The Gael or Milesians

The fifth occupation of Erin was effected by the Gael or Milesians. They are called Milesians from Milesius, or Miled, the son of Bile, the son of Breogan. It is stated they came from Scythia, journeyed southwards, and settled in Spain. They came into possession of some provinces of the country, and became a powerful race. The country was much disturbed by intestine warfare and foreign invasion. The crops also failed, the result of prolonged drought. Erin was well known at the time through the Phoenicians who traded with Spain and the British Isles. As the result of a council it was resolved to send Ith, uncle of Milesius, to Erin to report on the state of the soil, climate, and fertility of the country. He sailed with 150 men, and landed in the North, where he was greeted in Gaelic. The tribes that hitherto landed in the country were of the same race, and spoke the same language. Ith was told that the three sons of Kermad Milbeol ruled the island year about, and kept court at Aileach.

He repaired thither, and was cordially received in the palace. He spoke loudly in praise of the fertility of the country, and the mildness of the climate. This aroused the suspicions of his hosts, who feared he might return and invade the country. They, however, let him depart in peace, but, on his way to the shore, he was attacked and mortally wounded. He expired on the voyage back to Spain.

The sons of Milesius soon after mustered a fleet of 30 ships, and, with 30 men in each ship, set sail for Erin. They landed at Inver Slainge (Wexford). The Dedananns complained that they were taken unawares, and demanded justice. The question was left to the decision of Amergin, one of the sons of Milesius. He decided that the Milesians should set out to sea a distance of nine waves from the shore. They accordingly again entered their ships and went to sea. The Dedananns, by magic, raised a tempest and dispersed their fleet. All the sons of Milesius perished except Eber, Eremon, and Amergin. Those that were saved made a landing at Inver Sceine (Bantry Bay). They advanced so far as Slieve Mish, near Tralee, where a great battle was fought. Scota, the wife of Milesius, was among the slain, and was buried in a glen near the battlefield, which to this day is called Glean Scoitheen. Another decisive battle was fought at Tailtin in Meath, and the Dedananns were almost annihilated.

The term Gael is derived by some from Gaedal Glas, sixth in descent from Japhet. They were a branch of the great Celtic race, who ruled over the most fertile parts of Europe for more than 2,000 years. The Gaels were a tall race of men with long skulls and yellow hair.

The date of their landing in Ireland is put down by the Four Masters at 1700 B.C. The Four Masters and the Septuagint reckon 5,228 years from Adam to the Birth of Christ; the Hebrew and Samaritan about 4,000 years. Without entering in detail into this question of chronology, we adopt the date given by the Four Masters. It seems to synchronise better with certain events connected with the history of Erin than the other opinions. There was a neolethic or polished stone age in Erin, and according to the best authorities this stone age ended for the North of Europe about 1500 B.C. This is in agreement with the Milesian settlement dating 1700. According to the other opinions there would be no stone age, because Erin was not inhabited at all before 1500 B.C. according to the other views.

We have followed tradition in stating that the Milesians sailed directly from Spain. This view is by no means improbable. It only supposes that there was some knowledge of ships and navigation at the time. There was no knowledge of the compass, but the stars were there as now. As to ships, people living near the sea must have a knowledge of ship-building since a very early period. The immediate descendants of Noah had the ark as a pattern. The first authentic records relating to every country testify that primitive man had a knowledge of ships and navigation. The Greeks, Persians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, may be cited as instances. It did not require a great knowledge of navigation to sail from Spain to Erin. The coast could be followed until Britain was reached, and, following the south coast of England, Erin was not far distant. The distance was a little over 500 miles, and Philip O’Sullivan Bere, who performed the journey several times, says it could be accomplished in three days.

The whole of this chapter is based on tradition and legend, and the statements contained therein must be taken for what they are worth.

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