Emain-Macha

From A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland 1906

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CHAPTER XVI....continued

Emain.—Next to Tara in celebrity was the palace of Emain or Emain-Macha, or, as its name is Latinised, Emania. It was for 600 years the residence of the kings of Ulster, and attained its greatest glory in the first century of the Christian era, during the reign of Concobar (or Conor) mac Nessa, king of Ulster. It was the centre round which clustered the romantic tales of the Red Branch Knights, The most ancient written Irish traditions assign the foundation of this palace to Macha of the Golden Hair, wife of Cimbaeth [Kimbay], king of Ireland three or four centuries before the Christian era. From that period it continued to be the residence of the Ulster kings till A.D. 335, when it was burned and destroyed by three princes—brothers—commonly known as the Three Collas—after which it was abandoned to ruin. The imposing remains of this palace, consisting of a great mound surrounded by an immense circular rampart and fosse half obliterated, the whole structure covering about eleven English acres, lie two miles west of Armagh. Nay, the ruin retains to this day the old name "Emain" slightly disguised; for it is familiarly called "The Navan Fort or Ring," in which "Navan" correctly represents the sound 'n-Emain, i.e. the original name with the Irish article 'n prefixed.

When the Red Branch Knights came to the palace each summer to be exercised in feats of arms, they were lodged in a great house near Emain, called the Craobh-Ruadh [Creeveroe], commonly Englished the 'Red Branch,' from which the whole body took their name. The name of this house is also preserved: for "Creeveroe" is still the name of a townland near the Navan fort. So far as we can judge from old tales, the Creeveroe seems to have been altogether built of wood, with no earthen rampart round it, which explains why the present townland of Creeveroe contains no large fort like that of Emain.

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