Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The History of Ireland (Author: Geoffrey Keating)

Section 16


Of the journeying of Niul to Egypt from Scythia, and of his doings there until his death as follows:

Before we speak of the journeying of Niul from Scythia to Egypt, we may observe that Herodotus says that it was from Babylon the Greeks derived the knowledge of the position of the north star, and the division of the hours; and Solon asserts that the Greeks had not a knowledge of history until they obtained it from the Egyptians. Josephus says, in the first book of his History, that the Greeks had not an alphabet till the time of Homer. From these authors it appears that it was not from Greece, so named to-day, that Isis or anyone else went to teach the sciences to the Egyptians; but it was Niul, the son of Feinius Farsaidh, who went from Scythia to teach the sciences there. And whoever should say that there was not learning in Scythia, from whence Niul came, earlier than in Egypt, would not be stating truth, according to Polydorus, in the first book he has written, De rerum inventoribus, where he says: There was a long dispute between the Egyptians and the Scythians; and, in that struggle, the Egyptians having been overcome, it appeared that the Scythians were more ancient than they were. {Magna diu inter Aegyptios et Scythas contentio fuit in quo certamine superatis Aegyptis Scythae aniquiores visi sunt.}’’

From this it may be inferred that the Scythians possessed education and learning earlier than the Egyptians, and since, according to the above authors, learning was earlier in Egypt than in Greece, it was not Isis of Greece or any such person who went from Greece to Egypt to conduct schools, but Niul son of Feinius Farsaidh


from Scythia, who was born in the Plain of Seanair, and was then trained in learning in the first school that was established in the country of Babylon; and this was the first school after the confusion of the languages of the world, as we have stated above.

When Niul had been a long time conducting the public schools in Scythia, his fame for knowledge and wisdom spread through the nations generally, so that on account of his great reputation Pharao Cincris, king of Egypt, sent envoys to him, inviting him to Egypt to teach the sciences and the various languages to the youths of that country. Niul accordingly proceeded to Egypt, as the poet says in this stanza, which is taken from the poem beginning, Let us relate the origin of the Gaels:

    1. Tidings reached Forann
      With great acclaim
      Of Niul son of Feinius knowing
      The languages of the world.

Niul then went to Egypt with the envoys of Pharao; and the king gave him the land called Capacyront (or Campus Circit) beside the Red Sea. He also gave his own daughter Scota in marriage to Niul, as Giolla Caomhain says in the poem beginning Gaedheal Glas, from whom are the Gaels:

    1. He then went into Egypt
      And reached the mighty Forann,
      And married Scota of charms not few,
      The generous, clever daughter of Forann.

When Niul had married Scota, he established schools at Campus Circit for teaching the sciences and the various languages to the youths of Egypt. And it was there that Scota gave birth to Gaedheal son of Niul. Perhaps some one might wonder how Niul, the fifth in descent from Japhet, could be a contemporary of Moses, seeing that seven hundred and ninety-seven years elapsed between the


Deluge and the assuming by Moses of the leadership of the children of Israel. My reply to that is that it is not incredible that Niul should live several hundred years; for people used to live a long time at that period; witness Eibear son of Saile the fourth in descent from Seim who lived four hundred and sixty-four years and Seim who lived five hundred years after Arphaxad was born to him, as we read in the eleventh chapter of Genesis; that it is not to be doubted, therefore, that Niul might have lived from the forty-second year of the reign of Nion son of Beil, as we have said, to the time of Moses. And moreover, the length of life granted to Niul and that he should have survived till the time of Moses in Egypt is still less to be wondered at, if what Marianus Scotus states be true; for he says that it was three hundred and thirty-one years after the Deluge that the Confusion of Tongues took place at Babylon, while, according to what we have stated above, it was long after the Babylonian Confusion that Niul was born. From what we have said, we should trust the authors of the seanchus of the Scotic race as regards the age of Niul son of Feinius Farsaidh, and believe that he was a contemporary of Moses in Egypt.

As to Niul, it was when he was sojourning at Capacyront beside the Red Sea, and when Scota had given birth to Gaedheal, that the children of Israel escaped from Pharao and marched to the shore of the Red Sea, and made an encampment beside Capacyront where Niul dwelt. When Niul heard of this, he went to meet them and discourse with them, and to find out who they were. At the outposts of the host he met Aaron who told him the story of the children of Israel and of Moses and the witness-bearing miracles that God had wrought against Pharao and his army, because of the bondage of the children of Israel. Now Niul and Aaron entered into an alliance and friendship with one another; and Niul inquired of Aaron whether they had food or provisions, and further informed him that whatever corn and means he had would


all be at their service. For this Aaron was grateful to him. Then night came on; and Aaron went to Moses and told him of the offers which Niul had made to them; and Moses and Aaron were grateful to him accordingly.

