Tighearnmas, one of these monarchs, is said to have introduced the worship of idols into Ireland. From this it would appear, that the more refined Magian, or Sun-worship, had prevailed previously. He died, with "three-fourths" of the men of Ireland about him, on the night of Samhain, while worshipping the idol called Crom Cruach, at Magh Slacht, in Breifne. Tighearnmas reigned seventy-five years. He is said to have been the first who attempted the smelting of gold in Ireland; and the use of different colours, as an indication of rank, is also attributed to him.
Silver shields were now made (B.C. 1383) at Airget-Ros, by Enna Airgtheach, and four-horse chariots were first used in the time of Roitheachtaigh, who was killed by lightning near the Giant's Causeway. Ollamh Fodhla (the wise or learned man) distinguished himself still more by instituting triennial assemblies at Tara. Even should the date given by the Four Masters (1317 B.C.) be called in question, there is no doubt of the fact, which must have occurred some centuries before the Christian era; and this would appear to be the earliest instance of a national convocation or parliament in any country. Ollamh Fodhla also appointed chieftains over every cantred or hundred, he constructed a rath at Tara, and died there in the fortieth year of his reign.
At the reign of Cimbaoth (B.C. 716) we come to that period which Tighernach considers the commencement of indisputably authentic history. It is strange that he should have selected a provincial chief, and a period in no way remarkable except for the building of the palace of Emania. But the student of Irish pre-Christian annals may be content to commence with solid foundation as early as seven centuries before Christ. The era was an important one in universal history. The Greeks had then counted sixteen Olympiads, and crowned Pythagoras the victor. Hippomenes was archon at Athens. Romulus had been succeeded by Numa Pompilius, and the foundations of imperial Rome were laid in blood by barbarian hordes. The Chaldeans had just taken the palm in astronomical observations, and recorded for the first time a lunar eclipse; while the baffled Assyrian hosts relinquished the siege of Tyre, unhappily reserved for the cruel destruction accomplished by Alexander, a few centuries later. The prophecies of Isaiah were still resounding in the ears of an ungrateful people. He had spoken of the coming Christ and His all-peaceful mission in mystic imagery, and had given miraculous evidences of his predictions. But suffering should be the precursor of that marvellous advent. The Assyrian dashed in resistless torrent upon the fold. Israel was led captive. Hosea was in chains. Samaria and the kingdom of Israel were added to the conquests of Sennacherib; and the kingdom of Judah, harassed but not destroyed, waited the accomplishment of prophecy, and the measure of her crimes, ere the most ancient of peoples should for ever cease to be a nation.
Ugaine Mor is the next monarch who demands notice. His obituary record is thus given by the Four Masters:—"At the end of this year, A.M. 4606, Ugaine Mor, after he had been full forty years King of Ireland, and of the whole of the west of Europe, as far as Muir-Toirrian, was slain by Badhbhchad at Tealach-an-Choisgair, in Bregia. This Ugaine was he who exacted oaths by all the elements, visible and invisible, from the men of Ireland in general, that they would never contend for the sovereignty of Ireland with his children or his race."
Ugaine was succeeded by his son, Laeghaire Lorc, who was cruelly and treacherously killed by his brother, Cobhthach Cael. Indeed, few monarchs lived out their time in peace during this and the succeeding centuries. The day is darkest before the dawn, in the social and political as well as in the physical world. The Eternal Light was already at hand; the powers of darkness were aroused for the coming conflict; and deeds of evil were being accomplished, which make men shudder as they read. The assassination of Laeghaire was another manifestation of the old-world story of envy. The treacherous Cobhthach feigned sickness, which he knew would obtain a visit from his brother. When the monarch stooped to embrace him, he plunged a dagger into his heart. His next act was to kill his nephew, Ailill Aine; and his ill-treatment of Aine's son, Maen, was the consummation of his cruelty. The fratricide was at last slain by this very youth, who had now obtained the appellation of Labhraidh-Loingseach, or Lowry of the Ships. We have special evidence here of the importance of our Historic Tales, and also that the blending of fiction and fact by no means deteriorates from their value.
Love affairs form a staple ground for fiction, with a very substantial under-strata of facts, even in the nineteenth century; and the annals of pre-Christian Erinn are by no means deficient in the same fertile source of human interest. The History of the Exile is still preserved in the Leabhar Buidhe Lecain, now in the Library of Trinity College, Dublin. It is a highly romantic story, but evidently founded on fact, and full of interest as descriptive of public and private life in the fifth century before Christ. It tells how Maen, though supposed to be deaf and dumb, was, nevertheless, given in charge of two officers of the court to be educated; that he recovered or rather obtained speech suddenly, in a quarrel with another youth; and that he was as symmetrical of form and noble of bearing as all heroes of romance are bound to be. His uncle expelled him from the kingdom, and he took refuge at the court of King Scoriath. King Scoriath had a daughter, who was beautiful; and Maen, of course, acted as a knight was bound to do under such circumstances, and fell desperately in love with the princess. The Lady Moriath's beauty had bewildered more heads than that of the knight-errant; but the Lady Moriath's father and mother were determined their daughter should not marry.
The harper Craftine came to the rescue, and at last, by his all-entrancing skill, so ravished the whole party of knights and nobles, that the lovers were able to enjoy a tete-a-tete, and pledged mutual vows. As usual, the parents yielded when they found it was useless to resist; and, no doubt, the poet Craftine, who, poet and all as he was, nearly lost his head in the adventure, was the most welcome of all welcome guests at the nuptial feast. Indeed, he appears to have been retained as comptroller of the house and confidential adviser long after; for when Labhraidh Maen was obliged to fly the country, he confided his wife to the care of Craftine. On his return from France, he obtained possession of the kingdom, to which he was the rightful heir, and reigned over the men of Erinn for eighteen years.
Another Historic Tale gives an account of the destruction of the court of Da Derga, but we have not space for details. The Four Masters merely relate the fact in the following entry:—
"Conaire, the son of Ederscel, after having been seventy years in the sovereignty of Erinn, was slain at Bruighean Da Dhearga by insurgents." Another prince, Eochaidh Feidhlech, was famous for sighing. He rescinded the division of Ireland into twenty-five parts, which had been made by Ugaine Mor, and divided the island into five provinces, over each of which he appointed a provincial king, under his obedience. The famous Meadhbh, or Mab, was his daughter; and though unquestionably a lady of rather strong physical and mental capabilities, the lapse of ages has thrown an obscuring halo of romance round her belligerent qualifications, and metamorphosed her into the gentle "Faery Queen" of the poet Spenser. One of Meav's exploits is recorded in the famous Tain bo Chuailgne, which is to Celtic history what the Argonautic Expedition, or the Seven against Thebes, is to Grecian. Meav was married first to Conor, the celebrated provincial king of Ulster; but the marriage was not a happy one, and was dissolved, in modern parlance, on the ground of incompatibility. In the meanwhile, Meav's three brothers had rebelled against their father; and though his arms were victorious, the victory did not secure peace. The men of Connacht revolted against him, and to retain their allegiance he made his daughter Queen of Connacht, and gave her in marriage to Ailill, a powerful chief of that province. This prince, however, died soon after; and Meav, determined for once, at least, to choose a husband for herself, made a royal progress to Leinster, where Ross Ruadb held his court at Naas. She selected the younger son of this monarch, who bore the same name as her former husband, and they lived together happily as queen and king consort for many years. On one occasion, however, a dispute arose about their respective treasures, and this dispute led to a comparison of their property. The account of this, and the subsequent comparison, is given at length in the Tain, and is a valuable repertory of archaeological information. They counted their vessels, metal and wooden; they counted their finger rings, their clasps, their thumb rings, their diadems, and their gorgets of gold. They examined their many-coloured garments of crimson and blue, of black and green, yellow and mottled, white and streaked. All were equal. They then inspected their flocks and herds, swine from the forests, sheep from the pasture lands, and cows—here the first difference arose. It was one to excite Meav's haughty temper. There was a young bull found among Ailill's bovine wealth: it had been calved by one of Meav's cows; but "not deeming it honorable to be under a woman's control," it had attached itself to Ailill's herds. Meav was not a lady who could remain quiet under such provocation. She summoned her chief courier, and asked him could he a match for Finnbheannach (the white-horned). The courier declared that he could find even a superior animal; and at once set forth on his mission, suitably attended. Meav had offered the most liberal rewards for the prize she so much coveted; and the courier soon arranged with Dare, a noble of large estates, who possessed one of the valuable breed. A drunken quarrel, however, disarranged his plans. One of the men boasted that if Dare had not given the bull for payment, he should have been compelled to give it by force. Dare's steward heard the ill-timed and uncourteous boast. He flung down the meat and drink which he had brought for their entertainment, and went to tell his master the contemptuous speech. The result may be anticipated. Dare refused the much-coveted animal, and Meav proceeded to make good her claim by force of arms. But this is only the prologue of the drama; the details would fill a volume. It must suffice to say, that the bulls had a battle of their own. Finnbheannach and Donn Chuailgne (the Leinster bull) engaged in deadly combat, which is described with the wildest flights of poetic diction. The poor "white horn" was killed, and Donn Chuailgne, who had lashed himself to madness, dashed out his brains.
