The people of Ireland in medieval times had never believed that the Gaelic speaking people were native of their land. They had believed that the Ireland was invaded and settled by successive Celtic tribes over different periods. Their history is based largely upon the pseudo-historical Lebor Gabala, translated into English as the "Book of Invasions", and Cath Maige Tuired, or the "Second Battle of Maige Tuired".
In this page we will recount the mythical Book of Invasions, as well as the real invasions of Ireland.
|Lebor Gabála Érenn (Book of Invasions of Ireland)|
|The Real Invasions|
The Book of Invasions form the major part of the Mythological Cycle. The Book of Invasions was supposed to contain the (fictional) history of Ireland. The cycle was written in the book titled Leabhar Gabhála or Lebor Gabala Erren - the "Book of Conquests" or the "Book of Invasions of Ireland". It was the stories of successive invasions and settlement of the Celtic people on Ireland. Five or six different people settled on the Isle.
The other main source come from Cath Maige Tuired (Second Battle of Mag Tuired (Moytura)), which was mainly centred on the Tuatha Dé Danann.
The main interests come from the race of Irish deities known as the Tuatha Dé Danann. They were supplanted by the Milesians, the last group of invaders, who became the ancestors of the modern Irish people.
|Children of Danu|
Children of Danu
Cesair was the leader of the first invasion in Ireland. Cesair was the daughter of Bith and granddaughter of Noah. Cesair was denied admission to the Ark, so she left 40 days before the Flood arrived.
Cesair arrived at Dun na mBarc (in Co. Cork), Ireland, with 50 other women, and three men. She married Fintan Mac Bochra. The three men were to divide the women among them, as well as dividing Ireland into three. They hoped they could populate Ireland, but two of the men died.
When the fifty women all turned their attention to Fintan, he saw that they were placing too much responsibility on him, so he fled from Ireland, by turning himself into a salmon. Cesair died from a broken heart. Without a single man on the isle, the other women also perished.
The Partholanians were the second group of Celtic people who settled in Ireland, but they were the first to arrive after the biblical Flood. Not much was written about these people. Partholanians were said to have come to from the west, from the Land of the Dead. The Partholanians arrived 312 years after Cesair and her followers.
The Partholanians were named after their leader Partholan, son of Sera, who was the king of Greece. Partholon fled from Greece, after murdering his own father and mother. Partholon had lost his left eye, when he attacked his parents. Accompanied with his wife Dealgnaid (Dalny) and a group of followers, they reached Ireland, after wandering for seven years.
They have encountered the Fomorians, where they fought a battle. The Partholanians managed to defeat and drive the Fomorians from Ireland.
However, Partholon died, after 30 years living in Ireland. The rest of the Partholonians died 120 years later from pestilence. The only survivor of the plague was Tuan, a nephew of Partholon.
This Tuan was the son of Starn and grandson of Sera. Tuan witnessed the arrival of Nemed and his followers, known as the Nemedians, thirty years after the last Partholonian, not counting Tuan. Tuan kept himself hidden from the Nemedians. When Nemedians were gone from Ireland, Tuan still lived, for many generations.
Tuan survived because he was transformed into various animal shapes. First as a stag, then as a boar and later as an eagle. In each form, he witnessed successive early invaders of Ireland.
When he was transformed into a salmon, he was caught one-day, and eaten by the wife of Cairill, who immediately fell pregnant as the result of her meal. She gave birth to a son, who was named Tuan mac Cairill. It was this reborn Tuan, who was said to have the written a book about the early history of Ireland.
The Fomorians were possibly nothing more than pirates or raiders, since they never settled in Ireland, and never considered to be Celtic people (Irish). The Fomorians were race of strange beings. The Fomorians were ugly, misshapen giants, who lived on Tory Island. They were cruel, violent and oppressive.
The Fomorians had fought the Partholanians, Nemedians and Tuatha Dé Dananns. For awhile the Fomorians ruled over the Nemedians and the Dananns, extracting tributes and taxes from them. These two groups suffered from the oppression and tyranny of the Fomorians.
Later Lugh Lamfada led the Danann to overthrow the Fomorian oppression. The Tuatha Dé Danann finally annihlated Fomorians. Balor was their last leader. Lugh would later kill Balor, the hero's grandfather.
The next group of people to arrive in Ireland, were the Nemedians. The Nemedians arrived 30 years after the extinction of the Partholanians. They probably come from the west in the Land of the Dead, or else from Spain. This group sailed for a year and half, wandering the sea with a fleet of 32 ships, carrying less than a thousand persons. Only one ship would survive the journey, including Nemed as their leader, and Nemed's four sons.
