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The tottering state of the Roman dominion in Gaul, as well as in every other quarter, at this period, encouraged the Hero of the Nine Hostages to extend his enterprises to the coast of Britany; where, after ravaging all the maritime districts of the north-west of Gaul, he was at length assassinated, with a poisoned arrow, by one of his own followers, near the Portus Iccius, not far, it is supposed, from the site of the present Boulogne. It was in the course of this predatory expedition that, in one of their descents on the coast of Armoric Gaul, the soldiers of Nial carried off with them, among other captives, a youth, then in his sixteenth year, whom Providence had destined to be the author of a great religious revolution in their country; and whom the strangely fated land to which he was then borne, a stranger and a slave, has now, for fourteen hundred years, commemorated as its great Christian apostle.

An accession of territory was, during this reign, added to the Irish possessions in North Britain; the two sons of Cork, King of Munster, having acquired seigniories in the neighbourhood of the Picts, the one of Levinia, or Lenox; ihe other, of Moygergin, in Mar, a county of the present Scotland. To Nial the Great succeeded Dathy, the last of the Pagan monarchs of Ireland, and

not unworthy to follow, as a soldier and adventurer, in the path opened to him by A. D. his heroic predecessor. Not only, like Nial, did he venture to invade the coasis 406. of Gaul; but, allured by the prospect of plunder, which the state of the province,

then falling fast into dismemberment, held forth, forced his way to the foot of the Alps, and was there killed, it is said, by a flash of lightning, leaving the throne of Ireland to be filled thenceforward by a line of Christian kings.

CHAPTER VIII.

CREDIBILITY OF THE HISTORY OF PAGAN IRELAND.

Before entering upon the new epoch of Irish history, which is about to open upon us with the introduction of Christianity, a review of the general features of the period over which we have passed may be found not uninteresting or unuseful. With regard to the first and most material question, the authenticity of those records on which the foregoing brief sketch of Pagan Ireland is founded, it is essential, in the first place, to distinguish clearly between what are called the Bardic Historians,-certain metrical writers, who flourished from the ninth to the eleventh century, and those regular chroniclers or annalists of whom a long series was continued down, there is every reason to believe, from very early ages, and whose successive records have been embodied and transmitted to us in the Annals of Tigernach,* in those of the Four Masters,t of Inisfallen, of Ulster,f and many others.

To the metrical historians above mentioned is to be attributed the credit, if not of originally inventing, at least of amplifying and embellishing, that tale of the Milesian colonization which so many grave and respectable writers have, since their time, adopted. In his zeal for the credit of this national legend, the late learned librarian of Stowe has endeavoured to enlist some of the more early Irish poets in its support.|| On his own

“The Altacotti make a distinguished figure in the Notitia Imperii, where numerous bodies of them appear in the list of the Roman army. One body was in Illyricum, their ensign a kind of mullet; another at Rome, their badge a circle; the Atlacotti Honoriani were in Italy."— Pinkerton, Inquiry, part iv. chap. 2.

* In the Annals of the Four Masters for the year 1088, the death of this annalist is thus recorded :—"Tigernach O'Braoin, Comorhan, or Successor of Kieran of Clonmacnois and of St. Coman (i. e. Abbot of Clonmacnois and Roscommon.) a learned lecturer and historian."

Compiled in the seventeenth century, by Michael O'Clery, with the assistance of three other antiquaries, and “chiefly drawn," says Harris, "from the annals of Clonmacnois, Inisfall, and Senat, as well as from other approved and ancient chronicles of Ireland." For a fuller account of the various sources from whence these records were derived, see Mr. Petrie's Remarks on the History and Authenticity of the Autograph Original of the Annals of the Four Masters, now deposited in the library of the R. I. A. Academy.

Published, for the first time, by Dr. O'Connor, from a Bodleian manuscript of the year 1215.