Meav lived to the venerable age of a hundred. According to Tighernach, she died A.D. 70, but the chronology of the Four Masters places her demise a hundred years earlier. This difference of calculation also makes it questionable what monarch reigned in Ireland at the birth of Christ. The following passage is from the Book of Ballymote, and is supposed to be taken from the synchronisms of Flann of Monasterboice: "In the fourteenth year of the reign of Conaire and of Conchobar, Mary was born; and in the fourth year after the birth of Mary, the expedition of the Tain bo Chuailgne took place. Eight years after the expedition of the Tain, Christ was born."
The Four Masters have the following entry after the age of the world 5194:—
THE AGE OF CHRIST.
"The first year of the age of Christ, and the eighth year of the reign of Crimhthann Niadhnair." Under the heading of the age of Christ 9, there is an account of a wonderful expedition of this monarch, and of all the treasures he acquired thereby. His "adventures" is among the list of Historic Tales in the Book of Leinster, but unfortunately there is no copy of this tract in existence. It was probably about this time that a recreant Irish chieftain tried to induce Agricola to invade Ireland. But the Irish Celts had extended the fame of their military prowess even to distant lands, and the Roman general thought it better policy to keep what he had than to risk its loss, and, perhaps, obtain no compensation. Previous to Caesar's conquest of Britain, the Irish had fitted out several expeditions for the plunder of that country, and they do not appear to have suffered from retaliation until the reign of Egbert. It is evident, however, that the Britons did not consider them their worst enemies, for we find mention of several colonies flying to the Irish shores to escape Roman tyranny, and these colonies were hospitably received. The passage in Tacitus which refers to the proposed invasion of Ireland by the Roman forces, is too full of interest to be omitted:—"In the fifth year of these expeditions, Agricola, passing over in the first ship, subdued in frequent victories nations hitherto unknown. He stationed troops along that part of Britain which looks to Ireland, more on account of hope than fear, since Ireland, from its situation between Britain and Spain, and opening to the Gallic Sea, might well connect the most powerful parts of the empire with reciprocal advantage. Its extent, compared with Britain, is narrower, but exceeds that of any islands of our sea. The genius and habits of the people, and the soil and climate, do not differ much from those of Britain. Its channels and ports are better known to commerce and to merchants. Agricola gave his protection to one of its petty kings, who had been expelled by faction; and with a show of friendship, he retained him for his own purposes. I often heard him say, that Ireland could he conquered and taken with one legion and a small reserve; and such a measure would have its advantages even as regards Britain, if Roman power were extended on every side, and liberty taken away as it were from the view of the latter island."
We request special attention to the observation, that the Irish ports were better known to commerce and merchants. Such a statement by such an authority must go far to remove any doubt as to the accounts given on this subject by our own annalists. The proper name of the recreant "regulus" has not been discovered, so that his infamy is transmitted anonymously to posterity. Sir John Davies has well observed, with regard to the boast of subduing Ireland so easily, "that if Agricola had attempted the conquest thereof with a far greater army, he would have found himself deceived in his conjecture." William of Neuburg has also remarked, that though the Romans harassed the Britons for three centuries after this event, Ireland never was invaded by them, even when they held dominion of the Orkney Islands, and that it yielded to no foreign power until the year 1171. Indeed, the Scots and Picts gave their legions quite sufficient occupation defending the ramparts of Adrian and Antoninus, to deter them from attempting to obtain more, when they could so hardly hold what they already possessed.
The insurrection of the Aitheach Tuatha, or Attacotti, is the next event of importance in Irish history. Their plans were deeply and wisely laid, and promised the success they obtained. It is one of the lessons of history which rulers in all ages would do well to study. There is a degree of oppression which even the most degraded will refuse to endure; there is a time when the injured will seek revenge, even should they know that this revenge may bring on themselves yet deeper wrongs. The leaders of the revolt were surely men of some judgment; and both they and those who acted under them possessed the two great qualities needed for such an enterprise. They were silent, for their plans were not even suspected until they were accomplished; they were patient, for these plans were three years in preparation. During three years the helots saved their scanty earnings to prepare a sumptuous death-feast for their unsuspecting victims. This feast was held at a place since called Magh Cru, in Connaught. The monarch, Fiacha Finnolaidh, the provincial kings and chiefs, were all invited, and accepted the invitation. But while the enjoyment was at its height, when men had drank deeply, and were soothed by the sweet strains of the harp, the insurgents did their bloody work. Three ladies alone escaped. They fled to Britain, and there each gave birth to a son—heirs to their respective husbands who had been slain.
After the massacre, the Attacotti elected their leader, Cairbre Cinn-Cait (or the Cat-head), to the royal dignity, for they still desired to live under a "limited monarchy." But revolutions, even when successful, and we had almost said necessary, are eminently productive of evil. The social state of a people when once disorganized, does not admit of a speedy or safe return to its former condition. The mass of mankind, who think more of present evils, however trifling, than of past grievances, however oppressive, begin to connect present evils with present rule, and having lost, in some degree, the memory of their ancient wrongs, desire to recall a dynasty which, thus viewed, bears a not unfavourable comparison with their present state.
Cairbre died after five years of most unprosperous royalty, and his son, the wise and prudent Morann, showed his wisdom and prudence by refusing to succeed him. He advised that the rightful heirs should be recalled. His advice was accepted. Fearadhach Finnfeachteach was invited to assume the reins of government. "Good was Ireland during this his time. The seasons were right tranquil; the earth brought forth its fruit; fishful its river-mouths; milkful the kine; heavy-headed the woods."
Another revolt of the Attacotti took place in the reign of Fiacha of the White Cattle. He was killed by the provincial kings, at the slaughter of Magh Bolg. Elim, one of the perpetrators of this outrage, obtained the crown, but his reign was singularly unprosperous; and Ireland was without corn, without milk, without fruit, without fish, and without any other great advantage, since the Aitheach Tuatha had killed Fiacha Finnolaidh in the slaughter of Magh Bolg, till the time of Tuathal Teachtmar.
Tuathal was the son of a former legitimate monarch, and had been invited to Ireland by a powerful party. He was perpetually at war with the Attacotti, but at last established himself firmly on the throne, by exacting an oath from the people, "by the sun, moon, and elements," that his posterity should not be deprived of the sovereignty. This oath was taken at Tara, where he had convened a general assembly, as had been customary with his predecessors at the commencement of each reign; but it was held by him with more than usual state. His next act was to take a small portion of land from each of the four provinces, forming what is now the present county of Meath, and retaining it as the mensal portion of the Ard-Righ, or supreme monarch. On each of these portions he erected a palace for the king of every province, details of which will be given when we come to that period of our history which refers to the destruction of Tara. Tuathal had at this time two beautiful and marriageable daughters, named Fithir and Dairine. Eochaidh Aincheann, King of Leinster, sought and obtained the hand of the younger daughter, Dairine, and after her nuptials carried her to his palace at Naas, in Leinster. Some time after, his people pursuaded him that he had made a bad selection, and that the elder was the better of the two sisters; upon which Eochaidh determined by stratagem to obtain the other daughter also. For this purpose he shut the young queen up in a secret apartment of his palace, and gave out a report that she was dead. He then repaired, apparently in great grief to Tara, informed the monarch that his daughter was dead, and demanded her sister in marriage. Tuathal gave his consent, and the false king returned home with his new bride. Soon after her arrival at Naas, her sister escaped from her confinement, and suddenly and unexpectedly encountered the prince and Fithir. In a moment she divined the truth, and had the additional anguish of seeing her sister, who was struck with horror and shame, fall dead before her face. The death of the unhappy princess, and the treachery of her husband, was too much for the young queen; she returned to her solitary chamber, and in a very short time died of a broken heart.
The insult offered to his daughters, and their untimely death, roused the indignation of the pagan monarch, and was soon bitterly avenged. At the head of a powerful force, he burned and ravaged Leinster to its utmost boundary, and then compelled its humbled and terror-stricken people to bind themselves and their descendants for ever to the payment of a triennial tribute to the monarch of Erinn, which, from the great number of cows exacted by it, obtained the name of the "Boromean Tribute"—bo being the Gaedhilic for a cow.
The tribute is thus described in the old annals:
"The men of Leinster were obliged to pay To Tuathal, and all the monarchs after him, Three-score hundred of the fairest cows, And three-score hundred ounces of pure silver, And three-score hundred mantles richly woven, And three-score hundred of the fattest hogs, And three-score hundred of the largest sheep, And three-score hundred cauldrons strong and polished."
It is elsewhere described as consisting of five thousand ounces of silver, five thousand mantles, five thousand fat cows, five thousand fat hogs, five thousand wethers, and five thousand vessels of brass or bronze for the king's laving, with men and maidens for his service.
The levying of the tribute was the cause of periodical and sanguinary wars, from the time of Tuathal until the reign of Finnachta the Festive. About the year 680 it was abolished by him, at the entreaty of St. Moling, of Tigh Moling (now St. Mullen's, in the county Carlow). It is said by Keating, that he a ailed himself of a pious ruse for this purpose,—asking the king to pledge himself not to exact the tribute until after Monday, and then, when his request was complied with, declaring that the Monday he intended was the Monday after Doomsday. The tribute was again revived and levied by Brian, the son of Cinneidigh, at the beginning of the eleventh century, as a punishment on the Leinster men for their adherence to the Danish cause. It was from this circumstance that Brian obtained the surname of Boroimhe.
 Samhain.—Now All Hallows Eve. The peasantry still use the pagan name. It is a compound word, signifying "summer" and "end."
 Breifne.—In the present county Cavan. We shall refer again to this subject, when mentioning St. Patrick's destruction of the idols.
