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HISTORY OF I RELA N D.
ORIGIN OF THE IRISH PEOPLE. - EARLY NOTICES OF IRELAND.
THERE appears to be no doubt that the first inhabitants of Ireland were derived from the same Celtic stock which supplied Gaul, Britain, and Spain with their original population. Her language, the numerous monuments she still retains of that most ancient superstition which the first tribes who poured from Asia into Europe are known to have carried with them wherever they went, sufficiently attest the true origin of her people. Whatever obscurity may hang round the history of the tribes that followed this first Eastern swarm, and however opinions may still vary, as to whether they were of the same, or of a different race, it seems, at least, certain, that the Celts were the first inhabitants of the western parts of Europe ; and that, of the language of this most ancient people, the purest dialect now existing is the Irish.
It might be concluded, from the near neighbourhood of the two islands to each other, that the fortunes of Britain and Ireland would, in those times, be similar; that, in the various changes and mixtures to which population was then subject, from the successive incursions of new tribes from the East, such vicissitudes would be shared in common by the two islands, and the same flux and reflux of population be felt on both their shores. Such an assumption, however, would, even as to earlier times, be rash; and, how little founded it is, as a general conclusion, appears from the historical fact, that the Romans continued in military possession of Britain for near four hundred years, without a single Roman, during that whole period, having been known to set foot on Irisla ground.
The system of Whitaker and others, who, from the proximity of the two islands, assume that the population of Ireland must have been all derived from Britain, is wholly at variance, not merely with probability, but with actual evidence. That, in the general and compulsory movement of the Celtic tribes towards the west, an island, like Ireland, within easy reach both of Spain and Gaul, should have been left unoccupied during the long interval it must have required to stock England with inhabitants, seems, to the highest degree, improbable. But there exists, independently of this consideration, strong evidence of an early intercourse between Spain and Ireland, in the historical traditions of the two countries, in the names of the different Spanish tribes assigned to the latter by Ptolemy, and, still more, in the sort of notoriety which Ireland early, as we shall see, acquired, and which could only have arisen out of her connexion with those Phænician colonies, through whom alone a secluded island of the Atlantic could have become so well known to the world.
At a later period, when the Belgic Gauls had gained such a footing in Britain, as to begin to encroach on the original Celtic inhabitants, a remove still farther to the west was, as usual, the resource of this people; and Ireland, already occupied by a race speaking a dialect of the same language,—the language common, at that period, to all the Celts of Europe,-afforded the refuge from Gothic invasion* which they required. It has has been shown clearly, from the names of its mountains and rivers,—those unerring memorials of an aboriginal race,—that the first inhabitants of the country now called Wales must have been a people whose language was the same with that of the Irish, as the mountains and waters of that noble country are called by Irish names.t At what time the Belgæ, the chief progenitors of the English nation, began to dispossess the original Celtic inhabitants, is beyond the historian's power to ascertain; as is also the question, whether those Belgæ or Fir-bolgs, who are known to have passed over into Ireland, went directly from Gaul, or were an offset of those who invaded Britain.
But however some of the ingredients composing their population may have become, in the course of time, common to both countries, it appears most probable that their primitive inhabitants were derived from entirely different sources; and that, while Gaul poured her Celts upon the shores of Britain, the population of Ireland was supplied from the coasts of Celtic Spain. It is, at least, certain, that, between these two latter countries, relations of affinity had been, at a very early period, established; and that those western coasts of Spain, to which the Celtic tribes were driven, and where afterwards Phænician colonies established themselves, were the very regions from whence this communication with Ireland was maintained.
The objections raised to this supposed origin and intercourse, on the ground of the rude state of navigation in those days, are deserving of but little attention. It was not lightly, or without observation, such a writer as Tacitus asserted, that the first colonizing expedie tions were performed by water, not by land;and however his opinion, to its whole extent, may be questioned, the result of inquiry into the affinities of nations seems to have established, that at no time, however remote, has the interposition of sea presented much obstacle to the migratory dispositions of mankind. The history, indeed, of the Polynesian races, and of their common origin-showing to what an immense extent, over the great ocean, even the simplest barbarians have found the means of wafting the first rudiments of a people should inclive us to regard with less skepticism those coasting and, in general, land-locked voyages, by which most of the early colonization of Europe was effected;--at a period, too, when the Phænicians, with far more knowledge, it is probable, of the art of navigation, than modern assumption gives them credit for, were to be seen in the Mediterranean, the Baltic, the Atlantic, -every where upon the waters. With respect to the facilities of early intercourse between Ireland and Spain, the distance from Cape Ortegal to Cape Clear, which lie almost opposite to each other, north and south, is not more than 150 leagues,—two thirds of which distance, namely, as far as the island of Ushant, might all have been performed within sight of land. T Reserving, however, all farther investigation into this point, till we come to treat of the different colonies of Ireland, I shall bere endeavour to collect such information respecting her early fortunes as the few, but pregnant, notices scattered throughout antiquity afford.