A long list of these various books of Annals may be found in Nicholson's Historical Library, chap. 2; also in the preface to Keating's History, xxi.

| For the very slight grounds, or, rather, mere pretence of grounds, upon which Dr. O'Connor lays claim to Fiech and Confealad, Irish poets of the sixth and seventh centuries, as authorities for the Milesian story, see, among other passages, Ep. Nunc. xxxiv., Prol. 2. xv. xxvi. Having once claimed them, thus gratuitously, as favouring his views of the subject, he continues constantly afer to refer to them, as concurrent authorities with those later bardic historians, in whom alone the true origin and substance of the whole story is to be found.

showing, however, it is manifest that in no Irish writings before those of Maolmura,* who died towards the close of the ninth century, are any traces whatever of the Milesian fable to be found.

There appears little doubt, indeed, that to some metrical writers of the ninth century the first rudiments of this wild romance respecting the origin of the Irish people are to be assigned; that succeeding writers took care to amplisy and embellish the original sketch; and that in the hands of the author or authors of the Psalter of Cashel,t it assumed that full-blown form of fiction and extravagance in which it has ever since flourished. It is worthy of remark, too, that the same British writer, Nennius, who furnished Geoffry of Monmouth with his now exploded fables of the descent of the Britons from King Brute and the Trojans, was the first also who put forth the tale of the Scythian ancestors of the Irish, and of their coming, in the fourth age of the world, by the way of Africa and Spain, into Hibernia. Having conversed, as he himself tells us, with the most learned among the Scots, f and been by them, it is evident, informed of their early traditions respecting a colony from Spain, he was tempted to eke out their genealogy for them by extending it as far as Scythia and the Red Sea, just as he had provided the Britons with Trojan progenitors, under the command of King Brute, from Greece.

To our metrical historians mnay be assigned also the credit of inventing that specious system of chronology upon which the fabric of their fabled antiquity entirely rests, and which, though well calculated to effect the object of its inventors,—that of carrying back to remote times the date of the Milesian dynasty,—proves them not to have been overscrupulous in the means they used for that purpose. It is, indeed, as I have already, more than once, remarked, far less in the events themselves, than in the remote date assigned to those events, that much of the delusion attributed in general to Irish history lies. The ambition of a name ancient as the world, and the lax, accommodating chronology, which is found ever ready, in the infancy of science, to support such pretensions, has led the Irish, as it has led inost other nations, to antedate their own existence and fame.||

Together with the primitive mode of numbering ages and ascertaining the dates of public events, by the successions of kings and the generations of men, the ancient Irish possessed also a measure of time in their two great annual festivals of Baal and of Samhin, the recurrence of which at certain fixed periods furnished points, in each year, from whence to calculate. How far even History may advance to perfection where no more regular chronology exists, appears in the instance of Thucydides, who was able to enrich the world with his “treasure for all time” before any era from whenee to date had yet been established in Greece. It was, however, in this very mode of computing by regal successions that the great source of the false chronology of the Irish antiquaries lay. From the earliest times, the government of that country consisted of a cluster of kingdoms, where, besides the monarch of the whole island and the four provincial kings, there was also a number of inferior sovereigns, or dynasts, who each affected the regal name and power. Such a state of things it was that both tempted and enabled the genealogists to construct that fabric of fictitious antiquity by which they imposed not only on others, but on themselves. Having such an abundance of royal blood thus placed at their disposal, the means afforded to them of filling up the genealogical lines, and thereby exiending back the antiquity of the monarchy, were far too tempting to be easily resisted. Accordingly,—as some of those most sanguine in the cause of our antiquities have admitted, -not only were kings who had been contemporaries made to succeed each other, but even princes, acknowledged only by their respective factions, were promoted to the rank of legitimate monarchs, and took their places in the same regular succession.* By no other expedient, indeed, could so marvellous a list of royalty have been fabricated, as that which bestows upon Ireland, before the time of St. Patrick, no less than a hundred and thirty-six monarchs of Milesian blood ; thereby extending the date of the Milesian or Scotic settlement to so remote a period as more than a thousand years before the birth of Christ.