 Colours.—Keating says that a slave was permitted only one colour, a peasant two, a soldier three, a public victualler five. The Ollamh ranked, with royalty, and was permitted six—another of the many proofs of extraordinary veneration for learning in pre-Christian Erinn. The Four Masters, however, ascribe the origin of this distinction to Eochaidh Eadghadhach. It is supposed that this is the origin of the Scotch plaid. The ancient Britons dyed their bodies blue. The Cymric Celts were famous for their colours.
 Emania.—The legend of the building of this palace will be given in a future chapter.
 France.—It is said that foreigners who came with him from Gaul were armed with broad-headed lances (called in Irish laighne), whence the province of Leinster has derived its name. Another derivation of the name, from coige, a fifth part, is attributed to the Firbolgs.
 Diction.-This tract contains a description of arms and ornaments which might well pass for a poetic flight of fancy, had we not articles of such exquisite workmanship in the Royal Irish Academy, which prove incontrovertibly the skill of the ancient artists of Erinn. This is the description of a champion's attire:—"A red and white cloak flutters about him; a golden brooch in that cloak, at his breast; a shirt of white, kingly linen, with gold embroidery at his skin; a white shield, with gold fastenings at his shoulder; a gold-hilted long sword at his left side; a long, sharp, dark green spear, together with a short, sharp spear, with a rich band and carved silver rivets in his hand."—O'Curry, p. 38. We give an illustration on previous page of a flint weapon of a ruder kind.
 Brains.—My friend, Denis Florence MacCarthy, Esq., M.R.I.A., our poet par excellence, is occupied at this moment in versifying some portions of this romantic story. I believe he has some intention of publishing the work in America, as American publishers are urgent in their applications to him for a complete and uniform edition of his poems, including his exquisite translations from the dramatic and ballad literature of Spain. We hope Irish publishers and the Irish people will not disgrace their country by allowing such a work to be published abroad. We are too often and too justly accused of deficiency in cultivated taste, which unfortunately makes trashy poems, and verbose and weakly-written prose, more acceptable to the majority than works produced by highly-educated minds. Irishmen are by no means inferior to Englishmen in natural gifts, yet, in many instances, unquestionably they have not or do not cultivate the same taste for reading, and have not the same appreciation of works of a higher class than the lightest literature. Much of the fault, no doubt, lies in the present system of education: however, as some of the professors in our schools and colleges appear to be aware of the deficiency, we may hope for better things.
 Lands.—Lhuid asserts that the names of the principal commanders in Gaul and Britain who opposed Caesar, are Irish Latinized.
 Received.—"They are said to have fled into Ireland, some for the sake of ease and quietness, others to keep their eyes untainted by Roman insolence."—See Harris' Ware. The Brigantes of Waterford, Tipperary, and Kilkenny, are supposed to have been emigrants, and to have come from the colony of that name in Yorkshire.
 Fear.—"In spem magis quam ob formidinem."
 Merchants.—"Melius aditus portusque per commercia et negotiatores cognitis."
 Island.—Vita Julii Agric. c. 24.
 Year.—Hist. Rer. Angl. lib. ii. c. 26.
 Aitheach Tuatha.—The word means rentpayers, or rentpaying tribes or people. It is probably used as a term of reproach, and in contradiction to the free men. It has been said that this people were the remnants of the inhabitants of Ireland before the Milesians colonized it. Mr. O'Curry denies this statement, and maintains that they were Milesians, but of the lower classes, who had been cruelly oppressed by the magnates of the land.
 State.—"Evil was the state of Ireland during his reign: fruitless the corn, for there used to be but one grain on the stalk; fruitless her rivers; milkless her cattle; plentiless her fruit, for there used to be but one acorn on the oak."—Four Masters, p. 97.
 Morann.—Morann was the inventor of the famous "collar of gold." The new monarch appointed him his chief Brehon or judge, and it is said that this collar closed round the necks of those who were guilty, but expanded to the ground when the wearer was innocent. This collar or chain is mentioned in several of the commentaries on the Brehon Laws, as one of the ordeals of the ancient Irish. The Four Masters style him "the very intelligent Morann."
 Woods.—Four Masters, p. 97.
 Magh Bolg.—Now Moybolgue, a parish in the county Cavan.
 Teachtmar, i.e., the legitimate, Four Masters, p. 99.—The history of the revolt of the Attacotti is contained in one of the ancient tracts called Histories. It is termed "The Origin of the Boromean Tribute." There is a copy of this most valuable work in the Book of Leinster, which, it will be remembered, was compiled in the twelfth century. The details which follow above concerning the Boromean Tribute, are taken from the same source.
 Polished.—Keating, p. 264.
Tuathal-Conn "of the Hundred Battles"—The Five Great Roads of Ancient Erinn—Conn's Half—Conaire II.—The Three Cairbres—Cormac Mac Airt—His Wise Decision—Collects Laws—His Personal Appearance-The Saltair of Tara written in Cormac's Reign—Finn Mac Cumhaill—His Courtship with the Princess Ailbhe—The Pursuit of Diarmaid and Grainne—Nial "of the Nine Hostages"—Dathi.
Tuathal reigned for thirty years, and is said to have fought no less than 133 battles with the Attacotti. He was at last slain himself by his successor, Nial, who, in his turn, was killed by Tuathal's son. Conn "of the Hundred Battles" is the next Irish monarch who claims more than a passing notice. His exploits are a famous theme with the bards, and a poem on his "Birth" forms part of the Liber Flavus Fergusorum, a MS. volume of the fifteenth century. His reign is also remarkable for the mention of five great roads which were then discovered or completed. One of these highways, the Eiscir Riada, extended from the declivity on which Dublin Castle now stands, to the peninsula of Marey, at the head of Galway Bay. It divided Conn's half of Ireland from the half possessed by Eoghan Mor, with whom he lived in the usual state of internecine feud which characterized the reigns of this early period. One of the principal quarrels between these monarchs, was caused by a complaint which Eoghan made of the shipping arrangements in Dublin. Conn's half (the northern side) was preferred, and Eoghan demanded a fair division. They had to decide their claims at the battle of Magh Lena. Eoghan was assisted by a Spanish chief, whose sister he had married. But the Iberian and his Celtic brother-in-law were both slain, and the mounds are still shown which cover their remains.
Conn was succeeded by Conaire II., the father of the three Cairbres, who were progenitors of important tribes. Cairbre Muse gave his name to six districts in Munster; the territory of Corcabaiscinn, in Clare, was named after Cairbre Bascain; and the Dalriada of Antrim were descended from Cairbre Riada. He is also mentioned by Bede under the name of Reuda, as the leader of the Scots who came from Hibernia to Alba. Three centuries later, a fresh colony of Dalriadans laid the foundation of the Scottish monarchy under Fergus, the son of Erc. Mac Con was the next Ard-Righ or chief monarch of Ireland. He obtained the royal power after a battle at Magh Mucruimhe, near Athenry, where Art the Melancholy, son of Con of the Hundred Battles, and the seven sons of Oilioll Oluim, were slain.
The reign of Cormac Mac Airt is unquestionably the most celebrated of all our pagan monarchs. During his early years he had been compelled to conceal himself among his mother's friends in Connaught; but the severe rule of the usurper Mac Con excited a desire for his removal, and the friends of the young prince were not slow to avail themselves of the popular feeling. He, therefore, appeared unexpectedly at Tara, and happened to arrive when the monarch was giving judgment in an important case, which is thus related: Some sheep, the property of a widow, residing at Tara, had strayed into the queen's private lawn, and eaten the grass. They were captured, and the case was brought before the king. He decided that the trespassers should be forfeited; but Cormac exclaimed that his sentence was unjust, and declared that as the sheep had only eaten the fleece of the land, they should only forfeit their own fleece. The vox populi applauded the decision. Mac Con started from his seat, and exclaimed: "That is the judgment of a king." At the same moment he recognized the prince, and commanded that he should be seized; but he had already escaped. The people now recognized their rightful king, and revolted against the usurper, who was driven into Munster. Cormac assumed the reins of government at Tara, and thus entered upon his brilliant and important career, A.D. 227.
Cormac commenced his government with acts of severity, which were, perhaps, necessary to consolidate his power. This being once firmly established, he devoted himself ardently to literary pursuits, and to regulate and civilize his dominions. He collected the national laws, and formed a code which remained in force until the English invasion, and was observed for many centuries after outside the Pale. The bards dwell with manifest unction on the "fruit and fatness" of the land in his time, and describe him as the noblest and most bountiful of all princes. Indeed, we can scarcely omit their account, since it cannot be denied that it pictures the costume of royalty in Ireland at that period, however poetically the details may be given. This, then, is the bardic photograph:—
"His hair was slightly curled, and of golden colour: a scarlet shield with engraved devices, and golden hooks, and clasps of silver: a wide-folding purple cloak on him, with a gem-set gold brooch over his breast; a gold torque around his neck; a white-collared shirt, embroidered with gold, upon him; a girdle with golden buckles, and studded with precious stones, around him; two golden net-work sandals with golden buckles upon him; two spears with golden sockets, and many red bronze rivets in his hand; while he stood in the full glow of beauty, without defect or blemish. You would think it was a shower of pearls that were set in his mouth; his lips were rubies; his symmetrical body was as white as snow; his cheek was like the mountain ash-berry; his eyes were like the sloe; his brows and eye-lashes were like the sheen of a blue-black lance."
