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cruthin capital, cruthin
The Cruthin Old Irish, IPA: ˈkɾˠʊθʲɪn̠ʲ; Middle Irish: Cruithnig or Cruithni; Modern Irish: Cruithne ˈkɾˠɪhn̠ʲə were a people of early medieval Ireland, who occupied parts of the present day counties of Antrim, Laois, Galway, Londonderry and Down Their name is the Irish equivalent of Priteni who are more commonly known by the Latin form Picti1 Despite this, a distinction was usually maintained by Irish authors writing in Latin1

The Cruthin comprised a number of túatha territories, which included the Dál nAraidi of County Antrim and the Uí Echach Cobo in County Down Early sources preserve a distinction between the Cruthin and the Ulaid, who gave their name to the over-kingdom, although the Dál nAraidi would later claim in their genealogies to be na fir Ulaid,2 meaning "the Ulaid people" The Loígis, who gave their name to County Laois in Leinster, and the Sogain of Connacht are also claimed as Cruthin in early Irish genealogies3

By 773AD, the annals stopped using the term Cruithne in favour of the term Dál nAraidi,1 who had secured their over-kingship of the Cruthin


  • 1 Etymology
  • 2 Relationship to the Picts
  • 3 Relationship to the Dál Riata
  • 4 References in the Irish annals
  • 5 Modern culture
  • 6 References
    • 61 Sources
  • 7 External links


Main article: Britain placename

In writings from Ireland, the name Cruthin, Cruthini, Cruthni, Cruithni or Cruithini Modern Irish: Cruithne was used to refer both to the people who lived alongside the Ulaid in eastern Ulster and the Picts of Scotland4 It is generally accepted that this is derived from Qritani, which is the Goidelic/Q-Celtic version of the Britonnic/P-Celtic Pritani5 From this came Britanni, the Roman name for those now called the Britons456 It has been suggested that Cruthin referred to all Britons not conquered by the Romans—those who lived outside Roman Britannia, north of Hadrian's Wall6

Relationship to the Pictsedit

Early Irish writers used the name Cruthin to refer to both the north-eastern Irish group and to the Picts of Scotland4 Likewise, the Scottish Gaelic word for a Pict is Cruithen or Cruithneach, and for Pictland is Cruithentúath7 It has thus been suggested that the Cruthin and Picts were the same people or were in some way linked2 Professor T F O'Rahilly proposed that the Qritani/Pritani were the first Celts to inhabit the British Isles and describes them as "the earliest inhabitants of these islands to whom a name can be assigned"8 It has also been suggested that Cruthin was a name used to refer to all the Britons who were not conquered by the Romans – those who lived outside Roman Britain, north of Hadrian's Wall6

Other scholars disagree, pointing out that although Cruthin was used to translate Picti into Irish, Picti was never used to translate Cruthin into Latin9 Professor Dáibhí Ó Cróinín believes that the "notion that the Cruthin were 'Irish Picts' and were closely connected with the Picts of Scotland is quite mistaken"1 while Professor Kenneth H Jackson has said that the Cruthin "were not Picts, had no connection with the Picts, linguistic or otherwise, and are never called Picti by Irish writers"10 The Cruthin cannot be distinguished from their neighbours by archaeology11 The records show that the Cruthin bore Irish names, spoke Irish and followed the Irish derbfine system of inheritance rather than the matrilineal system sometimes attributed to the Picts9

It is suggested that Cruthin was not what the people called themselves, but was what their neighbours called them12

Relationship to the Dál Riataedit

Dál Riata was a Gaelic kingdom that included parts of western Scotland and northeastern Ireland The Irish part of the kingdom lay in the middle of Cruthin territory Historian Alex Woolf has suggested that the Dál Riata were a part of the Cruthin, and that they were descended from the Epidii12

References in the Irish annalsedit

By the start of the historic period in Ireland in the 6th century, the over-kingdom of Ulaid was largely confined to east of the River Bann in north-eastern Ireland13 The Cruthin however still held territory west of the Bann in County Londonderry, and their emergence may have concealed the dominance of earlier tribal groupings13

A certain Dubsloit of the Cruthin is said to have killed the son of the High King Diarmait mac Cerbaill in 555 or 558, and Diarmait himself was killed by a Cruthin over-king of Ulster, Áed Dub mac Suibni, in 56514

In 563, according to the Annals of Ulster, an apparent internal struggle amongst the Cruthin resulted in Báetán mac Cinn making a deal with the Northern Uí Néill, promising them the territories of Ard Eólairg Magilligan peninsula and the Lee, both west of the River Bann in County Londonderry13 As a result, the battle of Móin Daire Lothair modern-day Moneymore, County Londonderry took place between them and an alliance of Cruthin kings, in which the Cruthin suffered a devastating defeat13 Afterwards the Northern Uí Néill settled their Airgíalla allies in the Cruthin territory of Eilne, which lay between the River Bann and the River Bush13 The defeated Cruthin alliance meanwhile consolidated itself within the Dál nAraidi dynasty13

