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Friday, 28 September 2012

Dark Age TV - Inside The Medieval Mind

One of the world's greatest authorities on the Middle Ages, Professor Robert Bartlett of St Andrew's University, investigates the intellectual landscape of the medieval world. In the first programme, Knowledge, he explores the way medieval man understood the world - as a place of mystery, even enchantment. The world was a book written by God. But as the Middle Ages grew to a close, it became a place to be mastered, even exploited. In this programme, Power, Professor Bartlett lays bare the brutal framework of the medieval class system. Inequality was a part of the natural order: the life of serfs was little better than those of animals, while the knight's code of chivalry was based more on caste solidarity than morality. The class you were born into determined who you were." In Sex, he unearths remarkable evidence of the complex passions of medieval men and women. The Church preached hatred of the flesh, promoted the cult of virginity and condemned woman as the sinful heir to Eve. Yet this was the era that gave birth to the idea of romantic, or 'courtly' love." In Belief, the supernatural comes under the spotlight. The medieval dead shared the world with the living: the cult of the saints, encounters with the dead, and visions of the next world were all seen as proof of a two-way traffic between this world and the next."

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Dark Age TV - Treasures of the Anglo-Saxons

Art historian Dr. Janina Ramirez reveals the codes and messages hidden in Anglo-Saxon art. From the beautiful jewellery that adorned the first violent pagan invaders through to the stunning Christian manuscripts they would become famous for, she explores the beliefs and ideas that shaped Anglo-Saxon art.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Of the Descendents of Earc Here

Of the Descendents of Earc Here

Taken from the poem beginning “Enna, the pupil of hardy Cairbre..” Poem probably twelfth century or later. Title is mine. Notice the mention of Fearghus Fail, here fail/fal probably meaning Ireland. His descendent was Adamnan, who wrote the Vita of St.Columcille in the late seventh century. Also note the mention of Massan and Cassan, disciples of St.Cairnech, who are also mentioned in the story of Muircertach Mac Erca's death. St. Cairnech was the equivalent to, or the same person as St. Caranog of the Britons, one of the few saints to be associated with King Arthur. Translation by Todd and Herbert in The Irish Version of the Historia Brittonum 1848 with only small amendments.

Erc, the daughter of unsubdued Loarn,
The mother of eight great brave sons,
Whose seed has been powerful within,
Between Eoghan and Conall.

Tigearnach, who ruled with bravery
And Fearadach of Kingly power,
Muircheartach and Moan, rich in mead,
Were sons of Earc by Muireadach.

The race of Tigearnach of rich domains,
Are the Siol Tigearnach Mic Earce
Fearadhach too, a full ripe chief,
From whom are the Cenel Fearadhaigh.

Cenel Moain of the mead,
From Moan son of Muireadach,
Muircheartach, the gentle and merry,
From him descend the kings of Aileach.

Those are the descendents of the four gentle sons
Whom Earc left in Tir-Eoghain,
Now I shall name for you without fail
The descendants of Earc’s sons in Tir Chonaill.

The Earc, whose sons these were,
Was the daughter of Loarn of Alba;
Whom Fearghus, the son of Conall, took
To wife, for dowry, after Muireadhach.

Seadna, Feidhlimidh, well do I know,
Breanainn and Loarn, the right handed,
Were the sons of Earc, valorous the band,
And Fearghus, the son of Conall.

Feilim left no children,
Except Eoghan the little and Colum.
Breanainn of happy career left not,
But only Baothin of the goodly deeds.

Loarn, whose hand was strong,
Illustrious was the first born of his sons,
Ronan, the father of powerful sons,
Colman, Seighinn and Laisreann.

These three sons which Earc left,
Were without issue, except saints of saintly power.
Seadna was hers for the propagation
Of people, chiefs and brave kings.

Seadna, the son of Fearghus of Fail,
From whom descended the Siol Seadna, noble and brave,
Cenel Lughdach in the East and here,
And the hosts of Fanad, it is true.

The Clann Ciarain and the sons of fair Clann Crunnmaoil,
And the kingly Clann Loingsigh,
They, the distinguished for valiant deeds,
Are the descendents of Seadna, the son of Fearghus.

These are the descendents of Earcs sons without reproach,
In the countries of Conall and of Eoghan.
Ill did their friendship work
To the descendents of Cormac, son of Enna.

