The Irish Over-Kings

From A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland 1906

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CHAPTER II....concluded

8. The Over-Kings.

According to the ancient bardic legends, five successive colonies arrived in Ireland many centuries before the Christian era:—the Parthalonians, the Nemedians, the Firbolgs, the Dedannans, and the Milesians.* The bards say that government by monarchy began with the Firbolgs; whose first king—and the first king of Ireland—was Slainge [two-syll.: Slang-a]. From the time of his accession down to the birth of Christ, they allow 107 monarchs, of whom 9 were Firbolgs; 9 Dedannans; and 89 Milesians. The last king of the period before the Christian era was Nuada Necht or Nuada the White: and his successor, Conari the First, or Conari the Great, was the first king belonging to the Christian era. The Milesian kings continued to reign till the time of Roderick O'Conor, the last over-king of Ireland, who died in 1198; and who, according to the bardic accounts, was the 193rd monarch of Ireland. A list of the over-kings, with dates, is given in the larger Social History, vol. i., p. 68.

As to the records of the very early kings, they cannot, of course, be received as history: but neither should they be rejected altogether: it is as much of a fault to be too sceptical as to be too credulous.


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* For these see my Short History of Ireland, p. 123.