of
gifts, and the significance of the gifts is clearly expressed in their
Irish name, _tuarastal_. The meaning of this word, which is still in
familiar use, is wages. The gifts then were not favours. The
acceptance of them was an act of homage. The king who accepted
_tuarastal_ from another king acknowledged himself to be that other
king's man, to be, so to speak, in his pay--if only in a figurative or
ceremonial sense.

Not all the petty states were subject to tribute. When the dynasty of
a petty state was a branch of the over-king's dynasty, no tribute was
due. In Munster, for example, there were various petty states whose
rulers were of the Eoghanacht lineage. These paid no tribute to the
king of Cashel, who was also of Eoghanacht lineage. The other states
were tributary. This exemption from tribute and liability to tribute
goes back to an ancient state of conquest, but of conquest during the
Celtic period. The citizens of the tributary states were freemen,
whereas the people of the older communities of pre-Celtic origin were,
at least in theory, unfree. This does not mean that they were slaves.
The status of the unfree communities, roundly speaking, was similar to
that of the natives of British India at present; and the status of a
tributary state would be comparable to that of a country possessing
self-government but subject to what is called an imperial
contribution. The non-tributary states might be compared to the
existing autonomous dominions of the British Empire. There were
distinct names for each class. Non-tributary states were called
_saor-thuatha_, "free states"; tributary states were called
_fortuatha_, which means "alien states"; unfree communities were
called _daor-thuatha_, which we might translate "vassal-states"--and
they were also called _aithech-thuatha_, "rent paying states." Each
free or tributary state had a distinct territory, but the unfree
communities were not bounded by the territorial bounds of the others.
They might overlap the bounds of two or more States, and some of them
were broken into separate groups distributed here and there over a
very wide area.

The compilation of the Book of Rights is ascribed to two writers,
Selbach and Oengus, acting under the authority of Cormac mac
Cuilennáin, king of Munster. Cormac reigned from 901 to 908. As
O'Donovan has shown, the Book received certain amplifications under a
king of Munster who claimed to be, or aimed to make himself, king of
Ireland; and O'Donovan properly argues that this king could only be
Brian Bóramha. Moreover I think that there are fairly clear
indications of the year 1000 or 1001 as the date of these

The Book of Rights was edited by O'Donovan and published in 1847 by
the Celtic Society. The Council and officers of this society, whose
names follow the title page, form a list which shows a greater
interest in Irish historical studies at that time than in our time
among Irishmen of high standing in learning and politics. The names
include those of Sir Aubrey de Vere, Sir Robert Kane, William Monsell,
William Smith O'Brien, Daniel O'Connell, Dr. Renehan, president of
Maynooth College, Thomas Hutton, Sir Colman O'Loghlen, Michael Joseph
Barry, Dr. Crolly, Charles Gavan Duffy, Samuel Ferguson, Dr. Graves,
James Hardiman, William Elliott Hudson, Dr. Matthew Kelly, Joseph
Sheridan Le Fanu, William Torrens McCullagh, John Mitchel, Thomas
O'Hagan, John Edward Pigot, Sir William Wilde, Dr. Madden, and Thomas
Francis Meagher. The edition belongs to O'Donovan's early work. A new
edition is very much to be desired, with a critical treatment of the
text and more accurate notes, taking advantage of the great increase
of philological, historical and topographical knowledge accumulated
during the seventy years that have passed since this first and only
edition was brought out.

I think it likely that only the section relating to Munster was drawn
up in Cashel; that this section was circulated as a model; and that
each of the other sections was drawn up on this model by writers on
behalf of the other principal kings. For example, in the Connacht
section, the tributes are said to be brought "hither," a fairly
definite indication that the writer belonged to the personal
surrounding of the king of Connacht.

The over-kings in the Book of Rights are the kings of (1) Cashel, (2)
Cruachain, (3) Ailech, (4) Oriel, (5) Ulaidh, (6) Tara, (7) Leinster.
In the section for Oriel, the statement of tributes is wanting. Its
absence is probably not accidental. The kings of Ailech from the fifth
century onward kept steadily extending their power eastward and
southward, encroaching on the domain of the kings of Oriel. Armagh,
the ecclesiastical capital, was in Oriel, and one can clearly trace
throughout a long period of time a definite policy, on the part of the
Ailech dynasty, of bringing and keeping Armagh within their sphere of
influence. The natural resistance of the kings of Oriel appears to
have been broken down by their defeat in 827, in the battle of Leth
Camm, at the hands of Niall Caille, king of Ailech and afterwards king
of Ireland. According to an old tract, from this time forward, the
kings of Oriel became tributary to Ailech. This would explain the
omission from the Book of Rights, drawn up about eighty years later,
of a list of tributes payable to the over-kings of Oriel.

In the tenth century we find the kings of Ailech still inhabiting
Ailech. In the eleventh century, the name of their domestic territory,
Tír Eoghain, has been transferred from the district of Ailech to that
which now bears the name, "Tyrone," which was formerly the central
part of the kingdom of Oriel. I have not been able to determine how or
at what time the old Tír Eoghain, now called Inis Eoghain, containing
the fortress of Ailech, passed into the dominion of the kings of Tír
Conaill. With regard to Oriel, there is one point to be carefully
noted. In the early documents of the Anglo-Norman regime, we find the
name Oriel used to comprise the present county of Louth, which is
called the English Oriel, being occupied by feudal grantees. Only a
very small fraction of the county belonged to the Irish kingdom of
Oriel; but a few years before Strong-bow's invasion, Donnchadh
O'Cearbhaill, king of Oriel, extended his dominion southward to the
Boyne. It was he who, in exercise of this extended dominion, granted
the lands of Mellifont to the Cistercians. This recent occupation
caused the feudal newcomers to extend the name Oriel to the whole
region between Oriel and the Boyne. This nomenclature may well hold
good for documents of the feudal regime--but we find it used to import
error and confusion into quite a different class of documents. For
example, the editor of the Annals of Ulster, in his index, says that
Oirghialla comprises the county of Louth, though the name is not used
in that sense before the fifteenth century; and he omits to say that
in the early annals Oriel comprises Tyrone and the larger part of
County Derry.

This method of treatment is unfortunately typical of the manner in
which the sources of Irish history have been presented in publication.
It is not mere anachronism. The underlying principle is that what is
true of one period is true of the whole range of time covered by Irish
records. When we find sympathetic editors of these records obsessed by
such a view, we are still more inclined, in the case of antipathetic
writers, to content ourselves with the judgment recorded by
Columbanus--to deem them worthy of indulgence rather than of ridicule.

The tenth and eleventh centuries produced a school of Irish historians
whose chief work was to reduce the old miscellaneous matter of
tradition to unity and sequence. It would have been well if they had
been satisfied with so much, but they went farther. In dealing with
the pre-Christian period, they tampered with tradition in two ways.
Where they found definite elements of heathenism, they either cut
these out or furbished them in a guise which they considered consonant
with Christian belief; and this can be shown to have been done
consciously and deliberately. They also took a free hand in devising a
system of chronology for events that had no chronology. On this point,
they did not all act together, and so, for such epochs as the Gaelic
invasion, we have six or seven different dates varying from the
fourth to the eighteenth century B.C. Not withstanding these defects
in their work, the historians of this period acquired in later times a
degree of authority that stood up as a barrier in front of the past.
Their highly artificial treatment was vested with all the sanctity of
veritable tradition. The main work that has now to be done by students
of Irish antiquity is to get behind this barrier and bring into the
light the abundant remains of older tradition that are extant.

I have said that, in the minds of the scattered Norse community, the
battle of Clontarf broke the victorious prestige of their race. It
happened at a critical moment, for in the year before it, in 1013, the
Danish conquest of England had been completed, and all England had
submitted to the rule of Sveinn, king of Denmark. Nearly a century
later, king Magnus of Norway endeavoured to restore the empire of the
Norsemen. He succeeded in bringing under his authority all the
Scottish islands, Caithness, part of Argyle, and the Isle of Man. Once
more, Ireland shaped the course of history. In 1102, Magnus, then in
the Isle of Man, sent an embassy to Ireland threatening war, and no
doubt demanding tribute. Muirchertach O'Briain, then king of Ireland,
obtained a year's truce. About the same time, Muirchertach made peace
for a year with Domhnall MacLochlainn, king of Tyrone, who opposed his
claim to the high-kingship. Next year, 1103, Muirchertach marched
against Domhnall, but was defeated in the neighbourhood of Banbridge.
About the same time, and probably taking advantage of this internal
conflict, Magnus made a landing on the Ulster coast, but was cut off
and fell in the fight. With his fall, the prospect of a Norse empire
came to an end.

The weakening of the Norse power at Clontarf restored in some measure
the freedom of the seas. During the Norse wars, the old missionary
movement from Ireland to the Continent became a refugee movement.
Afterwards we see abundant evidence of a freer intercourse. For
example, the annals record frequent pilgrimages of Irish kings to
Rome, beginning with the pilgrimage of Flaithbertach O'Neill in 1028.
During the Norse wars, the condition of the Church in Ireland had not
improved. We read strange things in newspapers, and no doubt
Providence works in strange ways, but the fact remains that war in
itself is the negation of moral and spiritual force. St. Bernard tells
us something about the condition of part of Ireland, as described to
him by St. Malachy and his companions who visited him at Clairvaux in
1139. The description refers to my native district, the diocese of
Connor, the time 1124, when St. Malachy was sent there as bishop. "He
discovered," says St. Bernard, "that it was not to men but to beasts
he had been sent; in all the barbarism which he had yet encountered,
he had never met such a people, so profligate in their morals, so
uncouth in their ceremonies, so impious in faith, so barbarous in
laws, so rebellious to discipline, so filthy in their life, Christians
in name but Pagans in reality. They neither paid first fruits nor
tithes, nor contracted marriage legitimately, nor made their
confessions." There were few clergy and those few but little
employed. In the churches neither preaching nor chanting was heard.
All this is the language of pious reprobation. In that age, adherence
to local custom as against the general practice of the Church was
often denounced as impious. And we are told that within eight years,
before St. Malachy was transferred from Connor to Armagh, "their
obduracy yielded, their barbarism was softened, and the exasperating
family began to be more tractable, to receive correction by degrees,
and to embrace discipline. Barbarous laws were abrogated, the Roman
laws (_i.e._ of the Church) were introduced, the customs of the Church
were everywhere admitted and contrary customs abolished. Churches were
rebuilt and supplied with priests. The rites of the sacraments were
duly administered, confession was practised, the people attended the
church, and concubinage was suppressed by the solemnisation of
marriage. In a word, so completely were all things changed for the
better that you can apply to that people now what the Lord said by his
prophet--'They who were not my people are now my people.'"

The writer of these words, Bernard of Clairvaux, was the most
outstanding figure in Christendom at that time. Popes and emperors,
kings and peoples, waited upon his word. His abbey of Clairvaux became
in his time alone the parent of a hundred and sixty Cistercian
foundations in many lands, among the rest in Ireland. Bernard gloried
in the acquaintance and friendship of the Irishman Malachy. "To me
also in this life," he writes, "it was given to see this man. In his
look and word I was refreshed, and I rejoiced as in all manner of
riches." After some years, Malachy once more visited Bernard at
Clairvaux and died there peacefully in the presence of Bernard on All
Souls' Day, 1148. St. Bernard wrote afterwards a life of his Irish
friend, partly from what he learned from him and his companions and
partly from an account sent to him from Ireland by the abbot Comgan.
This life is extant, as also are two discourses by St. Bernard, one
delivered at St. Malachy's funeral, the other at a later anniversary
celebration. There are also extant two letters written by St. Bernard
to St. Malachy regarding the foundation of Mellifont, in which both
had part, and a letter from St. Bernard to the Cistercians of
Mellifont giving them an account of St. Malachy's death. I mention
these details to exemplify the close and frequent intercourse between
Ireland and the Continent in the period preceding the Norman invasion
of Ireland. Many other evidences could be cited to the same effect.

From this intercourse, there arose a strong desire to bring about a
closer conformity between the Church in Ireland and on the Continent
and to reform the abuses in morality and discipline that resulted from
a long period of warfare and partial isolation. This movement for
reform, it should be noted, came mainly from within, and the leading
part in it was taken by Irishmen. One reforming synod succeeded
another. The details may be found in works on Irish ecclesiastical
history. Besides St. Malachy, may be noted the names of Cellach or
Celsus, who came before him, and Gilla Maic Liac or Gelasius who came
after him in the primacy; of Gillebert, bishop of Limerick, whose
work, "De Statu Ecclesiae," was written in the cause of ecclesiastical
reform; of Flaithbertach O'Brolcháin, abbot of Derry; and Lorcán, St.
Laurence, archbishop of Dublin.

Following the introduction of the Cistercian Order by St. Malachy, the
Synod of Bri Maic Thaidg in 1158 undertook to reorganise the old
Columban monasteries, uniting them in a single order, over which
O'Brolcháin, abbot of Derry, was appointed abbot-general. This abbot
was a great builder. In rebuilding his monastery in Derry, he removed
eighty houses--from this and from various items regarding Armagh,
Kildare, etc., in the annals, we gather that these monastic and
scholastic towns had a considerable population. The new buildings were
of stone, for the abbot had an immense lime-kiln built, eighty feet
square, to provide lime for their construction.

In the year 1164, Sumarlidi, king of Argyle and the Hebrides, and the
community of Iona sent an embassy to Derry to offer the abbacy of Iona
to O'Brolcháin, but the king of Ireland, O'Lochlainn, and his nobles,
would not consent to his leaving Derry. The Norman invasion made an
end of the attempt to organise the Columban monasteries.

The Synod of Clane in 1162 ordered that in future only pupils, or as
we should now say, graduates of Armagh, were to obtain the position of
_fer léiginn_ or chief professor in a school attached to any church in
Ireland. This decree then was equivalent to a recognition of the
school of Armagh as a national university for all Ireland. I recommend
the fact to the notice of those writers who cherish the delusion that
Irishmen in that age had no conception of nationality. In 1169, the
year of the Norman invasion, the king of Ireland, Ruaidhrí
O'Conchubhair, who lived in Connacht, established and endowed in
Armagh a new professorship for the benefit of students from Ireland
and Scotland.

The position of _fer léiginn_ is first noticed in the annals in the
tenth century. This points to a new development in the schools of
Ireland at that time. Four men holding this position are named in that
century by the Annals of Ulster, and three of the four are in the
school of Armagh. The fourth is in Slane. In the eleventh century,
Kells and Monasterboice have their _fer léiginn_. In Monasterboice
that position was held by the poet-historian Flann, who belonged to
the ruling family in that region, the Cianachta. In the twelfth
century, there are notices of the _fer léiginn_ in Kildare, Derry,
Clonmacnois, Killaloe, Emly and Iona. The Norman Invasion brought ruin
to all these schools. The last notice of the school or rather
university of Armagh is in 1188. Three years before this, Philip of
Worcester, king Henry's Justiciary, at the head of a great army,
occupied Armagh for a week and plundered the clergy; and Giraldus, who
denounces this exploit, says with a jibe, "he returned to Dublin
without loss."