The compilation of the Saltair of Tara, as we mentioned previously, is attributed to this monarch. Even in Christian times his praises are loudly proclaimed. The poet Maelmura, who lived in the eighth century, styles him Ceolach, or the Musical, and Kenneth O'Hartigan, who died A.D. 973, gives a glowing account of his magnificence and of his royal palace at Tara. O'Flaherty quotes a poem, which he says contains an account of three schools, instituted by Cormac at Tara; one for military discipline, one for history, and the third for jurisprudence. The Four Masters say: "It was this Cormac, son of Art, also, that collected the chronicles of Ireland to Teamhair [Tara], and ordered them to write the chronicles of Ireland in one book, which was named the Saltair of Teamhair. In that book were [entered] the coeval exploits and synchronisms of the kings of Ireland with the kings and emperors of the world, and of the kings of the provinces with the monarchs of Ireland. In it was also written what the monarchs of Ireland were entitled to [receive] from the provincial kings, and the rents and dues of the provincial kings from their subjects, from the noble to the subaltern. In it, also, were [described] the boundaries and mears of Ireland from shore to shore, from the provinces to the cantred, from the cantred to the townland, from the townland to the traighedh of land." Although the Saltair of Tara has disappeared from our national records, a law tract, called the Book of Acaill, is still in existence, which is attributed to this king. It is always found annexed to a Law Treatise by Cennfaelad the Learned, who died A.D. 677. In an ancient MS. in Trinity College, Dublin (Class H.L. 15, p. 149), it is stated that it was the custom, at the inauguration of Irish chiefs, to read the Instructions of the Kings (a work ascribed to Cormac) and his Laws.
There is a tradition that Cormac became a Christian before his death. In the thirty-ninth year of his reign, one of his eyes was thrust out by a spear, and he retired in consequence to one of those peaceful abodes of learning which were so carefully fostered in ancient Erinn. The high-minded nobility of this people is manifest notably in the law which required that the king should have no personal blemish; and in obedience to this law, Cormac vacated the throne. He died A.D. 266, at Cleiteach, near Stackallen Bridge, on the south bank of the Boyne. It is said that he was choked by a salmon bone, and that this happened through the contrivances of the druids, who wished to avenge themselves on him for his rejection of their superstitions.
This reign was made more remarkable by the exploits of his son-in-law, the famous Finn Mac Cumhaill (pronounced "coole"). Finn was famous both as a poet and warrior. Indeed, poetical qualifications were considered essential to obtain a place in the select militia of which he was the last commander. The courtship of the poet-warrior with the Princess Ailbhe, Cormac's daughter, is related in one of the ancient historic tales called Tochmarca, or Courtships. The lady is said to have been the wisest woman of her time, and the wooing is described in the form of conversations, which savour more of a trial of skill in ability and knowledge, than of the soft utterances which distinguish such narratives in modern days. It is supposed that the Fenian corps which he commanded was modelled after the fashion of the Roman legions; but its loyalty is more questionable, for it was eventually disbanded for insubordination, although the exploits of its heroes are a favourite topic with the bards. The Fenian poems, on which Macpherson founded his celebrated forgery, are ascribed to Finn's sons, Oisin and Fergus the Eloquent, and to his kinsman Caeilte, as well as to himself. Five poems only are ascribed to him, but these are found in MSS. of considerable antiquity. The poems of Oisin were selected by the Scotch writer for his grand experiment. He gave a highly poetical translation of what purported to be some ancient and genuine composition, but, unfortunately for his veracity, he could not produce the original. Some of the real compositions of the Fenian hero are, however, still extant in the Book of Leinster, as well as other valuable Fenian poems. There are also some Fenian tales in prose, of which the most remarkable is that of the Pursuit of Diarmaid and Grainne—a legend which has left its impress in every portion of the island to the present day. Finn, in his old age, asked the hand of Grainne, the daughter of Cormac Mac Airt; but the lady being young, preferred a younger lover. To effect her purpose, she drugged the guest-cup so effectually, that Finn, and all the guests invited with him, were plunged into a profound slumber after they had partaken of it. Oisin and Diarmaid alone escaped, and to them the Lady Grainne confided her grief. As true knights they were bound to rescue her from the dilemma. Oisin could scarcely dare to brave his father's vengeance, but Diarmaid at once fled with the lady. A pursuit followed, which extended all over Ireland, during which the young couple always escaped. So deeply is the tradition engraven in the popular mind, that the cromlechs are still called the "Beds of Diarmaid and Grainne," and shown as the resting-places of the fugitive lovers.
There are many other tales of a purely imaginative character, which, for interest, might well rival the world-famous Arabian Nights' Entertainments; and, for importance of details, illustrative of manners, customs, dress, weapons, and localities, are, perhaps, unequalled.
Nial of the Nine Hostages and Dathi are the last pagan monarchs who demand special notice. In the year 322, Fiacha Sraibhtine was slain by the three Collas, and a few short-lived monarchs succeeded. In 378, Crimhthann was poisoned by his sister, who hoped that her eldest son, Brian, might obtain the royal power. Her attempt failed, although she sacrificed herself for its accomplishment, by taking the poisoned cup to remove her brother's suspicions; and Nial of the Nine Hostages, the son of her husband by a former wife, succeeded to the coveted dignity. This monarch distinguished himself by predatory warfare against Albion and Gaul. The "groans" of the Britons testify to his success in that quarter, which eventually obliged them to become an Anglo-Saxon nation; and the Latin poet, Claudian, gives evidence that troops were sent by Stilicho, the general of Theodosius the Great, to repel his successful forays. His successor, Dathi, was killed by lightning at the foot of the Alps, and the possibility of this occurrence is also strangely verified from extrinsic sources.
 Roads.—Those roads were Slighe Asail, Slighe Midhluachra, Slighe Cualann, Slighe Dala, and Slighe Mor. Slighe Mor was the Eiscir Riada, and division line of Erinn into two parts, between Conn and Eoghan Mor. These five roads led to the fort of Teamair (Tara), and it is said that they were "discovered" on the birthnight of the former monarch. We shall refer to the subject again in a chapter on the civilization of the early Irish. There is no doubt of the existence of these roads, and this fact, combined with the care with which they were kept, is significant.
 Magh Lena.—The present parish of Moylana, or Kilbride, Tullamore, King's county.
 Reuda.—Bede, Eccl. Hist. p. 7.
 Lance.—O'Curry, p. 45. This quotation is translated by Mr. O'Curry, and is taken from the Book of Ballymote. This book, however, quotes it from the Uachongbhail, a much older authority.
 Write.—Professor O'Curry well observes, that "such a man could scarcely have carried out the numerous provisions of his comprehensive enactments without some written medium. And it is no unwarrantable presumption to suppose, that, either by his own hand, or, at least, in his own time, by his command, his laws were committed to writing; and when we possess very ancient testimony to this effect, I can see no reason for rejecting it, or for casting a doubt upon the statement."—MS. Materials, p. 47. Mr. Petrie writes, if possible, more strongly. He says: "It is difficult, if not impossible, to conceive how the minute and apparently accurate accounts found in the various MSS. of the names and localities of the Attacottic tribes of Ireland in the first century, could have been preserved, without coming to the conclusion that they had been preserved in writing in some work."—Essay on Tara Hill, p. 46. Elsewhere, however, he speaks more doubtfully.
 Land.—Four Masters, p. 117.
 Collas.—They were sons of Eochaidh Domlen, who made themselves famous by their warlike exploits, and infamous by their destruction of the palace of Emania.
 Groans.—Bede, Eccl. Hist. c. 12.
 Sources.—The Abbe M'Geoghegan says that there is a very ancient registry in the archives of the house of Sales, which mentions that the King of Ireland remained some time in the Castle of Sales. See his History, p. 94.
St. Patrick—How Ireland was first Christianized—Pagan Rome used providentially to promote the Faith—The Mission of St. Palladius—Innocent I. claims authority to found Churches and condemn Heresy—Disputes concerning St. Patrick's Birthplace—Ireland receives the Faith generously—Victoricus—St. Patrick's Vision—His Roman Mission clearly proved—Subterfuges of those who deny it—Ancient Lives of the Saint—St. Patrick's Canons—His Devotion and Submission to the Holy See.
It has been conjectured that the great Apostle of Ireland, St. Patrick, was carried captive to the land of his adoption, in one of the plundering expeditions of the monarch Nial—an eminent instance of the overruling power of Providence, and of the mighty effects produced by causes the most insignificant and unconscious. As we are not writing an ecclesiastical history of Ireland, and as we have a work of that nature in contemplation, we shall only make brief mention of the events connected with the life and mission of the saint at present; but the Christianizing of any country must always form an important epoch, politically and socially, and, as such, demands the careful consideration of the historian. How and when the seed of faith was sown in ancient Erinn before the time of the great Apostle, cannot now be ascertained. We know the silent rapidity with which that faith spread, from its first promulgation by the shores of the Galilean lake, until it became the recognized religion of earth's mightiest empire. We know, also, that, by a noticeable providence, Rome was chosen from the beginning as the source from whence the light should emanate. We know how pagan Rome, which had subdued and crushed material empires, and scattered nations and national customs as chaff before the wind, failed utterly to subdue or crush this religion, though promulgated by the feeblest of its plebeians. We know how the material prosperity of that mighty people was overruled for the furtherance of eternal designs; and as the invincible legions continually added to the geographical extent of the empire they also added to the number of those to whom the gospel of peace should be proclaimed.
