Toward the middle of the 4th century the breakup of the kingdom of the
Ulaidh (Ulster) began as an attack on Emain Macha, the capital of the
kingdom for hundreds of years, by the three Collas who were nephews of
the the High King of Ireland Muiredeach Tireach. They established a new
kingdom known as Orghialla (Oirgialla, later Oriel), forcing the Ulaidh
into east Ulster.
Some of the Belgic tribes of Munster and Leinster began to migrate to
south Wales and Cornwall around 375 AD, at the twilight of the Roman
Empire's rule in parts of Britain. It is often quoted that the Romans
thought about invading Ireland but never did, a fact which played an
important part in the island's later 'Golden Age'.
Shortly after Niall of the Nine hostages death about 405 AD, two sons of
Niall, Eoghan (Owen) and Conall marched northwards, conquered North-West
Ulster, and founded there a new state with its capital at Aileach, a
prehistoric stone-built fortress on a hill near Derry, at the root of
the Inishowen peninsula.
Toward the middle of the 5th century important Christian
missionaries began to arrive in Ireland, most notably St. Patrick around
432 AD. The impact these missionaries were to bring to Irish culture and
religion was a major turning point in the history of the island.
It is cited by the historian Bede that Angles or Saxons came
to the island of Britain in the middle of the 5th century at the invitation
of Vortigern, to help to repel attacks by Picts and Scots (Irish colonizers
in Scotland). As Ireland was untouched by the Roman conquest, the Saxons
also do not seem to have had any influence upon her destinies.
Significant Changes Ahead
The era of the middle 4th to the middle 5th centuries is an important time in Ireland's early tradition. Not only are new kingdoms formed and new dynasties created, which extend into the historical period, but the foundations are set for Chritianity to have a dramatic and permanent impact on the 'pagan' inhabitabts of the island. The stage is set for a monastic and literary tradition which will set Ireland apart from many other 'European' countries during the coming 'Dark Ages'. It is during this period that one of Ireland's more enigmatic characters makes an appearance, that of Niall of the Nine Hostages. The descendants of Niall are to play a primary role in the politics of Ireland over the next millenia.
Excerpts from the Annals
357 AD -
After Caelbhadh, son of Crunn Badhrai, had been one year in the
sovereignty of Ireland, he was slain by Eochaidh Muighmheadhoin.
365 AD -
The eighth year of Eochaidh Muighmheadhoin, son of Muireadhach
Tireach, over Ireland, when he died at Teamhair.
366 AD -
The first year of Crimhthann, son of Fidhach, son of Daire Cearb, over
378 AD -
After Crimhthann, son of Fidhach, had been thirteen years as king over
Ireland, he died of a poisonous drink which his own sister gave him.
405 AD -
After Niall of the Nine Hostages, son of Eochaidh Muighmheadhoin, had
been twenty seven years in the sovereignty of Ireland, he was slain by
Eochaidh, son of Enna Ceinnseallach, at Muir nIcht, i.e. the sea between
France and England.
428 AD -
After Dathi, son of Fiachra, son of Eochaidh Muighmheadhoin, had
been, twenty three years in the sovereignty of Ireland, he was killed by a
flash of lightning, at Sliabh Ealpa.
429 AD -
The first year of Laeghaire, son of Niall, in the sovereignty of Ireland.
430 AD -
In this year Pope Celestinus the First sent Palladius to Ireland, to
propagate the faith among the Irish, and he landed in the country of
Leinster with a company of twelve men. Nathi, son of Garchu, refused to
admit him; but, however, he baptized a few persons in Ireland, and three
wooden churches were erected by him, namely, Cell Fhine, Teach Na
Romhan, and Domhnach Arta. At Cell Fhine he left his books, and a
shrine with the relics of Paul and Peter, and many martyrs besides. He
left these four in these churches: Augustinus, Benedictus, Silvester, and
Solinus. Palladius, on his returning back to Rome (as he did not receive
respect in Ireland), contracted a disease in the country of the Cruithnigh,
and died thereof.
431 AD -
Saint Patrick was ordained bishop by the holy Pope, Celestine the First,
who ordered him to go to Ireland, to preach and teach faith and piety
to the Gaeidhil, and also to baptize them.
432 AD -
Patrick came to Ireland this year, and proceeded to baptize and bless
the Irish, men, women, sons, and daughters, except a few who did not
consent to receive faith or baptism from him, as his Life relates.
Ath Truim was founded by Patrick, it having been granted by Fedhlim,
son of Laeghaire, son of Niall, to God and to him, Loman, and
Patrick's method of carrying the new faith to the Gaelic Celts was to meet
them on the familiar ground of their own culture, the sacred groves,
wells, and mounds, and making those places centers of worship for the new
faith. He used the same holy places designated by the Druids of Ireland to
establish his Christian churches and holy places.
The abbeys became centers of learning as well as churches, teaching his
followers the essentials of reading and writing Greek and Latin, laying
the foundation of Irish scholasticism that would make the Church in
Ireland a repository of learning during the Dark Ages that were to come.
The new faith spread rapidly and by the 6th century, Ireland was a
stronghold of the new faith, with newly built monasteries and abbeys.
St. Patrick died around 461 A.D. and for many years after his death,
various kings of Ireland refused to accept the new religion and made
attempts to continue their pagan beliefs. This finally ended when the
last of the pagan kings was killed in battle in 561.
The final dissenting Irish churches were brought by swordpoint into the
Roman Church at the Synod of Cashels in 1171 AD, by the invading
435 AD -
Breasal Bealach, son of Fiacha Aiceadh, son of Cathaeir Mor (King of
449 AD -
Amhalghaidh, son of Fiachra, son of Eochaidh Muighmheadhoin, died.
From him Tir Amhalghaidh is named.
457 AD -
The battle of Ath Dara was fought against the Leinstermen by
Laeghaire, son of Niall. Laeghaire was taken in that battle; and Laeghaire
took oaths by the Sun and the Wind, and all the elements, to the
Leinstermen, that he would never come against them, after setting him at