We have seen how St. Bernard reports the strong terms used by the
Irish reformers themselves in condemnation of the abuses they
laboured to remove. It was this very language of pious reprobation
that Henry II seized upon as furnishing the pretext for the commission
he sought and obtained from his friend Pope Adrian to reform the Irish
Church and people. I take it that the _Laudabiliter_ is genuine.
Without discussing all the arguments against its authenticity, but
admitting that the heads of those arguments are made good, in my
opinion neither any one of them nor all of them together suffice at
all to discredit the document. In it, the Pope replies to _a proposal
made by Henry_ and states that proposal in these terms: "Laudably and
profitably hath your magnificence conceived the design ... you are
intent on enlarging the borders of the Church, teaching the truth of
the Christian faith to the ignorant and rude, exterminating the roots
of vice from the field of the Lord, and, for the more convenient
execution of this purpose, requiring the counsel and favour of the
Apostolic See.... You then, most dear son in Christ, have signified to
us your desire, in order to reduce the people to obedience unto laws,
and to extirpate the plants of vice ..." and so forth. The terms in
which these good purposes are stated are merely an echo in brief of
such words as those in which St. Bernard describes the reforms already
effected by St. Malachy.

Now let us compare what may be called the "war aims" of Henry, thus
stated by him to Pope Adrian and approved by the Pope, with the actual
measures adopted. The Synod of Cashel was convened at Henry's instance
by Gilla Críst, bishop of Lismore and papal legate, and attended by
most of the Irish prelates. Henry was represented by several high
ecclesiastics whom he brought to Ireland. The decrees of the Synod
_were confirmed by Henry_. They are therefore of the highest
importance as determining what had to be done to "enlarge the bounds
of the Church, to teach the truth of Christian faith to the ignorant
and rude, and to extirpate the roots of vice from the field of the
Lord." The provisions of the Synod number eight as related by Giraldus

The first decree forbids marriage within the degrees of kindred fixed
by the law of the Church. The second requires children to receive
catechetical instruction outside of churches and to be baptised at
fonts duly provided in the churches. The third commands all to pay
tithes to their own parish churches. The fourth exempts Church
property from temporal exactions. The fifth exempts the clergy from
paying a share in the compensation for homicide, though of kindred to
the guilty person. The sixth regulates the making of wills. The
seventh prescribes the religious rites to be performed for those who
die in peace with God. The eighth orders that the Church ritual in
Ireland shall be the same as in England.

That is all. Giraldus adds: "Indeed both the realm and Church of
Ireland are indebted to this mighty king for whatever they enjoy of
the blessings of peace and the growth of religion; as before his
coming to Ireland all sorts of wickedness had prevailed among this
people for a long series of years, which now, by his authority and
care of administration, are abolished." No wonder indeed that our
historian Keating names Giraldus the _tarbh tána_, the leading bull of
the herd, of the long-stretched herd of historians, journalists, and
zealous reformers of "all sorts of wickedness." Giraldus, however, was
not entirely a partisan of false pretences. Years afterwards, when
Henry was dead, he addresses his successor John, reminding him of his
father's pledge to Pope Adrian, then also dead--the first pledge made
by an English ruler in regard of Ireland, whereby, he says, Henry
"secured the sanction of the highest earthly authority to an
enterprise of such magnitude, involving the shedding of Christian
blood." This pledge, he says, has not been kept. On the contrary, "the
poor clergy in the island are reduced to beggary; the cathedral
churches, which were richly endowed with broad lands by the piety of
the faithful in the olden times," and which, we may add, supported on
these endowments the schools already mentioned, "now echo with
lamentations for the loss of their possessions, of which they have
been robbed by these men and others who came over with them or after
them; so that to uphold the Church is turned into spoiling and robbing
it." Even the revenue, the Peter's Pence, promised by Henry to the
Pope was not paid, and Giraldus pleads that it should be paid in
future, "in order that some acknowledgment and propitiation may be
made to God for this bloody conquest _and the profits of it_."

And now, before considering further the character and effects of the
Feudal conquests in Ireland, let us take a general view of the
domestic polity of Ireland.

In recent times, and only, I think, in recent times we find the whole
of this domestic polity, or nearly the whole of it, summed up in one
convenient phrase--the Clan System. This phrase is used by the
ultra-patriotic just as freely and confidently as by those on the
opposite edge--whatever we are to call them--those people who perform
for Irish history the not unfruitful function of devil's advocate. The
word system imparts a notion of something arranged in a definite and
perceptible order, and those who speak or write about the Clan System
indicate thereby that they have some perception of this detailed and
co-ordinated arrangement. But I do not know where any one of them has
successfully undertaken to reduce his mental view of the system to
plain words. I think, however, most of us have gathered in a vague way
the underlying notions. They amount to this:

The Irish population was divided into a large number of groups, each
of which was a "clan." At the head of each clan was a chief. The clan
and the chief considered themselves to be of one blood, a great
family. Each clan occupied a definite stretch of country and was in
fact the population of its territory. The clan was a miniature nation.
That, I think, is a fair summary of the prevailing notions as to the
basis of what is called the clan system.

Some writers prefer to say "tribal system." I have been reproached
with avoiding the word "tribe." I have avoided it, and for two
reasons; first, because some have used it in so loose a sense as to
make it meaningless; and second, because others have used it with the
deliberate intent to create the impression that the structure of
society in Ireland down to the twelfth century, and in parts of
Ireland down to the seventeenth century, finds its modern parallel
among the Australian or Central African aborigines. Already, in
reference to the law of succession, I have mentioned the _deirbfine_,
the Irish legal family of four generations, a man, his sons,
grandsons, and great grandsons. O'Donovan calls this family a tribe. I
told how, in the battle of Caiméirghe in 1241, Brian O'Néill secured
the kingship of Tyrone for himself and his line by cutting off his
rival MagLochlainn and ten men of MagLochlainn's _deirbfine_. Here the
word _deirbfine_ has a very special and technical importance; but the
student who has to rely on the official editorial translation misses
the whole significance of the Irish term. The translator of the Annals
of Ulster renders the passage thus: "The battle of Caiméirghe was
given by Brian O'Neill and Mael-Sechlainn O'Domnaill, king of Cenel
Conaill, to Domnall MagLochlainn, to the king of Tir-Eogain, so that
Domnall MagLochlainn was killed therein and ten of his own tribe
around him; and all the chiefs of Cenel-Eogain and many other good
persons likewise. And the kingship was taken by Brian O'Neill after

It is certain that in the beginnings of Irish history we find the
tradition of the tribal group, just as we find it in the history of
the Hebrews, the Greeks, the Romans, the Germans, and their offshoots
the Anglo-Saxons. It is also certain that Ireland, not having been
overrun and shaken up by any of the great migrations after the
migration of the Celts, and not having been steam-rolled by the
levelling weight of Roman imperialism, preserved a great deal of the
old tradition. Our old books are full of it. My third lecture dealt
very much with the evidences of ancient tribal communities which
survived in some shape into historical time. It is, however, perfectly
clear to any student of the materials that already in early Christian
Ireland the old tribal distinctions are waning and disappearing under
various influences. All Irish people, Ebudeans, Ivernians, Picts, Fir
Bolg, Galians, are known to each other by the common name of Gaedhil,
itself once the name of the dominant Celtic element; to others they
are all known as Scotti. So complete is the fusion that, when by
ancient custom this or that portion of the community remains liable to
pay tributes or taxes in virtue of their being the successor of some
old conquered tribe, our old historians or archivists are careful
again and again to say that the people themselves are free and that
these imposts are attached only to the lands on which they dwell.

I think that the popular notion of a Gaelic clan is derived from
Scottish writers like Thomas Campbell and Sir Walter Scott. "False
wizard, avaunt! I have marshalled my clan. Their swords are a
thousand, their bosoms are one." Here we have the picture of the men
of Lochiel's country, Camerons to a man, headed by their Cameron
chief. I do not know how far such pen-pictures are true of Scotland
and the time to which they relate. I do know that you will find
nothing of the kind in historical Ireland. Ask for a similar instance
of an Irish clan. I suppose the O'Neills of Tyrone will do. The
O'Neills were never more than a small fraction of the people of Tyrone
or of any part of Tyrone. Take the period preceding the confiscation
of Tyrone. Shane O'Neill, in order to convince certain persons of the
futility of trying to poison him, said that if the hundred best men of
the name of O'Neill were cut off, there would still be O'Neills to
succeed him. That seems to justify Mr. Bigger when he says that there
are as many O'Neills in Tyrone to-day as there were then. The fullest
lists of the followers of Irish chiefs are to be found in the
Elizabethan fiants; and these documents effectually dispel the
illusion of an O'Neill at the head of a thousand O'Neills or an
O'Brien leading a host of O'Briens. It is quite true, as I have shown
in a previous lecture, that by the process of creating mean lords and
in other ways, the ruling families provided for their own kinsfolk at
the expense of their other subjects, and thus acquired a
disproportionate increase. The extension of great families in this
manner is the one fact that comes nearest to substantiating the
illusion of a clan system.

From the popular I pass on to the learned view. Ireland in the twelfth
century, says Mr. Orpen, was still in the tribal state. This is
written to justify the Norman invasion. The Normans were not in the
tribal state. Mr. Orpen relies strongly on Giraldus as a witness in
other matters. Giraldus omitted nothing that occurred to him to say
that could justify the invasion, in which his friends and kinsfolk
took a prominent part. From first to last it did not occur to Giraldus
to say that the Irish were in a tribal state. He knew the facts. If
there were outstanding clans in Ireland, _i.e._, noble kindreds, so
were there among the invaders. Giraldus himself belonged to the same
clan as Milo de Cogan, Gerald FitzGerald, Raymond le Gros, and others
of those bold adventurers. He is not ashamed of it, and being half a
Welshman, he is under no delusions about the social structure of the
Irish nation.

When we read on to learn what is Mr. Orpen's idea of an Irish tribe,
we are gradually enlightened. We find that the tribe of king Diarmaid
is the Ui Ceinnsealaigh. Here is the main authentic basis of the
illusion. It is a peculiarity of Irish nomenclature that a territory
is called by the name of its ruling family. Ui Ceinnsealaigh thus has
two meanings. It means the descendants of Ceinnsealach and it also
means the territory over which the chiefs of that lineage ruled as
kings, namely the diocese of Ferns. But the Ui Ceinnsealaigh were
never at any time more than a tiny fraction of the population of that
territory. Énna Ceinnsealach, their ancestor, lived in the fifth
century; and however well his posterity may have looked after
themselves, they certainly did not displace from the region that got
their name any large proportion of its inhabitants descended from
other ancestors. The territory called Clann Aodha Buidhe covered a
large part of the present counties of Down and Antrim. The tribe
named Clann Aodha Buidhe were the descendants of Aodh Buidhe O'Neill,
who died in the year 1280. They never at any time amounted to a
territorial population. There were clans of Norman origin in Ireland,
too, and territories named from them. There were the De Burghs of
Clann Ricaird in Connacht, and their country named from them; the De
Burghs of Clann William in Munster, and their country still so named;
FitzGeralds of Clann Mhuiris in Munster and in Connacht, and the
districts still keep their name; there are Power's country, and
Roche's country, and Joyce's country, and Condon's, and Barrymore, and
Clann Ghiobúin, the Fitzgibbons--family and country bearing the same
name after the Irish manner. Every one of these great families was
precisely as much and as little a tribe as any Irish tribe that Mr.
Orpen has in contemplation; as much and as little a tribe as the
Plantagenets or the Bourbons or the Hapsburgs or the Hohenzollerns.

Undoubtedly in these great families there was a good deal of what we
call clannishness--of devotion to their particular interest to the
detriment of the public or the national interest. On the other hand,
it is quite a mistake to suppose that the hostility of clan to clan,
as is often said, was the principal element of harm to peace. The
Irish chronicles show clearly that domestic wars arose far more
frequently from disputes and rivalries between members of a ruling
family. It was the same among the Welsh, and a recent Welsh historian
has justly traced this evil to the law of succession which was
similar in the two countries--the choice of successor to king or lord
being open between a number of claimants. A doubtful succession was
the fruitful source of disorder in other countries also. Readers of
history will remember its effects in the Roman empire, the wars of the
Scottish succession before Bannockburn, the Wars of the Roses in
England, the war of the Spanish succession. The feudal law of
primogeniture tended to minimise this danger.

Here we find another instance of the ignoring of time and change in
books on Irish history. I think I am right in saying that most readers
gather from these books the impression that the Irish institution of
Tanistry dates from time immemorial. There is no mention of a tanist
in the Annals until the thirteenth century, after feudal institutions
had been established in many parts of Ireland; and we can trace the
gradual spread of the custom in the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries. It seems right then to infer that those who lived under
Irish law were impressed by the greater stability afforded by Feudal
law in this matter of succession, perhaps also by the aggravation of
their own plight owing to the opportunities that a disputed succession
gave for the interference of the enemy in their midst; and that they
sought to remove this evil and danger by determining the succession
beforehand, choosing in the ruler's lifetime the man who was to
succeed him, the tanist.

Another notion which has accompanied the modern illusion of the "clan
system," is that of the communal holding of land by the tribe or clan.
This view, like that of the "clan system," has had its enthusiastic
eulogists and its self-complacent censors. On one side we are asked to
admire our forefathers for anticipating Sir Horace Plunkett. On the
other side we are told that progress and even temporary well-doing in
agriculture were rendered impossible by a system under which all the
land belonged to everybody at once and to nobody for long. Once more
we are faced with that canon of Irish history, "Credo quia
impossibile." We are seriously asked to believe that the lands of a
tribe, meaning the population under a territorial chief or even under
a king, was held in common by all; and more than that, was
periodically thrown into hotch-potch, taken from everybody and
redistributed among all. Now we can imagine what an event that would
be, taking place all over a district as large as the diocese of Ferns;
or even as large as the barony of Forth; what a feature it would have
been in the simple life of a large countryside. Strange, is it not?
that no account of any such resettlement of a district appears in any
Irish writing, even in the form of an incidental allusion. The fact is
that no such communal system existed on any scale approaching to the
territorial. I have described the constitution of the _deirbfine_, the
legal unit of succession. There were larger family groups, based on
the kinship of five, six and seven generations. It was among such
groups that property was held in common, when it was property of a
kind that did not lend itself to subdivision in accurate
proportions--just as succession to the kingship, being indivisible,
was common to a family group until its determination became
necessary. But as new generations came forward, existing family groups
were of necessity dissolved and reconstituted. When this happened, a
redistribution of the family property was necessitated. Moreover,
there were certain kinds of land--mountain, bog, forest, and marsh,
which were not divided by fences or mearings into individual or family
holdings--and these were held in common both in ancient and in modern
times. And that, I think, is the foundation of prevalent notions about
communal land tenure in ancient Ireland.

Those who desire a studied account of ancient land tenures in Ireland--in
preference to their own or other people's imaginings--should read the
little book on Irish Land Tenures by Dr. Sigerson.

Connected again with the notion of communal ownership is the denial of
proprietary rights of kings and lords. It must not be a question
whether the _altum dominium_, the extreme form of proprietorship in
land, was a good thing or a bad thing. We want to know the facts
first, before we pass a valuation on them. Mr. Orpen is obsessed with
the notion that the Irish order and the Feudal order were as the poles
apart. Accordingly he says that the Irish political structure nowise
depended on grants of land. I do not know and I do not inquire what
may be the peculiar virtue of a polity depending upon grants of land;
but I do know that the structure of Irish political society in the
twelfth century was mainly based on that foundation. Documentary
proofs, referring to various dates from the travels of St. Patrick
down to the eve of the Norman invasion, show that every lord in his
degree, from the local chief of a small territory up to the king of
Ireland held and exercised the power of granting ownership in land
over the heads of all occupiers. If the king of Tyrone was also king
of Ireland his power of making grants was not confined to his domestic
territory of Tyrone. So the Annals tell us that Muirchertach
O'Lochlainn, king of Tyrone and monarch of Ireland, granted a
town-land at Drogheda to the Cistercians of Mellifont, and a charter
of the same king is extant granting lands at Newry to another
religious house. Diarmait MacMurchadha was king of Leinster, his
domestic realm, or as Mr. Orpen would say his tribal territory, being
Ui Ceinnsealaigh. He was also recognised over-king of the Norse
kingdom of Dublin, which included a stretch of country northward from
Dublin and outside of the kingdom of Leinster. In virtue of this
extended kingship, Diarmait granted lands at Baldoyle to a religious
community, and the charter of his grant is still extant. In truth, the
granting and regranting of lordship over lands is the keynote of the
Irish dynastic polity from the fifth to the sixteenth century.