The Nemedians were the descendants of Nemed and his small group of survivors managed to gradually repopulate the isle. However, the Nemedians also had deadly encounters with the Fomorians, such as the Partholanians did earlier. Though the Nemedians were at first successful against the Fomorians, with four decisive victories, a pestilence decimated the population, until less than two thousand Nemedians survived.
The Nemedians had to suffer from Fomorian tyranny and oppression, paying heavy tributes to their overlords. Later three Nemedian chieftains led their people in revolt. They attack the Fomorian stronghold of Tory Island. Though the Nemedians managed to kill one of the Fomorian kings and captured one of the towers, the Nemedians was almost totally annihilated, when the Fomorians received reinforcement. Only thirty Nemedians survived the battle.
These survivors fled from Ireland and the Nemedians as we know them, were never heard from again. Fergus Lethderg fled with his son Britain Máel to Alba (Scotland), where the whole island was named after Britain, Nemed's grandson. While Semeon son of Erglan son of Beoan son of Starn son of Nemed had fled to Greece, where were subjugated and became slaves. The descendants were known as the Fir Bolg, who would later return to Ireland.
Another group of Nemedians migrated to the islands of Northern Greece. Iobath son of Beothach son of Iarbanel son of Nemed had brought his followers to these islands, where they became known Tuatha De. Later when they migrate back to Ireland, they became known as Tuatha De Danann.
|Arrival of Tuatha Dé Danann|
|First Battle of Magh Tuiredh|
|Tyranny of Bres|
|Coming of Lugh|
|Second Battle of Magh Tuiredh|
|Coming of the Milesians|
Tuatha De Danann
The next group to arrive in Ireland was the Firbolgs. The Firbolgs were actually descendants of the Nemedians, who fled Ireland from both the war against the Fomorians and the plague that ravaged their population. Semion, great-great-grandson of Nemed had brought his followers to Greece, but they suffered from slavery and oppression at the hands of their Greek masters.
It was the five sons of Dela, descendants of Semion, who took his people out of slavery in Greece and Thrace, bringing them back to Ireland, 230 years later.
The sons of Dela (Firbolgs) divided Ireland between themselves, but their power in Ireland only lasted for 37 years before the Tuatha Dé Danann arrived. The Firbolgs were often seen as inferior people, and strangely, quite primitive to the Tuatha Dé Danann, and later the Milesians.
Tailtiu was the daughter of King of the Mag Mor ("Great Plain"), from the Land of the Dead, which was a poetic name for Spain. Tailtiu married to the last Firbolg king, Eochaid Mac Eirc, who died in the First Battle of Moytura. At her husband's death, she married again Eochaid Garb Mac Dúach, a Danann warrior. Since she was the foster-mother of Lugh, she was held in honour at the Lugnasad by the Tuatha dé Danann.
Not much was known about these people, except with their dealing with other settlers. They did not seem to have any trouble with the Fomorians. The Firbolgs, however did not like the Tuatha Dé Danann, and fought the First Battle of Moytura, before they were defeated. The Firbolgs lost the battle because the Dananns had technological superior weapons.
The Firbolg warrior Fer Díad, was the companion of Cú Chulainn. He was one of Medb's champions who fought against Cú Chulainn in single combat. Fer Díad was killed after three-day fighting.
|Arrival of the Tuatha Dé Danann|
The next people to arrive in Erin (Ireland), was the Tuatha Dé Danann or the Children of the goddess Danu. They would later become regarded as Celtic deities by the pagan Irish, and as fairies to the Christians.
Like the Firbolgs, the Tuatha Dé Danann were descedants of Nemedians. The Nemedian survivors who followed Iobath son of Beothach son of Iarbonel to the northern isles became known as the Tuatha Dé Danann. Iarbanel was the son of Nemed and a prophet.
The northern isles have four magical, otherworldly cities, each one ruled by a druid. The cities were called Falias, Gorias, Finias and Murias. The Danann learned all sorts of arts and crafts, philosophy and medicine, music and warfare, science and magic. They were scholars, bards, druids, craftsmen, and warriors. The descendants had gain otherworldly powers.
In each city, there was a treasure, a talisman that the Danann would later bring to Ireland in their war against the Fomorians. More information about magic treasures would be found later.
