Brian Boroimhe in Dublin

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter XIII

Meanwhile Brian had been scarcely less successful, and probably not less active. He now marched towards Dublin, "with all that obeyed him of the men of Ireland." These were the provincial troops of Munster and Connaught and the men of Meath. His march is thus described in the Wars of the Gaedhil :—"Brian looked out behind him, and beheld the battle phalanx—compact, huge, disciplined, moving in silence, mutely, bravely, haughtily, unitedly, with one mind, traversing the plain towards them; threescore and ten banners over them—of red, and of yellow, and of green, and of all kinds of colours; together with the everlasting, variegated, lucky, fortunate banner, that had gained the victory in every battle, and in every conflict, and in every combat."[7]

The portion of the narrative containing this account is believed to be an interpolation, but the description may not be the less accurate. Brian plundered and destroyed as usual on his way to Dublin. When he had encamped near that city, the Danes came out to give him battle on the plain of Magh-n-Ealta.[8] The king then held a council of war, and the result, apparently, was a determination to give battle in the morning. It is said that the Northmen pretended flight in order to delay the engagement. The Njal Saga says the Viking Brodir had found out by his sorcery, "that if the fight were on Good Friday, King Brian would fall, but win the day; but if they fought before, they would all fall who were against him." Some authorities also mention a traitor in Brian's camp, who had informed the Danes that his forces had been weakened by the absence of his son Donough, whom he had sent to devastate Leinster. Malachy has the credit of this piece of treachery, with other imputations scarcely less disreputable.


[7] Combat.—Wars of the Gaedhil, p. 157.

[8] Magh-n-Ealta.—The Plain of the Flocks, lying between Howth and Tallaght, so called from Eder, a chieftain who perished before the Christian era.