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subordinate to him a variety of petty kings or princes, of CHAP. I. whom he demanded tribute, assistance, and submission, similar to what he paid the sovereign. These petty kings had also other chieftains, or heads of inferior clans, subordinate to them, over whom they assumed the same rule. The tribute paid in all these cases was cattle and various goods. The submission, however, which each inferior, in this different gradation of rank, afforded to his superior was not uniform, but varied, being directed by caprice or convenience. The monarch, in particular, was almost constantly engaged in wars with some or other of the provincial kings, occasioned, in general, by their withholding the usual tributes.
The succession to the monarchy was elective, but confined to the family of the three sons of Milesius, the imaginary hero of the bards, whose names are recorded to be Hebor, Heremon, and Amergin. To prevent, in some degree, the confusion attending on this unsettled mode, it was thought necessary to elect, during the life of the mo. narch, the successor, who seemed the most worthy of the same family. The person chosen was frequently the brother, uncle, or cousin-german of the reigning monarch. Successors to the provincial kings and chieftains, whom they termed tainists, were elected in the same manner. This mode, however, did not remedy the inconvenience, but still was the cause of violent contests and bloodshed. The person elected sometimes took up arms against the reigning monarch, and frequently both fell victims to some more potent faction. So that, out of two hundred monarchs, a hundred and seventy, it is allowed, died by premature and violent deaths. The title of each was usually the murder of the one who preceded him.
In such an unsettled state of government, laws, we may Laws. suppose, had but a feeble operation. Their laws, however, such as they were, seem not to have been committed to writing, but were transmitted through successive generations by a kind of hereditary judges called Brehons, who gave their decisions in the open air. The punishments inflicted were not suitable to the enormity of crimes, and even murder escaped with a fine or commutation called eric,
CHAP. I. which was usually paid to the relations of the deceased.
Another law required that a man's land, on his death, or
here before the second century. Dwellings. The habitations both of princes and people were cabins
made of hurdles, and plastered with clay. Eachcl an had
sidered themselves bound to support each other in every CHAP. I.
D. Acts of violence, indeed, accompanied by horrible in-Morals.
stances of treachery and perjury, though softened now and then by some generous deeds, were too frequent among
them, to which they were excited by their national music # and songs, that tended, instead of alleviating, to rouse the
vindictive passions of the people. The bards and musicians, who acquired great influence over them by humouring their favourite prejudices, had their professions made hereditary (as were also other professions or trades in certain families), and large portions of land appropriated to their use. They attained, it is said, the third part of the national property, which also had the advantage of not be ing liable to the fluctuation of other tenures.
Their land, however, was but of small benefit, since Food. agriculture was but little understood or practised, and their chief food was milk, herbs, flesh of cattle, and particularly of wild swine, that abounded in the forests of oaks. Such diet, with bad cookery, made the leprosy very frequent among them. The little corn they had, instead of being threshed, was freed from the husk by fire, then pounded and boiled, or ground with a hand-mill, and baked in cakes, which were hardened on embers or a griddle. Their principal beverage was mead, which caused the preservation of bees to be particularly regarded by the Brehon laws.
Their dress can not be settled so exactly, since it was Dress. liable to variations by the change of fashion and the introduction of foreigners. They wore a short cloak, at first of skin, and afterwards of cloth, furnished with a hood, and decorated with stripes of various colours. This short cloak was in time exchanged for a long one, and the hood for a conical cap. They also wore a jacket, and trowsers which descended to the feet; but the poorer sort of them seem to have been naked below. Their clothes were, like their sheep, of a dark colour, but their trowsers were dyed yellow, as were also their shirts, which were wide, with large folds, and sleeves of great size : one of them would take fifteen yards of yard-wide linen. The shoe was just a piece
CHAP. I. of leather tied on the foot by a thong. They wore a long
beard, at least on the upper lip, and a great bunch of hair thrown over their forehead, which gave them a ferocious aspect.
A particular detail of the transactions of such barbarous people would produce neither amusement nor instruction, and, indeed, the recital of the same repeated acts of cruelty and treachery would disgust the reader with its dull uniformity. Hence no benefit would be derived from such a particular detail, even if sufficient authority could be obtained; but this really is not the case, for the knowledge we acquire of the different reigns is usually taken from poems and romances, which, though founded in reality, would afford, when embellished by the fictions of the bards, very imperfect materials for history. A sketch, however, of some of the most important reigns is necessary, in order
to form a connected narrative. Ollam Fod. After a variety of monarchs, of whom a particular notice
is not requisite, the one called Ollam Fodla, who reigned 15 about nine hundred and fifty years before the Christian, adiera, was distinguished by his capacity for legislation. En- lie dued by nature with a superior understanding, he insti. jex. tuted, it is said, the triennial convention of kings, priests, fli and poets, who met at Tarah, in Meath, for the purpose of con establishing laws, and regulating the government. Some trit others also followed his example, and were useful in pro- me ducing salutary laws, though barbarous crimes too fre-jere quently intervened, and the monarchs themselves were successively removed by a series of assassination.
Two hundred and sixty years after Ollam Fodla, Kem- gre beth ascended the throne, who built, it is reported, in the liv vicinity of Armagh, the palace of Emania, the celebrated las residence of the kings of Ulster for almost seven hundred rei years. At Emania councils were held subordinate to Tarah, the subject of whose debates related to national police, and the mechanical arts. His queen, Macha, obtained the throne after his death, having gained different victories over her competitors, and, after a reign of seven years, was slain herself, by Reachta, a prince of the line of Heber, who was also put to death by his successor. Hence followed the
reigns of a variety of monarchs, who obtained the supreme CHAP. I.
sway by destroying the actual possessors of the throne. s During this time, some bands of the Scandinavian Goths,
from the regions near the Baltic, formed settlements in Irei land; and, about the first century of the Christian era, the
Dumnonian race usurped the chief power by the slaughter of the ancient royal family.
At length Tuathal, a prince of this ancient family, re-Tuathal. turning from North Britain with some auxiliaries, had the general convention assembled at Tarah, and himself acknowledged as supreme monarch. He obliged his subjects by a solemn oath, to elect their future sovereigns from his family, and had the district of Meath appointed as an appendage the monarchy. During his reign, an incident took place, which was attended with a very remarkable effect. Eochaid, the provincial king of Leinster, who had married his daughter, conceiving a guilty passion for her sister, pretended, in order to gratify his desire, that his wife was dead, and obtained her sister in marriage. The two ladies happened to meet in the royal house of Leinster, and the meeting had a fatal effect on them, as they both died of vexation. The monarch in a rage invaded his province, which was preserved from desolation only on the express condition of paying a grievous tribute, called the Baromean tribute, as a perpetual memorial of the monarch's resentment, and of the offence that Eochaid had committed. The exaction of this oppressive tribute produced disorders for ages.
Con, one of his successors, who gained the throne, as jusual, by putting the reigning monarch to death, found Igreat difficulty in exacting this tribute. He reigned thirtyfive years, mostly engaged in wars of various success, and at last lost his life in a battle with the King of Ulster. The reign of his son and successor, Art, is only remarkable for Ihaving a colony of Irish settled in Albany in North Britain, (under a chieftain called Rida. Hence a more intimate intercourse was established between the two countries.
Cormac, the second after him, who was elected monarch in 254, seemed to possess some political talents, but was so Punfortunate as to lose an eye in one of his military expeditions, which rendered him unfit to reign, as no person