The Tuatha Dé Danann came to Ireland under the leadership of Nuada, a son of Danu. Among the Dananns were also Dagda, Oghma, Goibhniu and Bres.
They won the First Battle of Moytura against the Firbolgs, because of their technological superior weapons and magic. At first, the Fomorians were the Danann's ally before their arrival in Ireland, but later became their deadly enemy. Under the leadership of Lugh, the Dananns also defeated the Fomorians in the Second Battle of Moytura.
|First Battle of Magh Tuiredh|
The Tuatha Dé Danann were at peace with the Fomorians. An alliance was formed between the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Fomorians, so the Fomorians had no objection to the Danann settling in Ireland. To seal the alliance, Balor gave his daughter, Ethlinn (Eithne), in marriage to the Danann Cian, the son of Dian Cecht. (There's a different version between the relationship between the Fomorians and Danann.)
The Tuatha Dé Danann arrived in a cloud of mist when the Firbolgs discovered them were in Connacht. According to Cath Maige Tuired, this mist was actually smoke from their burning ships. The Tuatha Dé Danann decided that they would not flee to their ships if they were defeated.
During this time, Eochaid Mac Eirc was king of Ireland, and the leader of the Firbolgs. Eochaid was married to Tailtiu, the Firbolg daughter of the King of the Great Plain (Mag Mor or Magmor).
The two people sent embassies to meet and talk. The two people curiously looked at one another strange clothes and weapons. The Danann spear was superbly crafted, with fine point, whereas the Firbolg spear was blunt. Bres told the Sreng, the Firbolg champion, that they wished to share the land with the Firbolgs. They exchanged weapons before returning to their people.
The Firbolgs decided that they did not want to divide and share the land with Tuatha Dé Danann. They declared war against the Dananns, when the newcomers would not leave. A battle took place in Magh Tuiredh (Moytura).
The Firbolgs lost 100,000 warriors, among those killed was Eochaid Mac Eirc, king of the Firbolgs. The Dananns also lost many people in battle as well. According to Cath Maige Tuired, Edleo Mac Allai, Ernmas, Fiacha and Tuirill Bicreo were killed. The Dananns won a convincing victory, because of their superior weapons and skills, but at the price of losing their king.
Though Nuada did not die, Nuada lost his right hand in battle, when he fought against the Firbolg champion, Sreng. To the Danann, losing any body member would result in losing the right to become king of Ireland. Any form of physical blemish would disqualify a king from ruling. The Tuatha Dé Danann had to choose a new king; they chose Bres.
A peace treaty was drawn up, with Firbolgs receiving the province Connacht as their land, while the Danann won the rest of Ireland.
|Tyranny of Bres|
Bres was made king of Ireland, ruling the Tuatha Dé Danann. Bres was the son of Eriu (Eri), though his father was of unknown origin. Bres was described as an imposing and beautiful young man, but had no gift of kingship. We learned that he lacked two things of being a good king, Bres lacked generosity and hospitality.
Dagda had to built rath (fort) or digging ditches around the rath at Rath Bresse. Dagda was forced to share his food with an idle blind man named Cridenbel. When Cridenbel complained to the king that his share in the food was small, compared to Dagda, the king forced Dagda to give a large share of food while he had the smaller ration. Being a large man, Dagda's health deteriorated due to insufficient food.
One day, Mac Oc (Angus Óg) found Dagda digging trench while suffering from failing health. Mac Oc advised Dagda to put three gold coins into Cridenbel's share of the meal. As a result, the blind man died, and Dagda was arrested for poisoning Cridenbel.
Dagda told Bres that he was innocent, that he had only given the blind man some coins. Bres warned Dagda that he would die if no coins were found in Cridenbel's stomach. Cridenbel's belly was cut open and three gold coins were found. Dagda was acquitted of charge of murder.
His rule became more tyranny and oppressive that the people wanted Nuada to rule instead, despite the mutilation of his hand. Dian Cécht (Dian Cecht), who was the physician of the Tuatha Dé Danann, took a miraculous approach of replacing Nuada's missing hand. Nuada's right hand was kept in jar with preservative liquid. Goibhniu fashioned a hand made of silver, while Dian Cécht planted the silver hand to Nuada's arm, with a combination of surgery and magic.
With a new hand, the people demanded that Bres should step down. Without the support of the Tuatha Dé Danann, Bres had no choice, but to face expulsion. Nuada was crowned king and named Nuada Airgedlámh – "Nuada of the Silver Hand".