The first Christian mission to Ireland, for which we have definite and reliable data, was that of St. Palladius. St. Prosper, who held a high position in the Roman Church, published a chronicle in the year 433, in which we find the following register: "Palladius was consecrated by Pope Celestine, and sent as the first Bishop to the Irish believing in Christ." This mission was unsuccessful. Palladius was repulsed by the inhabitants of Wicklow, where he landed. He then sailed northward, and was at last driven by stress of weather towards the Orkneys, finding harbour, eventually, on the shores of Kincardineshire. Several ancient tracts give the details of his mission, its failure, and his subsequent career. The first of those authorities is the Life of St. Patrick in the Book of Armagh; and in this it is stated that he died in the "land of the Britons." The second Life of St. Patrick, in Colgan's collection, has changed Britons into "Picts." In the "Annotations of Tierchan," also preserved in the Book of Armagh, it is said that Palladius was also called Patricius, and that he suffered martyrdom among the Scots, "as ancient saints relate."
Prosper also informs us, that Palladius was a deacon of the Roman Church, and that he received a commission from the Holy See to send Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre, to root out heresy, and convert the Britons to the Catholic faith. Thus we find the Church, even in the earliest ages, occupied in her twofold mission of converting the heathen, and preserving the faithful from error. St. Innocent I., writing to Decentius, in the year 402, refers thus to this important fact: "Is it not known to all that the things which have been delivered to the Roman Church by Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and preserved ever since, should be observed by all; and that nothing is to be introduced devoid of authority, or borrowed elsewhere? Especially, as it is manifest that no one has founded churches for all Italy, the Gauls, Spain, Africa, and the interjacent islands, except such as were appointed priests by the venerable Peter and his successors."
Palladius was accompanied by four companions: Sylvester and Solinus, who remained after him in Ireland; and Augustinus and Benedictus, who followed him to Britain, but returned to their own country after his death. The Vita Secunda mentions that he brought relics of the blessed Peter and Paul, and other saints, to Ireland, as well as copies of the Old and New Testament, all of which were given to him by Pope Celestine.
The birthplace of the great Apostle of Ireland has long been, and still continues, a subject of controversy. St. Fiacc states that he was born at Nemthur, and the Scholiast on St. Fiacc's Hymn identifies this with Alcuith, now Dumbarton, on the Firth of Clyde. The most reliable authority unquestionably is St. Patrick's own statements, in his Confessio. He there says (1) that his father had a farm or villa at Bonavem Taberniae, from whence he was taken captive. It does not follow necessarily from this, that St. Patrick was born there; but it would appear probable that this was a paternal estate. (2)The saint speaks of Britanniae as his country. The difficulty lies in the identification of these places. In the Vita Secunda, Nemthur and Campus Taberniae are identified. Probus writes, that he had ascertained as a matter of certainty, that the Vicus Bannave Taburniae regionis was situated in Neustria. The Life supposed to be by St. Eleran, states that the parents of the saint were of Strats-Cludi (Strath-Clyde), but that he was born in Nemthur—"Quod oppidum in Campo Taburniae est;" thus indicating an early belief that France was the land of his nativity. St. Patrick's mention of Britanniae, however, appears to be conclusive. There was a tribe called Brittani in northern France, mentioned by Pliny, and the Welsh Triads distinctly declare that the Britons of Great Britain came from thence.
There can be no doubt, however, that St. Patrick was intimately connected with Gaul. His mother, Conchessa, was either a sister or niece of the great St. Martin of Tours; and it was undoubtedly from Gaul that the saint was carried captive to Ireland.
Patrick was not the baptismal name of the saint; it was given him by St. Celestine as indicative of rank, or it may be with some prophetic intimation of his future greatness. He was baptized by the no less significant appellation of Succat—"brave in battle." But his warfare was not with a material foe. Erinn received the faith at his hands, with noble and unexampled generosity; and one martyr, and only one, was sacrificed in preference of ancient pagan rites; while we know that thousands have shed their blood, and it maybe hundreds even in our own times have sacrificed their lives, to preserve the treasure so gladly accepted, so faithfully preserved.
Moore, in his History of Ireland, exclaims, with the force of truth, and the eloquence of poetry: "While in all other countries the introduction of Christianity has been the slow work of time, has been resisted by either government or people, and seldom effected without lavish effusion of blood, in Ireland, on the contrary, by the influence of one zealous missionary, and with but little previous preparation of the soil by other hands, Christianity burst forth at the first ray of apostolic light, and, with the sudden ripeness of a northern summer, at once covered the whole land. Kings and princes, when not themselves amongst the ranks of the converted, saw their sons and daughters joining in the train without a murmur. Chiefs, at variance in all else, agreed in meeting beneath the Christian banner; and the proud druid and bard laid their superstitions meekly at the foot of the cross; nor, by a singular blessing of Providence—unexampled, indeed, in the whole history of the Church—was there a single drop of blood shed on account of religion through the entire course of this mild Christian revolution, by which, in the space of a few years, all Ireland was brought tranquilly under the dominion of the Gospel."
It is probable that St. Patrick was born in 387, and that in 403 he was made captive and carried into Ireland. Those who believe Alcuith or Dumbarton to have been his birthplace, are obliged to account for his capture in Gaul—which has never been questioned—by supposing that he and his family had gone thither to visit the friends of his mother, Conchessa. He was sold as a slave, in that part of Dalriada comprised in the county of Antrim, to four men, one of whom, Milcho, bought up their right from the other three, and employed him in feeding sheep or swine. Exposed to the severity of the weather day and night, a lonely slave in a strange land, and probably as ignorant of the language as of the customs of his master, his captivity, would, indeed, have been a bitter one, had he not brought with him, from a holy home, the elements of most fervent piety. A hundred times in the day, and a hundred times in the night, he lifted up the voice of prayer and supplication to the Lord of the bondman and the free, and faithfully served the harsh, and at times cruel, master to whom Providence had assigned him. Perhaps he may have offered his sufferings for those who were serving a master even more harsh and cruel.
After six years he was miraculously delivered. A voice, that was not of earth, addressed him in the stillness of the night, and commanded him to hasten to a certain port, where he would find a ship ready to take him to his own country. "And I came," says the saint, "in the power of the Lord, who directed my course towards a good end; and I was under no apprehension until I arrived where the ship was. It was then clearing out, and I called for a passage. But the master of the vessel got angry, and said to me, 'Do not attempt to come with us.' On hearing this I retired, for the purpose of going to the cabin where I had been received as a guest. And, on my way thither, I began to pray; but before I had finished my prayer, I heard one of the men crying out with a loud voice after me, 'Come, quickly; for they are calling you,' and immediately I returned. And they said to me, 'Come, we receive thee on trust. Be our friend, just as it may be agreeable to you.' We then set sail, and after three days reached land." The two Breviaries of Rheims and Fiacc's Hymn agree in stating that the men with whom Patrick embarked were merchants from Gaul, and that they landed in a place called Treguir, in Brittany, some distance from his native place. Their charity, however, was amply repaid. Travelling through a desert country, they had surely perished with hunger, had not the prayers of the saint obtained them a miraculous supply of food.
It is said that St. Patrick suffered a second captivity, which, however, only lasted sixty days; but of this little is known. Neither is the precise time certain, with respect to these captivities, at which the events occurred which we are about to relate. After a short residence at the famous monastery of St. Martin, near Tours, founded by his saintly relative, he placed himself (probably in his thirtieth year) under the direction of St. Germain of Auxerre.
It was about this period that he was favoured with the remarkable vision or dream relating to his Irish apostolate. He thus describes it in his Confessio:—
"I saw, in a nocturnal vision, a man named Victoricus coming as if from Ireland, with a large parcel of letters, one of which he handed to me. On reading the beginning of it, I found it contained these words: 'The voice of the Irish;' and while reading it I thought I heard, at the same moment, the voice of a multitude of persons near the Wood of Foclut, which is near the western sea; and they cried out, as if with one voice, 'We entreat thee, holy youth, to come and henceforth walk amongst us.' And I was greatly affected in my heart, and could read no longer; and then I awoke."
St. Patrick retired to Italy after this vision, and there spent many years. During this period he visited Lerins, and other islands in the Mediterranean. Lerins was distinguished for its religious and learned establishments; and probably St. Germain, under whose direction the saint still continued, had recommended him to study there. It was at this time that he received the celebrated staff, called the Bachall Isu, or Staff of Jesus.
St. Bernard mentions this Bachall Isu, in his life of St. Malachy, as one of those insignia of the see of Armagh, which were popularly believed to confer upon the possessor a title to be regarded and obeyed as the successor of St. Patrick. Indeed, the great antiquity of this long-treasured relic has never been questioned; nor is there any reason to suppose that it was not in some way a miraculous gift.
Frequent notices of this pastoral staff are found in ancient Irish history. St. Fiacc speaks of it as having been richly adorned by an ecclesiastic contemporary with the saint.
A curious MS. is still preserved in the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey, containing an examination of "Sir Gerald Machshayne, knight, sworn 19th March, 1529, upon the Holie Mase-booke and the great relicke of Erlonde, called Baculum Christi, the presence of the Kynge's Deputie, Chancellour, Tresoror, and Justice."
