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The Triocha Céts

Professor James Hogan has suggested that the 'hundred' contained in the terminal 'Cét' (or Ceád) of 'Triocha Cét' formed what was evidently a basic unit in the social and military organisation of many peoples. In the beginning the Triocha Cét was a military term that seemed to denote a mustering of thirty hundred fighting men. Later it was applied to the tribe or tribal groupings whose military quota was fixed at this number. By about the seventh century it had come by a natural extension of its meaning to be applied to the territory, which originally was required to furnish the quota of thirty hundred fighting men. According to Eugene O'Curry the number of Triocha Céts in Ireland came to one hundred and eighty four. Giraldus Cambrensis in the twelfth century puts the number at one hundred and seventy six; he translates the term as 'cantred', probably confusing it with the Welsh 'cantref' - an area comprising a hundred dwellings.

The Triocha Cét as a unit of military organisation was probably 'imported' into Ireland by the Celts following their contact with the Roman armies. The chief unit of the ancient Roman army was the legion, which originally consisted of three thousand (thirty hundred) infantry and about 300 cavalry. It was divided into thirty maniples (companies), each commanded by two centurions. Under the emperors the standing army usually consisted of thirty legions. There is, therefore, a striking similarity between the Triocha Cét of early Ireland and the legion of early Rome. A further coincidence will be found in the fact that the Triocha Cét when it came to denote a unit of territory was said to contain thirty Baile Biataighs, the self same number as the military Triocha Cét contains hundreds. This fact alone, in Professor Hogan's opinion, was sufficient to suggest, if not to prove, that the Baile Biataigh bore a more or less definite relationship to the ancient hundred.

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Map:Thomond in the 13th Century