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Pre-Milesian Irish Kings

This table is a companion to my table of Milesian Irish Kings.

 Table of Contents 

Early Irish History

For a discussion of the early myths and folklore about the several ancient invasions of Ireland, see Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race by Thomas Rolleston (1911), especially Chapter III, The Irish Invasion Myths on The Internet Sacred Text Archive, under Legends and Sagas—Ireland.

The now-inactive Celtic Mythology web page takes an appropriately mystical approach to the tales of early Irish history. The author comments that the Celts' "mythological tales were inextricably bound up with the retelling of national or cultural history and these were only later recognised to represent ... Poetic Cosmogenesis masquerading as real events all shrouded or encrypted into a series of fantastic stories which fire the imagination and spirit."

"The Mythological Cycle: These stories tell of the first Celtic People —'The Partholans', their origins and trials—largely against the forces of Darkness and Evil—'The Formorians'. These begin with the arrival of the Partholonians into Ireland. Each successive cycle overlays the previous one adding or revising the myths to suit the circumstances of social or cultural evolution. The original tales were thought to have been first written down by St. Finnen, an Irish Abbott of the 6th century who made the acquaintance of one Tuan McCarrell—a hermit and a Sage who wandered the hills, valleys and sea-coasts of Ireland. Strangely enough Tuan is himself part of the historical tales of their Gods—he told Finnen that he was the son of Starn—the brother of their first God Agnoman (Partholan). The cycle begins with the arrival of the Partholanians into Ireland—whose original home may have been the Land of the Dead. Some mythographers believe this is a cryptic reference to either the Scythian or North African Coast. Then follows a series of invasions and occupations firstly from the 'Firbolgs', then the 'Danaans' and finally the 'Milesians'."

Only the last three are covered by the tables of kings in this website. The kings of the Fir Bolgs and the Tuatha de Danann are covered on this page. The Milesian kings are covered in Irish Kings. See also: After the Flood, by Bill Cooper, chapter 8, The Descent of the Irish Celtic Kings, Lugodoc's Guide to Celtic Mythology, and Early Age Ireland.

David F. Dale in his website, The History of the Scots, the Picts and the Britons (Chapter 3), by David F. Dale, presents a sketch of the early settlers of Ireland: the Formorians ("a misshapen and a violently cruel race"), the Partholonians (who were all killed by a great plague—"9000 died in one week alone"), and the Nemedians. The Formorians slaughtered 16,000 Nemedians, leaving only thirty survivors. "These were forced to leave, driven out in three bands. Those that went to Albion were led by Briotan Maol, from whom it took it's name (Britain). Those that went to Greece were enslaved and forced to carry the fertile land to the rocky hills in leather bags—which is why they were called Fir Bolg (Men of the Leather bags). The third part went to the Northern Lands and became the Tuatha De Danann ... " The Firbolgs and the Tuathan De Danann returned to Ireland, followed by the son of Milid or the Milesians. Dale, The Ancient Origins of the Scots, Chapter 3: The Celtic origin legends of Ireland.

For an introduction to Irish mythology, see: Starting Points: Celtic Myths and Legends. Myths and Legends from Ireland, The Book of Invasions (Leabhar Gabhála). See also the entry in the Encyclopedia of the Celts: "Invasions, Book of", where it is said:

"The Irish Book of Invasions describes six waves of people or races arriving in Ireland, and attempts to merge its pagan tradition, originally derived from a lost Druidic mythical cycle of creation, with Christian pseudo-history. The six races with the Gaels as the last one, can be seen as a cosmic sequence of development or phases of the creation of the world, typified by the land of Ireland. 1. Cessair 2. Partholon 3. Nemed 4. FirBolg 5. Tuatha De Danann, and 6. The Gaels."

See also The Mythological Cycle.


Tables Explained

The tables of high-kings of Ireland that appear below are these:

Firbolg Kings (3266–3303)

Tuatha De Danann Kings (3304–3500)

Each table is divided into six columns:

1. A number is assigned to each king. In these two tables, the numbers have been assigned by me. (In the tables of the Milesian kings on my Irish Kings page, I use the number assigned by John O'Hart in his table of the Irish High Kings, which I believe is a traditional numbering.)

2. A single capital letter that means: F=Firbolg. T=Tuatha De Danann.

3. The name of the king as it is most commonly used in the electronic edition of the Annals of the Four Master.

4. The years during which the king reigned as shown by the Annals of the Four Masters. The first year shown is the first full year of a king's reign.

5. Other spellings of the king's name found on the Net or in other sources. The first spelling in the fifth column is the spelling given by John O'Hart in his tables of kings. If that name is spelled the same as the name in the third column, we have a relatively rare instance of use of the same spelling by O'Hart and the digital edition of the Annals of the Four Masters.

6. Notes from the Annals of the Four Masters or other sources.


Firbolg Kings (3266–3303)

According to the Annals of the Four Master, the Firbolgs rules Ireland for 37 years, from the "age of the world" 3266 to 3303. Nine Firbolg kings are listed. Here is information from The Celtic Connection:

"The Firbolg descend from northern Gaul. While they were once termed 'Men of the Bags' after 'bolg' it is now thought they were named for their deity Bolg or Bolga. During the 37 year reign of the Firbolgs, their king Eochaid was known as a just and generous monarch. It is for his wife, Tailtiu, that the annual Lugnasadh fair was founded. Mythologically, Tailtiu is thought by some to be a much older earth goddess historically retained until the era of the Firbolgs. East of Cong, present day enthusiasts can visit the 60 ft high Ballymagibbon Cairn which dates from about 3,000 B.C. The enormous cairn was erected to commemorate the early days of the battle between the Firbolg and the de Danann tribes before the tide turned against the Firbolg. Each stone is said to represent the head of a Danann."

Here is the entry for Firbolgs in the Encyclopedia of the Celts:

"(fir vulag). Nemedian survivors who return to Ireland; name signifies 'Men of the Bags'; the FirBolg, FirDomnan, and Galionin races generally designated as the Firbolgs; ... The first inhabitants of Ireland, according to ancient traditions, were the Firbolgs, who were conquered and driven into the Western Islands by the Tuatha De Danann. The Firbolgs became the first Fairies of Ireland, Giant-like, grotesque creatures. They and the Tuatha De Danann may be compared with the Titans and the Olympic gods of Greece. ... They settled in Ireland, fleeing Greece where they had been enslaved and made to carry earth in bags. They afterwards made ships out of these bags and sailed to Spain. They held Ireland after the death of Nemed until the coming of the Tuatha de Danaan."

1 F Slainge 3266–3267 Slangi (Keating) The first Firbolg king. One of five sons of Deala (Dela), son of Loich (Loch). The Firbolgs took possession of Ireland in 3266 and elected Slainghe King. He made Tara his capital and erected the first royal palace there.
2 F Rudhraighe 3268–3269 Rughraidhe, Rudraide (Keating) One of the five sons of Deala.
3 F Gann 3270–3273 Gann Joint rule by two of the five sons of Deala.
4 F Geannan Gennan, Genann (Keating)
5 F Sengann 3274–3278 Seangann The fifth of the sons of Deala to rule. Fell by Fiachaidh Cennfinnan, son of Starn. O'Hart says Geannan and Sengan reigned together for four years. This is inconsistent with the Annals of the Four Masters.
6 F Fiacha Cennfinnain 3279–3282 Fiacha Cinnfionnan, Fiachaidh Cennfinnan, Fiachad Kenfinnan (Keating). Fell by Rinnan, son of Geannan.
7 F Rinnan 3283–3289 Riondal, Rinnal (Keating) Son of Geannan. Fell by Foidhbhgen, son of Seangann.
8 F Foidhbhgen 3290–3292 Fiodhbhghean, Obghen (or Fidbghen) (Keating) Fell by Eochaidh, son of Erc.
9 F Eochaid (ughy) 3294–3303 Eochaidh, Eochaid, Eodach, Eochy, Eocaidh (Keating) Son of Erc, son of Rinnan. Ninth and last Firbolg king. His wife was Tailtean (Taillte) (Tailtiu) (Talti), daughter of Maghmhor (Magh-Mor), king of Spain. In 3303, the Tuatha De Dananns invaded Ireland and conquered the Firbolgs. The Encyclopedia of the Celts also lists him as "Eochy (yeo'hee)—Equivalent to Eochaid."

