Sreng and Breas

Margaret Anne Cusack
start of chapter | Chapter III

A more detailed account of this affair may be found in one of our ancient historic tales, of the class called Catha or Battles, which Professor O'Curry pronounces to be "almost the earliest event upon the record of which we may place sure reliance."[1]Flint spear head from the Collection of the Royal Irish Academy It would appear that there were two battles between the Firbolgs and Tuatha De Dananns, and that, in the last of these, Nuada was slain. According to this ancient tract, when the Firbolg king heard of the arrival of the invaders, he sent a warrior named Sreng to reconnoitre their camp. The Tuatha De Dananns were as skilled in war as in magic; they had sentinels carefully posted, and their videttes were as much on the alert as a Wellington or a Napier could desire. The champion Breas was sent forward to meet the stranger. As they approached, each raised his shield, and cautiously surveyed his opponent from above the protecting aegis. Breas was the first to speak. The mother-tongue was as dear then as now, and Sreng was charmed to hear himself addressed in his own language, which, equally dear to the exiled Nemedian chiefs, had been preserved by them in their long wanderings through northern Europe. An examination of each others armour next took place. Sreng was armed with "two heavy, thick, pointless, but sharply rounded spears;" while Breas carried "two beautifully shaped, thin, slender, long, sharp-pointed spears."[2] Perhaps the one bore a spear of the same class of heavy flint weapons of which we give an illustration, and the other the lighter and more grace ful sword, of which many specimens may be seen in the collection of the Royal Irish Academy. Breas then proposed that they should divide the island between the two parties; and after exchanging spears and promises of mutual friendship, each returned to his own camp.


[1] Reliance.—O'Curry, p. 243.

[2] Spears.—O'Curry, p. 215.