Perhaps it may be well to conclude the account of this interesting relic by a notice of its wanton destruction, as translated from the Annals of Loch Ce by Professor O'Curry:—
"The most miraculous image of Mary, which was at Baile Atha Truim (Trim), and which the Irish people had all honoured for a long time before that, which used to heal the blind, the deaf, the lame, and every disease in like manner, was burned by the Saxons. And the Staff of Jesus, which was in Dublin, and which wrought many wonders and miracles in Erinn since the time of Patrick down to that time, and which was in the hand of Christ Himself, was burned by the Saxons in like manner. And not only that, but there was not a holy cross, nor an image of Mary, nor other celebrated image in Erinn over which their power reached, that they did not burn. Nor was there one of the seven Orders which came under their power that they did not ruin. And the Pope and the Church in the East and at home were excommunicating the Saxons on that account, and they did not pay any attention or heed unto that, &c. And I am not certain whether it was not in the year preceding the above [A.D. 1537] that these relics were burned."
St. Patrick visited Rome about the year 431, accompanied by a priest named Segetius, who was sent with him by St. Germanus to vouch for the sanctity of his character, and his fitness for the Irish mission. Celestine received him favourably, and dismissed him with his benediction and approbation. St. Patrick then returned once more to his master, who was residing at Auxerre. From thence he went into the north of Gaul, and there receiving intelligence of the death of St. Palladius, and the failure of his mission, he was immediately consecrated bishop by the venerable Amato, a prelate of great sanctity, then residing in the neighbourhood of Ebovia. Auxilius, Isserninus, and other disciples of the saint, received holy orders at the same time. They were subsequently promoted to the episcopacy in the land of their adoption.
In the year 432 St. Patrick landed in Ireland. It was the first year of the pontificate of St. Sixtus III., the successor of Celestine; the fourth year of the reign of Laeghaire, son of Nial of the Nine Hostages, King of Ireland. It is generally supposed that the saint landed first at a place called Inbher De, believed to be the mouth of the Bray river, in Wicklow. Here he was repulsed by the in habitants,—a circumstance which can be easily accounted for from its proximity to the territory of King Nathi, who had so lately driven away his predecessor, Palladius.
St. Patrick returned to his ship, and sailing towards the north landed at the little island of Holm Patrick, near Skerries, off the north coast of Dublin. After a brief stay he proceeded still farther northward, and finally entering Strangford Lough, landed with his companions in the district of Magh-Inis, in the present barony of Lecale. Having penetrated some distance into the interior, they were encountered by Dicho, the lord of the soil, who, hearing of their embarkation, and supposing them to be pirates, had assembled a formidable body of retainers to expel them from his shores. But it is said that the moment he perceived, Patrick, his apprehensions vanished. After some brief converse, Dicho invited the saint and his companions to his house, and soon after received himself the grace of holy baptism. Dicho was St. Patrick's first convert, and the first who erected a Christian church under his direction. The memory of this event is still preserved in the name Saull, the modern contraction of Sabhall Padruic, or Patrick's Barn. The saint was especially attached to the scene of his first missionary success, and frequently retired to the monastery which was established there later.
After a brief residence with the new converts, Patrick set out for the habitation of his old master, Milcho, who lived near Slieve Mis, in the present county of Antrim, then part of the territory called Dalriada. It is said that when Milcho heard of the approach of his former slave, he became so indignant, that, in a violent fit of passion, he set fire to his house, and perished himself in the flames. The saint returned to Saull, and from thence journeyed by water to the mouth of the Boyne, where he landed at a small port called Colp. Tara was his destination; but on his way thither he stayed a night at the house of a man of property named Seschnan. This man and his whole family were baptized, and one of his sons received the name of Benignus from St. Patrick, on account of the gentleness of his manner. The holy youth attached himself from this moment to his master, and was his successor in the primatial see of Armagh.
Those who are anxious, for obvious reasons, to deny the fact of St. Patrick's mission from Rome, do so on two grounds: first, the absence of a distinct statement of this mission in one or two of the earliest lives of the saints; and his not having mentioned it himself in his genuine writings. Second, by underrating the value of those documents which do mention this Roman mission. With regard to the first objection, it is obvious that a hymn which was written merely as a panegyric (the Hymn of St. Fiacc) was not the place for such details. But St. Fiacc does mention that Germanus was the saint's instructor, and that "he read his canons," i.e., studied theology under him.
St. Patrick's Canons, which even Usher admits to be genuine, contain the following passage. We give Usher's own translation, as beyond all controversy for correctness:—"Whenever any cause that is very difficult, and unknown unto all the judges of the Scottish nation, shall arise, it is rightly to be referred to the See of the Archbishop of the Irish (that is, of Patrick), and to the examination of the prelate thereof. But if there, by him and his wise men, a cause of this nature cannot easily be made up, we have decreed it shall be sent to the See Apostolic, that is to say, to the chair of the Apostle Peter, which hath the authority of the city of Rome." Usher's translation of St. Patrick's Canon is sufficiently plain, and evidently he found it inconveniently explicit, for he gives a "gloss" thereon, in which he apologizes for St. Patrick's Roman predilections, by suggesting that the saint was influenced by a "special regard for the Church of Rome." No doubt this was true; it is the feeling of all good Catholics; but it requires something more than a "special regard" to inculcate such absolute submission; and we can scarcely think even Usher himself could have gravely supposed, that a canon written to bind the whole Irish Church, should have inculcated a practice of such importance, merely because St. Patrick had a regard for the Holy See. This Canon was acted upon in the Synod of Magh-Lene, in 630, and St. Cummian attests the fact thus:—"In accordance with the canonical, decree, that if questions of grave moment arise, they shall be referred to the head of cities, we sent such as we knew were wise and humble men to Rome." But there is yet another authority for St. Patrick's Roman mission. There is an important tract by Macutenius, in the Book of Armagh. The authenticity of the tract has not, and indeed could not, be questioned; but a leaf is missing: happily, however, the titles of the chapters are preserved, so there can be no doubt as to what they contained. In these headings we find the following:—
"5. De aetate ejus quando iens videre Sedem Apostolicam voluit discere sapientiam."
"6. De inventione Sancti Germani in Galiis et ideo non exivit ultra."
Dr. Todd, by joining these two separate titles, with more ingenuity than fairness, has made it appear that "St. Patrick desired to visit the Apostolic See, and there to learn wisdom, but that meeting with St. Germanus in Gaul he went no further." Even could the headings of two separate chapters be thus joined together, the real meaning of et ideo non exivit ultra would be, that St. Patrick never again left Germanus,—a meaning too obviously inadmissible to require further comment. But it is well known that the life of St. Patrick which bears the name of Probus, is founded almost verbally on the text of Macutenius, and this work supplies the missing chapters. They clearly relate not only the Roman mission of the saint, but also the saint's love of Rome, and his desire to obtain from thence "due authority" that he might "preach with confidence."
 Christ.—"Ad Scotos in Christum credentes ordinatur a papa Caelestino Palladius et primus episcopus mittitur."—Vet. Lat. Scrip. Chron. Roncallius, Padua, 1787.
 Wicklow.—Probably on the spot where the town of Wicklow now stands. It was then called the region of Hy-Garchon. It is also designated Fortreatha Laighen by the Scholiast on Fiacc's Hymn. The district, probably, received this name from the family of Eoichaidh Finn Fothart, a brother of Conn of the Hundred Battles.
 Armagh—Fol. 16, a.a.
 Patricius.—This name was but an indication of rank. In the later years of the Roman Empire, Gibbon says, "the meanest subjects of the Roman Empire [5th century] assumed the illustrious name of Patricius."—Decline and Fall, vol. viii. p. 300. Hence the confusion that arose amongst Celtic hagiographers, and the interchanging of the acts of several saints who bore the same name.
 Deacon.—This was an important office in the early Roman Church.
 Heresy.—The Pelagian.
 Followed him.—The Four Masters imply, however, that they remained in Ireland. They also name the three wooden churches which he erected. Celafine, which has not been identified; Teach-na-Romhan, House of the Romans, probably Tigroni; and Domhnach-Arta, probably the present Dunard.—Annals, p. 129.
 Nemthur.—The n is merely a prefix; it should read Em-tur.
 Celestine.—See the Scholiast on Fiacc's Hymn.
 Preserved.—It is much to be regretted that almost every circumstance in the life of St. Patrick has been made a field for polemics. Dr. Todd, of whom one might have hoped better things, has almost destroyed the interest of his otherwise valuable work by this fault. He cannot allow that St. Patrick's mother was a relative of St. Martin of Tours, obviously because St. Martin's Catholicity is incontrovertible. He wastes pages in a vain attempt to disprove St. Patrick's Roman mission, for similar reasons; and he cannot even admit that the Irish received the faith as a nation, all despite the clearest evidence; yet so strong is the power of prejudice, that he accepts far less proof for other questions.
 Victoricus.—There were two saints, either of whom might have been the mysterious visitant who invited St. Patrick to Ireland. St. Victoricus was the great missionary of the Morini, at the end of the fourth century. There was also a St. Victoricus who suffered martyrdom at Amiens, A.D. 286. Those do not believe that the saints were and are favoured with supernatural communications, and whose honesty compels them to admit the genuineness of such documents as the Confession of St. Patrick, are put to sad straits to explain away what he writes.
 Lerins.—See Monks of the West, v. i. p. 463. It was then styled insula beata.
