Genealogy of Fir Bolg High Kings

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The Genealogy of the Fir Bholg High Kingsontrary to popular belief expressed in myths and legends, the Fir Bholg did not invent the concept of High Kingship in Ireland, even though they were the first to officially claim the title. The Fomóraigh had actually ruled Erin for fifty generations before the first Fir Bholg High King, and each one considered him- or herself a king. However, they acknowledged one of their number as the first among equals, making him the supreme king. As well, they preferred to live off the mainland, on a group of islands the remnants of which form the modern Aran Islands. As such, it was easier for them to let the Heidhberneach chieftains control their people. Though some of these styled themselves as kings, as long as they swore fealty to the Fomórach supreme king, the Fomóraigh did not care what they called themselves. To distinguish the Fomórach supreme king from all others, their own or those of the Fomóraigh, the Heidhbernigh called him an ard rí, the high king.

When the Fir Bholg arrived, they knew nothing of the Fomóraigh and conquered the Heidhbernigh. As a result, the Heidhbernigh began to address the Fir Bholg king as high king. Eventually, the Fomóraigh attacked the Fir Bholg, but they defeated them and forced them back to their island fortresses. Later, the Fomóraigh unleashed a plague against them, but they defeated that as well. Nonetheless, they realized it would be better to cooperate with the Fomóraigh, so their then-king, Dela, negotiated a treaty with Balor, then-supreme king of the Fomóraigh, to take the title of High King over Ireland, while acknowledging the overlordship of Balor and the Fomóraigh. Again, as long as the Fomóraigh received their tribute of cattle, wheat, slaves, and gold, they did not care who claimed to rule Ireland.

Dela, however, was never officiated as High King, for he was poisoned by his wife in favor of her sons. Before he died, however, he cursed his family, declaring that no descendent of his would rule as High King for long, being as they would kill each other for the title. And that is how it came to pass. Sláinge, the oldest of the five sons of Dela, lasted only a year before he was slain in his sleep. He was succeeded by his brother, Rudraige, who ruled for two years before he was drowned in a bucket of water while drunk. Two of the remaining brothers, Gann and Genann, succeeded him as co-rulers. They loved each other more than they loved their own wives, and so they hoped to foil the curse, but after four years they died of a disease given to them by the wife of the last brother, Sengann. He managed to rule for five years, but was murdered by Fiacha Cennfinnán Mac Starn, the grandson of Rudraige, in revenge. He also ruled for five years, but he was treacherously killed by Rinnal, the son of Genann. He managed to survive six years before being poisoned by Foidbgen, son of Sengann. He in turn tried to foil the curse by killing all his male relatives, but after four years he was killed in a duel by the last, Eochaid Mac Eirc, the grandson of Rinnal Mac Genann. Eochaid finally seemed to break the curse. He ruled secure for ten years, producing a number of sons with his wife, Tailtiu, but he and they were all killed at the First Battle of Magh Tuiredh. Eochaid himself was killed by his own daughter, Medb, whom he had sired off the Tuatha Dé Danann woman, Cruacha. In this way, the curse was finally fulfilled, because Medb claimed the rule of the Fir Bholg, but renounced the High Kingship in favor of Eochaid Bres, who became the first Danann High King.

However, some scholars have suggested that Medb was killed by the curse when she became High Queen after her return from exile, because they believe the ancestry of Furbaidhe Ferbend can be traced through his mother back to an unnamed daughter of Dela.

The Genealogy of the Fir Bholg High Kings

The circled numbers indicate the individuals who ruled and in what order.

Back to The Ireland of Medb hErenn.