Earc besought a noble gift
From her eight sons of great renown.
A territory free of all claim to depend,
From the descendents of Earc’s sons in Tir Conaill.

The Sons of Fearghus gave unto her
Druim Lighean because of its nobleness,
For its convenient situation within the land,
Between Tir Eoghain and Tir Conaill.

She made he will before her death.
Earc the beautiful, without a doubt.
She bequeathed her territory to the venerated powerful Cairneach,
The godly son of her sister.

Her horses, her gold, her apparel
Her presents of many hundreds,
And that he be entertained at banquets
For her, by the sons of Muiredhach.

Her suit of apparel every year,
As if she were alive, by strict injunction,
And a hundred of every kind of cattle,
To Cairneach, from the seed of Eoghan.

The seed of Eghan paid the tribute
During Cairneach’s life without murmer,
And they paid it, noble the deed,
After him for a term of twenty years.

Massan and Cassan then,
Were the two Coarbs after Cairneach,
They gave away Druim Lighean freely,
Upon condition of receiving Cairneach’s tribute.

The prosperous Clann Neill gave,
Free of expeditions or of hosting,
Although they might have kept it without reproach,
Cairneach’s tribute as they asked.

Fearghus, the son of Muircheartach,
With his noble illustrious, great sons,
Took the Drium subject to this tribute
And hence why they are called Fir Droma.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Ireland in a Roman World. 20-21 October 2012

The Discovery Programme is proud to announce the first international interdisciplinary conference that will consider how communities in Ireland engaged with the Roman world. We have invited leading academics from Ireland, England, Scotland, Germany, Denmark and the USA to present papers from across the subjects of Archaeology, History, Classics, Earth Sciences, Iron Age studies and 'Celtic' Studies, covering the Iron Age through to Late Antiquity.
Recent contemporary dialogues in archaeology have highlighted the fluid nature of both the identities and materialities of those living and dying within and beyond the formal frontiers of the Roman Empire. Through the work of scholars such as Richard Hingley, David Mattingly and Andrew Gardner it is now recognised that concepts such as emulation and engagement, and reception and resistance, are as much to do with individual agency, opportunity and access as any grand overarching narrative of wholesale 'Romanization'. New social mores vied with local traditions to produce an eminently variable and localized Roman-ness both within and beyond the Roman provinces. To understand what it was to become Roman, we have to consider the layers of subtle negotiation and transformation taking place at the level of the individual, their community and the landscapes in which they lived and died.
What is remarkable and only recently understood is that despite the monumentalization of military might and control, both in northern Britain and along the Rhine frontier, these physical and ideological barriers did not stop the movement of people. Roman material is widely distributed beyond all of the frontiers of the Roman Empire, in areas that never fell within the territorium of Rome itself.
Until quite recently Roman material at Irish sites was widely regarded as anomolous or intrusive within the traditional archaeological narrative of the later Iron Age. With no expectation of contexts that might hold Roman evidence, readily identifiable material such as Samian ware, fibulae, coins and glass have been classified as 'intrusive' and often considered irrelevant to dating sequences at sites. More recent excavations, contemporary research and more recent finds have, however, prompted a reconsideration of Ireland's engagement with the Roman administration in the western provinces. The LIARI project was designed to investigate fully this formative period in early Irish history and has forged new collaborative research with leading scholars both inside and outside Ireland. The conference will provide an extraordinary opportunity for us re-evaulate the settlement, societies and economy of 'Ireland in a Roman world'.

Further Information

Please contact us at with any questions or for further information.

Trinity College Dublin
20-21 October 2012

 Conference Timetable

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Monday, 10 September 2012

Dark Age TV - Blood Of The Vikings

Dark Age TV  - Blood Of The Vikings.

This BBC series looks at the arrival of the Vikings in Britain and their subsequent wars and settlement in five parts.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Who was King Arthur? Table comparison of contenders.

Who was King Arthur? In this post I compare the various contenders. Looks pretty much like Mac Erca wins hands down as the most influential candidate. See my book for more details.

What Mac Erca does prove is that there _could_ have been an Arthur. My work swings the pendulum back from where Dumville, Green and others left it, with all smoke and no fire, for now, with Mac Erca we have a real historical person who DID acquire legends and tales exactly like Arthurs. This increases the possibility now that there was an Arthur by a large percentage, and if that is all I could bring to the study of Arthur then I would be happy. In essence, we have found an example of Dumville's fire and a damn good one it is...

