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Eochu Feidlech

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Eochu or Eochaid Feidlech ("the enduring",[1] pronounced /'ɛxə/ or /'ɛxəðʲ 'fʲɛðʲlʲɛx/), son of Finn, was, according to medieval Irish legends and historical traditions, a High King of Ireland of the 1st or 2nd century BC. He is best known as the father of the Medb, legendary queen of Connacht in the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology.

According to the 12th century Lebor Gabála Érenn, he took power when he defeated the previous High King, Fachtna Fáthach, in the Battle of Leitir Rúaid.[2] The Middle Irish saga Cath Leitrech Ruibhe tells the story of this battle. While Fachtna Fáthach was away from Tara on a visit to Ulster, Eochu, then king of Connacht, raised an army, had the provincial kings killed and took hostages from Tara. When news reached Fachtna at Emain Macha, he raised an army of Ulstermen and gave battle at Leitir Rúaid in the Corann, northern Connacht, but was defeated and beheaded by Eochu. Fergus mac Róich covered the Ulster army's retreat, and Eochu marched to Tara.[3]

Various Middle Irish tales give him a large family. His wife was Cloithfinn,[4] and they had six daughters, Derbriu, Eile, Mugain, Eithne, Clothru and Medb, and four sons, a set of triplets called Bres, Nár and Lothar, collectively known as the trí findemna or "fair triplets", and Conall Anglondach. Derbriu was the lover of Óengus of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Her mother-in-law, Garbdalb, turned six men into pigs for the crime of eating nuts from her grove, and Derbriu protected them for a year until they were killed by Medb.[5] When Conchobar mac Nessa became king of Ulster, Eochu gave four of his daughters, Mugain, Eithne, Clothru and Medb, to him in marriage in compensation for the death of his supposed father, Fachtna Fáthach. Eithne bore him a son, Furbaide, who was born by posthumous caesarian section after Medb drowned her. Clothru, according to one tradition, bore him his eldest son Cormac Cond Longas, although other traditions make him the son of Conchobar by his own mother, Ness. Medb later left Conchobar, and Eochu set her up as queen of Connacht. Some time after that, Eochu held an assembly at Tara, which both Conchobar and Medb attended. The morning after the assembly, Conchobar followed Medb down to the river Boyne where she had gone to bathe, and raped her. Eochu made war against Conchobar on the Boyne, but was defeated.[6]

The trí findemna tried to overthrow their father in the Battle of Druimm Criaich. The night before the battle, their sister Clothru, afraid that they would die without an heir, seduced all three of them, and the future High King Lugaid Riab nDerg, was conceived. The next day they were killed, and their father, seeing their severed heads, swore that no son should directly succeed his father to the High Kingship of Ireland.[7]

Eochu ruled for twelve years, and died of natural causes at Tara, succeeded by his brother Eochu Airem. The Lebor Gabála synchronises his reign with the dictatorship of Julius Caesar (48-44 BC).[2] Geoffrey Keating dates his reign from 110 to 94 BC;[8] the Annals of the Four Masters from 159 to 143 BC.[9]

References

  1. Dictionary of the Irish Language based mainly on Old and Middle Irish materials, Compact Edition, Royal Irish Academy, 1990, p. 297. His name is also spelt Eochaidh, Eochy, and his epithet is variously spelled Feidleach, Feidhleach, Feidlioch, Feidhlioch.
  2. 2.0 2.1 R. A. Stewart Macalister (ed. & trans.), Lebor Gabála Érenn: The Book of the Taking of Ireland Part V, Irish Texts Society, 1956, p. 299
  3. Margaret C. Dobs (ed. & trans.), "La Bataille de Leitir Ruibhe", Revue Celtique 39, 1922, pp. 1-32
  4. Margaret C. Dobs (ed. & trans.), "Cath Cumair", Revue Celtique 43, 1926, pp. 277-342
  5. Edward Gwynn (ed. & trans.), The Metrical Dindshenchas Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1906, Vol 3, Poem 70: Duma Selga, pp. 387-395
  6. Joseph O'Neill (ed. & trans), "Cath Boinde", Ériu 2, 1905, pp. 173-185
  7. Gwynn, The Metrical Dindshenchas Vol 4, Druimm Criaich Poem 13: Druimm Criach, pp. 43-57; Vernam Hull, (ed. & trans.), "Aided Meidbe: The Violent Death of Medb", Speculum v.13 issue 1, Jan 1938, pp. 52-61; O'Neill, "Cath Boinde"; Dobs, "Cath Cumair"
  8. D. Comyn & P. S. Dinneen (ed .& trans.), The History of Ireland by Geoffrey Keating, Irish Texts Society, 1902-1914, Book 1 Chapter 41
  9. John O'Donovan (ed. & trans.), Annala Rioghachta Eireann: Annals of the kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters, Dublin, 1848-1851, Vol. 1 pp 87-89