The Legends of the Early Colonies

Patrick Weston Joyce

[The whole of this Chapter is legendary, and the dates are quite fanciful].

93. Besides some fables about the landing of the lady Ceasair [Kasser] and her people forty days before the flood, our manuscripts have legends of five ancient colonies.

The Parthalonians: the first colony, A. M. 2520. The first man that led a colony to Ireland after the flood was a chief named Parthalon, who came hither from Greece, with his wife, his three sons, and 1,000 followers. He took up his abode first on the little island of Inish-Samer in the river Erne just below the waterfall of Assaroe at Ballyshannon; and afterwards on Moy-Elta, the level district between Dublin and Ben-Edar or Howth. At the end of 300 years the people of this colony were destroyed by a plague, which carried off 9,000 of them in one week on Moy-Elta.

94. The Nemedians: the second colony, A. M. 2850. After the destruction of the Parthalonians Nemed came from Scythia with his followers. These Nemedians were harassed by the Fomorian pirates, but Nemed defeated them in several battles. After some years he and 3,000 of his followers died of the plague.

The Fomorians were a race of sea-robbers, who, after the death of Nemed, oppressed his people and made them pay an intolerable yearly tribute. So the Nemedians, unable to bear their miserable state any longer, rose up in a fury; and a dreadful battle was fought on the sea beach near Tory Island, in which nearly all the combatants fell. And those who were not killed in battle were drowned, lor the combatants fought so furiously that they gave no heed to the advancing tide-wave which rose and overwhelmed them.

95. The Firbolgs: the third colony, A. M. 3266, came from Greece under the leadership of the five sons of Dela, who led them to Ireland. These brothers partitioned the country into five provinces, Ulster, Leinster, Connaught, and the two Munsters (50).

The Dedannans: the fourth colony, A. M. 3303, also came from Greece, and were celebrated for their skill in magic. As soon as they had landed in Ireland they burned their ships; and shrouding themselves in a magic mist, so that the Firbolgs could not see them, they marched unperceived to Slieve an-Ierin mountain in the present county Leitrim. Soon afterwards a battle was fought which lasted for four days, till the Firbolgs were defeated, and the Dedannans remained masters of the island. These Dedannans were in subsequent ages deified and became Side [Shee] or fairies, whom the ancient Irish worshipped (110).

96. The Milesians: the fifth colony, A. M. 3500. From Scythia their original home they began their long pilgrimage. Their first migration was to Egypt, where they were sojourning at the time that Pharaoh and his host were drowned in the Red Sea; and after wandering through Europe for many generations they arrived in Spain. Here they abode for a long time; and at last they came to Ireland with a fleet of thirty ships under the command of the eight sons of the hero Miled or Milesius.

The Dedannans, by their magical incantations, raised a furious tempest which scattered and wrecked the fleet along the rocky coasts. Five of the eight brothers perished; and the remaining three, Eremon, Eber-Finn, and Amergin, landed with the remnant of their people. Soon afterwards two battles were fought, in which the Dedannans were defeated; and the Milesians took possession of the country.

The two brothers Eber-Finn and Eremon now divided Ireland, Eber-Finn taking the two Munsters and Eremon Leinster and Connaught. They gave Ulster to their nephew Eber, and made Amergin chief poet and brehon of the kingdom.