Mac Erca
Artorius Castus
Mac Aedan
Urse Cuneglase
Has the name Arthur


Lived between
   465 -537

Fought Saxons


Fought Irish


Fought Danes

Fought Franks

Fought Picts

Fights Dog heads and other mythicals

Ruled Orkneys


Had special weapon

Christian references


Considered a giant


Death or removal of wife

Consorts with druid

Fights abroad


Magical Dog

Fights Giants

Wife’s name translatable to Guinevere type

Fights twelve battles

Joint sovereignty

Dubious ancestry

Mythical death

Saxon Ascendancy after death

Fought at Badon and Camlan

Associated with Badon or Camlann

*  see below

Associated with Constantine

Associated with period of seven years.

Associated with St Caranog

* Mac Erca has a son called Baitan/Baedan and his last battle was at Ebhlann. This name Baitan became very popular in the sixth century Ireland and northern Britain surely acting as a witness to the battle of Mount Badon. In fact the name Baitan became the name of a place in Argyll called Kinnel Badon/Vadon.

Muircertach Mac Erca

And then the power and strength of Britain was destroyed after him

Muircertach Mac Erca, as Irish legend tells us, was a High king of Ireland, son of Muiredach, son of Eoghan, son of Niall of the Nine Hostages. Reputedly, he was the first Christian King of Ireland[1] who reigned from around 510[2] or 513[3] until about 534 or 537[4]. He fought numerous battles, was in his early years a murderous tyrant, exacted tribute, was in possession of the Lia Fáil, conquered Ireland and Gaul and assumed the sovereignty of Britain, Scotland, the Saxons, Denmark and the Orkneys; is fostered by a Druid and is finally given the ultimate accolade of a famous hero – the triple death. If this set of circumstances sounds familiar you would be right; this is the same as King Arthur was supposed to have accomplished as related by Nennius and Geoffrey of Monmouth and exactly during the same time period!
    Muircertach’s story is told in various existing ancient Irish manuscripts. The fourteenth century Yellow Book of Lecan, the sixth to twelfth century Irish Annals, the eleventh to twelfth century Dinshenchas and Banshenchus, tenth to twelfth century Book of Leinster and Laud Synchronisms, the twelfth century Banquet of Dun Na nGedh and the fourteenth century Book of Ballymote which includes the Lebor Bretnach or ‘Book of the Britons’. Most of these books were compiled using earlier sources and hence the provenance of the stories has a more ancient origin. Muircertach was also mentioned in a now lost work called Echtra Muircheartach Mac Erca – The Navigation or Journeys of Muircheartach Mac Erca[5], mentioned in the Book of Leinster which may have told the story of his Gallic campaign. Cendfaeladh, a seventh century poet and possible descendent of Mac Erca is attributed with various verses recording his exploits[6]. His mythical death is mentioned in the tale called Aided Muircertach Mac Erca – The Violent Death of Muircertach Mac Erc.

We should remember though that Muirchertach Mac Erca is a merged character, being composed of Muircertach Mac Muiredach of O'Neill genealogy and the historical Mac Erca mentioned by Adamnan in the seventh century. This merging took place sometime in the late eighth to early ninth century.

[1] His Christian leaning is suggested by the lack of a Feiss Temro (a pagan kingship and marriage ceremony), during his reign. See Carney, James. ‘Studies in Irish Literature and History’ Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1955 p. 338. See also Smith, P. J. Imarcaigh sund ar gach saí : An Early Modern Irish Poem on the Contemporaneous Emperors of Byzantium and the Kings and Ecclesiastics of Ireland, , University of Ulster, Poem twelfth to fifteenth century in which Muircertach is mentioned : “The death of Muircheartach son of Earc about that time – he was no heathen”.
[2] Annals of Tigernach
[3] Annals of Ulster
[4] The Alternative dates occur in myth and the Irish Annals. He reigned for 24 years and in Aided MM Erca 25 years. From the AU 513 this would give 537. Note Arthur is supposed to have died in 537, according to the Welsh Annals of the tenth century or later.
[5] Another variation existed called Immram Luinge Murchertaig –‘Voyage of the Ship of Muircertach son of Erc. Moylan, Tom, Irish Voyages and Visions: Pre-Figuring, Re-configuring Utopia, Utopian Studies 18.3, 2007.
[6] Irish and Scottish Annals.