Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib ‘The war of the Irish against the (Scandinavian) foreigners’

  • prose, prosimetrum
  • Cycles of the Kings
Long Middle Irish narrative work on the achievements of Brían Bóruma, especially those against the vikings.

See e.g. Máire Ní Mhaonaigh, ‘Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib and the annals: a comparison’, Ériu 47 (1996)

L =
ff. 309a–310b
Fragment of the earliest recension of the text.
D =
Incomplete copy of a later recension.
A manuscript version of the text, now lost, credited by Mícheál Ó Cléirigh as having been the exemplar for his first copy (below)
Mícheál Ó Cléirigh claims to have made a copy (now also lost), of which B below is a secondary one.
prose, prosimetrum (primary)
verse (secondary)
Textual relationships
Related: Caithréim ThoirdhealbhaighCaithréim ThoirdhealbhaighEarly Modern Irish historical saga dealing with events in Thomond from the late 13th to early 14th century.
Associated items
Eistea frim a Baithín buainEistea frim a Baithín buainAn Irish prophecy in verse (66 stt in two of the earliest versions), attributed to Colum Cille and addressed to his successor, Baíthín.
The prophecy of BerchánThe prophecy of BerchánLong political poem (206 qq).Trédhe nach fuilngeand rígh réilTrédhe nach fuilngeand rígh réil

Medieval Irish prophetic poem (72 qq) attributed in the final stanza to Bécán Bec mac Dé, better known elsewhere as the prophet Bec mac Dé. According to Eleanor Knott, it is a composite work, which may be regarded as falling into at least two sections (A = qq. 1–13, B = qq. 14-72).


Cycles of the Kings
Cycles of the Kings
id. 80


Brian Boru
Brían Bóruma (Brian Boru)
(c. 941–23 April 1014)
High-king of Ireland from the Dál Cais, son of Cennétig mac Lorcáin (d. 951); typically known for breaking the hegemony of the Uí Néill in Ireland; died at the battle of Clontarf (1014). He is the celebrated hero of Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib, a twelfth-century propagandistic narrative text that has helped to enhance his reputation.

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Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] [tr.] Todd, James Henthorn [ed. and tr.], Cogadh Gaedhel re Gallaibh: The war of the Gaedhil with the Gaill, or The invasions of Ireland by the Danes and other Norsemen, Rerum Britannicarum Medii Aevi Scriptores, 48, London: Stationery Office, 1867.
Internet Archive: <link>
1–217 (text and translation); 221–235 (Appendix A: LL fragment)
[ed.] Best, Richard Irvine, and M. A. OʼBrien, The Book of Leinster, formerly Lebar na Núachongbála, vol. 5, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1967. xv + pp. 1119-1325.
CELT – pp. 1119-1192 and 1202-1325: <link>
1319–1325 (lines 39322–39550) Diplomatic edition of L

Secondary sources (select)

Downham, Clare, “The ‘annalistic section’ of Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib”, Peritia 24–25 (2013–2014): 141–172.  
Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib ‘The war of the Irish and the Foreigners’, one of the best known medieval Irish historical sagas, celebrates the deeds of the Irish king Brian Boru, culminating in his victory and death at the battle of Clontarf in ad 1014. The text did much to establish Brian’s reputation and the fame of the battle of Clontarf in Irish historiography. While most of the saga records Brian’s achievements, the early parts treat of events prior to his reign. This paper is an analysis of the function and chronology of these early sections. The conclusion is that the term ‘annalistic section’, often applied to them, is misleading. Such a term conceals the artistry and purpose of the author and conveys a mistaken view of their historicity.
Ní Mhaonaigh, Máire, “A neglected account of the battle of Clontarf”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 59 (2012): 143–167.
Jaski, Bart, “Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib”, in: R. G. Dunphy [ed.], The encyclopedia of the medieval chronicle, 2 vols, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2010. Vol. 1: 479.
Ní Mhaonaigh, Máire, “Some Middle Irish declensional patterns in Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib”, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 49–50 (1997): 615–628.
Ní Mhaonaigh, Máire, “Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib and the annals: a comparison”, Ériu 47 (1996): 101–126.
Ní Mhaonaigh, Máire, “The date of Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib”, Peritia 9 (1995): 354–377.
Dennis Groenewegen, Patrick Brown
Page created
October 2010, last updated: January 2024