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Dates in Irish Myth and Legend

This is part of the chronology of the legendary prehistory and history of Ireland, mainly from the Lebor Gab?la (literally "The Book of Takings"), The Annals of the Four Masters (17th century), The Annals of Ulster, The Annals of Clonmacnoise, The Annals of Tigernach, and Chronicum Scotorum.


3339 BC (AM 1859 – anno mundi; i.e., 1859 years after the Creation) Destruction of the Tower of Babel 3330 BC "In this year Fenius composed the language of the Gaeidhel from seventy-two languages, and subsequently committed it to Gaeidhel, son of Agnoman." (Annals of Tigernach)

"[The poets] asked the philosopher (Fenius) to choose for them from the many languages a language that no one else would have but which would be theirs alone; and so the Chosen Language was invented for them ... Question, why is Gaedilg [the Irish language] called the chosen language? Not difficult! Because it was culled out of every language; and every hyperdark sound in every language, a place was found for it in Irish since it has a capacity beyond every language." (John Minahane's translation from the Auraicept na n-?ces, from his book The Christian Druids.) 2956 BC Cesair, granddaughter (or niece) of Noah, came to Ireland with 50 women and 3 men 40 days (or 40 years) before the Deluge, landing in Cork or Kerry. The men died long before the flood. 2679 BC Partholon and his followers arrived. The Partholonians stayed 600 years; most died of the Plague. 2669 BC The Partholonians fought the Fomorians, sea pirates probably from Scandinavia. 2666 BC Slainghe mac Partholon buried in Carn Slebhe Slangha (the Carn of the Hill of Slane) 2379 BC 9000 Partholonians died of the plague. Taimhleacht Muintire Parthalain marks their burial. This may be a mound on the Hill of Slane which is rumoured to be one of their burial places."Tamhlacht" = Plague Monument. There are about a dozen "Tallaght/Tamhlacht" place names in Ireland; e.g., Tallaght, a suburb of Dublin. 2349 BC The Nemedians came from Spain or Scythia. Medu and Macha were the wives of two of the leaders. Most died of the Plague or were killed by the Fomorians; 30 escaped. 1933 BC The Firbolgs came. Some say they were slaves of the Nemedians who stayed and possibly supplanted the Nemedians. They divided Ireland into five parts. Slainge was chief of Leinster. 1932 BC Slainge died at Dinn Rig, his royal centre, and was buried on the Hill of Slane. Some accounts say it was from him, not Slainghe mac Partholon, that the Hill of Slane got its name. 1896 BC The Tuatha D? Danaan (the Tribes of the Goddess Dana) came from the northwest, bringing with them, among other treasures, the Lia F?il. They had developed and practised their magic arts in the North of Europe. They fought the Fir Bolgs near Cong, Co. Galway, and defeated them in the First Battle of Moytura. Their king, Nuada, lost an arm in the battle. 1889 BC The physician Diancecht made a silver arm for Nuada. 1869 BC The Tuatha D? Danaan fought and defeated the Fomorians near Lough Arrow, Co. Sligo, in the Second Battle of Moytura. Nuada was killed, and Lugh L?mhfada became king. (The Fall of Troy also occurred about this time, according to the Lebor Gab?la.) 1829 BC Lugh established Aonach Taillten in memory of his foster mother, Taillte, daughter of the King of Spain, wife of Eochaid mac Erc, last king of the Fir Bolg. Her burial mound is The Hill of Taillte, also called Taillten, in the townland of Teltown between Navan and Kells in County Meath. Taillten was for a long time a chief royal gathering place (aonach). 1828 BC Eochaid Ollathair the Dagda became king. 1749 BC In the eightieth year of his high-kingship, Eochaid died of a wound given to him at the Battle of Moytura (120 years previously) by Cethlend, wife of Balor, the Fomorian chief. Eochaid is buried in the Brugh (Br? na Boinne=Newgrange). 1748 BC Dealbaoith mic Ogma became king. 1728 BC Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Greine began a shared kingship. 1699 BC (Thursday, 30 April) The Milesians (followers of Mil) came from Spain and defeated the Tuatha D? Danaan at Tailltin. Their first battle was at Slieve Mis in County Kerry, where Scota, daughter of Pharaoh ben Mileach, died. She was buried between Slieve Mis and the sea. One of Ireland's early names, Scotia, comes from her. 1698 BC The first Milesian kings, the brothers Eremon and Emhear, began a shared kingship. 1335 BC Ollamh Fodhla instituted the triennial Feis Tara. 658 BC Macha becomes queen, according to one version (not the one I use) of the naming of Emain Macha. 631 BC Ugainy Mor king of Ireland and Western Europe to the Mediterranean 592 BC Ugainy Mor killed by Badbchadh 591 BC Laoghaire (Laery) Lorc, son of Ugainy Mor, king 590 BC Laoghaire killed by his brother Cobhthach (Covac) Caol ("Lean") 589 BC Cobhthach king 540 BC Cobhthach killed by Labhraidh Loingseach Mae mac Oiliolla Aine with 30 kings at Dinn Rig ("at Tuamna Tenbath precisely" -- Annals of Tigernach). John Minahane translates "T?aim Tenbath" as "The Hill of Flaming Death" in what James Carney called "possibly the oldest poem in the Irish language" (pre-AD 450).

