EARLY KINGDOMS in Europe seem to have existed from almost the beginning of oral history, the accounts of which were put into writing only centuries later. Perhaps the first known history of a European monarchy is found in pre-Christian Ireland. Padraic Colum noted in his A Treasury of Irish Folklore that “more than any other European [epic poetic] cycle outside the Greek, the stories of the early Iron Age in Ireland have epical character and epical scope,” especially the Tain Bo Cualgne, The Cattle Raid of Cooley. The Tain chronicle the adventures of the son of the King of Cooley, Cu Chulainn, in Ulster, today's Northern Ireland. Colum estimates that “the stories were formed into an epic tale probably 1,300 years ago.”

The Roman historian ...

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