The Milesians are considered the last invading mythological tribe of Ireland. All Irish are said to have a Milesian descent and seemingly the Christian scribes tried extra hard to establish a solid link between the Bible and the Milesians.
The legends of the Milesians starts in the Holy Land at the time of the Tower of Babel. When mankind decided to built a tower reaching for the heaven there was only one language and one nation. God was not amused by this plan and He invented the languages. Unable to communicate mankind had to quit the construction site.
One man, Fenius or Feinas, sent scholars over the world to learn all the languages. He handpicked the best language and named it Goidelic, the precursor of Gaelic. The next step was to assign land to the Goidelic speaking tribe.
Years passed and Fenius’ son, Neil or Niul, got married with Scota, the daughter of the pharaoh. Scota gave birth to a boy named Gaedhael or Gadheal Glas. One day Gaedhael was bitten by a snake and he went to Moses for relief. Moses prayed to God and touched the bite with his staff. Miraculously the bite healed and Moses gave Gaedhael his staff stating God commands and I command that this boy’s descendants will live in a land free from snakes.
Generations passed until Sru, a successor of Gaedhael, and his tribe were forced to leave Egypt. Their first stop was Crete, like Ireland an island without snakes. They tried to settle on Crete, but after five generations of war they moved on and went to the Iberian Peninsula, nowadays Spain and Portugal. The tribe flourished and for reasons unknown Breogán, a descendant of Gaedhael, decided to built a tower on the northern coast of the peninsula. One day his son, Ith, climbed the tower and spotted a strip of land on the horizon. With youthful recklessness and maybe forced by famine Ith and his family organised an expedition.
When the fleet arrived at what they called Innis Fail, translated as Island of Promise or Island of Destiny, they ran into the Tuatha de Danaan. It is not undisputedly clear what happened when the two tribes met. Some assume that Ith acted as a wise guy, telling the Tuatha de Danaan how they had to rule their land, while others think that the Tuatha de Danaan were unwilling to share their land. Whatever the reason, a battle broke in which Ith was mortally wounded and the new settlers fled to the Iberian Peninsula.
The sons of Míl Espáin, or Mil of Spain, eponym of the Milesians, heard of the tragedy. Immediately they put together a large fleet and set sail to Innis Fail to teach the Tuatha de Danaan a lesson.
Initially the punitive expedition was led by four brothers: Eber Donn (Brown Eber), Eber Finn (Fair Eber), Eremon and Ir. An unhealthy form of sibling rivalry caused the death of Ir during the journey.
The Tuatha de Danaan saw them approaching and using their ability to change the weather they veiled Ireland in a thick mist. Perhaps impressed by this tour de force the remaining three brothers changed their strategy. They used diplomacy instead of sabre rattling. They went ashore and asked the Tuatha de Danaan to share the land. The Tuatha de Danaan asked them to wait on their ships while considering the proposal. While the Milesians waited in the roadstead Eber Donn insulted the Tuatha de Danaan and a supernatural storm, in which he was killed, fell to him. The surviving two brothers, Eber Finn and Eremon, returned to their initially strategy and declared war on the Tuatha de Danaan.
On their way to the battle grounds the Milesians met three woman named Banba, Fodhla and Éire. Each of them asked the Milesians to name the island after her may they succeed in battle.
The outcome of this war is most unexpected: after two battles the ordinary Milesians had defeated the powerful Tuatha de Danaan. There are two explanations for this startling outcome. The mythological explanation is that the Tuatha de Danaan, being the absolute masters of Ireland, had neglected their fighting skills and specialised themselves in more peaceful forms of arts.
The second explanation is history based. In this explanation the Tuatha de Danaan are deprived of their magical abilities, mist and storm are after all no exceptional rare weather phenomena in Ireland, leaving a tribe still living in the Bronze Age. The Milesians on the other hand brought superior, much tougher, iron weapons. The Milesians kept their promise and named their land Éire, while the names Banda and Fodhla were mainly used in poetry and literature.
The Tuatha de Danaan did not fancy the idea to leave Ireland and they reached an agreement with the Milesians. As part of this agreement the Milesians were allowed to occupy Éire and they allowed the Tuatha de Danaan to live underground in Sidh or Sidhe, invisible places of Tír na nÓg, Land of the Young, to bring their magical powers to perfection and to serve the ordinary mortal people.
From that moment on the Milesians and consequently the Irish in the mortal world are honouring the immortal half-gods and fairy-folks of Tír na nÓg. The two remaining sons of Míl Espáin, Eber Finn and Eremon, divided Ireland in four parts: the northern part was given to Eremon, the southern part to Eber, the north-east to the descendants of their lost brother Ir and the south-west to Lughaid, their cousin and son of Ith.
It is commonly accepted that legendary Milesians and the historical Gaels, a name derived from Gaedhael, are the same tribe. It is known that the Gaels originated from the south of modern France and the north of Spain. This connection between legends and history is exciting and puzzling at the same time.
The Gaels were the last of the Celtic tribes to arrive on Ireland. What happened with their historical ancestors, the Irish Picti, the Euerni and the Laginians and Galioins? Can we find their history in the legends, well hidden behind the magic and Christian alterations?
Some scholars assume that the Milesians, and therewith the Gaels, are the Lost Tribe of Israel. They find proof for this theory in family trees of the kings of Ulster, the Stone of Destiny and the Red Hand of O’Neill.