With one important exception, it is from early Greek writers alone that our first glimpses of the British isles, in their silent course through past ages, are obtained ; nor was it till a comparatively late period that the Greeks themselves became acquainted with their existence. The jealousy with which the Phænicians contrived to conceal from their Mediterranean neighbours these remote sources of their wealth, had prevented, even in the time of Homer, more than a doubtful and glimmering notion of a Sea of Isles beyond the Pilla from reaching the yet unexcursive Greeks. Enough, however, had transpired to awaken the dreams alike of the poet and the adventurer; and while Homer, embellishing the vague tales which he had caught up from Phænician voyages, * placed in those isles the abodes of the Pious and the Elysian fields of the Blest,t the thoughts of the trader and speculator were not less actively occupied in discovering treasures without end in the same poetic regions. Hence all those popular traditions of the Fortunate Islands, the Hesperides,f the Isle of Calypso, -creations called up in these “unpathed waters," and adopted into the poetry of the Greeks, before any clear knowledge of the realities had reached them. In the “ Argonautics,"$. a poem written, it is supposed, more than 500 years before the Christian era, there is a sort of vague dream of the Atlantic, in which Ireland alone, under the Celtic name of Jernis, is glanced at, without any reference whatever to Britain. It is thought, moreover, to have been by special information, direct from the Phænicians that the poet acquired this knowledge; as it appears from Herodotus, that not even the names of the Cassiterides, or British Isles, were known in Greece when he wrote; and the single fact, that they were the islands from which tin was imported, comprised all that the historian bimself had it in his power to tell of them.
* Without entering here into the still undecided question, as to whether the Belgą were Celts or Goths, I shall merely observe, that the fair conclusion from ihe following passage of Cæsar is, that this people were of a Gothic or Teutonic descnt.
“ Cum ab his quæreret, quæ civitates quantæque in armis essent, et quid in bello possent, sic reperiebat; plerosque Belgas esse ortos ab Germanis; Rhenumque antiquitus transductos, propter loci fertilitatem ibi consedisse ; Gallosque, qui ea loca incolerent, expulisse.”-De Bell. Gall. lib. ii. c. 4.
| Lhuyd's Preface to his Irish Dictionary, in the Appendix to Nicholson's Historical Library.-Lhuyd extends his remark to England as well as Wales. " Whoever takes notice," he says, “ of a great number of the names of the rivers and mountains throughout the king lom, will find no reason to doubt but the Irish must have been the inhabitants when those names were imposed on them.” In other words, the first inha. bitants of Britain and Wales were Celts of Gael.
The author of Mona Antiqua has, without intending it, confirmed the truth of Lhuyd's remark, by stating that the vestiges of old habitations still to be seen on the heaths and hills of Anglesey, are called, to this day, Cyttie'r Gwyddelod, or the Irishmen's Cottages. These words, too, it appears (see Preface to O'Brien's Irish Dictionary.) “ should more properly and literally be rendered Irishmen's habitations, or seats; for the Irish word Cathair, of which Ceitir is a corruption, signifies either a city or town, or habitation.".
1 That the Irish did not consider then selves as being of Galilish origin, appears from their having uni. formly used the word Gall to express a foreigner, or one speaking a ditlerent language. § Nec terra olim, sed classibus advehebantur, qui mutare sedes quærebant.-German. c. 2.
“A comparison of their languages (those of the Polynesian races) has furnished a proof, that all the most remote insular nations of the Great Ocean derived their origin from the same quarier, and are nearly related to some tribes of people inhabiting a part of the Indian continent, and the Isles of the Indian Archi. pelago."— Pritchard's Eastern Origin of the Cellic Nations.
