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

Section 41


Art Aoinfhear son of Conn Ceadchathach, son of Feidhlimidh Reachtmhar, son of Tuathal Teachtmhar of the race of Eireamhon, held the sovereignty of Ireland thirty years; and his wife was Meadhbh Leithdhearg daughter of Conan Cualann, and from her is called Raith Meadhbha beside Tara. He was called Art Aoinfhear, for of his father's sons he alone survived, as his two brothers, namely, Connla and Crionna were slain by Eochaidh Fionn brother of Conn. For Conn had two brothers, namely, Eochaidh Fionn and Fiachaidh Suighdhe, and by them were slain Art's two brothers; and in testimony of this are these two quatrains from the seanchus:

    1. The two brothers of Conn witbout faults
      Were Eochaidh Fionn and Fiachaidh Suighdhe;
      They slew Connla and Crionna,
      Conn's two sons, two fair youths;
    2. Art hated Eochaidh Fionn
      After the two sons had been slain;
      He took the name of Art Aoinfhear
      After his,two brothers were slain.


Conn, indeed, had six children, namely, Art Aoinfhear, Connla, and Crionna, Maoin, Sadhbh, and Saruit, as we read in the poem which begins with the following stanza:
    1. I can name Conn's six children:
      Maoin, Sadhbh, Saruit, mother of the race of Olom;
      The fair, valiant, bright-skinned men,
      Connla, Crionna, Art Aoinfhear.
As we have said, Connla and Crionna were slain by Eochadh Fionn and by Fiachaidh Suighdhe. Saruit was married to Conaire son of Mogh Lamha, and she bore him the three Cairbres, namely, Cairbre Rioghfhada and Cairbre Baschaoin and Cairbre Musc. It was the descendants of Cairbre Rioghfhada who went to Alba; and it is they who are called Dal Riada. For Eochaidh Muinreamhar, a descendant of Cairbre Rioghfhada, had two sons, namely, Earc and Olchu. From Earc are descended the Dal Riada of Alba, and from Olchu the Dal Riada of Ulster, from whom the Ruta is called. Similarly Sadhbh daughter of Conn was married to Maicniadh son of Lughaidh of the race of Lughaidh, son of Ioth, and she bore him a son called Lughaidh, that is, Mac Con son of Maicniadh. And after the death of Maicniadh she was married to Oilill Olom, and bore him nine sons, namely, the seven who fell in the battle of Magh Muchruimhe, as Oilill Olom himself says in this stanza:
    1. Mac Con has slain my seven sons;
      Pitiful is my bitter, grievous cry,
      Eoghan, Dumbhmearchon, Mogh Corb,
      Lughaidh, Eochaidh, Diochorb, Tadhg,
and the two sons of Oilill who returned from the Battle of Magh Muchruimhe, namely, Cormac Cas and Cian. Now, although Oilill Olom had nineteen sons, that is nine by Sadhbh daughter of Conn, and ten by other women, still


only three of them left issue, as the poet says in this stanza:
    1. Nineteen pleasant sons had the chief—
      The beauteous Oilill Olom;
      Of one sole trio the race did not decay,
      From whom have sprung the progeny of the free-born.
These three who left issue were children of Sadhbh daughter of Conn. The first of them, Eoghan Mor son of Oilill, fell in the Battle of Magh Muchruimhe, by Beinne Briot, son of the king of Britain; and Fiachaidh Muilleathan, from whom clann Charrthaigh and the tribe of Suilleabhan, with their branches, are sprung, was the son of this Eoghan; and his mother was Moncha daughter of Dil son of Da Chreaga the druid; and he was born at Ath Uiseal on the Siuir, and was called Fiachaidh Fear-da-Liach. For líach means sad event; and sad were the two events that took place with regard to him, namely, the slaying of his father in the Battle of Magh Muchruimhe very soon after his conception in the womb, and the death of his mother immediately after his birth. Hence the name Fiachaidh Fear-da-Liach clung to him. Thus does Oilill Olom himself refer to this matter as we read in the Battle of Magh Muchruimhe
    1. A two-fold woe to thee their death
      Together, and a great disaster,
      Thy father and thy mother —
      Grief has overwhelmed thee.
    2. Thy father and thy mother,
      Two great permanent losses:
      The man in battle was struck down,
      Died the wife at thy birth.
Moreover he was called Fiachaidh Muilleathan, because when the time of his birth arrived his grandfather the druid said to Moncha that if she delayed the birth of her son for twenty-four hours, he would be a king; but if she brought him forth within that time, he would be only a druid.


