Myths and Legends - The Battle of Moytura

Moytura Conga is a mythological site near Cong.

Moytura Conga just east of the village of Cong is an unusual complex of puzzling stone circles and cairns and Edward Lhuyd made drawings of some of these stones as early as 1699. The plain bounded on the west and south by Lough Corrib stretches twelve miles eastwards to Cnoch Meadh the fairy hill near Tuam. It is called southern Moytura (The Plain of the Battalions).

According to mythology this area of stone cairns was the site of a great battle, three thousand years ago. The battle took place between the Fir Bolgs and the Tuatha De Danann. The story tells us that the Tuatha De Danann, the people of goddess Danu, arrived in Ireland, demanded half of Ireland from the ruling Fir Bolgs. The Fir Bolgs refused and a fierce battle ensued, lasting four days.

The very ancient chronicler reported the battle commenced on the 11th of June, in the year of the world 3303.

The Firbolg, to commemorate the event erected the large cairn of stones at Ballymagibbon, two miles from Cong after the first days fighting. Each warrior carried a stone and the head of a slain enemy and the first monument was built. The cairns covered artificial stone passages leading to a central chamber where the ashes of cremated warriors were deposited. There are five similar monuments that stood in a line across the ancient battlefield for a distance of five miles to the northwest.

At some point in the four day battle the Fir Bolgs took the time to challenge the Tuatha De Danann to a game of hurling, three times nine Fir Bolgs played against a similar number of Tuatha De Danann, many Tuatha were killed and a rock or cairn was erected on the spot where the hero had perished. The field where these rocks lay (only the foundation now remains) is called The Field of the Hurlers.

On the fourth and last day of the battle the king of the Fir Bolg, King Eochai, was slain. In his honour the greatest of the Moytura cairns was erected and still stands near a by-road into Cong, it is called Carn Eochai or the Long Stone of the Neale. On the death of their king the defeated Fir Bolg fled towards the northwest. Nuadha, the Danann king, lost one hand in battle and, as a consequence, he had to surrender his throne, but a bardic legend tells that, some years later, he was restored and one of his artificer made a silver hand for him imbued with life.

It is said also that Balor of the Evil Eye, a bad god of Irish mythology, took part in this battle not as warrior but as supervisor watching the ebb and flow of the battle and petrifying with his eye, set on his forehead, companies of soldiers.

Whether or not Moytura Cong is the ancient site of a great battle, it abounds in cairns and other stone monuments. Studies of these stones indicate that they were erected over a long period of time, possibly from the Neolithic to the Iron Age and later and not as we may wish to believe, related to one event.

Another remarkable feature of the Moytura Monuments are the stone circles. The circles, which display very different morphology, stand on the crest of a rise at distances varying between 89-177m from each other.

Antiquarians have found it difficult to form an opinion as to what the function of these structures were in ancient civilisation, some believe they were defensive forts and others that they were druidic altars.

Did you know?
Sir William Wilde, husband of the writer Lady Speranza and father of the famous Irish writer Oscar Wilde, was a surgeon, antiquarian and noted amateur archeologist.
He built Moytura House at Cong and he said "I have during my occasional visit to country investigated all the monuments on Southern Moytura and I was enabled to point out no less than twelve un-noticed monuments: forts, raths, stone circles, caves, lisses and cashels".
He thought also that "the legendary lore and traditional accounts respecting the battlefields and events have now ceased to exist".