The Psalter-na-Rann attributed to the Culdee, Ængus, which is another of the writings appealed to by Dr. O'Connor, on this point, was, however, not the work of that pious author (who wrote solely on religious subjects,) nor of a date earlier, as is evident, than the tenth century. See Lanigan, Ecclesiast. Hist., chap. xx. note 107.

* This writer, who died in the year 884, was the author of a poem, beginning, "Let us sing the origin of the Gadelians:" in which, deriving the origin of the Milesians from Japhet, son of Noah, he gives an account of the peregrinations of the ancestors of the Irish froin the dispersion at Babel to the arrival in Ireland. Contemporary with Maolmura was Flann Mac Lonan, of whose compositions there remain, says Mr. O'Reilly, three poems, which " are to be found in the account of the spreading branches of Heber, son of Milesius, in the Leabhar Muimhneach, or Munster Bock."

| From this work, which was compiled, about the beginning of the tenth century, by Cormac Mac Culinan, Bishop of Cashel and King of Munster. Keating professes to have drawn a great part of his History of Ireland." "Since most," says Keating," of the authentic records of Ireland are composed in dann, or verse, I shall receive them as the principal testimonies to follow in compiling the following history; for, potwithstanding that some of the chronicles in Ireland differ from these poetical records in some cases, yet the testimony of the annals that were written in verse is not for that reason invalid."- Preface. About the middle of the tenth century flourished Enchaidh O'Floinn; whose poems, relating to the marvels of the tirst Irish colonies, the battles between the Nemethians and the sea rovers, the destruction of Conan's Tower, are still preserved in the books of Glendalough, Ballymote, and Leacan, the Dinn Seanchas, Book of Invasions, &c. 1 "

The extravagant chronology of the metrical catalogues of kings given by Gilla-Coeman, and other later bards, is fully acknowledged by Dr. O'Connor himself:-“ Hæc plane indicant nostras, de Scotorum origine, et primo in Hibernjam ac inde in Britainniam adventu, traditiones metricas historica esse fide suffultas ; sed dum bardi prodigiosam antiquitatem majoribus adscribere conarentur id tantum fingendi licentia efficere ut quas illustrare debuerant veritates offuscarent, et dum Hiberniam fabulis nobilitare cupiunt ipsi sibi fideni ita derogant ut postea, cum ad tempora historica descendunt, etsi vera dixerint, niinia severitate redarguantur."- Prol. 2. xlvi.

It was by Coeman, notwithstanding, that author of Ogygia chiefly regulated his chronology; and the erudite efforts which he makes to reconcile his system to common sense, show how laboriously, sometimes, the learned can go astray. “It is no wonder," says Mr. O'Connor of Balenagare," that Gilla-Coeman, and many others of our old antiquaries, have fallen into mistakes and anachronisms : to their earliest reports Mr. O'Flaherty gave too much credit, and to their later accounts Sir James Ware gave too little."Reflections on the Hist of Ireland, Collectan. No. 10.

"The Danes," saith Dudo 8. Quintin, “ derived themselves from the Danai; the Prussians from Prusias, King of Bithynia, who brought the Greeks along with them. Only the Scots and Irish had the wil to derive themselves from the Greeks and Egyptians together."-Anliq. of British Churches,

Between the metrical historians, or rather romancers, of the middle ages, and those regular annalists who, at the same and a later period, but added their own stock of contemporary records to that consecutive series of annals which had been delivered down, in all probability, for many ages,-between these two sources of evidence, a wide distinction, as I have already inculcated, is to be drawn. It is true that, in some of the collections of Annals that have come down to us, the fabulous wonders of the first four ages of the world, from Cæsara down to the landing of the sons of Milesius, have been, in all their absurdity, preserved, -as they are, indeed, in most histories of the country down to the present day. It is likewise true, that by most of the annalists the same deceptive scheme of chronology has been adopted, by which the lists of the kings preceding the Christian era are lengthened out so preposterously into past time. But, admitting to the full all such deductions from the authority of these records, more especially as regards their chronology for the times preceding our era, still their pretensions, on the whole, to rank as fair historical evidence, can hardly, on any just grounds, be questioned.