 St. Germain.—St. Fiacc, who, it will be remembered, was contemporary with St. Patrick, write thus in his Hymn:
"The angel, Victor, sent Patrick over the Alps; Admirable was his journey— Until he took his abode with Germanus, Far away in the south of Letha. In the isles of the Tyrrhene sea he remained; In them he meditated; He read the canon with Germanus— This, histories make known."
 Canons—This Canon is found in the Book of Armagh, and in that part of that Book which was copied from St. Patrick's own manuscript. Even could it be proved that St. Patrick never wrote these Canons, the fact that they are in the Book of Armagh, which was compiled, according to O'Curry, before the year 727, and even at the latest before the year 807, is sufficient to prove the practice of the early Irish Church on this important subject.
 Further.—Life of St. Patrick, p. 315.
St. Patrick visits Tara—Easter Sunday—St. Patrick's Hymn—Dubtach salute him—He overthrows the Idols at Magh Slecht—The Princesses Ethnea and Fethlimia—Their Conversion—Baptism of Aengus—St. Patrick travels through Ireland—His Success in Munster—He blesses the whole country from Cnoc Patrick—The First Irish Martyr—St. Patrick's Death—Pagan Prophecies—Conor Mac Nessa—Death of King Laeghaire—The Church did not and does not countenance Pagan Superstition—Oilioll Molt—Death of King Aengus—Foundation of the Kingdom of Scotland—St. Brigid—Shrines of the Three Saints—St Patrick's Prayer for Ireland, and its Fulfilment.
On Holy Saturday St. Patrick arrived at Slane, where he caused a tent to be erected, and lighted the paschal fire at nightfall, preparatory to the celebration of the Easter festival. The princes and chieftains of Meath were, at the same time, assembled at Tara, where King Laeghaire was holding a great pagan festival. The object of this meeting has been disputed, some authorities saying that it was convoked to celebrate the Beltinne, or fire of Bal or Baal; others, that the king was commemorating his own birthday. On the festival of Beltinne it was forbidden to light any fire until a flame was visible from the top of Tara Hill. Laeghaire was indignant that this regulation should have been infringed; and probably the representation of his druids regarding the mission of the great apostle, did not tend to allay his wrath. Determined to examine himself into the intention of these bold strangers, he set forth, accompanied, by his bards and attendants, to the place where the sacred fire had been kindled, and ordered the apostle to be brought before him strictly commanding, at the same time, that no respect should be shown to him.
Notwithstanding the king's command, Erc, the son of Dego, rose up to salute him, obtained the grace of conversion, and was subsequently promoted to the episcopate. The result of this interview was the appointment of a public discussion, to take place the next day at Tara, between St. Patrick and the pagan bards.
It was Easter Sunday—a day ever memorable for this event in the annals of Erinn. Laeghaire and his court sat in state to receive the ambassador of the Eternal King. Treacherous preparations had been made, and it was anticipated that Patrick and his companions would scarcely reach Tara alive. The saint was aware of the machinations of his enemies; but life was of no value to him, save as a means of performing the great work assigned him, and the success of that work was in the safe keeping of Another. The old writers love to dwell on the meek dignity of the apostle during this day of trial and triumph. He set forth with his companions, from where he had encamped, in solemn procession, singing a hymn of invocation which he had composed, in the Irish tongue, for the occasion, and which is still preserved, and well authenticated. He was clothed as usual, in white robes; but he wore his mitre, and carried in his hand the Staff of Jesus. Eight priests attended him, robed also in white, and his youthful convert, Benignus, the son of Seschnan.
Thus, great in the arms of meekness and prayer, did the Christian hosts calmly face the array of pagan pomp and pride. Again the monarch had commanded that no honour should be paid to the saint, and again he was disobeyed. His own chief poet and druid, Dubtach, rose up instantly on the entrance of the strangers, and saluted the venerable apostle with affection and respect. The Christian doctrine was then explained by St. Patrick to his wondering audience, and such impression made, that although Laeghaire lived and died an obstinate pagan, he nevertheless permitted the saint to preach where and when he would, and to receive all who might come to him for instruction or holy baptism.
On the following day St. Patrick repaired to Taillten, where the public games were commencing; and there he remained for a week, preaching to an immense concourse of people. Here his life was threatened by Cairbre, a brother of King Laeghaire; but the saint was defended by another of the royal brothers, named Conall Creevan, who was shortly after converted. The church of Donough Patrick, in Meath, was founded by his desire. It is said that all the Irish churches which begin with the name Donough were founded by the saint, the foundation being always marked out by him on a Sunday, for which Domhnach is the Gaedhilic term.
Having preached for some time in the western part of the territory of Meath, the saint proceeded as far as Magh Slecht, where the great idol of the nation, Ceann [or Crom] Cruach was solemnly worshipped. The legend of its destruction, as given in the oldest annals, is singularly interesting. We give a brief extract from Professor O'Curry's translation: "When Patrick saw the idol from the water, which is named Guthard [loud voice] (i.e., he elevated his voice); and when he approached near the idol, he raised his arm to lay the Staff of Jesus on him, and it did not reach him; he bent back from the attempt upon his right side, for it was to the south his face was; and the mark of the staff lies in his left side still although the staff did not leave Patrick's hand; and the earth swallowed the other twelve idols to their heads; and they are in that condition in commemoration of the miracle. And he called upon all the people cum rege Laeghuire; they it was that adored the idol. And all the people saw him (i.e., the demon), and they dreaded their dying if Patrick had not sent him to hell."
After this glorious termination of Easter week, the saint made two other important converts. He set out for Connaught; and when near Rath Cruaghan, met the daughters of King Laeghaire, the princesses Ethnea and Fethlimia, who were coming, in patriarchal fashion, to bathe in a neighbouring well. These ladies were under the tuition of certain druids, or magi; but they willingly listened to the instruction of the saint, and were converted and baptized.
The interview took place at daybreak. The royal sisters heard the distant chant of the priests, who were reciting matins as they walked along; and when they approached and beheld them in their white garments, singing, with books in their hands, it was naturally supposed that they were not beings of earth.
"Who are ye?" they inquired of the saint and his companions. "Are ye of the sea, the heavens, or the earth?"
St. Patrick explained to them such of the Christian mysteries as were most necessary at the moment, and spoke of the one only true God.
"But where," they asked, "does your God dwell? Is it in the sun or on earth, in mountains or in valleys, in the sea or in rivers?"
Then the apostle told them of his God,—the Eternal, the Invisible,—and how He had indeed dwelt on earth as man, but only to suffer and die for their salvation. And as the maidens listened to his words, their hearts were kindled with heavenly love, and they inquired further what they could do to show their gratitude to this great King. In that same hour they were baptized; and in a short time they consecrated themselves to Him, the story of whose surpassing charity had so moved their young hearts.
Their brother also obtained the grace of conversion; and an old Irish custom of killing a sheep on St. Michael's Day, and distributing it amongst the poor, is said to date from a miracle performed by St. Patrick for this royal convert.
Nor is the story of Aengus, another royal convert, less interesting. About the year 445, the saint, after passing through Ossory, and converting a great number of people, entered the kingdom of Munster. His destination was Cashel, from whence King Aengus, the son of Natfraech, came forth to meet him with the utmost reverence.
This prince had already obtained some knowledge of Christianity, and demanded the grace of holy baptism.
The saint willingly complied with his request. His courtiers assembled with royal state to assist at the ceremony. St. Patrick carried in his hand, as usual, the Bachall Isu; at the end of this crozier there was a sharp iron spike, by which he could plant it firmly in the ground beside him while preaching, or exercising his episcopal functions. On this occasion, however, he stuck it down into the king's foot, and did not perceive his mistake until—
"The royal foot transfixed, the gushing blood Enrich'd the pavement with a noble flood."
The ceremony had concluded, and the prince had neither moved nor complained of the severe suffering he had endured. When the saint expressed his deep regret for such an occurrence, Aengus merely replied that he believed it to be a part of the ceremony, and did not appear to consider any suffering of consequence at such a moment.
When such was the spirit of the old kings of Erinn who received the faith of Christ from Patrick, we can scarcely marvel that their descendants have adhered to it with such unexampled fidelity.
After the conversion of the princesses Ethnea and Fethlimia, the daughters of King Laeghaire, St. Patrick traversed almost every part of Connaught, and, as our divine Lord promised to those whom He commissioned to teach all nations, proved his mission by the exercise of miraculous powers. Some of his early biographers have been charged with an excess of credulity on this point. But were this the place or time for such a discussion, it might easily be shown that miracles were to be expected when a nation was first evangelized, and that their absence should be rather a matter of surprise than their frequency or marvellousness. He who alone could give the commission to preach, had promised that "greater things" than He Himself did should be done by those thus commissioned. And after all, what greater miracle could there be than that one who had been enslaved, and harshly, if not cruelly treated, should become the deliverer of his enslavers from spiritual bondage, and should sacrifice all earthly pleasures for their eternal gain? Nor is the conversion of the vast multitude who listened to the preaching of the saint, less marvellous than those events which we usually term the most supernatural.
The saint's greatest success was in the land of Tirawley, near the town of Foclut, from whence he had heard the voice of the Irish even in his native land. As he approached this district, he learned that the seven sons of King Amalgaidh were celebrating a great festival. Their father had but lately died, and it was said these youths exceeded all the princes of the land in martial courage and skill in combat. St. Patrick advanced in solemn procession even into the very midst of the assembly, and for his reward obtained the conversion of the seven princes and twelve thousand of their followers. It is said that his life was at this period in some danger, but that Endeus, one of the converted princes, and his son Conall, protected him. After seven years spent in Connaught, he passed into Ulster; there many received the grace of holy baptism, especially in that district now comprised in the county Monaghan.