What then of the objections that were raised to the introduction of
feudal law under Henry VIII. and afterwards? Was it not contended on
the Irish side that the chief or king had no more than a life-tenure
of the territory he ruled, and that in accepting feudal tenure he was
disposing of what did not belong to him? That is so. In accepting
feudal tenure, he disposed of the succession, which he had no legal
power to determine: the determination of which, within limits fixed by
law, belonged to his people. It was theirs, not by virtue of communal
ownership of the land, but by virtue of the right of election to the
principality. Of this right they were deprived by the introduction of
feudal law. The law of tanistry was a reasonable provision which
preserved the right of election and yet determined the succession in


There was one advantage incidental to the feudal law of primogeniture,
which did not belong to the Irish law of succession before or after
the institution of tanistry. In feudal law, the lawful successor might
be a child, an invalid, a demented person, and in some countries a
woman. In feudal law, as in Irish law, and in ancient law generally,
the ruler was also chief judge and chief military commander for his
people and territory. Each of Henry's feudal grantees in Ireland held
and exercised these functions. The kings of England themselves, from
William the Conqueror to Henry II. and the Saxon and Danish kings
before them, were judges and generals as well as chiefs of State. The
Irish law contemplated a ruler who was fitted in mind and body to
exercise these functions. The law of primogeniture often failed to
secure such fitness. At first sight, the Irish law seems to have the
advantage, but on closer consideration the case will appear otherwise.

If the ruler of the state combines in his own person the offices of
judge and military commander and performs these offices in person, as
well as the presidency of the public assembly, it follows that there
must be as many states and rulers as there are presidents of
assembly, judges of law, military commanders. And this is what we
actually find in ancient Ireland. Most of the modern baronies,
so-called, take the place of ancient kingdoms. The ruler being in the
people's mind fit to judge in litigation and to lead in war and to
preside over the assembly, and being unfit to rule as king when he
could not perform these functions, there was no place in so simple a
polity for ministers of State, and there was no regular delegation of
these important duties. I think it will be admitted that the
development of ministerial offices is one of the greatest phases in
political progress.

On the other hand, the feudal law of primogeniture, under which the
ruler at times might be a child, an idiot, or a weakling, rendered
ministers of State a necessity. When Norman feudalism came to Ireland,
it was just emerging from a condition similar to what it found in
Ireland, and so the domestic polity of Ireland called for no remark
from Giraldus, who was ready to find fault with anything, even with
the fact that the Irish reared their children in a natural way, and
succeeded admirably with it, instead of shaping their limbs and bodies
with swathings and bandages. In southern Italy, the Normans found the
civil service of the Byzantine emperors in operation; adopted it, and
from them it spread to Normandy and England. This transformation was
just taking place at the time of their invasion of Ireland, and was
providing them with an apparatus of statecraft which the Irish did not

The Feudal system, thus augmented, tended towards centralisation. The
Irish system had an opposite tendency. I notice that Mr. Orpen, in his
comparison of the two systems, shows himself a whole-hearted
worshipper of centralisation. His book, however, was written before
the rulers and ministers of great states had begun to discover and
formulate the objects of a righteous war. To my mind, European
civilisation has suffered very much from undue centralisation--from
the domination of courts and capitals over large regions and the
consequent disrepute of what is called provincial life. We see the
effect in countries like England and France, each of which consists of
two parts--the capital and the provinces--the capital draining the
provinces of all that is best in them, so that they are held and hold
themselves in low esteem. I have often hoped that the Ireland of the
future will not be unduly centralised, and that full scope will be
given to the highest possible development of social life and art and
education in every part of the country.

The Normans so-called, when they came to Ireland, had ceased to be
Northmen. The contemporary Anglo-Saxon, Welsh and Irish chronicles
call them by the same name, Franks. Franks they were in language,
customs and institutions. If they sometimes called themselves Angli,
this meant no more than that they were subjects of the _rex Anglorum_,
the king of the English, and not of the king of the French. Their
ordinary language was French. When Giraldus Cambrensis expresses the
wish that his works should be translated into the vulgar tongue, he
makes it clear that he means French. In another part of his writings,
he shows himself an enthusiastic adherent of the Welsh language, and
voices a prophecy that his countrymen of Wales will speak Welsh till
the day of Judgment. The rank and file of the invaders were Welshmen
and Flemings. There was a large Flemish colony settled under the
Normans in Pembrokeshire, and when the first invaders reached Ireland
in 1169, an Irish chronicler recorded the arrival of the fleet of the
Flemings. A Flemish colony was established after that in South
Leinster, and their dialect continued in use there until well on in
the nineteenth century. Many of the so-called Norman settlers in other
parts of Ireland were Flemish and Welsh. Norman French continued to be
used in Ireland for many generations. It was the language in which the
colonists petitioned the lord Edward, as they called the king of
England, for aid against Edward Bruce in 1315. I notice in Father
Dinneen's Irish dictionary many of the words marked with the letter A,
signifying of English origin, which I am sure came directly from the
French of these invaders. Mr. Orpen's history is largely a laboured
attempt to prove that the backward state of Ireland was the cause and
justification of the invasion. This search after causes and
justifications does not conduce to sound historical writing. One
wonders how the method would be applied to the history of the Norman
invasion and conquest of Sicily and southern Italy, possessing at the
time the most highly developed political civilisation west of
Constantinople. Among the French, the Normans shared with the Gascons
a reputation for extreme craftiness. They were also great
fortress-builders. Giraldus recognises that in the open field the
Irish were their superiors in fighting. They especially feared the
Irish use of the battle-axe, learned from the old Norsemen. He
recommends them to keep to the plan of conquest by what he calls
incastellation--the building of strong castles at frequent strategic
points. Against this method, well organised permanent forces could
alone be effective, and the Irish in that age had no such military
organisation. If the testimony of Giraldus is not biassed on the
point, the only effective field forces which the invaders commanded
consisted of Welshmen. Withal, it is to be said that the chiefs of the
invasion were in general men of great valour, enterprise, and
coolness. They brought with them a tradition of conquest and

Mr. Orpen says again and again that the Irish were turbulent. The
Normans, he would have us believe, were all for law and order. It is
again strange that this contrast did not occur at all to Giraldus,
their comrade and kinsman and partisan. No one need wonder if a band
of hardy adventurers should hold solidly together in their common
interest for at least a generation. Yet the first generation of
feudalism in Ireland witnessed a series of wars among the invaders
themselves, quite as much warfare, in fact, as you will find on an
average in an equal space of time among an equal number of chiefs of
the turbulent Irish. But it was not in Ireland only that the Normans
were turbulent. Henry himself spent much of his great power in
quelling the rebellions of his own sons and their partisans. If
Giraldus Cambrensis says nothing about the particular turbulency and
anarchy of Ireland in the twelfth century, it was probably because he
and his readers did not know where in western Europe to look for
anything else. Let me quote here from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle a
picture of England under the Normans in the generation preceding the
invasion of Ireland:

    "A.D. 1137. When King Stephen came to England ... when the
    traitors [_i.e._ the nobles of England] perceived that he was a
    mild man, and a soft, and a good, and that he did not enforce
    justice, they did all wonder. They had done homage to him, and
    sworn oaths, but they no faith kept; all became forsworn and broke
    their allegiance; for every rich man built his castles and
    defended them against him, and they filled the land full of
    castles. They greatly oppressed the wretched people by making them
    work at these castles, and when the castles were finished they
    filled them with devils and evil men. Then they took those whom
    they suspected to have any goods, by night and by day, seizing
    both men and women, and they put them in prison for their gold and
    silver and tortured them with pains unspeakable; for never were
    any martyrs tortured as these were. They hung some up by their
    feet and smoked them with foul smoke; some by their thumbs or by
    the head, and they hung burning things on their feet. They put a
    knotted string about their heads and twisted it till it went into
    the brain. They put them into dungeons wherein were adders and
    snakes and toads, and thus wore them out. Some they put into a
    crucet-house, that is, into a chest that was short and narrow and
    not deep, and they put sharp stones in it and crushed the man
    therein so that they broke all his limbs. There were hateful and
    grim things called Sachenteges in many of the castles, which two
    or three men had enough to do to carry. The Sachentege was made
    thus: it was fastened to a beam, having a sharp iron to go around
    a man's throat and neck, so that he might nowise sit nor lie nor
    sleep but that he must bear all the iron. Many thousands they
    exhausted with hunger. I cannot and I may not tell of all the
    wounds and all the tortures that they inflicted upon the wretched
    men of this land. And this state of things lasted the nineteen
    years that Stephen was king [1135-1154] and ever grew worse and
    worse. They were continually levying an exaction from the towns,
    which they called Tenserie, and when the miserable inhabitants had
    no more to give, then plundered they and burnt all the towns, so
    that well mightest thou walk a whole day's journey, or ever
    shouldest thou find a man seated in a town or its lands tilled.
    Then was corn dear, and flesh and cheese and butter, for there was
    none in the land. Wretched men starved with hunger. Some lived on
    alms who had been erewhile rich. Some fled the country. Never was
    there more misery, and never acted heathen worse than these. At
    length they spared neither church nor churchyard, but they took
    all that was valuable therein and then burned the church and all
    together. Neither did they spare the lands of bishops, of abbots,
    or of priests, but they robbed the monks and the clergy; and every
    man plundered his neighbour as much as he could. If two or three
    men came riding to a town, all the township fled before them and
    thought that they were robbers. The bishops and clergy were ever
    cursing them, but this to them was nothing, for they were all
    accurst and forsworn and reprobate. The earth bare no corn, you
    might as well have tilled the sea; for the land was all ruined by
    such deeds, and it was said openly that Christ and his saints
    slept. These things, and more than we can say, did we suffer
    during nineteen years because of our sins."

It was in the very year that followed these nineteen years that Henry,
in his council of barons at Winchester, first announced his intention
of invading Ireland. The barons who formed the council were the
castle-builders of the foregoing account written by their
contemporary. From them and their sons were drawn the men who, we are
to believe, came to establish law and order in the place of anarchy in
Ireland; who were "to enter that island and execute whatsoever may
tend to the honour of God and the welfare of the land"; who were "to
restrain the downward course of vice, to correct evil customs, to
implant virtue and extend the Christian religion"--these being the
pious and laudable designs which Henry Plantagenet, who could not rule
his own household or his own person, proposed at that time to his
friend Pope Adrian.

I have already adverted to Mr. Orpen's doctrine that the Irishman had
no nation but his tribe. In all these things, a comparison and a
contrast is studiously suggested. To what nation did the leaders of
the invasion belong? Mr. Orpen calls them Normans, but they themselves
knew nothing of Norman nationality. They knew that their lord was duke
of Normandy and as such a vassal of France. Among themselves they knew
no distinction of Norman, Angevin, Poitevin, or Aquitanian. The most
English of them came of three generations of residence in England as a
foreign element--as Franks. These were only a few. The majority had
lived in Wales or the Welsh marches. At a very early stage in the
invasion, one leader, Maurice de Prendergast, went right over to the
Irish. Another, De Courci, set himself up as an independent prince in
that region of intractable folk, eastern Ulster. The chief feature of
Henry's Irish policy, continued by his son John, was not the
subjugation of the Irish but the keeping of the Feudal lords of
Ireland from becoming independent. Mr. Orpen does not like this
policy. He calls it interference with the colony, and draws the moral
of all his history by severely remarking that the same objectionable
interference with the colony has been continued down to an
indefinitely modern time. The lesson is meant to be taken to heart by
somebody. The fact remains, that the colonists had no nationality
until in the course of time they became Irelandmen, and ultimately
more Irish than the Irish.

There is another feature of the invasion policy to which Mr. Orpen
does no justice. Pope Adrian's successor had not the same personal
interest in the invasion that Pope Adrian had. A papal legate was sent
to Ireland. On his way through England, he was laid hold of and
compelled to swear to do nothing in Ireland contrary to the king's
interest. Evidently there was something to be apprehended. From
England he went to the Isle of Man, where the Norse king was
father-in-law and ally of de Courci, Prince of Ulster. As a policeman
would say, in consequence of information received, the legate on his
landing on the Irish coast was arrested by de Courci's men and carried
captive to Downpatrick. De Courci, though a valiant knight, had done
some things in Downpatrick, which a legate under arrest might be
induced to regard more leniently than a legate at large. Downpatrick
was a monastic and ecclesiastical centre. De Courci had made it into
a fortress. He had made the bishop of Down a prisoner and put some of
the inferior clergy to death. Apparently he had taken complete
possession of all the Church property. The captive bishop appears as
witness to de Courci's grants of Irish Church possessions to foreign
religious. The legate seems to have reached Dublin in a chastened
temper. In Dublin, he granted formal authority to the invaders to make
forcibly entry into Church property anywhere in Ireland. The plea is
that the Irish stored their food in ecclesiastical places, and Mr.
Orpen says it was a military necessity, and therefore justifiable, to
get at these stores of food. All this was written before the
conscience of so many had been awakened to the evils of militarism.
However, the food pretext does not fit the fact. The fact was that
before the legate came, as well as afterwards, it was the settled
military policy of the invasion to occupy Irish churches and
monasteries and turn them into fortresses. These places had something
quite as useful as food, they had strong stone buildings, which could
be held as they stood or pulled to pieces and used for the rapid
erection of fortresses, of which process the following instance from
the annals may be cited as an example:

A.D. 1214. The castle of Coleraine is built by Thomas son of Uhtred
and by the Foreigners of East Ulster, and for that purpose were pulled
to pieces the cemeteries and pavements and buildings of the whole
town, save the church alone. (Coleraine until this time was a Columban

From this we may see the full force of the extraordinary general
permit extorted from the Pope's legate. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle,
already quoted, shows how earlier experience in Britain had prepared
the fate of the Irish monasteries and schools.

A long list could be drawn up of the churches and monasteries occupied
by the invaders, some permanently, others until evacuation was

This method of warfare reached parts of Ireland far remote from
effective occupation by the invaders, and one of its results was the
complete reversal of all the efforts towards reconstruction and
progress which, as I have shown in the foregoing lecture, the Irish
themselves had undertaken in the grounds of religion and education.
The unconquered parts of Ireland were thrown back into the condition
of the Norse war period. In the conquered parts, the Irish were
excluded from education and ecclesiastical preferment. There was much
building and much writing of official documents, but no progress in
learning or the arts, not one school of note, and in an age when
universities were springing up all over Christendom, there arose in
Ireland only one University, which was stillborn.

On the other hand, the feudal invasion reached Ireland on a wave of
developing town life, and its regime was able to monopolise this
development in Ireland.