From the objections that have just been alleged against most of the other Books of Annals, that of Tigernach is almost wholly free; as, so far from placing in the van of history the popular fictions of bis day, this chronicler has passed them over significantly in silence; and beginning his Annals with a comparatively late monarch, Kimboath, pronounces the records of the Scots, previously to that period, to have been all uncertain. I The feeling of confidence which so honest a commencement inspires, is fully justified by the tone of veracity which pervades the whole of his stateinents; and, according as he approaches the Christian era, and, still more, as he advances into that period, the remarkable consistency of his chronology, his knowledge and accuracy in synchronizing Irish events with those of the Roman history, and the uniformly dry matter of fact which forms the staple of his details, all bespeak for these records a confidence of no ordinary kind; and render them, corroborated as they are by other annals of the same grave description, a body of evidence, even as to the earlier parts of Irish history, far more trustworthy and chronological than can be adduced for some of the most accredited trans

A nearly similar mode of lengthening out their regal lists was practised among the Egyptians. “Their kings,” says Bryant, "had many names and titles ; these titles have been branched out into persons, and inserted in the lists of real monarchs; .... by which means the chronology of Egypt has been greatly embarrassed."

+ Till of late years they have been, by most writers, both English and Irish, confounded. Thus the sensi. ble author of " An Analysis of the Antiquities of Ireland," who, though taking a just and candid view of his subject, had no means of access to the documents which alone could strengthen and illustrate it, has, in the following passage, mixed up together, as of equal importance, our most fabulous

compilations and most authentic annals :- Let us have faithful copies, with just versions of the hidden records of Keating, of the Psalter of Cashel, of the Book of Lecan, of the Angals of Inisfallen, of those of the Four Masters, and of every other work which may be judged to be of importance. The requisition is simple as it is reasonable. They have long amused us with declamations on the inestimable value of these literary treasures; and surely, after having excited our curiosity, their conduct will be inexcusable, if they do not in the end provide for its gratification."

Doctor O'Connor, it is right to mention, is of opinion that Tigernach had, like all the other annalists, begun his records from the creation of the world, and that the commencement of bis manuscript has been lost. But, besides that, the view taken by the annalist as to the uncertainty of all earlier monuments, sufficiently accounts for his not ascending any higher, all the different manuscripts, it appears, of his Annals agree in not carrying the records farther back ihan A. c. 305.

actions of that early period of Grecian story, when, as we know, the accounts of great events were kept by memory alone.*

A learned writer, who, by the force of evidence, has been constrained to admit the antiquity of the lists of Irish kings, has yet the inconsistency to deny to this people, the use of letters before the coming of St. Patrick. It is to be recollected, that the regal lists which he thus supposes to have been but ortally transmitted, and which, from the commencement of the Christian era, are shown to have been correctly kept, consists of à long succession of princes, in genealogical order, with, moreover, the descent even of the collateral branches in all their different ramifications.+ Such is the nature of the royal lists which, according to this sapient supposition, must have been transmitted correctly, from memory to memory, through a lapse of many centuries; and such the weakness of that sort of skepticism,—not unmixed sometimes with a lurking spirit of unfairness, which, while straining at imaginary difficulties on one side of a question, is prepared to swallow the most indigestible absurdities on the other. And here a consideration on the general subject of Irish antiquities presents itself, which, as it has had great weight in determining my own views of the matter, may, perhaps, not be without some influence on the mind of my reader. In the course of this chapter shall be laid before him a view of the state in which Ireland was found in the fifth century,—of the condition of her people, their forms of polity, institutions, and usages at that period when the Christian faith first visited her shores; and when, by the light which then broke in upon ber long seclusion, she became, for the first time, in any degree known to the other nations of Europe. In that very state, political and social, in which her people were then found, with the very same laws, forms of government, manners and habits, did they remain, without change or innovation, for the space of seven hundred years; and though, at the end of that long period, brought abjectly under a foreign yoke, yet continued unsubdued in their attachment to the old law of their country, nor would allow it to be superseded by the code of the conqueror for nearly five hundred years after.

