A History of Ireland, Scotland and Wales - Dr. Lizabeth Johnson Lecture 4


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We will examine Irish, Scottish, and Welsh history and culture from 500 BC to the present. In particular, lectures and discussions will focus on the early cultural identity of the Irish, Scots, and Welsh and their customs and mythologies; the influence of Roman culture and Christianity on these lands and peoples; the English conquest and colonization of these lands and peoples; and, finally, on the process of political devolution in all three areas. These aspects of Irish, Scottish, and Welsh history will be examined through historical documents and literature, art, music, and film clips. Students will emerge from the class with a clear sense of the events that shaped the early history and culture of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales and how those events continue to shape these areas even to the present day.

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A History of Ireland, Scotland and Wales - Dr. Lizabeth Johnson Lecture 4

  1. 1. Kingship in Celtic society • IE roots, *pead = rules *reg = stretches • IE *regs = king; Latin rex, Gaulish rix, Irish, ri, Welsh rhi. • IE *teuta = tribe; Irish tuath, Welsh tud • Words formed from these roots – Gaulish god’s name Teutates – Gaulish personal name Toutierix = tribal king – Irish ri tuaithe=tribal king – Welsh personal name Tudor
  2. 2. Sovereignty • Goddess of the land seeks out the king – Archaeological evidence • Rosmerta and Esus • Rosmerta and Mercury • Epona and Mars – Literary evidence • Irish--Lugh and Flaithe (Baile in Scáile/Phantom’s Frenzy) • Welsh--Rhiannon and Pwyll (First Branch of the Mabinogi)
  3. 3. Feasting and drinking • • • • • • • • • Irish feis = “feast,” from fo-aid = “sleeps with” Feast of Tara, discontinued in Christian era Gerald of Wales, c. 1185 AD Asvamedha (PIE ekwo-meydho), “horse-drunk” Gaulish personal name Epomeduos, “horse mead” Irish Medb, “drunkenness” Branwen and Matholwch (Second branch of Mabinogi) Rhiannon and Pwyll (First branch of the Mabinogi) Last kingship ritual in Ireland recorded in 1310, with accession of Felim O Conchobair as King of Connacht
  4. 4. Hill of Tara, Ireland
  5. 5. Kingship ritual illustrated in Gerald of Wales’ History and Topography of Ireland
  6. 6. Medb, painting by Joseph Christian Leyendecker, 1916.
  7. 7. Sovereignty ritual gone awry • Lebor Gebála (The Book of Invasions) – Sons of Mil rape and kill the sovereignty goddesses Eriu, Fodla, Banba • The Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel – Sovereignty goddess appears as a hag and the king rejects her • Medb in the Tain – Offers her “friendly thighs” to any warrior who will help her in her war with Ulster
  8. 8. Sacral kingship • Important rituals/behaviors – – – – – – • Crith Gablach, “On Status”, 7th century—gives a weekly schedule for kings – – – – – – – • • Bravery Hospitality Generosity Hunting Truthfulness Justice Sunday for drinking ale Monday for legal business Tuesday for fidchell/chess Wednesday for watching greyhounds hunt Thursday for marital relations Friday for horse racing Saturday for judging legal cases Audacht Morainn, “The Testament of Morainn,” 7th century Fir Flathemainn, “Prince’s Truth,” 7th century
  9. 9. Signs of sacral kingship • Unusual birth – Pryderi ap Pwyll (First branch of Mabinogi) • Irish geis (s), gessa (pl) = taboos – Fergus Mac Róich could not refuse a feast – Cuchulain could not eat dog meat, but could not refuse food given him • Unusual death – Lleu Llaw Gyffes (Fourth branch of Mabinogi) – Diarmait Mac Cerbaill (The Death of Diarmait Mac Cerbaill
  10. 10. Queens • Cartimandua, queen of the Brigantes, 1st century AD – Queen and sovereignty figure? • Boudicca, queen of the Iceni, d. 61 AD – Prasutagos, husband to Boudicca, died c. 60 AD