That the particular pledges, on the faith of which Henry obtained from
Adrian the grant of the feudal lordship of Ireland, were not at all
fulfilled by Henry, we know from general evidence and from the
particular testimony of Giraldus, who implores John to fulfil them for
the sake of his father's soul. John had other things to think about,
and these pledges were not fulfilled by John or by any of his
successors. A memorial on this subject was addressed, at the time of
Edward Bruce's invasion, to the contemporary Pope by Domhnall O'Neill,
king of Tyrone, and the document still exists, charging the
Plantagenet rule in Ireland with general injury to religion and

Among the barbarities of Ireland in the twelfth century, we are told
by Mr. Orpen that the Irish had no legislature and no proper
judicature. One wonders what sort of legislature Mr. Orpen imagines to
have existed in England at that time, and whether he is aware that the
English judicature was then only beginning to exist.

There is one feature of the Feudal settlement--if we may so call
it--which is hard to place in its proper category--that is, to say
whether it comes from systematic bad faith or merely from incapacity
to act according to ordered notions of law. The Irish kings in general
outside of Ulster made formal submission to Henry as their liege lord,
and were received, as Giraldus says, into the protection of the most
merciful king. This submission and reception constituted a solemn
contract--the submitting kings became Henry's vassals and he became
bound to defend and maintain them in their rights. In not a single
instance was this contract observed for a moment longer than the
opportunity to violate it was delayed. The rights and possessions of
the Irish vassal kings were straightway granted afresh to one or
another of the new adventurers--and the new grants were not preceded
or accompanied by the pretence of any escheatment or invalidation of
the existing contract--so little importance was attached by Henry and
John and their filibustering captains even to the outward appearances
of law and order.

Let me give here an illustration of Mr. Orpen's historical temper. He
admits his difficulty in ascertaining the name of the king of the
Ulaidh at the time of de Courci's seizure of Downpatrick. What does it
matter? he suggests. The surname, at all events, was MacDunlevy,
and--these are his actual words--"the kings of this family were always
killing one another." It seems a strange manner of existence, but
then, you understand, they were Irish and could manage it. There is
just one instance of it in the annals, where one of the MacDunlevy
kings, a man of evil life, was deposed and put to death by his
kinsman. Possibly Mr. Orpen has confused the MacDunlevys with the

Mr. Orpen gives an extended account of Irish law, with footnotes,
references, and all the apparatus of learned exposition, compelling
the respect and acquiescence of the less learned reader. Irish law, he
tells us, was merely consecrated custom; implying by contrast that
England and Normandy were at that time in the enjoyment of codes and
statute books. In Irish law, we are told, there were no crimes. No
breach of the law was regarded as an offence against the
common-wealth, to be punished by the executive power of the State. The
State did not interfere to enforce the law among the subjects. There
were, in fact, no penalties. Every offence, from homicide down to the
smallest breach of the peace was, in Irish law, merely a tort, a
matter for civil litigation between the offended and the offender, and
capable of being settled by an assessment of damages. But what was
worse still was this, that when judgment was given and the damages
assessed, there was no machinery for enforcing obedience to the
decree; in legal phraseology, the law had no sanction. Unpopularity,
the pressure of public opinion, some sort of boycotting, furnished the
only resource of making men amenable to the law and the decrees of the
courts. _Credo quia impossibile!_

It was not merely in twelfth-century Ireland that this wildly absurd
legal system might be discovered by Alice from Wonderland, even though
Giraldus Cambrensis completely failed to make a note of it. The thing
was an essential vice of Celtic barbarism, and could be found in full
bloom among the Gauls of Cæsar's time. Celts are impossible people,
and therefore quite capable of keeping an impossible and utterly
negative system of law in full operation for twelve centuries and
upwards. The child's game of playing at law-courts which Irish brehons
enjoyed in the twelfth century and afterwards had amused the druids of
Gaul before the Christian era; and Cæsar himself is called into the
witness-box. Certain forms of mental aberration are known to be
infectious, and this may explain why all the great feudal lords of
Ireland were fain in time to adopt this preposterous system of Celtic
law with all its apparatus. Here is what Cæsar says about the druids
and their judicature:

"Whosoever, be it a private individual or a people, does not obey
their decree, is excluded from the sacred rites. This among them is a
penalty of extreme severity. Those who are under this ban are classed
among the impious and the criminal. All men abandon their society and
shun their approach and conversation, lest they may suffer harm from
contagion with them. When such men seek their legal right it is not
rendered to them. When they seek any public office, it is not
conferred on them." Mr. Orpen's comment on this passage is concise.
"It was," he says, "the primitive boycott." The analogy which he thus
brings down to date appears incomplete. If a man having a credit
balance at the bank draws a cheque within the amount, he seeks a legal
right. If that right is not rendered to him, there is something more
than a boycott. Complete divestment of legal rights is not boycotting,
it is attainder. It goes a long way beyond the greatest excesses of
social ostracism that have been charged against the Land League or the
Primrose League.

Mr. Orpen is not satisfied with this exposure of Celtic law at long
and at large in his first volume. He repeats it in somewhat varied
phrases in the second. Now mark how plain a tale shall put him down.
In his search for this particular plum of the Celtophobe, he has
travelled to the sixth book and thirteenth chapter of Cæsar's history.
Mr. Orpen's historical method is identical with one of which I have
had later experience, when I have seen the file of a periodical
presented to the tribunal with a sentence here and a paragraph there
marked by the blue pencil of a Crown Prosecutor. There is a first book
in Cæsar's Gallic War. It comes before the sixth book. The first
episode related in the first book is doubtless familiar to Mr. Orpen
since his school days, if the exigencies of the historical indictment
of a nation have not compelled him to forget it. Let us recall that
first episode of the Gallic War, bearing in mind all the time the
doctrine that under Celtic law there were no crimes against the State,
no sanction or penalty for breaches of the law except payments in
composition, and no machinery for enforcing obedience.

The first episode in the Gallic War is the migration of the Helvetii.
Cæsar tells us that this enterprise was undertaken by the Helvetian
state at the instance of a great noble named Orgetorix, and that
Orgetorix was commissioned to take charge of the preparations. Before
all was ready, an accusation was brought forward against him of aiming
at the subversion of the republican constitution of the state and at
the usurpation of supreme power. This was not a tort, a matter for
private litigation. The Helvetii, says Cæsar, according to their
custom (it was, therefore, no exceptional proceeding) sought to compel
Orgetorix to stand his trial under arrest [_ex vinculis_]. If found
guilty, Cæsar adds, the penalty which he must duly incur was death by
burning. Here we have the crime, the State tribunal, the executive
authority, and the penalty fore-ordained; not exactly features of "the
primitive boycott." Orgetorix, we are told, was by far the greatest
and wealthiest noble of his people. He stood in no fear of a boycott.
Cæsar continues: "On the day fixed for the trial, Orgetorix gathered
from every side and brought with him to the place of judgment all his
slaves to the number of ten thousand, and all his dependents and
rent-payers, of whom he had a great number. By this array, he
extricated himself from being placed on trial." Here was a crucial
test of the question, whether there was or was not what Mr. Orpen
calls "machinery" for enforcing the law. The State, says Cæsar,
(_civitas_ is his word) was provoked by this conduct and set about the
enforcement of its law by force of arms. The magistrates, meaning in
the Roman sense the principal officers of State, collected from the
land a large body of men. But while this was going on, Orgetorix died;
and it was suspected, so the Helvetii believe, that he committed

All this is related in the first four chapters of the first book of
Cæsar's Gallic War. It is not to the purpose, and so we are invited to
judge the case from a blue-pencilled extract from book vi., chapter

The notion of a system of Celtic law from which all cognisance of
crimes as crimes, all State authority, all power of enforcement was
absent, which had no sanction except public opinion exercised through
boycotting, is borrowed from Sir Henry Maine's "Early History of
Institutions." Sir Henry Maine, however eminent his authority,
acquired this notion from an inspection of a portion of the Ancient
Laws of Ireland. The sort of judicature which he happened to find
there was that which was administered by the Irish _brehons_ in courts
of arbitration. Mr. Orpen shows familiarity with a much wider range of
Irish literature in English translations. When he wrote his history,
in which he claims expressly for himself the title of historian, he
knew certain things, but the necessities of the case compelled him to
forget he knew them. He knew quite well that the ancient literature in
general ascribes the judicial function to every Irish king, the head
of every Irish state, great or small. He knew that a hundred and a
hundred times the good king is said to be a just judge, and the unjust
judge is said to be a bad king. But when he assumes the _rôle_ of
historian, he puts the microscope to the blind eye, and, though he
knows the facts are before it, he is unable to see and describe them.
In the very chapter which contains his indictment of Irish law, he
quotes Standish Hayes O'Grady's fine collection of pieces of Irish
medieval literature, the _Silva Gadelica_. I observe that his footnote
refers the reader to the Irish text, not to the English translation,
and the reader may conclude, if it please him, that Mr. Orpen is most
at his ease among Irish originals. Since most of those for whom Mr.
Orpen's work is intended are not familiar readers of Middle Irish, I
would refer them to the volume of the English translations, where they
will be able to understand and verify. On page 288 we find how Cormac,
a stripling, came to Tara, where in his father's house the usurper
MacCon held rule. When he arrived in the royal house, a lawsuit was
in progress. The story proceeds thus:

"There was in Tara a she-hospitaller, Bennaid, whose roaming sheep
came and ate up the queen's crop of woad. The case was referred to
Lughaidh [MacCon the king] for judgment, and his award was: the queen
to have the sheep in lieu of the woad. 'Nay,' Cormac said, 'the
shearing of the sheep is a sufficient offset to the cropping of the
woad; for both the one and the other will grow again.' 'That is the
true judgment,' all exclaimed: 'a very prince's son it is that has
pronounced it!' ... MacCon's rule in sooth was not good: the men of
Ireland warned him off therefore and bestowed it on Cormac."

Here, quite as a matter of course, we find a king sitting in judgment,
without even a brehon for assessor, on a civil case of no great
importance, a case of damage done by straying sheep. The king judged
unfairly, not indeed because it was in his wife's lawsuit, but because
he made an award of excessive damages. His people deposed him and gave
the kingship to the youth who proposed the fair award. And so
intimately was the judicial office combined with the kingly office in
the medieval Irish mind, that the capacity of judging rightly was
thought to be hereditary in the royal blood: "A true judgment, he who
pronounced it is in truth the son of a king!"

From this same work, cited by Mr. Orpen, I could quote example after
example of the same fact, quite well known to Mr. Orpen, but "in the
heat of hatching, the hen does not know an egg from a stone." I could
also cite a bookful of instances from the annals, the historical
poems, the ancient stories, and other sources, showing that the
ancient and medieval Irish were quite as familiar as were the
magistrates of the Helvetian State with criminal jurisdiction and with
penalties in every degree, including the death penalty, as the
sanction of their laws.

The normal court of law in ancient Ireland was the king's court, as
the normal court in a Gaulish republic was the court of the
magistrates of the republic. The druids' tribunal in Gaul and the
brehons', also originally the druids' tribunal, in Ireland, was a
subsidiary institution. It did not carry with it the plenary powers of
the regular tribunal, and therefore relied in part on the reverence of
the people for justice--with regard to which we have the most
remarkable testimony borne by Englishmen in Ireland at the time when
Irish law was on the verge of total abolition. And one of these
writers aptly says that nothing that the Irishman does, however
praiseworthy, finds favour with a set of men who are his professional

The brehons were primarily jurists, and in their hands Irish law was
elaborated and refined, its development in this respect being similar
to the development of Roman law. They acted also as legal advisers to
litigants, safeguarding the proper legal form of their proceedings.
They acted also as assessors and advisers to the kings in court. When
they sat as judges by themselves, their courts were at least
theoretically tribunals of arbitration, but differed from the casual
arbitrations of our time in having more of the character of
institutions. It is probably true that after the Feudal invasion, and
especially when Irish law was adopted by Feudal lords, the brehon's
court tended to supersede the court of king or lord as the normal
instrument of judicature.

The story of Cormac introduces us to a king's court held at the king's
place of abode and in his house. A higher and more ceremonial court
was held by the king in the periodical assembly. This court of
assembly was called by the name _airecht_, _oireacht_; the word is
used to translate the Latin _curia_. "Suit of court" was an Irish no
less than a Feudal institution. The kings or lords subject to a
presiding king were expected to attend his _airecht_; and from this it
comes that these subject lords are collectively called the king's
_airecht_, and by a further extension the name is given occasionally
to their lands collectively. The whole of O'Catháin's territory is
called Airecht Ui Chatháin, and the territory of O'Connor Kerry still
bears the name of Oireacht Ui Chonchobhuir, the barony of
Iraghticonnor in Kerry.

The assembly was the focus of the people's life. Kuno Meyer has
published and translated into English an ancient tract called _Tecosc
Cormaic_, "King Cormac's Instruction to his Son." Every student of
early Irish institutions ought to read it. Many who read it will be
surprised to find how modern was the mind of antiquity. One of the
maxims which the king gives to his son is this: Vested interests are
shameless. There is a truth in that for all peoples of all times, that
has never elsewhere been so pithily expressed. The tract consists of a
collection of maxims and counsels for a prince in his private and
public conduct, and is cast in the form of a colloquy between the king
and his son. Reading it, one comes to realise the importance held by
the assembly and particularly the court of assembly, the _airecht_, in
the minds of our ancestors. Those who wish to study the art of public
speaking will find excellent canons of oratory and advocacy in _Tecosc
Cormaic_; but they may be forewarned that the ancient standard has no
mercy for rhetorical bombast, bounce, or any other device to obscure
and mislead the exercise of right judgment by the audience.

The last effort of the people to maintain its assemblies can be seen
in those "parles upon hills" which were so obnoxious to the Dublin
government under Elizabeth. In place-names and other traditions we can
still trace the old assembly places in most parts of the country. Not
long ago, in the southern part of County Armagh, a man pointed out to
me a smooth green rising ground, and said "The old people say there
used to be a parliament there." The old people are not far wrong. In
these assemblies, laws were enacted, modified or confirmed, taxes and
tributes were regulated. The men of lore came there with their poems
in praise of the living and their stories of the olden times and their
genealogies. Musicians came, and clowns with their antics, and
sleight-of-hand men. The men of military age came with their arms for
weapon-show and then laid their arms aside till the assembly ended.
Traders from distant countries came to sell and buy. Horse races and
other games were held. The general public, at least in the larger
assemblies, were ranged and classed in divisions, and wooden galleries
were set up to seat them. Streets of booths were set up for sleeping
and eating, giving the place of assembly the temporary aspect of a
town, and such towns were, I think, the cities named and placed in
Ptolemy's description of Ireland. The detailed account that is extant
of the Leinster assembly at Carman, and the rare references in the
annals to disturbance of assemblies show that order and peace were in
general characteristic of these occasions.


The most casual reader of Irish history knows that within a few
centuries of the Norman invasion, the authority of the kings of
England had shrunk to within a day's easy ride of Dublin and the
outskirts of a few other towns. Standish O'Grady has noted the
constant alliance between town and crown in the Middle Ages. It was
not peculiar to Ireland. The merchants and the sovereign had a common
interest in resisting the encroachments of the great nobles. Even
despotic kings, as a rule, governed better in the interest of the
burgesses than any powerful oligarchy was likely to govern.

Why did the Norman conquest fail to be a conquest? Giraldus Cambrensis
gave to his story the title _Hibernia Expugnata_--"Ireland fought to a
finish." Four centuries later comes another historian, telling of
another conquest, and he calls his story _Hibernia Pacaia_--"Ireland
pacified." Why was the second conquest necessary?