It is evident that to infuse into any order of things so pervading a principle of stability, must have been the slow work of time alone; nor could any system of laws and usages have taken so strong a hold of the hearts of a whole people as those of the Irish had evidently obtained at the time of the coming of St. Patrick, without the lapse of many a foregone century, to enable them to strike so deeply their roots. In no country, as we shall see, was Christianity received with so fervid a welcome; but in none also had she to make such concessions to old established superstitions, or to leave so much of those religious forms and prejudices, which she found already subsisting, unaltered. Nor was it only over the original Irish themselves, that these prescriptive laws had thus by long tenure gained an ascendency: as even those foreign tribes,- for the most part, as we have seen, Teutonic,—who obtained a settlement among them, had been forced, though conquerors, to follow in the current of long-established customs; till, as was said of the conquering colonists of an after day, they grew, at length, to be more Hibernian than the Hibernians themselves. The same ancient forms of religion and of government were still preserved; the language of the multitude soon swept away that of the mere caste

" It is strongly implicd by his (Pausanias's) expression, that the written register of the Olympian victors was not so old as Choræbus, but that the account of the fir: Olympiads had been kept by memory alone. Indeed, it appears certain from all memorials of the best authority, that writing was not common in Greece so early."-Mitford, vol. i. chap 3.

When we consider that this was the first attempt (the Olympionics of Timæus of Sicily) that we know of, to establish an era, and that it was in the 129111 Olympiad, what are we to think of the preceding Greek chronology ?"-Wood's Inquiry into the Life, &-c., of Homer.

t" In Ireland, the genealogies which are preserved, could not have been handed down in such an extensive, and at the same time so correct a manner, without this acquaintance with letters, as the tables embrace too great a compass to retain them in the memory; and as, without the assistance of these elements of knowledge there would have been no suficient inducement to bestow on them such peculiar attention."Webb, Analysis of the Anliq of Ireland Another well-informed writer thus en forces the same view :-" The Irish genealogical tables, which are still extant, carry intrinsic proofs of their being genuine and authentic, by their chronological accuracy and consistency with each other through all the lines collateral, as well as direct; a consistency not to be accounted for on the suppwsition of their being fabricated in a subsequent age of darkness and ignorance, but easily explained if we admit them to have been drawn from the real source of family records and truth."--Inquiry concerning the original of the Scots in Britain, by Barnard, Biskop of Killaloe.

" Foreigners may imagine that it is granting too much to the Irish, to allow them lists of kings more ancient than those of any other country in modern Europe; but the singularly compact and remote situation of that island, and its freedom from Roman conquest, and from the concussions of the fall of the Roman empire, may infer this allowance not too much. Bui all contended for is the list of kings so easily preserved by the repetition of bards, at high solemnities, and some grand events of history."— Pinkerton, Inquiry into the Hist. of Scotland, part iv. chap. i.

The consequences of this “ Oriental inflexibility,"-as Niebher expresses it, in speaking of the Syrians, - are thus described by Camden :-" The Irish are so wedded to their own customs, that they not only retain them themselves, but currupt the English that come among them.."

who ruled them, and their entire exemption from Roman dominion left them safe from even a chance of change.*

How far the stern grasp of Ronian authority might have succeeded in effacing from the minds of the Irish their old habits and their predilections, it is needless now to inquire. But had we no other proof of the venerable antiquity of their nation, this fond fidelity to the past, this retrospective spirit, which is sure to be nourished in the minds of a people by long-hallowed institutions, would, in the absence of all other means of proof, be fully sufficient for the purpose. When, in addition to this evidence impressed upon the very character of her people, we find Ireland furnished also with all that marks an ancient nation,—unnumbered monuments of other days and belonging to unknown creeds,-a language the oldest of all European tongues still spoken by her people, and Annals written in that language of earlier date than those of any other northern nation of Europe,t tracing the line of her ancient kings, in chronological order, up as far at least as the commencement of the Christian era, -when we find such a combination of circumstances all bearing in the same direction, all confirming the impression derived from the historical character of the people, it is surely an abuse of the right of doubting, to reject lightly such an amount of evidence, or resist the obvious conclusion to which it all naturally leads.