It was probably about this time that the saint returned to Meath, and appointed his nephew, St. Secundinus or Sechnal, who was bishop of the place already mentioned as Domhnach Sechnail, to preside over the northern churches during his own absence in the southern part of Ireland.
The saint then visited those parts of Leinster which had been already evangelized by Palladius, and laid the foundation of many new churches. He placed one of his companions, Bishop Auxilius, at Killossy, near Naas, and another, Isserninus, at Kilcullen, both in the present county of Kildare. At Leix, in the Queen's county, he obtained a great many disciples, and from thence he proceeded to visit his friend, the poet Dubtach, who, it will be remembered, paid him special honour at Tara, despite the royal prohibition to the contrary. Dubtach lived in that part of the country called Hy-Kinsallagh, now the county Carlow. It was here the poet Fiacc was first introduced to the saint, whom he afterwards so faithfully followed. Fiacc had been a disciple of Dubtach, and was by profession a bard, and a member of an illustrious house. He was the first Leinster man raised to episcopal dignity. It was probably at this period that St. Patrick visited Munster, and the touching incident already related occurred at the baptism of Aengus. This prince was singularly devoted to religion, as indeed his conduct during the administration of the sacrament of regeneration could not fail to indicate.
The saint's mission in Munster was eminently successful. Lonan, the chief of the district of Ormonde, entertained him with great hospitality, and thousands embraced the faith. Many of the inhabitants of Corca Baiscin crossed the Shannon in their hidecovered boats (curaghs) when the saint was on the southern side, in Hy-Figeinte, and were baptized by him in the waters of their magnificent river. At their earnest entreaty, St. Patrick ascended a hill which commanded a view of the country of the Dalcassians, and gave his benediction to the whole territory. This hill is called Findine in the ancient lives of the saint; but this name is now obsolete. Local tradition and antiquarian investigation make it probable that the favoured spot is that now called Cnoc Patrick, near Foynes Island.
The saint's next journey was in the direction of Kerry, where he prophesied that "St. Brendan, of the race of Hua Alta, the great patriarch of monks and star of the western world, would be born, and that his birth would take place some years after his own death."
We have now to record the obituary of the only Irish martyr who suffered for the faith while Ireland was being evangelized. While the saint was visiting Ui-Failghe, a territory now comprised in the King's county, a pagan chieftain, named Berraidhe, formed a plan for murdering the apostle. His wicked design came in some way to the knowledge of Odran, the saint's charioteer, who so arranged matters as to take his master's place, and thus received the fatal blow intended for him.
The See of Armagh was founded about the year 455, towards the close of the great apostle's life. The royal palace of Emania, in the immediate neighbourhood, was then the residence of the kings of Ulster. A wealthy chief, by name Daire, gave the saint a portion of land for the erection of his cathedral, on an eminence called Druim-Sailech, the Hill of Sallows. This high ground is now occupied by the city of Armagh (Ard-Macha). Religious houses for both sexes were established near the church, and soon were filled with ardent and devoted subjects.
The saint's labours were now drawing to a close, and the time of eternal rest was at hand. He retired to his favourite retreat at Saull, and there probably wrote his Confessio. It is said that he wished to die in the ecclesiastical metropolis of Ireland, and for this purpose, when he felt his end approaching, desired to be conveyed thither; but even as he was on his journey an angel appeared to him, and desired him to return to Saull. Here he breathed his last, on Wednesday, the 17th of March, in the year of our Lord 492. The holy viaticum and last anointing were administered to him by St. Tussach.
The saint's age at the time of his death, as also the length of his mission in Ireland, has been put at a much longer period by some authors, but modern research and correction of chronology have all but verified the statement given above.
The intelligence of the death of St. Patrick spread rapidly through the country; prelates and priests flocked from all parts to honour the mortal remains of their glorious father. As each arrived at Saull, he proceeded to offer the adorable sacrifice according to his rank. At night the plain resounded with the chanting of psalms; and the darkness was banished by the light of such innumerable torches, that it seemed even as if day had hastened to dawn brightly on the beloved remains. St. Fiacc, in his often-quoted Hymn, compares it to the long day caused by the standing of the sun at the command of Joshua, when he fought against the Gabaonites.
It is said that the pagan Irish were not without some intimation of the coming of their great apostle. Whether these prophecies were true or false is a question we cannot pretend to determine; but their existence and undoubted antiquity demand that they should have at least a passing notice. Might not the Gaedhilic druid, as well as the Pythian priestess, have received even from the powers of darkness, though despite their will, an oracle which prophesied truth?
There is a strange, wild old legend preserved in the Book of Leinster, which indicates that even in ancient Erinn the awful throes of nature were felt which were manifested in so many places, and in such various ways, during those dark hours when the Son of God hung upon the accursed tree for the redemption of His guilty creatures.
This tale or legend is called the Aideadh Chonchobair. It is one of that class of narratives known under the generic title of Historical Tragedies, or Deaths. The hero, Conor Mac Nessa, was King of Ulster at the period of the Incarnation of our Lord. His succession to the throne was rather a fortuity than the result of hereditary claim. Fergus Mac Nessa was rightfully king at the time; but Conor's father having died while he was yet an infant, Fergus, then the reigning monarch, proposed marriage to his mother when the youth was about fifteen, and only obtained the consent of the celebrated beauty on the strange condition that he should hand over the sovereignty of Ulster to her son for a year. The monarch complied, glad to secure the object of his affections on any terms. Conor, young as he was, governed with such wisdom and discretion as to win all hearts; and when the assigned period had arrived, the Ulster men positively refused to permit Fergus to resume his rightful dignity. After much contention the matter was settled definitely in favour of the young monarch, and Fergus satisfied himself with still retaining the wife for whose sake he had willingly made such sacrifices. Conor continued to give ample proofs of the wisdom of his people's decision. Under his government the noble Knights of the Royal Branch sprang up in Ulster, and made themselves famous both in field and court.
It was usual in those barbarous times, whenever a distinguished enemy was killed in battle, to cleave open his head, and to make a ball of the brains by mixing them with lime, which was then dried, and preserved as a trophy of the warrior's valour. Some of these balls were preserved in the royal palace at Emania. One, that was specially prized, passed accidentally into the hands of a famous Connaught champion, who found a treacherous opportunity of throwing it at Conor, while he was displaying himself, according to the custom of the times, to the ladies of an opposing army, who had followed their lords to the scene of action. The ball lodged in the king's skull, and his physicians declared that an attempt to extract it would prove fatal. Conor was carried home; he soon recovered, but he was strictly forbidden to use any violent exercise, and required to avoid all excitement or anger. The king enjoyed his usual health by observing those directions, until the very day of the Crucifixion. But the fearful phenomena which then occurred diverted his attention, and he inquired if Bacrach, his druid, could divine the cause.
The druid consulted his oracles, and informed the king that Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, was, even at that moment, suffering death at the hands of the Jews. "What crime has He committed?" said Conor. "None," replied the druid. "Then are they slaying Him innocently?" said Conor. "They are," replied the druid.
It was too great a sorrow for the noble prince; he could not bear that his God should die unmourned; and rushing wildly from where he sat to a neighbouring forest, he began to hew the young trees down, exclaiming: "Thus would I destroy those who were around my King at putting Him to death." The excitement proved fatal; and the brave and good King Conor Mac Nessa died avenging, in his own wild pagan fashion, the death of his Creator.
The secular history of Ireland, during the mission of St. Patrick, affords but few events of interest or importance. King Laeghaire died, according to the Four Masters, A.D. 458. The popular opinion attributed his demise to the violation of his oath to the Leinster men. It is doubtful whether he died a Christian, but the account of his burial has been taken to prove the contrary. It is much to be regretted that persons entirely ignorant of the Catholic faith, whether that ignorance be wilful or invincible, should attempt to write lives of Catholic saints, or histories of Catholic countries. Such persons, no doubt unintentionally, make the most serious mistakes, which a well-educated Catholic child could easily rectify. We find a remarkable instance of this in the following passage, taken from a work already mentioned: "Perhaps this [King Laeghaire's oath] may not be considered an absolute proof of the king's paganism. To swear by the sun and moon was apparently, no doubt, paganism. But is it not also paganism to represent the rain and wind as taking vengeance? ... for this is the language copied by all the monastic annalists, and even by the Four Masters, Franciscan friars, writing in the seventeenth century." The passage is improved by a "note," in which the author mentions this as a proof that such superstitions would not have been necessarily regarded two centuries ago as inconsistent with orthodoxy. Now, in the first place, the Catholic Church has always condemned superstition of every kind. It is true that as there are good as well as bad Christians in her fold, there are also superstitious as well as believing Christians; but the Church is not answerable for the sins of her children. She is answerable for the doctrine which she teaches; and no one can point to any place or time in which the Church taught such superstitions. Secondly, the writers of history are obliged to relate facts as they are. The Franciscan fathers do this, and had they not done it carefully, and with an amount of labour which few indeed have equalled, their admirable Annals would have been utterly useless. They do mention the pagan opinion that it was "the sun and wind that killed him [Laeghaire], because he had violated them;" but they do not say that they believed this pagan superstition, and no one could infer it who read the passage with ordinary candour.