King #9 is listed in the Encyclopedia of the Celts: "Eochy (yeo'hee)—Equivalent to Eochaid, Son of Erc, Firbolg king, husband of Taltiu or Telta.

Some sources say that Cairbre Cinncait #101 in Irish Kings was a Firbolg king.


Tuatha De Danann Kings (3304–3500)

According to the Annals of the Four Master, nine kings of the Tuatha De Danann ruled over Ireland for one hundred ninety-seven years, from "age of the world" 3304 through 3500. The story of their arrival in Ireland is told in The Storyteller's Gift: The Coming of the Tuatha de Danann to Ireland, Questions and Answers #30 on The Celtic Connection—Mythology.

Here is the entry for Tuatha De Danaan (or Danann) in the Encyclopedia of the Celts.

"(thoo'a-haw day dah-nawn). The people of Dana. They ruled Ireland after Nemed, according to the Book of Invasions, and were descended from one of his great-grandsons. They were supposed to come from the northern isles of Greece where they had learned all the arts of magic. They brought four treasures with them from these parts: the Stone of Fal from Falias, which screamed under the foot of every rightful king; the Spear of Lugh, which came from Gorias; the Sword of Nuada, from Findias; and the Cauldron of the Dagda from Murias. ... They fought long against the Fomorians and the Firbolgs, but were eventually vanquished by the Milesians, after which they retired to the Otherworld, Tir na n'og or the Sidhe or the Hollow Hills, as they are variously called. Perhaps they were originally Earth-gods. The dominating peoples of Ireland's remotest past are traditionally represented as the Partholonians, the Nemedians, the Fir Bolg, The Tuatha De Danann, and the Milesians. The accounts of their doings, although ostensibly depicting the very earliest periods of the Irish history, were composed, for the most part, later than the oldest sagas of the Ulster group. The Tuatha De Danann (Peoples of the Goddess Anu, or Danu) are said to have come to Ireland from the north of Europe, where they had spent many years in learning arts and magic. They are represented as large, strong, and beautiful beings who mingled with mortals and yet remained superior to them. Their principal residences were Brug na Boinne, a district along the river Boyne near Stackallen Bridge in Leinster, and the fairy-mound (sidhe = shee) of Femin in Tipperary. Certain personages in this group, without being definitely labeled as gods, have characteristics that elevate them above the rank of ordinary mortals."

See a History of the Irish Race, the Tuatha De Danann.

"Dana Danu—The People of Dana are Nemedian survivors who return to Ireland; These People are by far the most interesting and important of the mythical invaders and colonisers of Ireland. The name, Tuatha De Danaan q.v. (or Danann), means literally 'the folk of the god whose mother is Dana', equivalent Brigit . . . She is one of the Mother Goddesses of early Ireland, the ancestress of the Tuatha De Danann, who later dwindled to the Daoine Sidhe, the fairies of Ireland. Lady Gregory begins her book Gods and Fighting Men with an account of how the Tuatha De Danann came to Ireland, led by Nuada, and fought with the Firbolgs under their king Eochaid."

