In Irish mythology the Fir Bolg (Fir Bholg, Firbolg) were one of the races that inhabited the island of Ireland prior to the arrival of the Tuatha Dé Danann.
In far antiquity the Fir Bolg were the rulers of Ireland (at the time called Ériu) immediately before the arrival of the Tuatha Dé Danann, or the Children of Danu, who many interpret as the Gaelic gods. The King of the Tuatha Dé Danann, Nuada, sued for half the island for his people, but the Fir Bolg king refused. They met at the Pass of Balgatan, and the ensuing battle - the Battle of Mag Tuired - went on for four days. During the battle, Sreng, the champion of the Fir Bolg, challenged Nuada to single combat. With one sweep of his sword, Sreng cut off Nuada's right hand. However, the Fir Bolg were defeated and their king, Eochaidh, was slain by a goddess, The Morrígan, though the fierce efforts of their champion Sreng saved them from utter loss. The Tuatha Dé Danann were so touched by their nobility and spirit they gave them one quarter of the island as their own. They chose Connacht and are mentioned very little after this in the myths.
The origin of the Fir Bolg name is the subject of some dispute. Older commentators consider them the "men of (the god/dess) Bolg" or "men of bags" (compare Irish bolg meaning 'belly', 'bag'). Alternatively the name may be derived from that of the Belgae of Britain and Gaul, whose name meant "The People Who Swell with Anger/Battle Fury".
Tribal origins and history
These people arrived in Ireland in three groups, the Fir Bolg, the Fir Domnann and the Gaileanga. According to the model proposed by O'Rahilly: the Fir Bolg are linked to the historical Belgae, known from Gaul and Britain, and to the historical Builg of Munster; the Fir Domnann to the British Dumnonii; and the Gaileanga are the Laigin, who founded Leinster. According to this model, the three groups probably represent the Ivernic-speaking peoples who inhabited Ireland before the Goidelic-speaking Gaels.
Other theories have been advanced about the origin of the Fir Bolg. Some scholars have related the name of a Celtic god with the word Bolg. The Fir Bolg, according to one legend, were involved in carrying bags of earth at one point in their history, hence the "Men of Bags" interpretation. Others speculate that "Bolg" relates to a word for small boats.
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