Dr. Rennel, in noticing some doubts respecting the circumnavigation of Africa by the Egyptians, says sensibly, “Since so many of these (ancieni) anthorities concur in the behalf that Africa had been sailed round, we cannot readily guess wliy it should be doubted at present, unless the moderns wish to appro. priate to themselves all the functions and powers of nautical discovery."-On the Geographical System of Herodotus.
1 See Smith's History of Cork, book, i. chap. i. According to Appian, the Spaniards for his time used to perform the passage to Britain, with the tide in their favour, in half a day. "Quando in Britanniam, una cum æstu maris transvehuntur quæ quidem trajectio dimidiati diei est."- Iberica.
The very first mention that occurs of the two chief British Isles is in a workf written, if not by Aristotle, by an author contemporary with that philosopher,-the treatise in question having been dedicated to Alexander the Great. The length of time, indeed, during which the monopoly of the trade in tin by the Phænicians was kept not only invio. late, but secret, forms one of the most striking marvels of ancient history. For although, as far back as about 400 years before Herodotus wrote, there had reached Homer, as we have seen, some faint glimpses of an ocean to the west, which his imagination had peopled with creations of its own, it was not till the time of Aristotle**- -ncar a whole century after--that the Massilian Greeks had learned to explore those western regions them. selves, and that, for the first time, in any writings that have come down to us, we find the two chief British islands mentioned, in the authentic treatise just referred to under their old Celtic names of Albion and lerne.
It is from a source, however, comparatively modern—the geographical poem of Festus Avienus—that our most valuable insight into the fortunes of ancient Ireland is derived, In the separate expeditions undertaken by Hanno and Himilco beyond the Straits, while the former sailed in a southern direction, the latter, shaping his course to the north, along the shores of Spain, (the old track of Phænician voyagers between Gades and Gallicia,) stretched from thence across the ocean to the Estrumnides, or Tin Isles. Of this expedition, a record, or journal, such as Hanno has left of his Periplus, was deposited by
* "That Home: had the opportunities mentioned, and that he did not neglect to improve them, will best appear by considering what he has really learned from the Phænicians. This will be a certain proof of his having conversed wiih them.”-Blackwell, Inquiry into the Life and Writings of Homer, sect. 11.
t “Ο τοινυν ποιητης τας τοσαυτας στρατιας ετι τα εσχατα της 16ηριας ιστορικως, πυνθανομιυος δε και πλουτον και τας άλλας αρέτας (οι γαρ Φοινικες δηλουν τουτο) ενταύθα τον των ευαεθων επλασε χωρον και To Havolov Tsd 11.-Strabon. lib. jii.
| Plutarch, de Facie in Orb. Lun.-Hesiod. Theogon.
$ Written, it is supposed,' by Onomacritus, a cotemporary of Pisistratus. There appears to be no good reason for doubting the high antiquity of this poem. The treatise, in defence of its authenticity, hy Ruhn. kenius, who shows it to have been quoted by two ancient grammarians, seems to have set the question at rest. (Epist. Crit. 2) Archbishop Usher, in referring to the mention of lerne in this pnem adds, that "the Romans ihemselves could not produce such a tribute to their antiquity:"(Ecclesiar. Antiq. c. 16:) and Cam. den, to secure a share of the high honour for his country, first supposes that a nameless island, described by the poet, must be Britain; and then changes the sole epithet by which it is described, for one more suited to his purpose :-"Quæ necessariò sit hæc nostra, Anx2168 Xaporov, id est, albicantem terram dixisse quam ante pauculos versus Nnoor FEUXNET odv, pro a luxNET OUV, vocasse videatur."-Camden, Britan.
| “Nempe edoctus à Phænicibus, Grecis enim tunc temporis hæc loca erant inaccersa."-Bochart, Geog. Sac. lib. i. c. 39. The epithet, Cronian, applied by this Orphic poet to this sea in the neighbourhood of the Hyperboreans, is, according to Toland, purely Irish; the word Croin, in that language, signifying Frozen.
This circumstance of Ireland having been known to the Argonauts, is thus alluded to by a Dutch writer of the sixteenth century, Adrian Junius:
“Jlla ego sum Graiis olim glacialis lerno
Dicta, et Jasoni puppis bene cognita nautis." De Mundo. ** The Athenians had already, in this philosopher's time, as he himself mentions (Economic. 1, 2.) been advised to secure to themselves ihe monopoly or the Tyrian market, by buying up all the lend.