Cormac MacArt

Cormac MacArt, King of Ireland, 213 to 253. He was grandson of Con the Hundred Fighter, and the son of Art, and Ectach, the beautiful daughter of a blacksmith.

His reign is generally regarded as the heroic period of ancient Irish history.

In his youth he resided at the court of the King of Ulster, whence he was expelled with indignity at the instigation of Fergus Dubhdedach, the reigning King of Ireland.

Cormac determined to be revenged, and to wrest the crown from him. He therefore sought the assistance of Tadg, grandson of Oilill Olum, and a person of great authority at Ely, promising him as much land as he could compass in his chariot the evening after the battle in which he should be victorious.

By Tadg’s advice, he also secured the assistance of Lugad Laga, a warrior (Tadg’s granduncle) then living in retirement in a grim retreat at Aherlow.

The battle of Crinna (near Mellifont) ensued between the forces of Cormac, assisted by Tadg and Lugad, on the one side, and Fergus and his two brothers, on the other.

Cormac was victorious, and Tadg obtained the whole country between the Boyne and the Liffey, excepting Tara, as the reward of his assistance.

Cormac’s long reign of about forty years is stated to have been one of great splendour; his powerful militia under Finn, Tadg’s grandson, preserved order at home, whilst his fleets swept the neighbouring seas.

His queen, Eithne, bore him three sons and ten daughters.

He built the chief palace at Tara, and founded seats of learning.

Having been injured in the eye in battle, he was obliged, according to the custom of the time and country, to resign the sovereignty to his son.

He spent much of the remainder of his life in the composition of those works on the topography and learning of Ireland which have perpetuated his name.

His principal work, the Psalter of Tara, which contains, says a writer quoted by O’Curry, “synchronisms and genealogies, the succession of their kings and monarchs, their battles, their contests, and their antiquities, from the world’s beginning down to that time, … is the origin and fountain of the historians of Erinn from that period down to this time.”

He incurred the hostility of the Druids by his Christian convictions, and refusal to join in their worship. By some he is accounted the third Christian convert in Ireland.

Cormac was killed by a salmon bone sticking in his throat in 253, near Slane, where he had resided the latter part of his life.

It was his desire to be buried at Rossnaree, not at Brugh, where all his pagan ancestors were interred.

When his people attempted to bring his remains to Brugh, the flooding of the Boyne swept the coffin off and deposited it at Rossnaree, where he was buried.

His queen Eithne, and concubine Ciarnuit, occupy a prominent position in Irish romance.


134. Four Masters, Annals of Ireland by the: Translated and Edited by John O’Donovan. 7 vols. Dublin, 1856.

171. Ireland, History of, from the earliest period to the English Invasion: Rev. Geoffrey Keating: Translated from the Irish, and Noted by John O’Mahony. New York, 1857.