Dind Rig r?ad t?aim tenbath
tricha fariach fo br?n bebsat
br?isius br?osius b?r nia lond Labraid
l?ith Eilgi hua Luirc L?egaire

Dind Rig is red, a hill of flaming death,
thirty subkings died in torment;
he crushed them he smashed them
the fierce boar-warrior "Speaks",
the hero of Ireland, Loegairi Lorc's grandson!
(from The Christian Druids) 539 BC Labhraidh king 521 BC Labhraidh killed by Melghe Molbhthach son of Cobhthach Caol 140 BC Eochaidh Feidhleach ("Constant Sighing") king
"He was father to that famous (but not altogether for Goodness) woman" Queen Maeve of Connacht "and to 4 other Daughters ... But the lady Meaw [Maeve] was of Greater Report then the rest because of her great boldness, Buty, and stout manlyness in Giving of battles, insatiable Lust, her father allowed her for her portion the province of Connaught, and shee being thereof possessed grew soe Insolent and shameless that shee made an oath never to marry with anyone whatsoever that would be stayned with any of these 3 Defects and Imperfections as she accoumpted them vidzt with jealousy for any Letchery that she should committ, with unmanliness or Imbecillitie, soe as the party could not be soe bould as to undertake any adventure whatsoever were it never soe Dificult, and Lastly she would neuer marry with anyone that feared any man liveing."
(Annals of Clonmacnoise) 128 – 114 BC Eochaidh Airemh ("Gravedigger"), brother of Eochaidh Feidhleach, husband of ?ta?ne, king (story: Midir and ?ta?ne) 107 BC Conaire Mor, son of Etersceoil, grandson of ?ta?ne, king 38 BC Conaire Mor killed at Bruighin da Derg (story: The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel)

BC / AD (AM 5199 = AD 1)

All historical and legendary accounts agree that the T?in B? Cuailnge took place about this time. According to the Annals of Tigernach, Mary the mother of Jesus was born at the time of the T?in (no date given). C?chulain was killed in 2 or 12 AD. King Conor mac Nessa of Ulster died when he went mad on hearing about the crucifixion of Christ.

AD 86 – 106 (130 – 160?) (76 – 96?) Tuathal Techmar ("the Legitimate") king
Tuathal defeated other kings to become High King. He fought 133 battles in 30 years. According to the "Romans in Ireland" camp, Tuathal may have done this with Roman military aid. This view is strengthened by the recent discovery of what appears to be a Roman fort near Dublin. Tuathal annexed territory around Tara to make Meath the Royal Province. He imposed the B?rama on Leinster. AD 120 Cathaoir Mor king, father of Ethne in the story The Melodies of Buchet's House AD 123 – 157 Conn C?adcathach ("of the Hundred Battles") king, after killing Cathaoir Mor
The five roads to Tara -- Slighe Asail, Slighe Miodhluachra, Slighe Cualann, Slighe Mor, Slighe Dala -- appeared at Conn's birth.
At the age of 17, Fionn mac Cumhail ended the Burning of Tara and became captain of the Fianna during Conn's rule. AD 166 – 195 Art mac Conn king AD 227 – 266 Cormac mac Art king AD 268 – 284 Cairpre Liffechair, son of Comac mac Art, king AD 284 Death of Fionn mac Cumhail One of the 12 great poets of Ireland Served through the reigns of 7 kings Conn C?adcathach AD 123 – 157 Conaire, son of Modha Lamha AD 158 – 166 Art mac Conn AD 166 - 195 Lughoidh mac Con AD 196 – 226 Cormac mac Art AD 227 – 266 Eochaidh Gondat AD 267 Cairpre Liffechair, son of Cormac mac Art AD 268 – 284 "Three things we lived by: truth in our hearts, strength in our hands, and fulfilment in our tongues." (motto of the Fianna)

"It is quite a mistake to suppose him to have been a merely mythical character. Much that has been narrated of his exploits is, no doubt, apocryphal enough; but Finn himself is an undoubtedly historical personage; and that he existed about the time at which his appearance is recorded in the annals, is as certain as that Julius Caesar lived and ruled at the time stated on the authority of the Roman historians."
(Eugene O'Curry, MS. Materials)

AD 284 End of the Fianna at the Battle of Gabhra (Garristown, Co. Meath)
Ois?n's son and Fionn's grandson, Oscar, and Cairbre Liffechair killed each other.