‘Then,’ said Moncha, ‘in the hope that my son may become a king, I will not bring him forth for twenty-four hours unless he come through my side.’ And then she went into the ford of the Siuir that was beside her father's dun, and there sat upon a stone, and remained twenty-four hours seated on the stone. And at the end of that time she came out of the river and gave birth to a son, and she herself died immediately after having brought him forth. It was this son, then, that was called Fiachaidh Muilleathan; and he was called Muilleathan from the crown of his head being broad. For while his mother was sitting on the flag-stone in the ford, on the point of bringing him forth, the child's crown grew broad by the pressure of the flag-stone on which his mother sate in the ford; hence the name Fiachaidh Muilleathan clung to him.

The second son of Oilill Olom who left issue was Cormac Cas, from whom sprang the Dal gCais and siol Aodha,that is, clan Mac na Mara and siol Flannchuidhe. It was to this Cormac Cas that Oilill Olom had left the inheritance of Munster, until he was informed that Fiachaidh Muilleathan had been born to Eoghan Mor; and when he heard this, he directed that the sovereignty be left after him to Cormac during his life, and that it belong after Cormac's death to Fiachaidh Muilleathan during his life; and in this way that the sovereignty belong alternately in each succeeding reign to the descendants of Cormac Cas and those of Fiachaidh, Muilleathan for ever. And for some generations they held the sovereignty of Munster according to this arrangement.

This Cormac Cas son of Oilill Olom was the fifth best champion in Ireland in his own time; the other four were Lughaidh Lamha, Fionn son of Cumhall, Lughaidh Mac Con, Cairbre Gailin, the fifth champion being Cormac Cas; and there was no one in Ireland fit to fight with any of them outside of their own number. This Cormac Cas was the first to impose a rent-tax on the districts of Munster. He gave in one


day nine ounces and five hundred ounces of silver to bards and learned men for praising him. He brought thirty preys from Britain when he was in exile, stirring up war against the Leinstermen; and the Leinstermen submitted to him.

The third son of Oilill who left issue was Cian. From this Cian are descended O Cearbhaill and O Meaghair, O hEadhra and O Gadhra and O Cathasaigh and O Conchubhar of Ciannachta.

Oilill Olom was the first king of the race of Eibhear who is named in the Reim Rioghruidhe as having held the sovereignties of the two provinces of Munster. Oilill held the sovereignty of Munster twenty-three years. For before Oilill banished Mac Con there were two races holding sway over Munster, namely, the descendants of Dairine of the race of Lughaidh son of Ioth, from whom sprang Mac Con, and the descendants of Deirgthine of the race of Eibhear, from whom sprang Oilill Olom. And whenever the sovereignty of Munster was held by the descendants of Dairine, the brehonship and tanistship were held by the descendants of Deirgthine; and when the descendants of Deirgthine held supreme power, the descendants of Dairine held the other offices, until Mac Con transgressed the command of Oilill Olom, as may be understood from what we are about to say. For Oilill ordered him not to take sides with Neimhidh son of Sraibhgeann against Eoghan son of Oilill, his own kinsman, and the three Cairbres. And in order that the cause of Mac Con's banishment may be better understood, I shall set down here the event that led to Mac Con's expulsion from Ireland, namely, the fall of Aingceal son of Deigheall, who was with Neimhidh son of Sraibhgheann; and by Neimhidh, in his struggle for the possession of Ireland, Conaire son of Mogh Lamha was slain; and it was because of Aingceal that the three Cairbres slew Neimhidh son of Sraibhgheann, the husband of their own mother, Saruit daughter of Conn. For it was Neimhidh who


slew Conaire, their father. On account of this Conaire's three sons were with Art son of Conn.