Among the most solemn of the customs observed in Ireland, during the times of paganism, was that of keeping, in each of the provinces, as well as at the seat of the monarchical goveroment, a public Psalter, or register, in which all passing transactions of any interest were noted down. This, like all their other ancient observances, continued to be retained after the introduction of Christianity; and to the great monasteries, all over the country, fell the task of watching over and continuing these records. That, in their zeal for religion, they should have destroyed most of those documents which referred to the dark rites and superstitions of heathenism, appears highly credible. But such records as related chiefly to past political events were not obnoxious to the same bostile feeling; and these the monks not only, in most instances, preserved, but carried on a continuation of them, from age to age, in much the same tone of veracious dryness as characterizes that similar series of records, the Saxon Chronicle. In like manner, too, as the English annalists are known, in most instances, to have founded their 'narrations upon the Anglo-Saxon documents derived from their ancestors, so each succeeding Irish chronicler transmitted the records which he found existing, along with his own; thus giving to the whole series, as has been well said of the Saxon Chronicle, the force of contemporary evidence.ll

The precision with which the Irish annalists have recorded, to the month, day, and hour, an eclipse of the sun, which took place in the year 664, affords both an instance of the exceeding accuracy with which they observed and noted passing events, and also an undeniable proof that the annals for that year, though long since lost, must have been in the hands of those who have transmitted to us that

remarkabie record. In calculating the period of the same eclipsc, the Ven able Bede T-led astray, it is plain, by his ignorance of that yet undetected error of the Dionysian cycle, by which the equation of the inotions of the sun and moon was affected,—exceeded the true time of the event by several days. Whereas, the Irish chronicler, wholly ignorant of the rules of astronomy, and merely recording what he had scen passing before his eyes,-namely, that the eclipse occurred, about the tenth hour, on the 3d of May, in the year 664,-has transmitted a date to posterity, of which succeeding astronomers have acknowledged the accuracy.

It has been falsely asserted by some writers, that the Romans visited, and even conquered, Ireland. The old chronicler, Wyntown, carries them to that country even so early as the first century; and Gueudeville, the wretched compiler of the Atlas Historique, has, in his map of Ireland, represented the country as reduced within the circle of the Roman sway. The pretended nionk, Richard, also, who, thanks to the credulity of historians, was permitted to establish a new Roman province, Vespasiana, to the north of Antouine's Wall, has, in like manner, made a present to Constantine the Great of the tribitary submission of Ireland. " A. M. 4307, Constantinus, qui Magnus postea dicitur ... cui se sponte tributariam offert Hibernia."

" Cæterarum enim gentium Septentrionalium antiquitates scriptas longe recentiores esse existimo, si cum Hibernicis comparentur."-Dr: o Connor, Ep. Nunc. xix.

1. Alibi indicavi celebriora Hiberniæ monasteria amanucnsem aluisse, Scribhinn appellatum."-Rer. Hib. Script. Ep. Nunc.

$or the works of the Druids, as we are informed from the Lecan Records, by the learned Donald Mac Firbiss, no fewer than 180 tracts were committed to the flames at the instance of St. Patrick. Such an exam. ple set the converted Christians to work in all parts, till, in the end, all the remains of the Druidic supersti. tion were utterly destroyed."--Dissert. on the Tist. of Ireland.

"The annals of these writers are, perhaps, but Latin translations of Anglo-Saxon Chronicles .... at Jeast, the existence of similar passages, yet in Anglo-Saxon, is one of the best proofs we can obtain of this curious fact, that the Latin narrations of all our chroniclers, of the events preceding the Conquest, are in general translations or abridgments from the Anglo-Saxon documents of our ancestors. This fact is curious, becalise, wherever it obtains, it gives to the whole series of our annals the force of contemporary evidence." - Turner, Hist. of Anglo-Saxons, book vi. chap. 7.

T Hist. Ecclesiast. lib. iii. can. 27.

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