"Except for Oscur and Bran,
[Fionn] never shed tears for anyone on earth." AD 353 Birth of Saint Patrick in Britain AD 364 Saint Patrick captured by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland as a slave to tend pigs on Slieve Mis, Co. Antrim AD 369 Saint Patrick released by an angel, studied under Saint Germanus on the Continent AD 432 Saint Patrick arrived in Ireland AD 433 Saint Patrick built a fire on the Hill of Slane to challenge the druids of King Laeghaire at Tara AD 439 Birth of Saint Brigit at Faughart AD 444 Headquarters of the Christian Church in Ireland established by Saint Patrick at Armagh AD 460 Laeghaire had tried to impose the B?rama on the Leinstermen, was defeated and captured, released on his solemn oath by the elements -- "by sea and land, moon and sun, water and air" -- that he would not try to impose the B?rama again, did so, and was killed by the elements.

"The elements of God, which he had pledged as guarantee,
Inflicted the doom of death on the king."
(Chronicum Scotorum) AD 489 (or 493) Death of Saint Patrick
His tomb is in Downpatrick, Co. Down. AD 518 Birth of Saint Colmcille (Colum Cille/Columba) AD 523 Death of Saint Brigit
She is buried in the same tomb with Saint Patrick. AD 593 (or 597) Cumascach, son of High King Aedh Ainmire, killed by Brandubh, king of Leinster. This was the cause of the Battle of D?n Bolg the following year. AD 594 (or 598) Death of High King Aedh Ainmire in the Battle of D?n Bolg
He called the Convention of Drum Cet in 575, at which Saint Colmcille defended the poets and saved them from being expelled from Ireland.

Bator ionmuine tri taoibh
fris nach freisge aitherrach
Taobhan Taillten, taobh Temhra
's taobh Aodha, mic Ainmireach.

"There were three beloved sides
Of whose return there is no hope;
The side of Taillten, the side of Temhair [Tara],
And the side of Aedh, son of Ainmire."
(from his wife's lament) AD 615 (AFM gives variously 610, 619 and 624) "Death of Ronan, son of Colman, King of Leinster." (Chronicum Scotorum) This may be the historical R?n?n on whom the legendary "R?n?n mac Aed" in Fingal R?n?in is based. AD 617 Death of Saint Kevin, aged 120 AD 637 Battle of Magh Rath (Moira, Co. Down)
This was a historically important battle over the kingship of Ireland, in which the Scottish kingdom of Dalriada lost its Irish territories. Congal Cloen ("Squint-eyed" from a bee-sting), king of the Ulaid, and his Scottish allies fought against High King Domnall, son of Aedh Ainmire.

"The three virtues of that battle are the defeat of Congal Cloen in his falsehood by Domnall in his truth, and that Suibne the Madman became mad, and that the brain of forgetfulness was taken out of the head of Cennfaelad.

"And the virtue is not in Suibne's becoming mad, but in all the stories and poems he left after him in Ireland. And the virtue is not that the brain of forgetfulness was taken out of the head of Cennfaelad, but in all the book-learning that he left after him in Ireland."
(from the preface to an old law tract, quoted in The Cycles of the Kings)

Poets, painters and other artists still draw inspiration from The Frenzy of Sweeney. Suibne killed one of Saint Ronan Finn's psalmists with a spear and threw a spear at Saint Ronan, but the spear glanced off Ronan's handbell and flew into the air. Ronan cursed Suibne to fly as the spear did and to die by a spear. Suibne was driven mad by the din of the Battle of Magh Rath and took to the air. After many years flying around Ireland and composing verses while living in trees like a bird, Suibne recovered some of his sanity and stayed with Saint Moling (Mullins). Moling ordered his cook to give Suibne a bowl of milk each evening. She would dig her heel into a cowpat and fill it with milk for Suibne. Another woman accused the cook of preferring Suibne to her husband. (We are not told how she fed her husband.) The husband overheard this and killed Suibne with a spear.

Cennfaelad explained that the part of his brain that made him forget leaked out of his head through the wound he received during the Battle of Magh Rath, and so, after a trepanning operation by Saint Bricin, he could remember word for word the lectures he attended at Toomregan University, near Ballyconnell, Co. Cavan. He was the first to put into writing the subjects that had traditionally been taught orally: poetry and law. One result is the Auraicept na n-?ces. (See also 3330 BC.)


"This Isle is sacred named by all the ancients,
From times remotest in the womb of Chronos,
This Isle which rises over the waves of ocean,
Is covered with a sod of rich luxuriance.
And peopled far and wide by the Hiberni"

Rufus Festus Avienus, fourth century AD
from The Story of the Irish Race, by Seumas MacManus


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