  11. 11. Boudica statue, by Thomas Thornycroft, 1905, near Houses of Parliament, London.
  12. 12. British/English kingdoms Map from Peter Hunter Blair, Roman Britain and Early England, 55 BCAD 871. • The Invaders – Angles, Saxons, Irish, Picts • British kingdoms – – – – – – – – – – Dumnonia Dyfed Ceredigion Gwent Powys Gwynedd Gododdin Strathclyde Rheged Elmet • Wealh>>Wales, Welsh (foreigner/slave) • Cymru, Cymro
  13. 13. British/Welsh kingship and culture • Rhi/Ri = in personal names (Rigotamos/Riothamus, Rhiwallon) • Brenhin = king – Tywysog = prince, Arglwydd = lord • • • • • Teulu = war band Maelgwn Gwynedd, fl. 6th century Owain ab Urien, king of Rheged, fl. 7th century Rhodri Mawr, king of Gwynedd, d. 878 Hywel Dda, d. 950 – Ruled Gwynedd, Dyfed, and Powys – Cyfreith Hywel Dda (earliest text 12th c.) • Gruffudd ap Llywelyn, d. 1063 – Ruled Gwynedd, Powys, Dyfed, and Gwent
  14. 14. Early Medieval Ireland Map from Nora Chadwick, The Celts. • The fifths – – – – – Connaught, Cruachan Ai Ulster, Emain Macha Leinster, Dun Ailinne Munster, Cashel Meath, Tara • Levels of kingship – Ard rí (high king) – Rí cóicid (provincial king) – Ruiri (over-king, king of many tribes) – Rí túaithe (king of one tribe)
  15. 15. The High Kingship • Niall Noigiallach (Neill of the Nine Hostages) – Ui Néill (grandsons of Niall), modern O’Neill • Loégaire mac Néill, 5th to 6th century CE • Brian Boruma – Ui Brian (grandsons of Brian) – King of Munster, 965-1002 – High King, 1002-1014 – Battle of Clontarf, 1014
  16. 16. Christianization of Irish kingship • Firflaith (just king) • Lebor Gebála (Book of Invasions, 7th-8th century) – Sru (Irish for noble, wealthy; a Scythian said to be descended from Noah) – Scotta (said to be a daughter of Pharaoh and mother of Sru) – Nel (Cloud, reminiscent of pillar of clouds that led Israelites through the desert) – Goedel (Gael, Irish, was present at the Tower of Babel) • The Phantom Chariot of Cuchulainn – “Great as was my heroism/Hard as was my sword,/The Devil crushed me with one finger/Into the red charcoal!”
  17. 17. The early Scottish kings • Dal Riada (NE Ulster and NW Britain) – Battle of Mag Roth, 637 • Cairpre Riata in Argyll • Fergus mac Erc in Kintyre, d. 501 • Gabran mac Domangart mac Fergus, d. 558 • Aedan mac Gabran, d. circa 610 – Battle of Degsastan, 603 • By 650, 7 kings and 7 kin groups, one high king – High kings descended from Fergus • Ferchar ‘the Tall’, r. 680-696 – Reunites Scots
  18. 18. Dal Riada kingship stone at Dunadd, Scotland
  19. 19. Early Pictish kings • Bridei mac Maelcon, d. 584 – Royal center at Craig Phadraig – Possibly a son of Maelgwn Gwynedd • By 668, English Northumbrians rule southern Picts and take tribute from the Scots • Bridei mac Bili, d. 693 – Battle of Nechtansmere, 685 (commemorated on Aberlemno Stone) • Nechton mac Derelei, r. 706-724 – Sought religious advisers from Northumbria • Oengus mac Fergus, r. 729-761 – Dominated Dal Riada
  20. 20. Viking raids and settlement Left map from Gwyn Jones, A History of the Vikings. Right map from Henry Loyn, The Vikings in Britain.
  21. 21. Viking settlement in England Map from Gwyn Jones, A History of the Vikings
  22. 22. The union of Scots and Picts The Stone of Scone, kingship stone of the kings of Scotland. • Kenneth mac Alpin, r. 843-858 – Moved Dal Riada court from Dunadd to Scone – Brought relics of St. Columba to Dunkeld • Duncan I, r. 1034-1040 • Macbeth MacFindlay, r. 1040-1057 • Malcolm III (Malcolm Canmore), r. 1058-1093
  23. 23. Those ranking beneath the kings • Professional learned classes – Druids – Poets (Irish fili, Welsh beirdd) – Jurists/lawyers (Irish brithemain/brehon, Welsh cyngaws and canllaw) • Society and law – Face price (Irish log n’enech, Welsh wynebwerth) – Insult/injury price (Irish díre, Welsh sarhaed) – Compensation for homicide (Irish éraic, Welsh galanas)