Now Niul went to his own people after this, and told them that the children of Israel were nigh unto them; and he told them all that had befallen the children of Israel. And that same night a serpent came upon Gaedheal as he was swimming, and wounded him so that he was at the point of death; and others say that it was from the desert it came and wounded him in bed. His people told Niul to take the lad to Moses; and he took Gaedheal into the presence of Moses. Moses prayed to God, and applied the rod he held in his hand to the wound, and thus healed it. And Moses said that, in what place soever the stock of that youth would settle, there no serpent would ever have venom, and this is verified in Crete, an island in Greece, in which some of his posterity are; it is without serpents as Ireland is. And although there were serpents in Ireland up to the coming of Patrick, I do not think they had venom; or I imagine it is the demons that are called serpents in the Life of Patrick.

Some seanchas state that Moses fastened with a lock around the neck of Gaedheal the bracelet that he had on his own arm, and that it was from this he was called Gaedheal Glas. At that time each chieftain wore a bracelet on the arm as a mark of his tribal supremacy; and hence the head of a company is now called a noble fleascach or bracelet-bearer. To set forth that it was from the trail of the serpent that clung to Gaedheals neck that he is called Gaedheal GIas, and to show that it was Moses who healed him, we have the following stanzas:

    1. Gaedheal Glas, why was the name given
      To that brilliant, perfect man?
      The event whence Gaedheal is Glas,
      Few are those who know its history;

    2. p.21

    3. While bathed in the strong stream
      Gaedheal son of Niul of good disposition,
      A serpent bit his skin;
      It was not easy to heal it;
    4. The grey-blue mark did not leave him
      Till Moses kindly healed it.
      What the learned understand from this
      Is that thence comes Gaedheal Glas.
Others assert that he was called Gaedheal Glas from the grey-blue colour of his arms and armour. Hence someone has composed the following stanza:
    1. Scota bore a son to Niul the modest,
      From whom sprang many noble tribes;
      Gaedheal Glas was the name of the man,
      From the grey-blue colour of his arms and armour.
And it is from this Gaedheal that all the Gaels are named. Hence the poet composed this stanza:
    1. The Feni are named from Feinius,
      The meaning is not difficult;
      The Gaels from comely Gaedheal Glas,
      The Scots from Scota.
Others, however, say that the mother of Gaedheal was called Scota because his father was of the Scotic race from Scythia, and that it was their custom to call the women after their husbands. Understand that this is not the Scota who was wife of Galamh, who is called Milidh of Spain, and bore him six sons. For the mother of Gaedheal was daughter to Pharao Cincris; and it was he who held the children of Israel in bondage. But the Pharao whose daughter was wife of Milidh was the fifteenth Pharao after him. He was called Pharao Nectonibus.

Now as to Niul, he told Moses that Pharao Cincris would be angry with himself for having welcomed him. ‘In that case’, said Moses, ‘come along with us; and if we reach the land which God has fore-appointed to us, thou shalt get a share of it; or, if thou wilt, we will deliver


the fleet of Pharao into thy hands, and do thou go on sea in it so that thou mayest learn how we shall separate from Pharao.’ Niul followed this latter counsel. A thousand armed men were sent with him to the ships; and these were delivered over to him; and he embarked in them, and beheld the events of the ensuing day, namely, the opening of the sea before the children of Israel, and its dispersion after them on Pharao and on his host, drowning them, as the poet says in this stanza, which is taken from the poem beginning, O thou who believest not according to truth:
    1. Sixty thousand of them on foot,
      Fifty thousand on horseback,
      storm of the Red Sea of Romhar
      overwhelmed them all at once.
Sixty thousand foot, then, and fifty thousand horse was their number. It was seven hundred and ninety-seven years after the Deluge that Pharao was drowned, as we have stated above. And Niul having seen Pharao and his host drown, remained in the same territory, as he was not afraid after the drowning of Pharao; and his children and progeny grew up until they were able to bear arms. Some time afterwards Niul died; and Gaedheal and his mother took possession of his lands. Thereafter a son was born to Gaedheal in Egypt, namely Easru son of Gaedheal, and some time after that a son was born to him in turn, Sru son of Easru, son of Gaedheal, and these possessed the same lands and dwelt thereon.

Now, as to the Egyptians, Pharao Intuir assumed sovereignty over them after the drowning of Pharao Cincris. Pharao was a name given to every king who ruled over Egypt from Pharao Cincris who was drowned in the Red Sea to Pharao Nectonibus the fifteenth king after Pharao Cincris.