Fergus mac Róich

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Fergus mac Róich (son of Ró-ech or "great horse"; also mac Róig, mac Rossa) is a character of the Ulster Cycle of Irish mythology. Formerly the king of Ulster, he is tricked out of the kingship and betrayed by Conchobar mac Nessa, and becomes the ally and lover of Conchobar's enemy queen Medb of Connacht, and leads her expedition against Ulster in the Táin Bó Cúailnge. The name Fergus (later Irish Fearghus) means "man-strength" or "virility", and Fergus is described as being of enormous size and sexual potency.[1] This leads him into many precarious situation as in the story of the Táin Bó Flidhais.

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King of Ulster

Fergus becomes king of Ulster after his predecessor, Eochaid Sálbuide, is killed, along with the High King Fachtna Fáthach, by Eochu Feidlech in the Battle of Leitir Ruad.[2] While king, he desires Eochaid Sálbuide's daughter Ness, but she will only consent to sleep with him if he allows her seven-year-old son Conchobar to be king for a year, so his sons will be the sons of a king. The nobles of Ulster reassure him that the boy will be king in name only, so Fergus agrees, but Conchobar, with his mother's help, rules so wisely that the nobles make him king permanently in Fergus's place.[1] Fergus remains Conchobar's loyal retainer, and becomes the foster-father of Conchobar's eldest son Cormac Cond Longas and nephew Cúchulainn.

Fergus' exile

Conchobar's intended bride, Deirdre, elopes with the young warrior Naoise and his two brothers, and after some time of wandering they are tracked down to an island off Scotland. Conchobar announces he has forgiven them and sends Fergus, Cormac, Dubthach Dóeltenga, and Fergus' son Fíachu, to offer them safe conduct home. Naoise and his brothers swear they will eat no food until they dine with Conchobar at Emain Macha. Conchobar, however, orders the Ulstermen to invite Fergus, Cormac and Dubthach to feasts, and as it is shameful to refuse hospitality they cannot refuse. Fergus is separated from his charges, and Fíachu is left to escort them to Emain alone. When they arrive, Fíachu, Naoise and his brothers are murdered by Éogan mac Durthacht, a former enemy of Conchobar who has recently made peace with him. After hearing of this betrayal, Fergus, Cormac and Dubthach burn Emain Macha and defect to Connacht with three thousand followers, where they enter the service of king Ailill mac Máta and queen Medb. Conchobar forcibly marries Deirdre, who later commits suicide after he offers her to Éogan.[3]

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