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Archive 3628

Lebor Gabala Erenn

The Book of the Takings of Ireland

better known as

The Book of Invasions


This text–found in both the Book of Leinster and the Book of Fermoy–is the core text of the mythological cycle in Irish literature, as well as the earliest known history written by the Irish. It tells of the successive invasions of Ireland by different tribes, from the creation of the world to the coming of the Milesians (Iberian Celts):

The version I present here is the first redaction, found in the Book of Leinster. At a later date, I would like to add the Book of Fermoy version, which has a number of differences.

  • 01-13: Biblical History
    §14-25: Gaedhil History

    §26-29: Cessairians

    §30-38: Partholonians

    §39-47: Nemedians

    §48-54: Fir Bolgs

    §55-64: Tuatha De Dannan

    §65-95: The Milesians

Of the above invasions, the Partholonians and the Nemedians are also discussed in the Historia Brittonum, which is generally dated to the 8th or 9th century, if no earlier; Giraldus Cambrensis also mentions these two tribes.

In truth, Ireland was settled by several groups of people: nomadic hunters and gatherers; pre-Celts and the Cruithan (Picts); Iron-age Celts, first from Northern Europe, and the second possibly from Spain. This–a hypothesis–is reflected by the existence of the Milesians. Also, there is the curious story of the “Black Irish”–that the existence of the short, dark-haired and occasionally olive-skinned people, usually found in the west of Ireland, are the result of the intermarriage of shipwrecked Armada sailors and local girls. Some say this is history; others say it is myth. Either way, it isn’t hard to see a connection between the pre-historic Milesians–son of Mil of Spain–and the Spanish sailors of the 16th century.

The translation provided here is the Irish Texts Society edition. To my knowledge, it is in the public domain.

Lebor Gabála Érenn: Book of the Taking of Ireland Part 1-5. ed. and tr. by R. A. S. Macalister. Dublin: Irish Texts Society, 1941.

This site is now linked to whe Wikipedia:

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lebor gabala erenn
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It’s a good article, definitely gives a lot of background to the history and nature of the text.