The Earliest States of Eastern Europe
DG-2013, 324-364

Genealogies and early historical writing in Ireland

N. Y. Zhivlova

Thе article deals with genealogies as a source for the early medieval
history of Ireland. Ancient historians regarded genealogies as an important
part of life of Celts; a considerable body of genealogical texts is known
for medieval and early modern Wales. The Irish and Welsh genealogies
have a number of common features, such as genealogies of the saints and
genealogical tracts on women.
Early medieval Irish scholars did not attempt to create a narrative history
of the country after the introduction of Christianity; only by the eleventh and
the twelfth centuries historical texts as such were beginning to appear. This
(and the huge amount of the genealogical texts preserved) makes genealogies
a key source for the study of medieval history of Ireland. Genealogies
are a medium for researching political history (dynastic marriages and
succession) and social history as well: they refl ect existing hierarchies of
tribal groups and dynasties in a symbolic form, through relationships of
their legendary ancestors. Genealogies were very often adjusted to changing
political situation, and this makes their study even more complicated. The
contradictions between different versions of the genealogical corpora allow
us to reveal different stages in creation of the texts. In this article the most
ancient genealogical texts from Leinster, Munster and Northern Ireland are
examined. Genealogies are considered in connection with legal and narrative
texts; they also played an important role in the legitimization of the power
of medieval Irish kings.

Ireland, Wales, the Middle Ages, Irish genealogies, kingship, Uí Néill, Éoganachta

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