Irish Chronology

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter V

The chronology of Irish pagan history is unquestionably one of its greatest difficulties. But the chronology of all ancient peoples is equally unmanageable. When Bunsen has settled Egyptian chronology to the satisfaction of other literati as well as to his own, and when Hindoo and Chinese accounts of their postdiluvian or antediluvian ancestors have been reconciled and synchronized, we may hear some objections to "Irish pedigrees," and listen to a new "Irish question."

Pre-Christian Irish chronology has been arranged, like most ancient national chronologies, on the basis of the length of reign of certain kings. As we do not trace our descent from the "sun and moon," we are not necessitated to give our kings "a gross of centuries apiece," or to divide the assumed period of a reign between half-a-dozen monarchs;[4] and the difficulties are merely such as might be expected before chronology had become a science. The Four Masters have adopted the chronology of the Septuagint; but O'Flaherty took the system of Scaliger, and thus reduced the dates by many hundred years. The objection of hostile critics has been to the history rather than to the chronology of the history; but these objections are a mere petitio principii. They cannot understand how Ireland could have had a succession of kings and comparative civilization,—in fact, a national existence,—from 260 years before the building of Rome, when the Milesian colony arrived, according to the author of the Ogygia, at least a thousand years before the arrival of Caesar in Britain, and his discovery that its inhabitants were half-naked savages. The real question is not what Caesar said of the Britons, nor whether they had an ancient history before their subjugation by the victorious cohorts of Rome; but whether the annals which contained the pre-Christian history of Ireland may be accepted as, in the main, authentic.


[4] Monarchs.—See Bunsen's Egypt, passim.