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Nemed (modern spelling: Neimheadh) is a character in medieval Irish Christian mythohistory. According to the tradition, he is the leader of the third group of people to settle in Ireland, who are referred to as the Muintir Nemid (Muintir Neimhidh, "people of Nemed"), Clann Nemid (Clann Neimhidh, "offspring of Nemed") or Nemedians. The name 'Nemed' itself means "privileged" or "holy".
Nemed, like those who settled Ireland before him, is a descendant of Noah. He is the son of Agnoman of Scythia, Agnoman being the son of Piamp, son of Tait, son of Sera, son of Sru, son of Esru, son of Friamaint, son of Fathochta, son of Magog, son of Japheth, one of the sons of Noah.
Ireland had been uninhabited since the Muintir Partholóin died of plague. The Muintir Nemid set sail from the Caspian Sea in 44 ships, but after a year and a half of sailing, the only ship to reach Ireland is Nemed's. Also on board are his wife Macha, his four chieftain sons (Starn, Iarbonel, Annind, and Fergus 'Red-Side'), and others. His wife Macha dies twelve days after they arrive and is buried at Ard Mhacha (Armagh). They arrived 30 years after the Muintir Partholóin died; in 2350 BC according to the chronology of the Annals of the Four Masters, or 1731 BC according to Seathrún Céitinn's chronology.
Four lakes burst from the ground in Nemed's time, including Loch Annind, which burst from the ground when Annind's grave was being dug. The other three lakes were Loch Cál in Uí Nialláin, Loch Munremair in Luigne, and Loch Dairbrech in Mide.
The Muintir Nemid clear twelve plains: Mag Cera, Mag Eba, Mag Cuile Tolaid and Mag Luirg in Connacht; Mag Seired in Tethbae; Mag Tochair in Tír Eogain; Mag Selmne in Dál nAraidi; Mag Macha in Airgíalla; Mag Muirthemne in Brega; Mag Bernsa in Leinster; Leccmag and Mag Moda in Munster.
They also build two royal forts: Ráth Chimbaith in Semne and Ráth Chindeich in Uí Nialláin. Ráth Chindeich was dug in one day by Boc, Roboc, Ruibne and Rotan, the four sons of Matan Munremar. Nemed kills them before dawn the next morning.
Nemed wins four battles against the mysterious Fomorians. Modern scholars believe the Fomorians were a group of pagan gods associated with the harmful forces of nature. These battles are at Ros Fraechain (in which Fomorian kings Gann and Sengann were killed), at Badbgna in Connacht, Cnamros in Leinster (in which Artur, Nemed's first son born in Ireland, dies), and Murbolg in Dál Riata (where his son Starn is killed by the Fomorian Conand). However, nine years after arriving in Ireland, Nemed dies of plague along with three thousand of his people. He is buried on the hill of Ard Nemid on Great Island in Cork Harbour.
The remaining Muintir Nemid are then oppressed by the Fomorians Morc and Conand, who lives in Conand's Tower, on an island off the coast. Each Samhain, they must give two thirds of their children, their corn and their milk to the Fomorians. After many years, the Muintir Nemid rise up against the Fomorians and attack the Conand's Tower with 60,000 warriors (30,000 on sea and 30,000 on land), defeating Conand. Morc then attacks, and almost all of the Nemedians are killed in a tidal wave. Only one ship of thirty men escapes. Some of them go "into the north of the world", some go to Britain and become the ancestors of all Britons, and some go south to Greece. The island would again be empty for another 200 years.
|Mythical settlers of Ireland
AFM 2350 BC
FFE 1731 BC
- O'Donovan (ed) (1848-1851), John. "Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters" 1. ucc.ie.
- "The History of Ireland by Geoffrey Keating". ucc.ie.
- James MacKillop (1998), Dictionary of Celtic Mythology
- The Invasion of Nemed, ed. and tr. Vernam Hull, "The Invasion of Nemed." Modern Philology 33 (1935). 119-123. Available from Thesaurus Linguae Hibernicae.