There are two factors that make for the completeness and permanence of
conquest--namely, physical superiority and moral superiority. In the
art of war and in the apparatus of centralised government, the
invaders, we have seen, were superior to the Irish. They could even
use the Church as an instrument of the State, and Mr. Orpen boasts
that, whereas the Irish bishop of Dublin, Lorcán O'Tuathail, was only
a saint, the English bishops who succeeded him were statesmen. Warfare
by incastellation, carried on for seventy years, brought three-fourths
of the country under control. If to this physical superiority we must
add the moral superiority claimed for the Feudal _régime_ by modern
admirers--if not by its contemporary champion in letters,
Giraldus--there is left only one possible explanation of the failure,
the perversity of the Irish mind, afflicted with a double dose of
original sin, refusing to recognise either physical superiority in the
arts of war or moral superiority in the arts of peace.

Another factor must not be forgotten. The second generation of
Feudalism in Ireland was in full possession of all the military
resources of the greater part of the country. Just as, in the
beginning of the invasion, they had led armies of conquered Flemings
and conquered Welshmen, and as a few years later they led a force of
conquered Norsemen from Dublin to the battle of Thurles, where they
were defeated by Domhnall O'Briain, so in their later wars they led
armies of conquered Irishmen for the completion of the conquest. And
even conquered Irishmen were not bad fighting material.

Two causes have been assigned by modern writers for the failure of the
conquest. One cause alleged is the invasion by Edward Bruce in the
years 1315 to 1318. In view of the fact that Bruce's undertaking was
itself an ignominious failure, another cause assigned is the
transference of the Feudal lordship of Connacht and Ulster from the
De Burghs, resident in Ireland, to the Plantagenets, who were
absentees. This happened after 1333.

It will be shown that neither of these causes can be held to explain
the failure. The conquest was brought to a standstill and the tide was
turned more than half a century before the Bruce invasion. The
principal factor was national sentiment, intensified and supplied with
a more definite political form under a sense of national oppression.
Hardly had the sentiment of nationalism acquired this form when a new
and unexpected force came to its aid. The value of this new force was
crystallised into a proverb by one of the Feudal lords, Sir Robert
Savage of the Ards in East Ulster: "Better is a castle of bones than a
castle of stones." The policy of conquest by incastellation crumbled
away before the castles of bones built up first under the Irish
princes of Ulster, afterwards in Connacht, and in time all over
Ireland. By a castle of bones, Sir Robert Savage meant a well
organised, well armed, and well trained permanent field force. From
the days of the Fiana down to the thirteenth century, there had been
no such force under the command of an Irish king. Irish law and custom
were unfavourable to soldiering as a profession. The new force was not
supplied by Irishmen. It came from the Norse kingdom of Argyle and the
Hebrides. Already before 1263, when the rulers of this kingdom ceased
to be subject to Norway, we find Hebridean leaders helping the Irish
of Ulster. Before the close of the thirteenth century, we find
organised bodies of Hebridean fighting men on the Irish side, and a
common name for them already in use, Gallógláich, a word which was
afterwards transplanted into English in the form "galloglasses." It
means "foreign soldiers." You may learn from a number of books that
the galloglasses were heavy-armed Irish soldiers. They were men of
Argyle and the Hebrides who came over to Ireland for military service,
or descendants of such men who were settled in Ireland and held on to
the profession of soldiers. It may possibly be too much to say that no
Irish were admitted to their ranks; but with one very doubtful
instance every officer of galloglasses that I find named from the
thirteenth century, when they are first heard of, until the
seventeenth century, when they are last heard of, bears a Hebridean
surname; and the surnames of the majority of their commanders indicate
descent from Sumarlidi, who established the kingdom of the Hebrides
and Argyle in the twelfth century.

A century or so after the introduction of the galloglasses, we find
native Irish troops established in imitation of them. These, however,
bear a distinct name, _buannadha_, "buonies," meaning men on permanent

It was this reintroduction of permanent military organisation that
ultimately broke down the force of feudal conquest. But as this
preceded the Bruce invasion, so also it will be seen that it was
itself preceded by a very definite national rally of the free Irish.
Let us trace the course of events in greater detail.

In violation of the Treaty of Windsor, the lordship of all Connacht,
still unconquered, had been granted to William de Burgh. Marriage with
De Lacy's heiress had added the lordship of all Ulster, likewise
unconquered, and the Earls of Ulster, chiefs of the great house of De
Burgh, thus became titular lords of two-fifths of Ireland. To make
their dominion a reality was a great incentive to the completion of
the conquest. Half a century after the invasion, the conquest extended
to about two-thirds of the country. In Leinster, the mountainous parts
southward from Dublin were unsubdued; and in the midlands a group of
the old Irish states, side by side, had resisted penetration, under
the O'Connors of western Offaly, the O'Mores of Leix, the FitzPatricks
of Upper Ossory, and the O'Carrolls of Ely. In Munster, MacCarthy More
held out in Muskerry and kept the title of king of Desmond. The kings
of Thomond preserved more real power, though part of their territory
was occupied by the Norman de Clares. In Connacht, the O'Connor kings
were still recognised by the Foreigners, and the kings of Breifne were
intact. Along the western seaboard, too, the conquest had not taken
effect. The De Burghs were established in the fortress of Galway and
in the middle plain of Connacht. In the other parts of Leinster and
Munster, and all over the old kingdom of Meath, the Irish states had
either been altogether subverted or reduced to subjection.

In Ulster, the Earls of Ulster held effective dominion over so much
territory as is now comprised in the counties of Down and Antrim.

The Irish rally may be dated from the year 1241. In that year
Maeleachlainn O'Domhnaill became king of Tir Conaill, and by his aid
Brian O'Neill became king of Tir Eoghain, defeating in battle the last
king of the MagLochlainn line, one who was favourable to the
Foreigners and no doubt acknowledged the dominion of the Earl of
Ulster. The viceroy, or, as he was then called, justiciar, of the
English king as lord of Ireland, was Maurice FitzGerald. He was the
most active and enterprising of the new rulers since the first
generation of bold adventurers had passed away, and he set himself the
task of completing the conquest of Ireland by making the Earl de Burgh
effective ruler of his titular lordships of Connacht and Ulster. In
Connacht, he succeeded so far as to make the king of Connacht,
Feidhlimidh O'Connor, his subject ally, allowing him to retain the
title of king. In 1242, FitzGerald took the first step towards the
reduction of Ulster by leading an army from Connacht against Tir
Conaill and compelling the king, Maeleachlainn O'Domhnaill, to give
him hostages. As yet, no fresh occupation of Ulster territory was

From the earliest times until the Confiscation of Ulster, the southern
frontier of that province made invasion difficult. It was protected by
broad lakes and rivers and deep woods, and probably also by the
remains of that great ancient line of earthworks of which I have
spoken in an earlier lecture. When Ulster was invaded by land, the
approach was almost always on the eastern side from Dundalk or Ardee
towards Armagh, or on the western side between Lower Loch Erne and
the sea-coast. Maurice FitzGerald planned to invade it, building
castles as he gained ground, both on east and west. In 1244 we read of
a new castle built at Donaghmoyne, near Carrickmacross.

Next year, 1245, FitzGerald was summoned by Henry III. to aid him in
an invasion of Wales. He went across with an Irish army and his
subject king of Connacht. The enterprise did not answer expectation,
and Henry sent FitzGerald back deprived of the viceroyship. FitzGerald
nevertheless resumed his plan of conquest, the new viceroy,
FitzGeoffroi, seconding him. In 1247 he built a castle at Sligo, as a
basis of operations towards the Erne. This done, the next step was to
seize and fortify the passage of the Erne at Ballyshannon; but he
found the king of Tir Conaill there on guard. FitzGerald ordered his
Connacht auxiliaries to pretend a retirement and to make a circuit
crossing the Erne some miles further up. The stratagem succeeded. The
king of Tir Conaill, attacked in front and flank, was defeated and
fell in the fight. At his side fell a chief named MacSomhairlidh, "the
son of Sumarlidi." This name is the first sign of the Hebridean
Galloglach element in Irish wars.

Next year, 1248, the justiciar FitzGeoffroi cooperated in the campaign
against Ulster. He led an army to Coleraine, where already there was a
castle on the eastern side of the Bann. He built a bridge and built a
second castle on the western side, thus securing a new way for
invasion. Brian O'Neill did not remain inactive. He brought ships
over land from Loch Foyle to Loch Erne, and attacked and demolished a
castle at Belleek, newly built by FitzGerald. Fast upon this followed
a revolt of Feidhlimidh O'Connor. The viceroy marched to FitzGerald's
aid and Feidhlimidh was driven out, but returned next year and
continued to hold his own.

In 1250, taking advantage of a dispute about the succession,
FitzGerald invaded Tir Conaill but did not remain there. In 1252, he
renewed the attack, building a new castle near Belleek and another on
the eastern frontier near Banbridge. The viceroy also came on with a
strong army, penetrating into Tir Eoghain by way of Armagh. O'Neill
bent before the storm and made submission. This was the culminating
point. Next year, 1253, hoping to enforce his advantage, the viceroy
once more invaded Tir Eoghain, but this time he obtained no submission
and was forced to retreat with heavy loss. O'Neill forthwith took the
offensive, invaded the Earl of Ulster's territory, and destroyed a
number of castles including the new castle near Banbridge. There is a
lull at the turning of the tide. For several years, hostilities cease
on both sides. Then in 1257, Godfrey O'Domhnaill, king of Tír Conaill,
destroys again the castle of Caoluisce near Belleek and attacks Sligo,
burning the town. Retiring, he fights a rearguard action, and both he
and Maurice FitzGerald receive wounds of which they afterwards die.

Under the following year, 1258, is chronicled an event in itself of
the greatest significance and also an index of the significance of
foregoing events. Of the unsubdued Irish outside of Ulster, the chief
potentates at this time were Tadhg O'Briain, king of Thomond, and Aodh
O'Connor, king of Connacht, son of Feidhlimidh who had cast off the
authority of FitzGerald and De Burgh. These two kings assembled their
nobles and their forces and marched together to Caoluisce on the Erne,
the site of the demolished fort. They met there Brian O'Neill, king of
Tyrone, "and," says the annalist, "all those nobles gave the supreme
authority to Brian O'Neill." That is to say, so far as lay in their
power, by a spontaneous act, they restored the monarchy of Ireland.

Therefore, when I say that Brian O'Neill's defence of Ulster, with the
co-operation of the kings of Tir Conaill, marks the definite rallying
point against the Norman conquest, I give something more than a
private opinion or a modern inference. It is a fact to which, in the
year 1258 on the banks of the Erne, the kings and nobles and fighting
men of Thomond and Connacht, as well as of Tyrone, render the clearest
and most solemn testimony possible. Never before in Irish history had
the chief provincial kings thus spontaneously and peacefully awarded
the high-kingship to one of their number. The act implied a
repudiation of the authority that set up feudal lords over Irish
kings, and amounted to a declaration of national independence. Half a
century later, Brian O'Neill's son, in a letter to the Pope, again
declares the Plantagenet lordship of Ireland to be null and void and
asserts the right of the Irish to determine their own sovereignty.

These facts prove that the first factor in the Irish rally of the
thirteenth century was the sense of nationality, intensified by
adversity. Of this we shall see new and striking proofs.

About this time, the Irish began to strengthen their domestic polity
by adopting the custom of tanistry.

In 1260, Brian O'Neill led an army of Ulstermen and Connachtmen
against the Earl of Ulster's stronghold, Downpatrick. The viceroy,
warned of his movements, was there to meet him. Brian was defeated and
killed, and, as though his death were a greater glory than his life,
he is known to his countrymen of later times as Brian Catha an Dúin,
"Brian of the Battle of Down."

Three years later, in 1263, when king Hakon of Norway came with his
fleet to the Hebrides, he received a message from Ireland. Sir George
Dasent, the English editor of the history of king Hakon, undertakes to
say quite gratuitously and quite as absurdly that this embassy in 1263
came from the Ostmen of Dublin. The facts are related by Sturla, a
contemporary, a councillor of king Hakon, and no doubt on the
testimony of eye-witnesses. Sturla and his informants knew the
difference between Ostmen and Irishmen. Sturla says that, after
Hakon's first arrival in the Hebrides, "there came these messages to
him from Ireland, that the Irishmen offered to come into his power,
and said they needed much that he should free them from that thraldom
which the English had laid on them, for that they held then all the
best towns along the sea. But when king Hakon lay at Gigha (off
Cantire) he sent men out to Ireland in a light cutter, and that man
with them who was called Sigurd the South-Islander (_i.e._ the
Hebridean, no doubt as interpreter). They were to find out in what way
the Irish invited them to come thither." Before their return, Hakon's
expedition had proved unsuccessful. As he lay at Lamlash, in the Firth
of Clyde, "thither came to him those men that he had sent to Ireland,
and told him that the Irish would keep the whole host that winter, on
the understanding that king Hakon would free them from the sway of the
English. King Hakon was very much inclined to sail to Ireland, but
that was much against the mind of all his people. And so, because the
wind was not fair, then the king held a _thing_ (_i.e._ an assembly)
with his force, and gave it out that he would give them all leave to
sail to the Hebrides as soon as the wind was fair; for the host had
fallen short of victuals."

It is not unlikely that Hakon gave the Irish to understand that he
would come to them later. The entry of his death in the Annals of
Ulster shows that at that time, two months after he left Lamlash, he
was expected in Ireland. The annalist says: "Ebdonn, king of Norway,
dies in the Orkney Islands on his way to Ireland."

Here we have the second attempt within fifteen years on the part of
the Irish to determine the sovereignty under which they were to live.
There was a third attempt, in 1314, after the battle of Bannockburn,
when Domhnall, son of Brian O'Neill, with other Irish princes, offered
the sovereignty of Ireland to Robert Bruce, and, at his instance,
chose his brother Edward to be king of Ireland.

A rapid survey of events will enable us to trace the development of
the Irish resistance from these beginnings. We shall see the extension
of Irish rule over territories once in Feudal occupation, the
destruction or reduction of Feudal castles, the building of castles by
the Irish, the spread of the galloglass organisation, the renewal of
distinctive elements of national life.

Since the immigration of Hebridean soldiers was continuous for about
three centuries, so as to form a considerable new element in the
population of Ireland, and since their descendants are numerous among
us to-day, I shall put in a word here about the principal families
that reached Ireland in this way.

In Tir Conaill, the leaders of galloglasses belonged to the family of
MacSuibhne, englished MacSweeny or Sweeny.

In Tir Eoghain, MacDomhnaill (englished MacDonnell and MacConnell),
MacRuaidhri (englished MacRory and Rogers), and MacDubhghaill
(englished MacDugall in Scotland, MacDowell and Doyle and Coyle in
Ireland). These three families are descended from Sumarlidi, first
king of Argyle and the Hebrides.

In Connacht, MacDomhnaill, MacRuaidhri and MacSuibhne. In Munster,
MacSuibhne and MacSithigh (englished MacSheehy, Sheehy, and Shee).
This family is a branch of the MacDonnell family. In Leinster,
MacDomhnaill. In Oriel, MacCába, "MacCabe."

Of galloglass commanders on record, those of the race of Sumarlidi far
outnumber all the rest together.

The galloglass chiefs obtained grants of land for their support. About
a fourth of the whole territory of Tir Conaill was held by the three
MacSuibhnes. Besides these principal names, many less prominent
surnames, especially in Ulster, are of galloglass origin.

