All the stories say that the greatest king of those faraway times was the twenty first Milesian king, known to fame as Ollam Fodla who blessed Ireland in a reign of forty years, some seven or eight centuries before the Christian Era. His title, Ollam Fodla, Doctor of Wisdom, has preserved his memory down the ages. The legends indicate that he was a true father to his people, and an able statesman. He organised the nation for efficiency, dividing it into cantreds, appointed a chief over every cantred, a brugaid over every territory, and a steward over every townland. Some traditions say that he established a School of Learning. And as crowning glory he established the celebrated Feis of Tara, the great triennial Parliament of the chiefs, the nobles, and the scholars of the nation, which assembled on Tara Hill once every three years to settle the nation’s affairs. This great deliverative assembly, almost unique among the nations in those early ages, and down into Christian times, reflected not a little glory upon ancient Ireland. One queen, famous and capable, whom early Ireland boasted was Macha Mong Ruad (the red-haired, who reigned over the land about three hundred years before Christ. Her father, Aod Ruad was one of a triumvirate - the others being Dithorba and Cimbaoth - who by mutual agreement, took seven year turns in reigning. For many, the reign of Cimbaoth - which synchronises with that of Alexander the Great - marks the beginning of certainty in Irish history - because of the famed remark of the trusted eleventh century historian, Tighernach, that the Irish records before Cimbaoth were uncertain. When Cimbaoth died this able woman took up the reins of government herself, becoming the first Milesian queen of Ireland.


SCOTIA (A name transferred to Alba about ten centuries after Christ) was one of the earliest names of Ireland - so named, it was said, from Scota, the daughter of Pharaoh, one of the ancient female ancestors of the Milesians - and the people were commonly called Scotti or Scots - both terms being frequently used by early Latin historians and poets. One of its ancient titles was Hibernia (used by Caesar) which some trace from Ivernia, the name, it is said, of a people located in the south of the Island. But most trace it from Eber or Heber, ther first Milesian king of the southern half, just as the much later name, Ireland, is by some traced from Ir, whose family were in the northeastern corner of the island. Though it seems much more likely that this latter name was derived from the most common title given to the Island by its own inhabitants, Eire - hence Eireland, - Ireland. It was first Northmen and then the Saxons, who, in the ninth and tenth century began calling it Ir-land, or Ir-landa - Ireland.

In the oldest known foreign reference to Ireland, it was called Ierna. This was the title used by the poet Orpheus in the time of Cyrus of Persia, in the sixth century before Christ. Aristotle, in his Book of the World, also called Ierna. It was usually called either Hibernia or Scotia by the Latin writers. Tacitus, Caesar, and Pliny call it Hibernia.

"This Isle is sacred named by all the ancients,
From times remotest in the womb of Chronos,
This Isle which rises over the waves of ocean,
Is covered with a sod of rich luxuriance.
And peopled far and wide by the Hiberni"

By Rufus Festus Avienus, who wrote this at beginning of the fourth century.


At the time of Christ, as said, there reigned over Ulster - residing at Emain Macha (Emania) - a king noted in ancient song and story, Conor MacNessa. He was the grandson of Rory Mor, a powerful Ulster ruler who had become monarch of Ireland, and who was the founder of the Rudrician line of Ulster kings. The memory of Conor MacNessa is imperishably preserved in the tale of the sons Of Usnach and in the greater tale of the Tain Bo Cuailgne. His first wife was the Amazonian Medb (Maeve) just mentioned, a daughter of Eochaid the Ard-Righ of Ireland (High King). Conor separated from her and she became Queen of Connaught. He found his happiness with her sister, Ethne, whom he took to wife then, and who proved to all that was indicated by her name - Ethne, that is "sweet kernel of a nut". He was a patron of poetry and the arts, and a practical man who is said to have struck from learning, the oppressive shackles of tradition that hitherto had cramped and bound it. Till his day the learned professions, both for sake of monopoly and of effect upon the multitude used an archaic language that only the initiated understood, and that awed the mass of the people. Conor ordered that the professions should not henceforth remain in the hereditary possession of the ancient learned families - but should be thrown open to all, irrespective of family or rank. Conor’s reverence for poets was such that he saved them from expulsion, when, once they were threatened with death or exile, because having grown so vast numbers, and got to be lazy, covetous, tyrannous, they had become an almost unbearable burden upon the multitude. Conor gathered twelve hundred poets, it is said, into his dominion, and protected them there for seven years, till the anger of the people had abated, and they could scatter themselves over Ireland once more.

Conor died by a brain ball that sunk into his skull - fired by the hand of Cet MacMagach, the Connaught champion, whom he had pursued after a Connaught cattle raid. The legend attached to Conor’s death is curious. The brain ball fired by Cet did not directly kill him. It sank into his skull - and his doctor, Faith Liag, would not remove it, because that would cause instant death. With care, Conor might live long, carrying the brain ball. Henceforth, however, he must be moderate in all things, avoiding violent emotion, which was rare in those days for kings. Under his doctor’s wise care he lived for seven years. But one time, his court was thrown into consternation by finding broad day suddenly turned into blackest night, the heavens rent by lightning, and the world rocked by thunder, portending some dread cataclysm. Conor asked his wise men for explanation of the fearful happening. The druids and wise men told him that there had been in the East, a singular man, more noble of character, more lofty of mind, and more beautiful of soul, than the world had ever before known, or ever again would know - he was the noblest and most beautiful, most loving of men. And now the heavens and the earth were thrown into agony because on this day the tyrant Roman, jealous of his power over the people, had nailed him high upon a cross, and between two crucified thieves, had left the divine man to die a fearful death. Conor was so fired to rage at this thought, that he snatched his sword and tried to fiercely hew down a grove of trees. Under the strain of the fierce passion that held him the brain ball burst from King Conor’s head - and he fell dead.

  Irish History