Bres returned to his mother and asked her, whose his real father was. Eriu revealed that he was the son of Fomorian king named Elatha. She told her son, to seek out his father and gave Bres the signet ring of his father.
Bres went to the Fomorian tower on Tory Island, and sought audience with the king. Bres told Elatha that he was his son and revealed the ring. Elatha acknowledged his son, and promised military supports, to restore Bres to the throne in Ireland.
The Tuatha Dé Danann was powerless against the Fomorians. The Fomorians put Bres on the throne and the Dananns suffered from the oppressive rule of the Fomorians, who became the overlord of Ireland. Not only the Tuatha Dé Danann were forced to pay tributes to the Fomorians, but also scholars, bards and druid were banned from teaching.
A commander named Balor led the Fomorians in battle. Balor was a giant, with a single eye. Balor's eye was an extremely powerful weapon; bolt of fire would hurl from his eye, destroying his enemy. However, Balor was getting older and had troubles opening his eye-lid. We are told that rope and pulley were required to open his eye-lid.
Balor's Welsh counterpart seemed to be Ysbaddaden Pencawr (Pencawr or Bencawr means "King of Giants"), who was the father of Olwen. Ysbaddaden was giant, who also needed forks to prop up his heavy eyelids. See Culhwch and Olwen.
|Coming of Lugh|
Under the tyranny and oppression of the Fomorians, the Tuatha Dé Danann had to wait for the champion to liberate them from bondage. That champion was Lugh.
Like Bres, Lugh was half-Danann and half Fomorian. His father was Cian, son of Danu and brother of master-smith Goibhniu and Sawan. Lugh's mother was Ethlinn, daughter of Balor. Balor discovered from a prophecy that one day, his grandson would kill him. Balor sought to avoid this fate by imprisoning his daughter in the tower, very much like Acrisius tried to imprisoned his own daughter Danaë.
Cian was an owner of a magic cow that had endless supply of milk. Though disguise and deception, Balor lured away Sawan, who was guarding the cow, during his brother's absence. Balor then stole Cian's cow. Cian sought vengeance upon Balor.
Through stealth and the magic of druidess Birog, Cian entered Balor's tower in Tory Island and found Balor's daughter Ethlinn, locked away in one of the chambers. The two fell in love and slept with one another.
Balor later learned of Ethlinn giving birth to three sons. Frightened, but enraged, Balor ordered that his grandsons were to be thrown in a whirlpool.
One of Balor's men rolled the Ethlinn's children in a sheet and head toward the top of the tower. One infant fell out and dropped into the bay. Birog saved the child, who fell into the bay. The druidess brought the infant to Cian, who named him Lugh.
Thinking this child had drowned, the Fomorian continued to the top of the tower, before throwing the other two infants into the whirlpool.
In a different version of the Lugh's birth (which was less exciting), the Fomorians formed alliance with the arrival of the Tuatha Dé Danann to Ireland. Balor offered his daughter Ethlinn to Cian in marriage. This wedding happened before the First Battle of Moytura (Mag Tuired).
For awhile, his uncle Goibhniu brought up Lugh in the forge, and taught him his trade. He learned other skills as well. Lugh was sometimes called Lugh Samildánach ("Skilled in All Arts").
The story goes on, that the young man went to the house of Nuada of the Silver Hand, seeking service with the king. At the door, the doorman refused him entry. Lugh told the doorman that he wished to serve the king as carpenter, the doorman replied that they already had a carpenter named Luchta. Lugh said he was also smith, the doorman again replied they already have a master-smith. Lugh then told him he was a warrior, then a bard, a physician and so forth. Each time the doorman replied that, someone else had already taken this service or that service. Finally, Lugh asked the doorman if the king know of anyone who could do all these skills; otherwise he would leave. None were found who could accomplish all these skills.
Ogma tested Lugh's strength. Ogma threw a large stone outside from the hall. The stone broke into four large pieces. Not only did Lugh threw the stone back to the centre of the hall, but the stone became whole.
Lugh was then asked to play a harp. His music could lulled to sleep, make them cry or merry. Nuada readily accept the gifted young man in his service. Nuada asked them to deliver the Tuatha Dé Danann from servile to the Fomorians.
Lugh was also brought up in the Tír Tairngire – "Land of Promise" by Manannán mac Lir, the god of sea. Lugh was often named Lugh Lamfada, which means "Lugh of the Long Arm".