The events hereinafter related are drawn from the Annals of Ulster

In 1264, the year after Hakon's death, Aodh Buidhe O'Neill, who
succeeded Brian as king of Tir Eoghain, extended his sovereignty over
Oriel. After his time, the kings of Tir Eoghain take the title of
kings of Ulster.

1265. The kings of Connacht and Tir Conaill join forces and destroy
the castle of Sligo.

1267. Murchadh MacSuibhne is captured by the Earl of Ulster and dies
in prison. He is the first of his surname in the Irish record.

1269. Roscommon castle built by the viceroy D'Ufford, and Sligo Castle

1270. The king of Connacht defeats the Earl of Ulster (lord of
Connacht), and next year destroys the castles of Teach Teampla,
Roscommon, Sligo, and Áth Liag; and the year after, 1272, he destroys
the castle of Rinndown. This king of Connacht was the same who joined
in offering the sovereignty of Ireland to Brian O'Neill in 1258.

In 1278, Donnchadh O'Briain, king of Thomond, defeated the Earl of
Clare at Quin. His father had been taken three years earlier by the
same Earl of Clare and put to death by being drawn asunder by four

In 1286, Ricard de Burgh, the Red Earl of Ulster, comes to the front
with a sustained effort to recover power in Ulster and Connacht.
Several times he forced a king of his own choosing on Tír Eoghain in
place of Domhnall O'Neill, son of Brian of the Battle of Down.
Domhnall, however, time after time recovered the kingship, and held it
until his death in 1325.

1289. De Birmingham is defeated by the Irish of Offaly, under their
king, Calbhach O'Conor.

1290. Toirdhealbach O'Domhnaill, "with the help of his mother's
kindred, the MacDonnells of Scotland, and many other galloglasses,"
deposes his brother and makes himself king of Tir Conaill. This is the
first mention of galloglasses by name and also of the MacDonnells as
galloglass chiefs, in the Annals of Ulster, but the context indicates
that the word was already in established use.

1291. The Red Earl exacts the hostages of Connacht and harries Tir

1292. FitzGerald of Offaly rebuilds the castle of Sligo and takes the
king of Connacht prisoner. Next year, this king, having got free,
destroys the castle of Sligo.

1295. Geoffrey O'Farrell destroys three border castles of Meath. The
O'Farrell territory was at this time a small part of the present
county of Leitrim. It was gradually extended after this until it
comprised the county of Longford in addition. Longford takes its name
from Longphort Ui Fhearghail, "O'Farrell's camp," a name significant
of the new military organisation.

1305. Sir Piers de Bermingham caused three of the Irish ruling family
of Offaly and twenty-nine nobles of their people to be murdered at a
banquet to which he had invited them in his own castle. For this he
received a reward in money from the Viceroy and Council, with the
consent of Ricard de Burgh, Earl of Ulster.

In the same year, the Earl of Ulster built a castle in Inishowen, no
doubt with a view to commanding Loch Foyle and hindering the landing
of galloglasses. It may be noted that the Irish name of Milford Haven,
a little farther west, is Port na nGalloglach, "the port of the
galloglasses." This year we find a MacSuibhne in command of
galloglasses in Breifne.

1307. Donnchadh O'Ceallaigh, king of Ui Maine, in retaliation for the
burning of his town of Ath Eascrach, attacks Roscommon, kills a great
part of the defenders, and captures the Sheriff.

1308. The Foreigners of North Connacht are defeated by the Irish at

1310. Geoffrey O'Farrell marches against Donore Castle in Westmeath,
and Ruaidhri, king of Connacht, attacks the De Burgh castle of Bun

1315. At the instance of the northern Irish, Robert Bruce, having
himself declined to accept the sovereignty of Ireland, sends his
brother Edward to Ireland at the head of a strong expedition.

Now that we have reached this point, it is fairly evident that the
Bruce invasion, so far from being the origin or cause of the Irish
reaction against Feudalism and the English sovereignty, was itself a
consequence of that reaction. Notwithstanding several great victories
and successful marches through the country, Edward Bruce showed
himself incapable of any constructive policy. His victories were more
than counterbalanced by the crushing defeat of the western Irish at
Athenry and by his own defeat and death at Fochairt, near Dundalk, in
1318. The northern annalist, in chronicling this event, makes it plain
that the Irish of Ulster who suffered least during the invasion, knew
no reason to grieve over its ending. This is his record of the event:

1318. "Edward Bruce, the destroyer of Ireland in general, of Irish as
well as Foreigners, is killed by the Foreigners of Ireland through
strength of fighting at Dundalk, and along with him are killed
MacRuaidhri, king of the Hebrides, and MacDomhnaill, king of Argyle."
In the previous year, the same annalist tells that Robert Bruce came
to Ireland to aid his brother in expelling the Foreigners, and brought
with him many galloglasses. It may be noted that the purpose, "to
expel the Foreigners," is identical with that proposed half a century
earlier by the Irish embassy to King Hakon. The failure of Edward
Bruce, after a campaign of four years, must have restored some of the
lost prestige of the Feudal colonists. On the other hand, the Irish of
Thomond, by the defeat and death of Ricard de Clare, rid themselves of

We come now to the next event which has been described as the turning
point in the fortunes of the great struggle. In 1326, the Red Earl
died, having recovered all that he had lost in East Ulster from
Bruce's occupation, but not all in the same condition as before. He
was succeeded by his son, the Brown Earl, William de Burgh. A feud
arose among the De Burghs, and the young earl captured his kinsman
Walter de Burgh, and starved him to death in the Red Earl's new castle
of Inishowen. Death by starvation in prison is so frequent an incident
of the Feudal _regime_ as to suggest that these magnates obeyed the
commandment, "Thou shalt not kill," by allowing God to allow their
enemy to die, themselves not interfering. The event shows that,
despite the Bruce invasion, the old earl held on to his isolated
fortress among his Ulster enemies. The kinsmen and friends of Walter
de Burgh avenged his death by assassinating the young earl near
Carrickfergus. He died without male heir, his sole child, an infant
daughter, became by law the ward of the king of England, who made her
over in marriage, with the titular lordships of Connacht and Ulster,
to his son Lionel, duke of Clarence.

Sir John Gilbert, in his history of the Viceroys of Ireland, writes
soberly and judiciously. He has one weakness. Just as Mr. Orpen revels
in grants of land, which he takes to be the bedrock of civilisation,
and therefore declares to have been no structural element in the Irish
polity, attaching to them a sacred efficacy of which neither Henry II.
nor John nor their grantees in Ireland appear to have been fully
sensible; so Gilbert revels in details of court procedure, and
overloads his book with them: to be excused, perhaps, on the ground
that he is writing the history of a court not of a country and
people. Gilbert does not regard the Bruce invasion as a deciding
factor in the attempted conquest; but he does attach this character to
the demise of the Feudal lordships of Connacht and Ulster from the
great house of De Burgh, resident in Ireland, upon a branch of the
Plantagenets, absentees in England. He pictures to us the De Burgh
chiefs forthwith abandoning their allegiance to the English sovereign
as lord of Ireland and at the same time suddenly adopting the
language, laws, customs and manners of the Irish; and the other Feudal
lords infected by their example. We may readily believe that the
titular dominion of the De Burgh earls over Connacht and Ulster had
been a strong incentive to urge them to complete the conquest of those
provinces, and the Feudal authority exercised by the earls, backed up
by the power of the viceroys, furnished military resources which might
conceivably have sufficed for such a conquest. It is further probable
that Feudal law, so far as it could subject the De Burghs to the
dominion of an absent prince, found little favour with them. There is
no evidence forthcoming that the De Burghs in the fourteenth century
were more reverent than De Prendergast, De Courci, or the De Lascis of
the invasion period in their interpretation of the obligations of
Feudal allegiance. Their loyalty was measured by the power and
prestige of their overlord, so far as he could make it felt. The
decline of the Feudal regime was as much cause as effect of the
estrangement of the De Burghs from the English interest. As for any
sudden change of language, we must bear in mind that the
"Anglo-Normans" of the invasion did not speak English. So far as their
language was not French, it was Welsh, with a mixture of Flemish.
There was not much use for any of these languages in Connacht, where
the De Burghs and other Feudal settlers led Irish armies and
intermarried with Irish families. In short, the sudden and deliberate
turning Irish of the De Burghs, after they had killed off their last
earl, seems to be no better than a fantastic inference. Instead of
adopting any common counsel or common policy, the De Burgh chiefs,
after the Earl's assassination, engaged in violent warfare against
each other.

From this time on we can trace the gradual and rapid spread of the
galloglass organisation in various parts of Ireland; and this
continues until the time of Elizabeth who employed galloglasses on her
own side and rewarded their chiefs with grants of Irish land.
Meanwhile resurgent Ireland began to assimilate her "Old Foreigners."
In 1374, the annalist, recording the death of Jenkin Savage, says that
"he leaves poetry an orphan." This foster-father of Irish poetry was
of the family of old Sir Robert Savage who said "a castle of bones is
better than a castle of stones," Feudal lord of the Ards in East

The year after his death, 1375, a second battle of Downpatrick was
fought. The Irish were commanded by Niall O'Neill, great-grandson of
"Brian of the battle of Down," so little were the Irish of that age
daunted by the apparent disasters of their forefathers. The Foreigners
were commanded by Sir James Talbot of Malahide. O'Neill was
victorious. Talbot fell in the fight. The battle put an end to the
Feudal dominion established over East Ulster by the valiant de Courci.
Of this fact we have a striking proof in the succession of bishops to
the sees, then separate, of Down and Connor. From De Courci's time
until the second battle of Down, during two centuries, no man of the
Irish nation had been allowed to hold either bishopric. Soon after
this, we find appointed bishop of Connor a man named O'Lúcharáin, and
Irish surnames become very frequent in the clergy of both Down and

In 1384, Niall O'Neill attacked and destroyed the fortress of
Carrickfergus, and (says the annalist) "obtained great power over the
Foreigners." In 1392, the Feudal colonists of Dundalk submitted to
him. In the record of his death in 1397, he is entitled "king of

About this time, Eoin MacDomhnaill, brother to Domhnall of Harlaw,
king of Argyle and the Islands, acquired the Feudal title to the Glens
of Antrim through marriage to the heiress of Biset. Having taken
possession, the MacDonnells did not concern themselves about Feudal
duties to an overlord, an Earl of Mortimer or an Earl of March.
Afterwards, in the official language of the Elizabethan government,
the MacDonnells of the Glens were intruding Scots: a point of view
which their chief, Somhairle Buidhe, countered bluntly by proclaiming
that "plainly the English have no right to be in Ireland."

In the fourteenth century and still more in the fifteenth, the Irish
built castles for themselves and took possession of many castles built
for their subjugation. They turned the policy of incastellation
against its proprietors and patentees. In this they were facilitated
by the galloglass organisation, always ready for military service. The
principal family of galloglass chiefs, the MacDonnells, had for their
heraldic motto "Toujours prêts"--"always ready." In this period, too,
a number of the old petty kingdoms, after long abeyance under Feudal
lords, once more emerge into prominence.

In 1423, the Irish of Tír Eoghain and Tir Conaill, aided now by the
Irish of East Ulster, defeat the viceroy, the Earl of Ormond, at
Dundalk. In 1425, the Earl of March, heir to the lordship of Ulster
and Connacht, is sent to Ireland as viceroy and receives the formal
submission of the Ulster princes. This does not count for much, for in
five years time Eoghan O'Neill, son of the king of Ulster, received in
his father's name the allegiance of O'Farrell, king of Annaly,
O'Connor, king of Offaly, O'Molloy, king of Fir Ceall, O'Melaghlin,
titular king of Meath, and other Irish rulers in the midlands; also of
Nugent, Baron of Delvin, the Plunkets, the Herberts, and the
Foreigners of Westmeath in general. This, in the year 1430, marks the
highest point of power reached by the kings of Tir Eoghain at any
time. On his father's death in 1432, Eoghan O'Neill, says the
annalist, "went to Tulach Óg, and was there inaugurated king on the
stone of the kings by the will of God and men, of bishops and chief

In the year following, 1433, Margaret, daughter of O'Carroll, king of
Eile, and wife of O'Connor, king of Offaly, held those two festivals
for the learned of Ireland that have been justly described as national
events of high and singular importance, proving that the Irish of that
time acted on a clear and definite consciousness of nationality. It
should however, be made plain that Margaret's achievement marked no
new expression of the national consciousness, either in conception or
execution. Eighty-two years earlier, in 1351, what we may call a fair
of Irish learning was held by William O'Kelly, king of Ui Maine, in
his own territory.

A contemporary account of O'Kelly's assemblage has been left us by one
of his guests, Gofraidh Fionn Ó Dálaigh, official poet to MacCarthy,
king of Desmond. Miss Knott, who has edited the poem in _Ériu_,[4]
says properly that these assemblies of the learned under Irish rulers
had a political import: the poets fulfilling in that age a function
proper to the journalists of our time.

The poet makes the occasion clear. O'Kelly had regained power in his
ancestral territory, long under the control of the Foreigners, whom he
had expelled, and was about to divide it again among his own people.
In celebration of his good fortune, he offers a Christmas feast to all
the men of learning and art of his nation: to the seven orders of
poets, to the jurists, the historians, musicians, craftsmen, and
jugglers also and jesters. Wide avenues were laid out with lines of
conical roofed houses of timber and wickerwork: a street for the
poets, one for the musicians, one for the chroniclers and
genealogists, one for the rhymers and jugglers. These structures are
compared to the letters on a page, O'Kelly's castle to the illuminated
capital letter at their head. Craftsmen are busy carving animal
figures on its oakwork. It is in the midst of a rich country,
re-conquered by O'Kelly. On its bounds are Athenry, Athlone, and
Athleague, three famous fords. "Loch Derg, a cause of pride, Loch Ree
with its green marshes, these blue bays on which the sun shines
brightly are the boundaries of William's land." Before William's
ancestors, the land belonged to the hero Goll MacMorna and his
brethren. It is a country of plenty, with every variety of surface,
tillage and grasslands and forest. "We men of learning have come
through evil days--the time of conquest and disruption--our lore
neglected, our affluence reduced, most of our country against us; but
a better time has come. Our host to-night has delivered us from

[Footnote 4: "Eriu," vol. V., page 50.]

It was among a people once more confident of the future that a
congress of this kind was planned and successfully held. The poet
bears witness that the king's invitation has brought together a
concourse from every part of Ireland, from Ulster, Thomond, Desmond,
Leinster and Meath. The annals tell us they came away well pleased.
Could any event be more typical of a conscious and constructive
national idea?

In 1387, Niall Ó'Néill the younger, in the reign of his father, the
victor of Downpatrick, built a hostel for the learned of all Ireland
in Eamhain Macha, the site of the ancient home of the kings of Ulster.
Margaret O'Carroll's great festival of the learned in 1433 was thus
the third such occasion within three generations, noteworthy above the
other two in this respect among others, that it revived the fulness of
national tradition on the very borders of the Pale.

The true beginning of the Irish rally was in the minds of those kings
and nobles and fighting men of Thomond and Connacht who marched to the
Erne in 1258 to offer the headship of the free Irish to a king of Tir
Eoghain. Both O'Brien and O'Connor were closer in the line of descent
to kings of Ireland than O'Neill was. There was no country in Europe
at that time whose magnates were not willing to have civil war rather
than abandon plausible claims to sovereignty. From this worthy
beginning I have traced the progress of resurgent Ireland down to a
worthy fruition, the generous homage of an Irish queen to that
literary tradition which, as Mrs. Green has so clearly shown us in a
recent work, is the most characteristic element in Irish nationality.
And there I leave the story.

