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Ireland lies in the Atlantic Ocean, west of Great Britain, from which it is separated in the north-east by the North Channel, in the east by the Irish Sea, and in the south-east by St. Situated between the fifty-first and fifty-sixth degrees of latitude, and between the fifth and eleventh parallels of longitude (Greenwich), its greatest length is 302 miles, its greatest breadth 174 miles, its area 32,535 square miles.It is divided into four provinces, these being subdivided into thirty-two counties.
But if we have not any detailed description from his lively pen, the native chroniclers have furnished us with abundant materials, and, if all they say be true, we can understand the remark of Camden that Ireland was rightly called Ogygia, or the Ancient Island, because in comparison, the antiquity of all other nations is in its infancy.Kings, though taken from one family, were elective, the tanist or heir-apparent being frequently not the nearest relation of him who reigned.This peculiarity, together with gavelkind by which the lands were periodically redistributed, impeded industry and settled government.The wars and battles of these colonists are largely fabulous, and the Partholanians, Nemedians, and Fomorians belong rather to mythology than to history.So also do the Dananns, though sometimes they are taken as a real people, of superior knowledge and skill, the builders of those prehistoric sepulchral mounds by the Boyne, at Dowth, Knowth, and Newgrange.This list of kings, however, is not reliable, and we are warned by Tighearnach, the most trustworthy of Irish chroniclers, that all events before the reign of Cimbaeth (300 B. Even after the dawn of the Christian Era fact and fiction are interwoven and events are often shrouded in shadows and mists.
Such, for instance, are the exploits of Cuchullain and Finn Macumhael.
The Firbolgs however most probably existed, and were kindred perhaps to those warlike Belgae of Gaul whom Caesar encountered in battle.
And the Milesians certainly belong to history, though the date of their arrival in Ireland is unknown.
Henceforth Ireland was often called Scotia Major and sometimes Ireland, until, after the eleventh century, the name Scotia was dropped and Ireland alone remained.
Even yet it is sometimes called Erin—chiefly by orators and poets.
The Milesians came from Scythia; and from that country to Egypt, from Egypt to Spain, from Spain to Ireland their adventures are recorded in detail.