1 T Breas 3304–3310 Eochaidh Bres, Eochaidh the beautiful, Bres (Keating)', Eachtach Son of Ealathan. According to the Annals of the Four Master, he was the first king of the Tuatha De Danann, but Nuadhat may have preceded him as well as succeeded him. Resigned in favor of Nuadhat. "Of the birth of Bres it is said in 'The Second Battle of Mag Tuired' that Ériu daughter of Delbaeth, a woman of Tuatha De Danann, was looking out to sea one morning and she saw a silver ship which brought a fair-haired youth, wearing a gold-adorned mantle, who greeted her with: 'Is this the time that our lying with thee will be easy?' They lay down together and the youth then told her he was Elatha son of Delbaeth, king of the Fomoire. He gave her a ring which she should give only to one whose finger it fitted, and he prophesied the birth of a beautiful boy who should be called Eochaid Bres. The boy was duly born and grew twice as rapidly as other boys." The Birth of Bres. The father identified himself as "Elotha son of Delbaeth, king of the Fomorians." The Second Battle of Mag Tured (Moytura). "He was the most beautiful of all the young men, and he was chosen king after Nuada (31). 'As beautiful as Bres' was a common saying. However, he was known for his lack of hospitality (32), and was deposed when Nuada was reinstated as king (35)." An Irish Myth Concordance by Mike Nichols.
2 T Nuadhat Airgeatlamh 3311–3330 Nuadh Airgiothlamb, Nuadath Arged-lamh (i.e. Nuadath, the Silver-handed) Son of Eochaidh ("Ectach" in Keating, "Eachtach" in O'Hart ), son of Edarlamh, the King of the Tuatha De Danann. His foster mother was Tailtean, wife of Eochaidh, the last Firbolg king. Fell by Balor, one of the Formorians.
3 T Lugh Lamhfhada 3331–3370 Luighaidh Lambhfadha, Lewy of the Long Hand, Lugaidh Lamfada (Keating) Fell by Mac Cuill. Was fostered, or nursed, by Tailtean (Tailte), widow of Eochaidh, the last Firbolg king.
4 T Eochaidh Ollathair 3371–3450 Daghda Mor, son of Ealathan, Eochaid, Eocaidh the Ollamh (Keating), The Great Daghda (Keating) The Annals say that Eochaidh Ollathair was named Daghda over Ireland. O'Hart makes this name Daghda Mor. Father of Anghus Og. After eighty years as King, died of the "venom" of a wound inflicted at the Battle of Moytura by Cethlend (Cethlenn), wife of Balor, the Fomorian chief. Eochaid is buried in the Brugh (Brú na Boinne = Newgrange). See the year 1749 B.C. in Dates in Irish Myth and Legend.
5 T Dealbhaeth 3451–3460 Dealbhaoith (2), Dealbhaeith, Delbaeth (Keating) Son of Ogma. Fell by the hand of his son, Fiacha mac Dealbhaeith (Fiacadh). O'Hart does not list him as a monarch.
6 T Fiacha 3461–3470 Fiachadh Son of Dealbhaeth. Fell of Eogon of Inbher.
7 T Mac Cuill 3471–3500 Eothoir (Macuil), married to Banbha; Eathur; Mac Coll (Keating); Ethor (Keating) Joint rule of the last three kings of the Tuatha De Dananns. O'Hart says they were three sons of Cearmad: "These princes reigned each one year by turns, and Ireland was called by the name of the queen of the reigning king during his term of government. It was during the reign of Ceathoir that the Milesian forces landed in Ireland."The fleet of the sons of Milidh came to Ireland at the end of 3500, to take it from the Tuatha De Dananns. The three kings and their queens were killed at Tailtinn.
8 T Mac Ceacht Teathor (Maceacht), married to Fodhla; Teathur; Mac Keact (Keating); Tethor (Keating)
9 T Mac Greine Ceathoir (MacGreine), married to Eire; Ceathur; MacGreni (Keating); Kethor (Keating)

For a continuation of the Milesian kings, go to Irish Kings.

Pre-Milesian Irish Kings
Updated January 19, 2008  
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