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Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland
III. The Coming of Gaeldom


neously held patrilineally derived power in the home countries of their fathers as well).

Some time between 500 and 100 B.C. the next Celtic invaders came to the island of Ireland, the Erainn ("Erin," or "Eire," Gaelic for "Ireland," is of common linguistic origin). The Erainn were related to the Belgae, who invaded Britain via Armorica (modern Brittany) before the time of Christ, though they originally came from the area now known as Belgium, which recalls their name. As for the Erainn, they were a Germano-Celtic military aristocracy with the material advantage of superior iron weaponry. Though at first a minority population settled in geographically restricted areas, they formed a military overlordship, subjecting most of the Irish Cruithne to tributary status. One Erainnian tribe, the Ulaid, gave their name to Ulster.

The last of the pre—Gaelic Celtic invaders came from the Continent at a relatively late date, just before the coming of the Gaels during the first century B.C., probably as a reaction to Roman pressure in the south of Gaul. These invaders were the Dumnonii, who gave their name to Devon, while their most powerful Irish branch was known as the Laigin, and gave their name to Leinster. The Dumnonii (or Domnonii) settled as a distinct tribal population in the south of England and in several areas of Ireland, exercising overlord status over larger regions. A branch from Ireland settled in the area south of Dumbarton in southern Scotland before the arrival of the Romans in the mid-first century A.D., and became the ancestors of the Strathclyde Britons.

Though distinct from each other, all three of these preceding tribal groups spoke similar languages, each originally a dialect of the progressive P—Celtic language of West-Central Europe (as opposed to Q—Celtic, an older language of the Celtic group), and they shared other cultural similarities as well. But there was another branch of the Celts, a great tribal population that had roamed Europe for centuries in search of a suitable home. These were the Gaels, and in their search for a Gaelic "Israel," they came to Ireland from the Alpine region of Gaul, sometime during the first century B.C. They brought with them a Q—Celtic tongue distinct from the languages of their P—Celtic predecessors, and this language, Gaelic, would eventually supplant those earlier dialects and become the focal point of the emerging and pervasive Gaelic culture (O’Rahilly 207—208). This original Gaelic was, however, much closer to the P—Celtic dialects than Modern Gaelic is, and the changes which made modern Gaelic what it is occurred entirely within the common Irish and Scottish context.

As for the Milesian scheme of the Lebor Gabala, the semiofficial history of the chief Gaelic dynasties, it is pseudo-history of the Middle Ages. The basic story is accurate, recording the arrival of the Q—Celts, or Gaels, who became dominant in Ireland by the end of the fifth century A.D. Gaelic politics of the Middle Ages emphasized genealogy in a particular way, tribal/dynastic ancestry being of central political importance, and even religious significance.


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