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Niall of the Nine Hostages

(c. 445—453)


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S. of Eochaid Mugmedon and Cairenna; Irish high-king c.445–53; d. c.453.

Prominent in Irish tradition, but lacking supporting documentary evidence, the semi-legendary Niall became high-king of Ireland and established a dynasty of rulers whose fame has made him one of the best-known Irish kings. He and his sons finally broke up the Fifth (Province) of Ulster, and he has been credited with raids on Britain and possibly Gaul. The most plausible explanation of Niall's epithet ‘Noígiallach’ is derived from the hostages sent by the nine tuatha which originally made up the Airgiallan confederation (vassal tribes of the Uí Néill), a recognized form of submission. The sagas ascribe his slaying to Eochu, a Leinster prince, and scholars have argued persuasively that this was mid-century. The O'Neills take their name from him.

Subjects: British History.


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