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Lesson I: The Mythological Cycle
1. The assumed prehistory of Ireland
As in many cultures, the people of early Ireland had a number of myths to explain their origins. Texts like these have come down to us particularly in connection with the so-called Lebor Gabála Érinn, 'The Book of Invasions'. The Lebor Gabála tells of how various people came to Ireland, one after the other, and how each newly arrived group defeated the previous population group. The events are brought into line with biblical events, such as the flood, and the later spread of Noah's family. According to the Lebor Gabála, the second last group to arrive was the Túatha Dé Danann, 'the people of the Goddess Danu', who are considered to have many magical abilities, and are supposed to have come from the north. Finally the Milesians arrived. The gist of the story at this point is as follows: The Spanish warrior Milesius joined Scythian service. He married the king’s daughter and had two sons. When his wife died, the Scythians became afraid of him and wanted to kill him. With his sons he fled to Egypt to enter the service of Pharaoh Nectanebus and fought against the Ethiopians. Milesius then married the Pharaoh’s daughter Scota and had two more sons, Éber and Amairgen. The Milesians left Egypt and returned towards Spain. Milesius heard about his nephew Ith having been slain in Ireland by members of the Túatha Dé Dannan, namely the sons of Ogma: Mac Cécht, Mac Cuill, and Mac Gréine. Milesius then planned to invade Ireland, but dies en route. His wife and sons conquer Ireland and take it from the Túatha Dé Dannan. The island was divided between the two people: the Milesians got the land above the earth, the Túatha Dé received everything under the ground, or, according to other sources, the lakes, islands and places connected to water. Please read the early Irish tales about these events. Reading: 1. Dillon, Early Irish literature, Chapter III 'The Mythological Cycle'. 2. The first Battle of Moytura. You will find the full story of 'The First Battle of Moytura' at this location: http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/1maghtured.html 3. The second Battle of Moytura. The 'Second Battle of Moytura' can be found here: http://www.ucc.ie/celt/published/T300011.html

2. The assumed prehistory of Wales
The History of Britain according to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae. Geoffrey of Monmouth contributed largely to the medieval perception of the historical development of Britain by compiling a history of Britain, the Historia Regum Britanniae, the History of the Kingdom of Britain, which was published sometime between 1135 and 1139 AD. His account was preceded and influenced by Nennius’ 9th century Historia Brittonum, which in turn was partly based on St. Gildas’ De Excidio Britanniae. These texts offer interesting insight into the thinking of the time. However, the medieval approach to history mixed assumed fact and fiction to a large degree. Consequently, what is stated by these medieval historians can be seen as possibly, but not necessarily, being based on true events. Some details are likely to be almost pure fiction. The topic of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, the 'History of the Kings of Britain', is the

Merlin had prophesied that the descendents of Arthur should only recover their kingdom when their faith returned to them (HRB 12). Trinovantum. but each of their attempts were warded off. Britain is not subject to Rome (HRB 10). is born to him (HRB 8 § 19). but his constantly bad council is improved somewhat when the young sage Merlin becomes his counsellor (HRB 6 §19). St Augustine is sent by the Pope to convert the Britons. Henceforth. However. H. Geoffrey of Monmouth. University of Wales Press 1965. Subsequently. Arthur takes the kingship of Britain and defends it against Saxon invasions. L. A son. Penguin 1966. Vortigern’s youngest son Uther Pendragon takes the kingship of Britain (HRB 8 §18). Arthur marches against Rome and conquers it. References: A. Under pressure of these attacks. Merlin prophesies the future to the Britons and allegedly builds Stonehenge. They were then freed by Brutus and ultimately sailed towards France and Britain. Arthur’s nephew Mordred had seized the crown. in his absence. Later. Mordred invites the Saxons to help him. Comment on one other assignment in the discussion forum. O.Untitled document early (pseudo-) history of Britain. Geoffrey holds the Brittons to be descendants of Trojans who were held in captivity in Greece. When the Romans demand tribute. The Romans later tried repeatedly to invade Britain. ed. Arthur. Monmouth. They took the island of Britain and king Casswallawn overcame all Roman attempts to conquer the island (53-4 AD). When Arthur returns and reclaims the kingship. Later on this is renamed 'London' after Casswallawn’s brother Lud (HRB 1§17). but his heir Cadwalladar loses the kingdom to the Saxons as a punishment for the Britons’ sins. You will find the relevant discussion forum in the communications section. Assignment: Please write 100 words each on: a) what role Lug and the Dagda played in the Battle of Moytura b) What the assumed importance of Merlin and Arthur was for Britain Answer these questions in the discussion forum on PingPong by the 23rd of March. Thorpe. There were more attacks from the Picts in the north. Jarman. ‘New Troy’. This is his worst decision. The History of the Kings of Britain. King Cadwallar manages to reintroduce peace. . the British king Vortigern invited the Angles to help against the Picts and settle in Britain (HRB 6). G. Brutus then allegedly founded a new city by the Thames.

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