Another time of dark adversity came afterwards. What stands for the
history of Ireland in that dark time is mainly the history of a
government which nobody pretends to have been Irish. We need a new
history from the fifteenth century onward, written out of the records
of the Irish people. But as I have set down the Irish rally as the
subject of this lecture, I may properly be asked how this resurgent
movement ended. I shall go as near as I can to imitate the brevity of
Sir Robert Savage. The Plantagenets invoked Peter, the Tudors invoked
saltpetre. When the Plantagenets undertook to become missionaries in
Ireland, and incidentally to pay Peter's Pence, as Giraldus says, out
of the profits, they were under the impression that Irish kings had
control of secret gold mines. When Elizabeth's ministers professed a
yearning to bring the Irish to civility, they were calculating how
much land could be acquired by the expenditure of the stock of
saltpetre available from time to time at so much per ton. It may shock
the proper sense of the "Ireland under" historians that this
villainous substance should be blown betwixt the wind and their
civility, but just as the true keynote of what is called "Ireland
under the Normans" is incastellation, so the true keynote of "Ireland
under the Tudors" is gunpowder. There is more mental profit in one
fact of this kind than in the painful perusal of stacks of State
papers, evidence mainly against those who write them.

I must say that Irish history in the diatribal stage afflicts me much
less than Irish history in popular handbooks. This lecture has not
exhausted the subject from the time of Brian O'Neill to the time of
Margaret O'Carroll--less than two centuries. I claim to have shown
evidence of real life, growth, development, purpose and spirit in the
Irish nation during that time. Take up one of these popular handbooks
and what will you find? The dissensions of the Irish clans, Edward
Bruce's invasion, the perpetual Statute of Kilkenny, and how Richard
II. fared in Ireland. Much is made of the Statute of Kilkenny, as
though its oppressive operation were a necessary consequence of its
record on the Statute Book. The Irish dissensions are gravely
deprecated. They are the whole history of the nation during all this
period, and one example is given as sufficing for all. It tells how
Godfrey O'Donnell, after his fight with FitzGerald near Sligo,
returned to Tir Conaill never to recover from his wounds; how Brian
O'Neill used the occasion to invade Tir Conaill; how O'Donnell had
himself borne on a litter at the head of his forces, routed O'Neill,
and died in the hour of victory. All this story indeed is related in a
Latin chronicle of uncertain date and the place of battle is not
mentioned. The contemporary Annals of Ulster are the most copious and
minute record for that time of the affairs of Tir Eoghain and Tir
Conaill, having been written not far from the border of the two
territories. They say nothing about an invasion of Tir Conaill or
about any battle or hostility between the two kings. They relate the
death of O'Donnell in these words only: "_quievit in Christo_"--"he
fell asleep in Christ," the customary formula of the obit of a
churchman or of a layman who died in religious retirement in a
monastery. This leaves the romantic battle story open to question.
Whether the story be truth or fiction, when it stands with Edward
Bruce, Richard II., and the Statute of Kilkenny, as a representation
of Irish history during the period with which this lecture is
concerned, it is not the truth of history. Not indolence nor want of
access to the materials produces popular history of this sort. It is
the product of a peculiar obsession of mind, that makes Ireland appear
a sort of hotel, in which the important people are always
distinguished visitors, and the permanent residents, when they are not
under orders, are occupied with quarrelling children and other
household worries in the garret or the basement.

I have said in a former lecture that the "clan system," or, as some
prefer to say, the "tribal system," of medieval Ireland, is a modern
notion and is an illusion. Its basis is found in the prominence given
in Irish literature to the aristocratic kindreds and in the Irish
custom of naming territorial divisions by the names of the septs to
which their lords belonged. From this has arisen the notion that the
sept or clan from whom a territory was named was the people of the
territory. The illusion has been enlarged by the loose use of the term
"tribe," which quotation has shown applied to a family group
consisting of the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of
one man; the same term being applied to an ancient aristocratic
kindred like Dal Cuinn, spread over nearly half of Ireland. Common
tenure of land by a family group, necessitating redistribution of the
land as new generations come forward, with the use of the term "tribe"
to denote such groups, has created the further illusion of a tribal
territory held in common and periodically redistributed. These things
being illusions, I am reminded that I have not endeavoured to set out
the facts in their stead.

Let me then take a particular territory like William O'Kelly's kingdom
of Ui Maine. In the fifth century, the lordship of this territory,
carrying the title of king, was granted by a king of Connacht to his
kinsman Maine. His descendants, called Ui Maine, were the principal
nobility of the territory in later times. Before Maine, the territory
belonged to a Pictish folk, the Sogini or Soghain, also found in other
parts of the country. This Pictish folk continued to inhabit the
territory under the rule of the sept of Maine, and under the
subordinate rule of their own nobles. But even before Maine's time,
the population did not consist of a homogeneous tribe of Sogini, for
we find record of another folk dwelling there, distinguished from the
Picts and classed among the Fir Iboth, _i.e._ the Ebudeans or
Hebrideans; and their descendants also remained in occupation, and are
named and located in medieval documents. Successive conquests
established various degrees of freedom, the measure of freedom being
the degree of immunity from tributes and services. Besides these
permanent inhabitants, there were landless immigrants who obtained
holdings of land on very exacting terms, mitigated, however, by law
after long continued occupancy. At the bottom of the scale, there were
slaves, who could be bought, sold, or given away. In historical time,
the slaves were never numerous.

In addition there were professional men, the brehons or jurists, the
poets and historians, the physicians, the musicians; and with these
must be classed the master craftsmen. All these had lands for their
support. In the later age, lands were also set apart for the captains
of galloglasses and the constables of castles. The law of the family
or the _fine_ governed all property in land, including the high
proprietorship of the ruler. Under this and other influences, every
calling tended to be hereditary in the Irish sense, not necessarily
from father to son, but within the legal family group. It is even
clear from the annals that the clergy were drawn from certain families
much more than from others.

There were common rights over rough land unsuitable for tillage. The
remainder of the land was apportioned among family groups. There may
have been an older system of a more communal character, for there is a
tradition or legend about the enclosure and specific apportionment of
the lands of Ireland in the reign of Aodh Sláine, about A.D. 600.

Any king or lord could make grants of land within his jurisdiction;
and this can be shown to have been done in every age from the fifth to
the sixteenth century.

In every large territory there were church lands. The inhabitants of a
church estate formed a little body politic by themselves, with a chief
of their own, the _airchinnech_ (oirchinneach, "erenach," or
"herenagh"). O'Donovan thought that the lay succession to this title
was a consequence of the disorder caused by the Norse wars; in any
case, it was merely an assimilation of the temporal government of
church lands to the ordinary civil polity. The _airchinnech_ was
obliged to provide from his revenue for the support of the clergy and
the maintenance of religious services. Otherwise, his status was that
of any territorial lord. In medieval Ireland, as elsewhere, we find
the conflict between Church and State about the immunity of Church
possessions from rendering tributes and services to the secular

On broad and simple lines, the government of an Irish State resembled
that of the Roman republic, with the king added as chief officer of
State. Authority belonged to the patrician class, conditioned only by
the prudential maxim, _is treise tuath na tighearna_--"a people is
stronger than a lord." Of the election of a king I know only one
detailed account--the last instance in history--the election of Aodh
Ruadh O'Domhnaill in 1593. The nobles, meeting apart, came to a
decision, and then brought it before the popular assembly for
ratification. New laws, and even important legal decisions, such as
the sentence of death or deposition of a king, were also proposed for
ratification by assemblies.

The executive functions of the king and the relations of subordinate
to superior kings are well indicated in a law tract printed by Meyer
in _Eriu_. It deals with a case in which a plaintiff or creditor has a
claim to recover against a defendant or debtor who belongs to a
different State. The plaintiff's king has no jurisdiction over the
defendant. He must refer it to the next superior king, called "the
king of a major State." If the defendant is outside of this king's
jurisdiction, the major king must have recourse to the next higher
authority, traditionally called "the king of a fifth." This king, if
his jurisdiction does not extend to the defendant, must take the case
to the king of Ireland, whose duty it will then be to levy the claim.

From this it follows that, when the parties at litigation were both
subjects of the same petty king, it was his duty and function to give
effect to the law as between them.

The Irish Record Reports contain particulars of a class of State
papers, the Fiants, which, especially for the reign of Elizabeth,
contain lists of the principal followers of various Irish chiefs. No
one who examines these lists will entertain the illusion that the
people of an Irish territory were a homogeneous clan. In a single list
of the principal followers of O'Donnell, there are close on 150
distinct surnames, and among these the O'Donnells form a very small
fraction. With regard to occupation, in these lists we find gentlemen,
yeomen, husbandmen, surgeons, physicians, priests, rhymers, harpers,
pipers, goldsmiths, blacksmiths, tailors, butchers, carpenters,
masons, etc., and on the military side, horsemen, kerns, and

There is no doubt that life in ancient Ireland was for the most part
rural life. It did not reach that social intensity and complexity
which are peculiar to towns and to countries in which town life is
dominant. Nevertheless it was probably as high a development of rural
life as any country had produced in any age.

What I have said about Irish institutions has of necessity taken often
the form of an apologia; of necessity, because I have found the
balance heavily weighted down. But, one may object, there must have
been some radical defect in this ancient civilisation, otherwise its
inherent soundness would have been more secure against either castles
or saltpetre. How came it that a brave and intelligent and energetic
people did not keep itself in the forefront of western development?

My answer to that is, that Ireland was ruled by a patrician class--and
that is not all, for other countries have made remarkable progress
under a patrician rule. The Irish nobility were rendered incapable of
using their intelligence to profit with the times by one defect--they
were perhaps the most intensely proud class of men that ever existed.
This pride was bred in their bones. It came to them out of an
immemorial past. The history of the Gaelic people falls into cycles of
four centuries, beginning with our earliest knowledge of the Celts in
the Hallstatt Period. There are four centuries of conquest, expansion
and domination, before the Celts came to Ireland. By this time, pride
of race was already their dominant sentiment. A Latin poet has
described a Celtic general:

"Before the rest, the rapid wing of the Boii, led on by Crixus,
charges headlong into the foremost ranks and their gigantic limbs
engage in battle, Crixus himself, swelling with ancestral pride,
boasted his descent from Brennus, and bore for his token the capture
of the Capitol. His shield depicted the Celts weighing out the gold of
Rome. His milk-white neck gleamed with a golden torque, his raiment
was embroidered with gold, the sleeves were stiff with gold, and the
same metal formed his helmet's nodding crest."

Four centuries more established the Celtic rule in Ireland. Their rule
in Ireland remained secure during four centuries of Roman domination
in Gaul and Britain. During four centuries of Germanic invasion and
conquest, Ireland stood intact. After four centuries of Norse
supremacy over neighbouring seas and lands, Ireland emerged
unconquered. Two thousand years of unbroken sway may suffice to set
pride above prudence in the tradition of any class. At the end of
another cycle, when the Irish nobles were scattered over Europe, the
nobility of their bearing and the distinction of their manners won
admiration for them in every land but one.

This intense pride is blazoned on the pages of our medieval
literature, in annals, genealogies, stories, poems. The poets lived by
ministering to it. In this respect, too, we can see the analogy with a
good deal of modern journalism.

Too much pride blinded the native rulers of Ireland to the insecurity
of their state, and made them careless of their safety, and neglectful
of the measures it required. Glorying in the long vista of their past,
they did not look before them. They were conservative, inadaptable,
unproviding. Herein lay the fatal weakness of medieval Ireland.

We are now nearing the end of the seventh cycle. It has brought us a
different experience. I must not speculate upon the outcome. If only I
have succeeded in convincing you that Irish history must contain life,
movement, colour, coherence, and human interest, beyond anything
depicted of it in many books that have been written about it, with
that and the recollection of your kind support I make a well contented



    Aed Bennán (Aoḋ Beannán), power of, 237
    Agricola conquers the Britons, 36;
      intends the conquest of Ireland, 136
    Ailbhe, Saint, date of, 161
    Ailech (Oileaċ), kingdom of, 184;
      growth in power, 277
    airchinnech (oirċinneaċ, "erenagh," "herenagh"), office
      of, 351
    airecht (oireaċt), court of assembly, 320
    Airgialla (Oirġialla, "Oriel"), 126;
      varying extent of, 185, 278
    Aithech-thuatha, 148
    Amorgen (Aṁairġean, Aiṁirgean), legend of, 97
    Anglo-Norman aggression, false pretext of, 286
    Anglo-Norman conquest, failure of, 323;
      supposed causes of failure, 324;
      extent of, 327;
      rally begins against, 328;
      details of rally, 335
    Anglo-Norman invasion, destructive effects of, 308-311
    Anglo-Normans, Irish assimilation of, 341
    Annals, restricted scope of the, 178
    Aristocracy, intense pride of, 354
    Armagh founded, 160;
      school of, a national university, 284
    Assemblies, 138, 320;
      of the learned, 344
    Atecotti, 144, 146, 147-149


    Bede describes Ireland, 195;
      relates Irish migration to Scotland, 195, 196
    Belach Mugna (Bealaċ Muġna "Ballaghmoon"), battle of, 260
    Belgae, origin of, 18;
      "Brythons," a supposed branch of, 42
    Belgic migrations, 52;
      extended to Ireland, 57
    Bernard, Saint, of Clairvaux, his interest in Ireland, 281
    Black Pig's Dyke, 131
    "Book of Invasions," a national epic, 96
    "Book of Rights," contents of, 274
    Bóramha tribute, 238
    Brega (Breaġa, "Bregia"), kingdom of, 235
    Bregon (Breoġan), legend of, 93
    Brian Bóramha, birth of, 266;
      his allies, 268;
      his policy, 269-272
    Britain, Irish invasion of, 141;
      Irish settlements in, 155
    British ethnography exemplified, 32
    Britons, effect of Roman conquest on, 34-37;
      displaced from Scotland, 202;
      in Irish wars, 203
    Brittani, Brittania, origin of the names, 58
    Bronze Age in Ireland, date of, 43;
      not Celtic, 44-46, 70;
      tillage in Ireland during, 72
    Brown Earl of Ulster, 339
    Bruce, Edward, chosen king of Ireland, 334;
      comes to Ireland, 337
    Bruce, Robert, sovereignty of Ireland offered to, 333, 337
    "Brythons," 34, 43, 45


