Did the Legendary Irish Milesians Come from Spanish Galicia?
The legend of Irish Milesians is one of the strangest stories connected with the origins of these islanders. Where did they come from? Is it possible that the early ancestors of modern Irish people had Spanish roots?
The legend of the Milesians begins in the Holy Land, during the period when the Tower of Babel still existed. Their story was described in many books since early medieval times. But the most problematic issue about this group is connected with the original name of the Milesians, which comes from the name of Míl Espáine (Soldier of Hispania), a mythical ancestor of the Irish. His name was Latinized to Milesius, what gave the term ''sons of Míl'' or the Milesians.
The Legend of a Spanish Soldier
The story of the tribe called Milesians is found in the medieval Irish Christian text Lebor Gabála Érenn. This text is seen by some researchers as related to real Celtic beliefs, but others suggest that it is a fictional tale created by Christian monks. In the Irish language, they are known as “ gairthear Mílidh Easpáinne.” The first Milesians were said to be led by a mysterious man, whose roots may shed light on the true origins of the Irish people.
Apart from the previously mentioned text, the man appears in the semi-historical work Historia Brittonum (The History of the Britons), which was written in the 9th century probably by a man named Nennius, who was a Welsh monk. He described a story of a man whose father was Bile, son of Breogan. The grandfather of the man is now known as the “Soldier of Hispania” who, according to legends, discovered the city called Brigantinum (now La Coruña) in Galicia. The Irish legend explains that Míl Espáine took the people from his homeland and went to Ireland. The people who arrived there with him then became the fathers of the Irish Gaels.
Statue of Breogán statue in La Coruña. (Basilio from gl/CC BY SA 3.0)
The story of Milesius is also related to Egypt. Legends say that he served as a soldier in Egypt and Scythia. He allegedly traveled through Europe and became a famous warrior known in many parts of the world.
Moreover, according to some resources, it seems that he could have been the husband of the legendary Scota - making this story even more incredible. It is unknown if he really made it to Ireland.
A depiction of Scota on a ship from the 1400s. (Public Domain)
This part of the story creates more questions. Some resources suggest that Milesius died in Iberia, and Scota went to Ireland with a company of their eight sons. Another story says that when one of Milesius’ uncles, Ith, was killed by the Tuatha De Danann, the invaders decided to take his body back to Iberia. Soon after the burial ceremony, Milesius also died, so his wife and sons went to Ireland without him. Due to the terrible storms created by the magic of Tuatha Dé Danann many of the brave soldier’s sons supposedly died, but others may have become the fathers of Irish people. In the end, Milesius is known as a head of the Irish ancestors - one whose rule started the impressive culture.
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Searching for the Truth
According to the 16th century scholar, Thomas F. O’Flaherty, the invasion of the Milesians took place around 1,000 BC. He wrote that it was in the time of the reign of Solomon, but this explanation seems to be based more on imagination related to biblical stories than fact.
However, it is known that the Celts had penetrated lands over the Rhine, including many areas such as the Pyrenees, Iberian Peninsula, England, Scotland, Ireland, etc. This happened long before the books about their history were created. Nonetheless, ways of understating time and ancient chronology in the 16th century was different than it is now, so O'Flaherty’s suggestion cannot be fully ignored.
Representation of a Milesian Tomb, opened near the Cimmerian Bosporus - Clarke Edward Daniel- 1810. (Public Domain)
Moreover, according to A. M. Sullivan:
“The earliest settlement or colonization of Ireland, of which there is tolerably precise and satisfactory information, was that by the sons of Miledh or Milesius, from whom the Irish are occasionally styled Milesians. There are abundant evidences that at least two or three "waves" of colonization had long previously reached the island; but it is not very clear whence they came. Those first settlers are severally known in history as the Partholanians, the Nemedians, the Firbolgs, and the Tuatha de Danaans. These latter, the Tuatha de Danaans, who immediately preceded the Milesians, possessed a civilization and a knowledge of "arts and sciences" which, limited as we may be sure it was, greatly amazed the earlier settlers (whom they had subjected) by the results it produced. To the Firbolgs (the earlier settlers) the wonderful things done by the conquering newcomers, and the wonderful knowledge they displayed, could only be the results of supernatural power. Accordingly, they set down the Tuatha de Danaans as "magicians," an idea which the Milesians, as we shall presently see, also adopted.”
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Many researchers have tried to find out if this is the truth, but after so many centuries, even DNA tests aren't bringing clear results. There was so much migration through the years, that previous attempts of using DNA to find the roots of the tribe or the nation haven't brought expected results. For example, in a case of searching for the roots of ancient Egyptians, DNA tests suggested there are more descendants of pharaohs in England than in modern Egypt.
‘The Coming of the Sons of Miled’ - THE COMING OF THE MILESIANS (1910). (The Commons)
It is commonly believed that the legendary Milesians and the Gaels were the same tribe. Gaels originally came from the south of France and the north of Spain. The correlation between the legendary story and reality recorded by historical resources seems obvious. However, many scholars still believe that the legend was invented by early medieval monks - which is somewhat more questionable. It is hard to believe that Christian monks trying to convert people into the new faith would like to promote a story which would support the power of the old cults at the same time.
Connecting Ancient Celts
Nowadays, symbolism and other aspects of cultures associated with Celts are still very popular themes in Ireland and also in some parts of Spain - including Galicia. Many people interested in history argue about the roots of the Celts, Galicians, Irish, etc. It is unknown if this problem will ever be completely solved.
Top Image: Milesian Invastion by Maura O'Rourke. Source: The Progressive Influence
Irish Historical Mysteries: The Milesians, available at:
The story of the Irish race,available at:
The Spanish Milesians invasion, available at:
The Story of Ireland by A. M. Sullivan, available at:
Did the Irish Come from Spain?, available at: