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Cycle of the Kings


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One of four major cycles of Old and Middle Irish literature, known to some commentators as the Historical Cycle; it is distinguished from the other three by its focus on provincial and lesser kings, both legendary and historical, from the 3rd to the 7th centuries. The cycle is concerned not only with kings but also with kingship. Critical commentators have found the cycle to be less magical than the Mythological, less heroic than the Ulster, and less romantic than the Fenian. The phrase ‘Cycle of the Kings’ was coined by Myles Dillon, The Cycles of the Kings (Oxford, 1946), who allowed that there was more than one such cycle. Alan Bruford coined the phrase Dalcassian Cycle in 1969 to refer to the stories of the 10th-century Brian Bórama (Boru) and his family, which are so extensive and particular as to be separated from the rest.

Important personages mentioned in narratives of the Cycle of the Kings are Baile and his lover Ailinn, Becfola, Cano (d. 688), Conaire Mór, Conn Cétchathach [of the Hundred Battles], Cormac mac Airt (who also figures in the Fenian Cycle), Domnall the son of Áed, Fergus mac Léti, Labraid Loingsech, Lugaid mac Con, Mongán, Muirchertach mac Erca, Niall Noígiallach [of the Nine Hostages], and Rónán (1). Important narratives in the Cycle of the Kings include: Buile Shuibhne [The Frenzy of Sweeney]; Cath Maige Mucrama [The Battle of Mag Mucrama]; Echtra Maic nEchach Muigmedóin [The Adventure of the Sons of Eochaid Mugmedón]; Echtrae Airt meic Cuinn [The Adventure of Art Son of Conn]; Echtrae Conli [The Adventure of Connla]; Esnada Tige Buchet [The Melodies of Buchet's House]; Fingal Rónáin [How Rónán Slew His Son]; Orgain Denna Ríg [The Destruction of Dind Ríg].

Subjects: Religion.


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