Their most powerful historical king was Fiachnae mac Báetáin, King of Ulster and effective High King of Ireland Under their king, Congal Cláen, they were routed by the Uí Néill at Dún Cethirnn between Limavady and Coleraine15 in 629, although Congal survived The same year, the Cruthin king Mael Caích defeated Connad Cerr of the Dál Riata at Fid Eóin, but in 637 an alliance between Congal Cláen and Domnall Brecc of the Dál Riata was defeated, and Congal was killed, by Domnall mac Aedo of the northern Uí Néill at Mag Roth Moira, County Down, establishing the supremacy of the Uí Neill in the north In 681 another Dál nAraide king, Dúngal Eilni, and his allies were killed by the Uí Néill in what the annals call "the burning of the kings at Dún Cethirnn" The ethnic term "Cruthin" was by this stage giving way to the dynastic name of the Dál nAraide The Annals record a battle between the Cruthin and the Ulaid at Belfast in 668, but the last use of the term is in 773, when the death of Flathruae mac Fiachrach, "rex Cruithne", is noted2 By the twelfth century it had fallen into disuse as an ethnonym, and was remembered only as an alternative name for the Dál nAraide16

The Pictish Chronicle names the first king of the Picts as the eponymous "Cruidne filius Cinge"17

Modern cultureedit

In modern times, some Unionist writers in Northern Ireland—in particular Ian Adamson—have seen the Cruthin as an ancient reflection of their own northern separatism and affinity with Britain In his 1974 book Cruthin: The Ancient Kindred, Adamson argues that the Cruthin settled Ireland before the Gaels; that the two groups were at war for centuries, seeing the tales of the Ulster Cycle as representations of this; and that many of the Cruthin were driven to Scotland after their defeat in the battle of Moira 637, only for their descendants to return to Ireland in the 17th century Plantation of Ulster Few historians accept his interpretations, with some accusing him of creating a sectarian narrative in which Ulster Protestants have a prior to claim to Ireland Adamson denies this, claiming his interpretation of history offers "the hope of uniting the Ulster people at last"1819

The asteroid 3753 Cruithne was named after the group20

Robert E Howard's pulp hero Bran Mak Morn was characterised as "chief of the Cruithni Picts"21


  1. ^ a b c d Ó Cróinín 1995, p 48
  2. ^ a b c Ó Cróinín 2005, pp 182-234
  3. ^ Byrne 2001, pp 39, 236
  4. ^ a b c Ó Cróinín, Dáibhí A New History of Ireland: Prehistoric and Early Ireland Oxford University Press, 2008 Page 213
  5. ^ a b Chadwick, Hector Munro Early Scotland: the Picts, the Scots & the Welsh of southern Scotland CUP Archive, 1949 Page 66-80
  6. ^ a b c Dunbavin, Paul Picts and ancient Britons: an exploration of Pictish origins Third Millennium Publishing, 1998 Page 3
  7. ^ Pict and related words at In Dúin Bélrai
  8. ^ O'Rahilly 1946, pp 15-16 341-342
  9. ^ a b Byrne 2001, p 8, 108
  10. ^ Jackson 1956, pp 122-166
  11. ^ Warner 1991
  12. ^ a b Woolf, Alex Ancient Kindred Dál Riata and the Cruthin 2012
  13. ^ a b c d e f A New History of Ireland, p 212
  14. ^ Byrne 2001, pp 94-95
  15. ^ Smyth 1989, p 101
  16. ^ O'Rahilly 1946, p 345
  17. ^ Skene 1867, p 5
  18. ^ Gallagher 2007, pp 96-97
  19. ^ Nic Craith 2002, pp 93-113
  20. ^ Cruithne: Asteroid 3753 Western Washington University Planetarium Retrieved January 27, 2011
  21. ^ Howard, Robert E 2005-05-31 Bran Mak Morn: The Last King Kindle Locations 3037-3039 Random House Publishing Group Kindle Edition


  • Byrne, Francis J Irish Kings and High Kings Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2001 2nd edition First published in 1973
  • Chadwick, Hector Munro Early Scotland: the Picts, the Scots & the Welsh of southern Scotland CUP Archive, 1949 Page 66-80
  • Cosgrove, Art, ed 2008 A New History of Ireland, II Medieval Ireland 1169-1534 Oxford University Press ISBN 978-019-953970-3 
  • Dunbavin, Paul Picts and ancient Britons: an exploration of Pictish origins Third Millennium Publishing, 1998
  • Gallagher, Carolyn After the Peace: Loyalist Paramilitaries in Post-Accord Northern Ireland Cornell University, 2007
  • Jackson, Kenneth H "The Pictish language" In The problem of the Picts, ed FT Wainwright Edinburgh, 1956 pp 122–166
  • Maier, Bernhard Dictionary of Celtic religion and culture Boydell & Brewer, 1997 Page 230
  • Nic Craith, Máiréad Plural Identities, Singular Narratives: The Case of Northern Ireland, Berghahn Books, 2002
  • Ó Cróinín, Dáibhí Early Medieval Ireland 400-1200, Longman, 1995
  • Ó Cróinín, Dáibhí "Ireland, 400-800" In A New History of Ireland, ed Dáibhí Ó Cróinín Vol 1 2005 pp 182–234
  • O'Rahilly, TF Early Irish History and Mythology Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1946
  • Skene, William F Chronicles of the Picts and Scots Edinburgh, 1867
  • Smyth, Alfred P Warlords and Holy Men Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1989
  • Warner, Richard "The Lisburn Area in the Early Christian Period Part 2: Some People and Places" Lisburn Historical Society Journals Vol 8 1991

External linksedit

  • Ulster by Dennis Walsh
  • The Cruithne at Electric Scotland

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