    Cæsar, Julius on Ireland, 134
    Caledones, 143
    Cathal, king of Munster, 237
    Cashel (Caiseal Muṁan) "discovered," 127;
      synod of, 286
    Cellachán (Ceallaċán), king of Munster, 266
    Celtae of Gallia Celtica, supposed identity of Gaels with, 42
    Celtic antiquity, growth of learned and popular interest in, 6-9
    Celtic migrations to Britain and Ireland, current British theory
      of, 32;
      approximate earliest date of, 48;
      traditions concerning, 49, 50;
      archaeological evidence of, 51, 52
    Celtic origin of Gaels and Britons forgotten by themselves, brought
      to light by Buchanan, 4-5
    Celtic religion, 30
    Celtic resistance to Norsemen, 254
    Celtic studies:
      initiated by Buchanan, 5;
      developed by Llwyd, 6;
      stimulated by Gray, 7;
      and still more by Macpherson, 8
    Celtic words in the Germanic languages, 17, 18
    Celto-Germanic population, 18-25
      the name indicative of linguistic not racial descent, 1-3;
      earliest accounts of, early relations with Germans, 15-25;
      ancient civilisation of, 25
    Cerdraige (Ceardraiġe), 76
    Christian era in Irish chronology, 223
    Christians in Ireland before St. Patrick, 161-167
    Chronology of pre-Christian Ireland, 49
    Church, effect of the Anglo-Norman invasion on the, 288, 308
    Church lands, 351
    Ciarán of Saighir, Saint, 161
    "Cities" in Ireland, mentioned by Ptolemy, 137, 138
    "Clan system," notions of, 289, 349, 353
    Clann Cholmáin dynasty, 236
    Clontarf, character of the battle of, 272;
      effect on Norsemen, 273
    Cóiced (cúigeaḋ), significance of, 101
    Coirpre Nia Fer (Cairbre Nia Fear), king of North Leinster,
      104, 106
    Collas, the Three, 124
    Columban monasteries, reorganisation of, 284
    Commios and his sons, 167-170
    Communal land tenure, true and false notions of, 295, 351
    Connacht (Connaċta), ancient extent of, 112, 186
    Constantine, Donation of, 17
    Copper mines in Ireland, their remote antiquity, 71
    Copper Period in Ireland, 43, 70
    Copper rivets, ancient industry in, 75
    Corcu Loegdae (Corca Laoiġḋe), 162
    Cormac, king of Munster, 260
    Cormac, king of Tara, 120;
      his reign an epoch, 124
    Craftsmen enfranchised, 229
    Crinna, battle of, 120
    Cruithin, the Irish name of the Picts, 59, 63
    Cu Chulainn, 79
    Cu Rói (Cú Raoi), 102


    Dáirine, 162
    Dál Araidhe, 185
    Dál gCais, "Dalcassians," rising power of, 266, 268
    Dál Riada, 185, 194-200, 203
    Danes arrive in Ireland, 253
    Danish kings of the Hebrides, 212
    Dathi=Nath-Í, 157
    De Burgh family, their alleged change in policy, 340
    Déclán (Diaglán), Saint, 161
    Derbfine (Deirḃḟine), significance of, 230, 290
    Dési, Déisi, migration of, 109, 128
    Druim Ceata, assembly of, 197
    Dublin first fortified, 251;
      becomes seat of Norse kingdom, 252;
      battle of, 264
    Dumbarton, "stronghold of the Britons," 198, 204;
      captured by Dublin Norsemen, 255
    Dynastic polity, 177


    Eblana, Eblani, 137
    Ecclesiastical reform, 281-288
    Éire, Ériu, origin of the name, 67
    Emain (an Eaṁain, "the Navan"), 115
    England before the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland, 305;
      racial type now prevalent in, 39
    English invade Ireland, A.D. 684, 201
    English power recovered through firearms and artillery, 347
    Eochu Feidlech (Eoċaiḋ Feiḋleac), 118
    Eochu MacLuchtai (Eoċaiḋ mac Luċta), king of
      Munster, 103, 104
    Eterscél (Eidirsgéal), king of Ireland, 109
    Eoghanachta, origin of, 127;
      states of, 186;
      maximum power and decline of, 260-262
    Érainn, Érna, "Erneans," 65-68, 104 (--Iverni)
    Etruscan alphabet in Cisalpine Gaul, 167
    Eusebius, Irish writers influenced by, 89


    Feidhlimidh, king of Munster, 259
    Feidhlimidh, king of Connacht, career of, 328
    Fer Diad (Fear Diaḋ), 79
    Fergus (Fearġus) defends the Galians, 81
    Fergus mac Eire, 116, 194
    Fiachu Sroibtine (Fiaċa Sraiftine), 124
    Fiana, 150
    Find Fili (Fionn File), king of South Leinster, 104, 106, 110
    Fionn Bheara a Celtic god, 87
    Fir Bolg, 77, 79
    Fir Domhnann, 79
    Fir Iboth (iḃoṫ), 74 (=Ebudeans)
    FitzGerald, Maurice, career of, 328
    Five-fold division of Ireland in ancient tradition, 102
    Flemish settlers in Ireland, 303
    Fochairt, battle of, 338
    Fochla, kingdom of the, 185
    Fomori (Foṁoraiġ), 85, 87


    Gabhair in Leinster between the two ancient provinces, 107
    Gaelic settlements in Britain, origin of, 46
    Gaels, legendary origin of, 90
    Galians (Gaileoin), 80, 104
    Gall-Ghaedhil or Norse-Irish, 211, 252
    Gallógláich, "galloglasses," 326;
      commanders of, 334;
      first record of, 336;
      spread of, 341
    Gaulish settlers in Ireland, 128
    Genealogies help to explain the annals, 179, 183, 194
    Geography in ancient Irish schools, 92
    Germans and Celts, early relations between, 15-25
    Glacial period in Ireland, 69
    Gold in ancient Ireland, 71
    Gormlaith, career of, 262
    Government of an Irish state, character of, 352
    Grants of land, 297; to Gallóglach commanders, 335
    Grants of lordship, 177
    Greek alphabet used in Gaul, 167
    Greek in ancient Irish schools, 243


    Hakon, king of Norway, loses control of Hebrides, 216;
      Irish sovereignty offered to, 332
    Heathen lore, ancient Irish, 176
    Hebrides, 74
    Hebridean forces, 325;
      first appearance in Ireland, 329
    Heptarchy in Ireland, 113
    Hiberni, Hibernia, origin of the names, 67
    History of Ireland, how constructed by ancient writers, 89, 98;
      earliest documents of, 114, 175;
      distorted views of, 347


    Ibar (Iuḃar), Saint, date of, 161
    Ibdaig (Iḃḋaiġ), Ebudeans, 74
    Iberi in Irish legend, 91
    Iberians, supposed early inhabitants of Britain, 40-42;
      supposed traces of, 62
    Inber Scéne (Inḃear Sgéine), legend of, 93-95
    Incastellation policy of Anglo-Normans adopted by Irish, 343
    Industrial tribes of pre-Celtic origin, 75-79, 82
    Intercourse with the Continent, 242
    Iona granted to St. Columba, 197
    Irish civilisation, chief defect of, 354
    Irish forces under Roman command, 151
    Irish language, ancient learned jargon of, 165
    Irish law, features of, 312
    Irish learning, characteristics of, 240-244
    Irish manuscript orthography, origin of, 174
    Iron Age in Britain, supposed to have been introduced by Belgae, 42
    Iron, Celtic expansion facilitated by possession of, 153
    Iverni, 65-68, 104


    Kenneth MacAlpin (Cionaoḋ mac Ailpín), 204
    Kingship, law of succession to, 230
    Kings, functions of, 352


    Lagin Tuad-Gabair (Laiġin Tuadḋ-Gaḃair), L. Des-Gabair
      (Deas-Gaḃair), 107
    Latin in ancient Irish schools, 241
    "Laudabiliter," 286
    Law, courts of, 318
    Law of succession, evil consequences of, 294, 300
    Learning in Ireland, Zimmer's account, 164;
      testimony of Saint Columbanus, 166
    Leinster, ancient extent of, 108, 122, 129, 186;
      struggle for lost territory of, 188;
      tribute, 238
    Letters in Britain, introduction of, 167-170
    Limerick, Norse settlement at, 262
    Lincolnshire, pseudo-scientific ethnography exemplified in the case
      of, 32
    Literature in Ireland, beginnings of, 167
    Loeguire (Laoġaire), king of Ireland, 182, 188
    Luaighni, 80, 104
    Luguid (Luġaiḋ), king of Ireland, 190-193


    MacCába ("MacCabe") family, 334
    MacDomhnaill ("MacDonnell, MacConnell." etc.) family, 334;
      obtains Irish territory, 219, 342
    MacDubhghaill ("MacDugall, MacDowell, Doyle, Coyle") family, 334
    MacRuaidhri ("MacRory, Rogers") family, 334
    MacSíthigh ("MacSheehy, Sheehy, Shee") family, 334
    MacSuibhne ("MacSweeney, Sweeny") family, 334;
      first record of, 335
    MagRoth, MaġRaṫ=Moira
    Magnus, king of Norway, fails to restore Norse power, 280
    Malachy (Maol m'Aoḋóg), Saint, 281
    Mathgamain (Maṫġaṁain) overthrows Eoghanacht dynasty, 268
    Matriarchy, a Pictish custom, 59
    Medb (Meaḋḃ), 80, 118
    Medraige (Meaḋraiġe), 82
    Midhe, early extent of, 113;
      partition of, 235
    Míl, legend of, 91-95
    Military organisation disappears, 229, 235, 251, 267;
      reintroduced, 325
    Military tribes of pre-Celtic origin, 79-82
    Moira, battle of, 199
    Monarchy, Irish, fictitious accounts of, 115, 239;
      origin of, 118;
      held by Connacht dynasty, 130;
      detached from Connacht dynasty, 192;
      succession to, 231, 238;
      in abeyance, 272;
      restored in depraved form, 273
    Muirchertach MacErca, king of Ireland, 190-193
    Muirchertach, king of Ailech, career of, 266
    Muiredach Tírech (Muireaḋaċ Tíreaċ), 124
    Munster, ancient extent of, 108, 126, 186;
      increasing power of, 236;
      ecclesiastical kings of, 258
    Mythological inhabitants of Ireland, 85
    Mythology of Irish Celts shows traces of continental origin, 87;
      transformed by Christian writers, 88


    Nationality, ancient Irish conception of, 96;
      characteristic development of, 224-229;
      conscious sense of, 244-248
    Nath-Í, 157
    Nemed (Neiṁeaḋ), 88
    Neolithic Age in Ireland, 69
    Nia Segomon (Nia Seaġaṁan), 127
    Niall Glundubh, king of Ireland, 263
    Niall of the Nine Hostages, 129, 130, 157;
      settlements of his kindred, 180-185
    Norman statecraft, 301
    Normans, so called, in Ireland, their racial, linguistic, and
      political affinities, 302
    Norman plan of conquest, 304
    North Leinster kingdom, fall of, 122
    Nuadu (Nuaḋa. Nodons), a Celtic god, 95
    Norse invasions begin, 203, 249;
      Celtic resistance to, 205;
      conquests in Scotland, 205;
      kingdom of Hebrides and Argyle, 211-220;
      earliest settlements in Ireland, 251;
      power in England and France, 254;
      expelled from northern Ireland, 255;
      adopt a settled life, 265, 273;
      demoralisation caused by, 281


    Ocha, importance of the battle of, 190, 231
    Oengus (Aonġus), a Celtic god, 86
    Oengus (Aonġus), king of Munster, 128
    O'Farrell (Ua Fearġail) territory extended, 336
    Ogham alphabet, origin of, 170;
      inscriptions, range and time of, 173
    Ogmios, Ogme (Oġma), a Celtic god, 171
    O'Neill, Brian, career of, 328;
      chosen chief king, 331
    O'Neill dynasty, increased power of, 343
    Orosius, Irish writers influenced by, 90, 92-95
    Ovoca, curious origin of the name, 139


    "P-Celts" and "Q-Celts," 43, 46
    Paganism, survival of, 224
    Palæolithic Age not represented in Ireland, 68
    Palladius, Saint, mission of, 163
    Parthalón, 39, 88
    Patrick, Saint, 159;
      date of his death, 222;
      Bury's account of, 225
    Pelagius, 164
    Pentarchy in Irish tradition, 100
    Picts, supposed to be Iberians, 41;
      Ireland and Britain named from, 59;
      in Ireland and Scotland, 62-65;
      legendary origin of, 64;
      in Ireland, 74;
      in Ulster, 120, 185;
      earliest mention of, 141;
      in Connacht, 180;
      their kingdom in Scotland overthrown, 204;
      they lose territory in Ulster, 233
    Pliny on Ireland, 135
    Political system in ancient Ireland, 274-278
    Pomponius Mela on Ireland, 134
    Poseidonios on Ireland, 133
    Pre-Celtic population of Ireland, 73
    Pre-Celtic metal workers, 75, 76
    Pretani, significance of the name, 59, 62
    Primitive races, assumptions regarding, 83
    Property in land, 295-299
    Ptolemy on Ireland, 136


    Qreteni, an ancient name for the Picts, 59


    Race, true and false notions of, 1, 2
    Racial fusion in Ireland, 229
    Red Earl of Ulster, 336
    Revolt against Gaelic rule, 80, 119
    Rígdamna (ríoġḋaṁna), precise meaning of, 231
    Roman empire, collapse of, 158
    Roman military system influences Ireland, 150
    "Rosnaree," Ros na Ríoġ, battle of, 103


    Schools, reorganisation of, 284
    Scotland, Irish colonisation of, 194;
      Irish settlements extend to east coast, 202;
      conquest by Cinaed (Cionaoḋ), 204;
      centralised polity of, 206;
      extent of Irish colonisation, 207;
      anglicisation, 208;
      feudal institutions introduced, 209
    Scotti, legendary origin of, 90;
      earliest mention of, 143;
      meaning of the name, 144;
      St. Jerome's account of, 146
    Scottish history, earliest documents of, 198
    Scythians in Irish legend, 91
    Segomo, a Celtic god, 127
    Semaine (Seamaine), Semrige (Seimriġe), Semonrige
      (Seamonraiġe), Tuath Semon (Seaman), 75, 78
    Síol Aedo Sláne (Síol Aoḋa Sláine), dynasty of, 236
    Sliab Badbgnai (Sliaḃ ḃáġna, "Slieve Baune"), 78
    Sliab Echtgi (Sliaḃ Eaċtġa, "Slieve Aughty or
      Baughty"), 78
    Snakes absent from Ireland, 140
    Solinus on Ireland, 140
    States in ancient Ireland, classification of, 274, 275
    Strabo on Ireland, 134
    Sumarlidi (Soṁairliḋ), founds a kingdom in western
      Scotland, 214;
      spurious pedigree of, 215;
      sends embassy to Derry, 284;
      his descendants in Ireland, 326, 334


    Tacitus on Ireland, 136
    Tadhg, son of Cian, 121
    Taillte ("Teltown"), assembly of, interrupted, 256;
      restored, 258
    "Táin Bó Cuailnge," its ancient celebrity, 100
    Tanistry, origin of, 295
    Tara (Teaṁair), a provincial capital, 104;
      occupied by Connacht dynasty, 120;
      its desertion, legendary and historical, 233-236
    "Teora Connachta," 130
    Tigernach (Tiġearnaċ), 86
    Tillage in Ireland during Bronze Age, 72
    Tin from Britain, ancient trade in, 47
    Tradition, historical value of, 105;
      medieval treatment of, 279
    "Tribal system," theory of, 289
    Tuatha Dé Danaan, 85, 95
    Tuathal Teachtmhar, 118


    Ui Maine kingdom, origin of, 179
    Ui Néill, 130;
      Northern and Southern, 184-186;
      dissensions of, 233, 236
    Uisneach occupied by Connacht dynasty, 118
    Ulaidh, kingdom of, 185
    Ulster, ancient extent of, 112, 123-125, 129;
      Great Wall of, 131;
      strategic aspect of frontier, 328;
      O'Neill kings of, 335;
      earldom, 336;
      goes to English royal house, 339;
      Feudal authority overthrown in, 341
    Ulster kingdom, fall of, 126


    Welsh settlers in Ireland, 303,
      (See also under Britons)
    Warfare in ancient Ireland, 227
    Waterford, Norse settlement at, 262;
      successfully defended, 264
    World-sovereignty, Irish notions about, 269
    Writing in Irish, early spread of, 176


    Zimmer's theory of the beginning of Irish learning, 164

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Phases of Irish History" ***

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