From Manannán, Lugh brought many gifts to the Tuatha Dé Danann. These magical gifts come from four great magical cities: Falias, Gorias, Findias and Murias. From the Falias, the Danann received the talking stone of truth, called Lia Fail. It was sometimes called ("Stone of Destiny"), because the Lia Fail would reveal who was the rightful king of Ireland.
The second treasure from the city Findias, was the great magical sword, called Freagarthach (the "Answerer"), that Lugh and Nuada wielded. Lugh also brought with him the invincible spear from Gorias. The last treasure from Murias was Cauldron of Dagda. This cauldron could feed everyone in Ireland without emptying.
With these four gifts from the goddess Danu, they would have a chance of defeating the Fomorians.
|Second Battle of Magh Tuiredh|
With these treasures, the Tuatha Dé Danann believed it was time to overthrow Fomorian overlordship. Lugh set about gathering hosting to oppose the Fomorian army.
When Lugh discovered the murder, Lugh sought revenge. Given a choice of being execution or being sent on performing half-dozen impossible tasks; the brothers chose the later. Among the items the sons of Turenne had to fetch was the magic pigskin that could heal any wound.
By the time they accomplished all their tasks, they were mortally wounded. Turenne pleaded with Lugh, to use the pigskin to heal his sons. Lugh refused. The brothers died shortly after.
All this preparation took seven years to rally the Tuatha Dé Danann. During that time, when Dagda travelled north, he met a beautiful woman, near his home at Glenn Etin. Dagda slept with the woman on Samhain (November 1), the eve before the battle. The woman was the Morrígan. The Morrígan represented the Sovereignty of Ireland. To ensure that the land of Ireland remained fertile, Dagda must sleep with the goddess, each year on Samhain's Night.
The Morrígan informed Dagda that the Fomorians were going to land at Mag Scetne. She told her husband (Dagda) that he must bring the fighting men of the Eire (Ireland) to at the Ford of Unius (Ford of Destruction).
Lugh had sent Dagda to spy and delay the Fomorians, while Lugh recruited and gathered the Tuatha Dé Danann for the coming battle. Dagda came to the Fomorian under the truce flag.
The Fomorian knew of Dagda of fondness for porridge. So they had a large hole, as deep as a man, filled with porridge. The Fomorian agreed to a truce, only if Dagda would eat all the porridge in the hole, otherwise they would kill him. The Fomorians laughed that Tuatha Dé Danann could not accuse them of inhospitality.
Dagda had no choice but to eat the porridge. Dagda took a spoon or ladle, which was large enough for a man and a woman to lie in the middle. Dagda ate the porridge reaching the bottom. He even ate some of the gravels at the bottom of the pit. Dagda ate so much, that his belly had reached a gigantic portion. The Fomorians laughed at Dagda's appearance, but they set him free.
As Dagda travelled to Traigh Eabha, the slow and encumbered hero met a beautiful young woman, whom he desired. However he was impotent due to his weight and unsightly appearance.
The girl mocked and attacked him. She was the daughter of Indech, son of De Domnann, one of three Fomorian kings. The young woman had hurled him so that his rump sank to the hollow of the ground. Mocking Dagda, the woman told him to carry her to her father's house, on his back.
She struck and mocked him each time Dagda refused to carry her on his back. Finally, the content of his belly emptied into the hole in the ground. With Dagda gaining his appearance, he seduced the Fomorian woman. Dagda became her lover.
The girl then told Dagda not to confront the Fomorians, but he refused to be discouraged each time. Finally, the young woman told her lover that she would use her own magic to hinder the Fomorians.
Though the Tuatha Dé Danann were oppressed by Bres' misrule and the Fomorian heavy tributes, they were still uncertain of Nuada Airgetlám's (Nuada of the Silver Hand) fitness to rule, since right arm was made of silver.
Miach, the son of Dian Cécht, proved to be an even greater healer than his father ever was. With his healing magic and his sister's assistance (Airmed), Miach was able to restore Nuada's real hand, after three days and three nights. Dian Cécht was upset and jealous of his son's skill in healing. Dian Cécht struck three times on his son's head; each time Miach was able to heal himself. The fourth time that Dian Cécht had struck his son, he had cut out his son's brain so that Miach died.
Dian Cécht buried his son and magical herbs grew from Miach's grave. Dian Cécht's daughter, Airmed attempted to categorise the herbs according to their properties, but his jealousy of his children's healing skills, caused Dian Cécht disrupted Airmed's analysis of the herbs.