Cairbre Riada went to Munster, to the house of Neimhidh and Saruit daughter of Conn, his own mother, for she married Neimhidh after Conaire son of Mogh Lamha, and Aingceal happened to be in Neimhidh's house at that time; and there was a strong wrestler there with him, called Dartadha, and whenever a party who were not known came to the house of Neimhidh, one of their men was forced to engage in wrestling with Dartadha. And as Cairbre Riada was going to the house of Neimhidh to visit his mother, he engaged in wrestling with Dartadha, and laid him on the great caldron of the house, and thus he slew him. Thereupon he returned to Tara; and on his relating his adventure to Art Aoinfhear, Art said that it was on a quick errand that he went westward yesterday, seeing that he returned eastward to-day, and hence he is called Cairbre Riada.

When the other two Cairbres, namely, Cairbre Musc and Cairbre Baschaoin, heard that Aingceal, with whom they were at enmity, was at the house of Neimhidh, they exclaimed, ‘That is pleasanter than to pursue him to Britain.’ And upon this the three Cairbres set out for Munster with a company of warriors; and when they came to the house of Eoghan Mor son of Oilill Olom, Eoghan and themselves marched against Neimhidh, and Neimhidh approached in the company of Mac Con, and the Battle of Feabhra then took place between them. Cairbre Musc wounded Mac Con in that battle, and Aingceal was slain there, and Neimhidh fled till he came to where Saruit was. ‘Protection, O my sons,’ said Saruit, extending her arms round Neimhidh. ‘As much of him as is within thy arms will be protected,’ said Cairbre Musc; and forthwith he dealt him a blow that cut off his head, and dealt him a second blow by which he cut off his legs. ‘That is a great disgrace, O Cairbre,’ said she; and


hence he used to be called Cairbre Musc, that is, greater his disgrace than that of his brethren, for it was he who slew his mother's husband.

And on account of Mac Con's forming an alliance of friendship with Neimhidh son of Sraibhgheann, and because of his opposing Eoghan Mor and his kinsmen, namely, the three Cairbres, he was banished out of Ireland by Oilill, and was for a time in exile; and in the course of his exile he gained supporters and made friends for himself, so that himself and Beinne Briot, son of the king of Great Britain, and many other foreigners with them, came to Ireland and declared war on Art Aoinfhear king of Ireland, because of his having helped Oilill Olom; and the Battle of Magh Muchruimhe was arranged between them, to which Art came with all his host and the nine sons of Oilill with the seven battalions of Munster to help Art, while Mac Con with his foreigners were against them on the other side; and the Battle of Magh Muchruimhe was fought between them, and Art and his host were beaten, and Art himself slain by the hand of the champion Lughaidh Lamha, kinsman of Oilill Olom, who was taking part with Mac Con; and seven of the children of Oilill Olom fell there.

Oilill Olom's first name was Aonghus, and he was called Oilill Olom because he had intercourse with Aine daughter of Eoghabhal, and as she slept with Oilill she bit his ear off his head in retribution for his rape of her and for his having slain her father. Hence he was called Oilill Olom, that is ear-cropped. He was called Oilill also, because Oilill is the same as oil oll, ‘a great blemish’; and he had three deforming blemishes which clung to him till death, namely, he was ear-cropped, his teeth had become black, and his breath was foul, which blemishes he thus came by: when he had lost his ear through the means of Aine, as we had said, he got enraged, and forthwith he drove his spear through her body into the earth, and the point of the spear struck against a stone and got


bent, and he put the point between his teeth to straighten it, and the venom of the spear's point got into his teeth and blackened them at once, and thence foulness of breath came upon him, which clung to him till death, for he had violated the three geasa that were upon that spear, namely, not to allow its point to come against a stone, not to put its point between the teeth, and not to slay a woman with it. And it was from the violation of these geasa that the forementioned blemishes came upon him, and it was from these great blemishes that he was called Oilill—that is, oil oll, or great blemish. And Art Aoinfhear was slain in the Battle of Magh Muchruimhe.