Legendary kings of Ireland around the year 200 AD included King
Conaire (II) who was said to be the ancestor of the
Muscraige of Munster and the Dal Riada of Ulster. Oilioll Olum, the
king of Munster, was ancestor to the Eoghanacht ruling dynasties of Munster.
The great High King Cormac macAirt, grandson of Conn of the Hundred
Battles, was said to have established a new Royal capitol at the ancient
site of Teamhair (Tara). Cormac was ancestor to later generations of
Kings and High Kings ruling Gaelic dynasties of the northern provinces of
Connacht, Midhe and Ulster.
In the year 226 AD the battle of Crinna (in Co. Meath) was fought between
Cormac mac Airt, king of Ireland, and the Ulstermen under Fergus, son of
Imchadh. Cormac defeated the Ulster forces with the assistance of Tadg
(or Teige), son of Cian and for this service the king bestowed on Tadg a
large territory which extended from the Liffey (in Dublin) northwards to
Drumskin in Co. Louth. Tadg's descendants were called Cianachta i.e.
"the race of Cian", from his father and the territory was afterwards
known by this name.
How were Irish kings selected? They were normally 'elected' from any one of
the males comprised in the "deirbhfhine", the descendants of a deceased
chief to the fourth generation. Election frequently originated from higher
level kings and overlords, and kings were often "selected" after battling
with rival claimants. The old law tract 'The Five Paths of Judgement' states
that any would-be king must be the son of a king and the grandson of a
king. A man whose father ruled before him, but not his grandfather, was
known as a middle-ranking king. The candidate must also be of good legal
standing, be not guilty of theft, be physically unblemished, and also be
a man of property.
Early 'Brehon Law' specified three grades of king:
- king of the local "tuath" or tribal kingdom.
- king of a larger territory and overlord of a group of local tuaths.
- king of a province, consisting of multiple territories.
At a later date in Irish history the term Árd-Rí became popular, indicating the king of all provinces, i.e. the High King of Ireland.
Excerpts from the Annals
158 AD -
After the 35 year reign of Conn of the Hundred Battles, this was the first
year of Conaire, son of Modh Lamha, in sovereignty over Ireland. Conaire
was also a son-in-law of Conn.
165 AD - Conaire, son of Mogh Lamha, after having been eight years in the
sovereignty of Ireland, fell by Neimhidh, son of Sruibhgheann. This
Conaire had three sons, Cairbre Musc, from whom the Muscraighe are
called; Cairbre Baschaein, from whom are the Baiscnigh, in Corca
Baiscinn; and Cairbre Riadal, from whom are the Dal Riada. Saraid,
daughter of Conn of the Hundred Battles, was the mother of these sons
of Conaire, son of Modh Lamha. [Cairbre Riadal, following a famine in
the South, led his people to the extreme Northeast of Ireland, and
some of them across to the nearest part of Scotland, where they settled,
forming the first important colony of Scots (Irish) in Alba.]
166 AD -
The first year of the reign of Art [Art Aonfhir, "the lonely"], son of Conn
of the Hundred Battles.
186 AD -
The twenty first year of Art, son of Conn of the Hundred Battles, in the
sovereignty of Ireland. The battle of Ceannfeabhrat by the sons of Oilioll
Olum and the three Cairbres, i.e. Cairbre Musc, Cairbre Riada, and
Cairbre Bascainn, against Dadera, the Druid; Neimhidh, son of
Sroibhcinn; and the south of Ireland; where fell Neimhidh, son of
Sroibhcinn, King of the Ernai of Munster; and Dadera, the Druid of the
Dairinni. Dadera was slain by Eoghain, son of Oilioll; Neimhidh, son of
Sroibhcinn, by Cairbre Rioghfhoda, son of Conaire, in revenge of his
own father, i.e. Conaire.
195 AD -
After Art, the son of Conn of the Hundred Battles, had been thirty years
in the sovereignty of Ireland, he fell in the battle of Magh Mucruimhe, by
Maccon and his foreigners. In the same battle, along with Art, fell also
the sons of his sister, Sadhbh, daughter of Conn, namely, the seven sons
of Oilioll Olum, who had come with him against Maccon, their brother.
Eoghan Mor, Dubhmerchon, Mughcorb, Lughaidh, Eochaidh, Diochorb,
and Tadhg, were their names; and Beinne Brit, King of Britain, was he
who laid violent hands upon them. Beinne was slain by Lughaidh Lagha,
in revenge of his relatives. Lioghairne of the Long Cheeks, son of
Aenghus Balbh, son of Eochaidh Finn Fuathairt, was he who laid violent
hands upon Art in this battle of Magh Mucruimhe, after he had joined the
forces of Maccon.
225 AD -
After Lughaidh, i.e. Maccon, son of Macniadh, had been thirty years in
the sovereignty of Ireland, he fell by the hand of Feircis, son of Coman
Eces, after he had been expelled from Teamhair Tara by Cormac, the
grandson of Conn.
226 AD -
Fearghus Duibhdeadach, son of Imchadh, was king over Ireland for the
space of a year, when he fell in the battle of Crinna, by Cormac,
grandson of Conn, by the hand of Lughaidh Lagha. There fell by him
also, in the rout across Breagh, his two brothers, Fearghus the Long
Haired and Fearghus the Fiery, who was called Fearghus Caisfhiaclach
of the Crooked Teeth. In the army of Cormac came Tadhg, son of Cian,
and Lughaidh, to that battle; and it was as a territorial reward for
the battle that Cormac gave to Tadhg the land on which are the
Ciannachta, in Magh Breagh, as is celebrated in other books.
234 AD -
Oilioll Olum, son of Mogh Nuadhat, King of Munster, died.
236 AD -
A battle at Eu, in Magh Aei, against Aedh, son of Eochaidh, son of
Conall, King of Connaught.
240 AD -
The battle of Magh Techt, and the fleet of Cormac sailed across Magh
Rein (i.e. across the sea), this year, so that it was on that occasion he
obtained the sovereignty of Alba Scotland.
241 AD -
These are the battles of Cormac fought against Munster this year: the
battle of Berre; the battle of Loch Lein; the battle of Luimneach; the
battle of Grian; the battle of Classach; the battle of Muiresc; the battle of
Fearta, in which fell Eochaidh Taebhfada of the Long Side, son of Oilioll
Olum; the battle of Samhain, in which fell Cian, son of Oilioll Olum; and
the battle of Ard Cam.
241 AD -
The massacre of the girls at Cleanfearta, at Teamhair, by Dunlang, son of
Enna Niadh, King of Leinster. Thirty royal girls was the number, and a
hundred maids with each of them. Twelve princes of the Leinstermen did
Cormac put to death together, in revenge of that massacre, together with
the exaction of the Borumha with an increase after Tuathal.