With Nuada's hand restored, the Tuatha Dé Danann were now fully supporting Nuada.
Nuada and other Danann did not want to risk Lugh in battle. They feared for the young man safety, so Nuada sent for Lugh's nine foster fathers to prevent Lugh from fighting.
In the Fomorian camp, the kings sent an assassin to kill Goibhniu. The assassin was named Ruadan, the son of Bres and Brig (Brigit). Though Ruadan managed to wound the smith with the spear, Goibhniu pulled out the bloody spear and killed the young assassin. When Brig found her dead son, for the first time in Ireland, the keening was heard as she lament her son's death.
With all the fighting men gathered, the battle again took place in Magh Tuiredh (Moytura). As the two armies clashed, weapons and armour were repaired by Goibhniu, Luchta and Credne, with seemingly effortless ease. The pigskin was used to heal the wounded, while the magic cauldron fed the Danann host.
Many Tuatha Dé Danann were killed by Balor's deadly eye, including the Danann king, Nuada of the Silver Hand and his consort, Macha. Caitlin, Balor's buck-toothed wife, wounded Dagda, but according to the Lebor Gabala, Dagda had died from his wound. Ogma was also said to have die in the Lebor Gabala Ogma and Indech (or Tethra), another Fomorian king, killed one another, but Cath Mag Tuired say that Ogma was also alive. Ogma won the sword of Indech – Orna.
However, Balor could not keep his eye opened for very long, before the Fomorian grew tired. As Balor's eye gradually closed, Lugh hurled a stone from his sling, at Balor's eye. Lugh fulfilled prophecy, by killing his grandfather.
Some Fomorians managed to escape steal Dagda's harp, Úaithne. Dagda, Ogma and Lugh pursued the Fomorians. The Fomorians hanged the harp on the wall in Bres' banqueting hall.
Dagda sang to Úaithne to come to him. The harp flew from the wall and into his hand, killing nine Fomorians in its flight.
There were more fighting in which Elatha, the last Fomorian king was killed. The Fomorian army was crushed; their powers were forever broken.
The Tuatha Dé Danann had captured Bres, the former king of Ireland. Lugh only agreed to spare Bres, if Bres tell them when to plant and harvest the crops in the year. This is because Bres was considered to be the god of agriculture.
The battle ended with Morrigan proclaiming victory for the Tuatha Dé Danann. Badb (also Morrigan) ended Cath Mag Tuired with a poem or prophecy.
With the death of Nuada of the Silver Hand, Lugh Lamfada became the new king of Ireland.
|Coming of the Milesians|
Ireland enjoyed a long period of peace and prosperity. Lugh Lamfada seemed to rule the Tuatha Dé Danann, after the battle and Nuada's death. Usually his consort was said to be Eriu, but other sources had given 3 to 4 other wives. One of his wives (unnamed) had an affair with Cermait, the son of Dagda. Lugh killed Cermait for seducing his wife. Dagda wept tears of blood over the death of his son.
Cermait had three sons – Sethor MacCuill, Cethor MacCecht and Tethor MacGreine. At Uisnech, the sons of Cermait ambushed and killed Lugh, to avenge their father. Lugh had ruled Ireland for forty years.
Dagda succeeded Lugh as king. Dagda had received a mortal wound by Caitlin, wife of Balor, in the Second Battle of Moytura, but did not die until he had reigned for 80 years. The reign of Delbáeth lasted for 10 years, before his son Fiachna succeeded him and also ruled for 10 years. Fiachna had died fighting Eogan of Inber Mor.
Then, Fiachna was succeeded by the sons of Cermait (MacCuill, MacCecht and MacGreine) and ruled Ireland for 27 years. The three brothers were married to the daughters of Fiachna and Ernmas: Banba, Fodla and Eriu.
The MacGreine and his brothers divided the land between themselves. It wasn't until some years later that Íth, arrived with some of his companions.
The Milesians were more precisely the sons of Míl Espáine (Miled). Míl's ancestors had originally come from Scythia, but Míl had brought them out of Scythia and later Egypt, before they settled in Spain, which was known as the Land of the Dead.
On one clear day, Íth, uncle of Míl, could see the enchanting isle of Erin (Ireland) from Spain, and decided to travel and explore this beautiful, new land. Íth arrived peacefully in Ireland with his followers.
The Dananns welcomed Íth to Erin (Ireland) at first, but became suspicious of Íth's motives for coming to Erin. Through misunderstanding of Íth's comment about the land, the Danann kings murdered Íth and his two brothers. The other followers escaped with Íth's body.
When his body was brought back to his family in Spain, the sons of Míl sought to avenge great uncle's death. They embarked with their warriors and families to Erin in sixty-five ships. A bard named Amairgin (Amergin), who was the son of Míl, led the warriors to Erin (Ireland).
The Dananns decided to avoid confrontations with the Milesians, they used their magic to hide Erin in a fog. The Danann had also cast the spell of straying on the Milesian fleet. However, Amergin used his own magic to dispel the magic.
Another son of Míl, named Eber Donn, wanted to exterminate the entire Danann race. The Danann send a magical storm against the Milesian ships, where Eber Donn was thrown overboard and drowned in the raging sea.
Amergin managed to guide the ships to safety, and landed on Ireland. It was said that the three wives (Banba, Fodla and Eriu) of the three Danann kings sought out the Milesian leaders. Each queen asked the Milesians to name Ireland after her. It was Eriu who won the honour. Ireland became known as Erin or Erinn. It was the help of the goddess, that the Milesians won the war against the Tuatha Dé Danann.
All three Danann kings along with their three queens were killed in Battle of Tailtiu. The Tuatha Dé Danann were defeated and forced to retreat. They did not leave Erin, but continued to live in Ireland, with their conquerors. Manannan placed a powerful spell of invisibility over the many parts of Ireland; magical palaces were hidden under the mound. The places were called Sidh or Sidhe. With their magic, the Dananns can appear or vanish from sight. The Tuatha Dé Danann became immortal.
Eber Finn and Eremon, the other two sons of Míl, partitioned Ireland into two and became their kings. Eremon ruled northern Ireland and Eber in the south. See Eber Finn and Eremon in the High Kings page and Amairgin (Amergin) for more detail about the early Milesian kings.
Before we finished this page, there a little history on the ancestors of the Milesians that may be of interested to you. Here you will find that their history was mixed with event in the Bible and the setting of Greek and Roman myths.
According to the Lebor Gabrala (Book of Invasions), the pre-Milesians had originally come from Scythia, and were descendants of Japheth, the son of the Biblical Noah.
Fenius Farisaid, the leader of his people, was present during the time of the Tower of Babel. Fenius was the son of Japheth, therefore he was the grandson of Noah. Fenius became the father of Niúl.
His son Niúl had married an Egyptian princess named Scota. It goes on to say that the son of Niúl and Scota, named Goídel Glas, was living at the time of Moses and the Israelites were still living in slavery in Egypt. Moses had healed the infant Goídel Glas from a snakebite, and foretold that Goídel's descendants would one day live in a land with no serpents. Fenius Farisaid was still alive to instruct his grandson on creating the Gaelic language. (Boy! This is Irish myth at its best. The time frame is really horribly mess up.)
Since Goidel Glas had become a friend to Moses and the Israelites, the Egyptians banished the pre-Milesians from Egypt. They wandered through the Russian Steppes, to their former home in Scythia, before heading west.
These people arrived in Spain, where they settled, before their invasion into Ireland.
I have retold the legend of settlements of Ireland by successive invaders, which were based on the pseudo-historical Lebor Gabala (Book of Invasions) and on Cath Maige Tuired (Second Battle of Turied), but now I will give you a background of what some people believed to be the true invasions of Ireland.
Book of Invasions may contain some elements of truth about the early inhabitants of Ireland, namely that of successive tribes that have tried to colonise Ireland, including the Celtic speaking people known as the Gaels.
As I have mentioned in "Who were the Celts?" I had brought up that the Celtic languages were divided into two main groups - Continental Celtic and Insular Celtic.
The Continental Celtic was that those languages spoken on the continent. From what I have been able to gather, there are two main Continental languages - Gaullish and Celto-Iberian.
The Gaulish language referred to the ancient Celtic people living in Gaul, which include all of France, Belgium, the Lower Countries, part of Switzerland and Austria, the Alps and northern part of Italy. There were many different Gaulish tribes, so it is assumed that the Gauls may have as many different dialects.
Celto-Iberian was spoken on the Iberian Peninsula, ancient people who lived with probably with native Iberian people in mostly north and central Spain; mainly between the Ebero and Tagus rivers. One of their chief cities included Numantia, which was besieged and sacked by the Romans in 133 BC.
There are another group of Celtic people that migrated to the east, and settled in central Asia Minor (mid-2nd century BC). They were known as the Galatians. I don't know if they spoke a different Celtic language to the Gauls. The region where they lived became known as Galatia; it became a Roman protectorate, and the apostle Paul had visited and written letters to the Galatian followers.
All Continental Celtic languages are extinct and very little is known about the languages. The Insular Celtic is better documented.
The Insular Celtic referred to the languages spoken in the British Isles and Brittany. The Insular Celtic was itself, divided into two broad groups, in which the modern Celtic languages were derived from - Brythonic (British) and Goidelic (Irish).
Brythonic is also called P-Celtic languages, which comprised of Welsh, Cornish and Breton.
By the time, Roman left and the Anglo-Saxons settled in Britain, the Celtic Britons have settled in regions that still exist today. Cornish were spoken in Cornwall, south-west England. Welsh were spoken in most part of England before the Anglo-Saxons, and that included in southern part of Scotland. Ancient Scotland was known as Caledonia or Alba at the time of the Romans. Some of Welsh-speaking Britons fled across the channels to Armorican Peninsula, but it changed its name to Brittany. However, Welsh and Breton became unintelligible.
And the Goidelic languages were referred to as Q-Celtic languages, comprising of Irish Gaelic, Scottish Gaelic and Manx (from the Isle of Man).
It is not certain if Ireland had ever spoken P-Celtic language before the arrival of the Gaelic Celts settled on this isle. Ireland was called Ierna by the 2nd-century geographer Ptolemy, while it was called Hiberia by the Romans. The people of Ireland were also called Scotti, so Ireland was also called Scotia. Around the 4th century, these Scotti invaded and colonised Argyll in Alba and established a kingdom known as Dal Riada. The Scotti warred, and then intermingled with Picts, and the whole Alba was renamed to Scotland. That was the reason why the Scotland spoke a Gaelic language, and shared strong cultural, mythological and folkloric ties to Ireland.
The Irish had also settled on the Isle of Man, around the 5th century, displacing the P-Celtic language spoken there. The Irish invaders have also established a kingdom of Dyfed in southern Wales.
But how did Gaelic people reach Ireland?
So where did the Gaelic people come from?
Like in Britain, the Celtic people had arrived in Ireland only in the 1st millennium BC. It is clear from archaeological evidences that there were people living in both Ireland and Britain before the arrival of the P and Q Celtic people in the 6th-5th century BC.
It was these pre-Celtic people who were involved in the megalithic cultures, such as erecting large standing stones and megalithic tombs. It is a 18th and 19th myths that the Celtic druids were involved in long barrows in Ireland or stone circles, like the Stonehenge in England.
There are several routes in which the people might have journeyed to and settled in Ireland. Migrating people could travel to the Ireland's eastern shore directly from Britain or from the Continent via Britain. On the other hand, people can migrate from the south and west, from the Continent, either from Gaul (France) or Spain. During the Viking period, the Vikings landed upon northern shores from Scandinavia via either their bases from Britain (northern England or Scotland) or the Hebrides islands (especially in Orkney).
It is not certain if the people, known to the Roman people as the Picts that lived in ancient Alba (Scotland), had lived in Ireland too. Since the Picts left no records, it is also uncertain of what the Picts called themselves. In the Q-Celtic language, like Irish, the Picts were called Cruithni, Cruithnig, Cruithne or Cruithin. While in P-Celtic, the Picts were called Preteni or Pretani.
According to the 2nd century geographer Ptolemy, Ireland was called Ierna; it was called Hiberia. The people of Ierna were known as the Iverni, which had been identified with the Érainn. It is generally believe today that the Erainn or Iverni arrived after the Cruithni (Picts).
It was also said the Belgae, a tribe that lived in Gaul, between the Seine and Marne, had also settled and established a southern kingdom in Britain, before Caesar's campaign in Gaul. They may have also migrated to Ireland, however, one scholar argued that the Erainn could identify with the Belgae, a view that most scholars discredited.
The Lagin followed Erainn, and settled mostly in the region that was later called Leinster, but also in Connacht. It is said in their legend that the Lagin had come from Armorica (Brittany).
The true Gaels or Goidels or Irish were the last invaders, known as the Féni, and are equated with the legendary Milesians in the Lebor Gabala (Book of Invasions). It is generally believed that the Feni migrated to the isle directly from the Continent, instead of via Britain.
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Lebor Gabála Érenn (Book of Invasions of Ireland) | The Real Invasions
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First Created (Book of Invasions): 03/11/1999.
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