The name Tara is thought to derive from either the Irish word Temair meaning ‘a great height’, or a derivative of the Greek temenos or Latin templum meaning ‘a sacred space’. Both of these meanings perfectly suit the Hill of Tara, once described as ‘probably the most consecrated spot in Ireland’. Many of the names of the individual monuments on the Hill of Tara come from Dindshenchas Éireann (‘Lore of the Place Names of Ireland’), which was compiled in the 11th century. As they were recorded centuries after the initial use of the monuments, these descriptions must be taken with a pinch of salt, however they add to the folkloric mystique of this most enigmatic of Irish landscapes. Indeed most of the early texts on Tara tell us more about the medieval context and society in which they were written rather than ancient lore or traditions of Tara.
As well as being a place of ancient kings and legends, The Hill of Tara was also the setting for more recent drama. One of the key battles of Ireland’s 1798 Rebellion took place there, with more than four thousand United Irishmen making an unsuccessful stand against a militia of British yeomanry at the Battle of Tara Hill. Over 350 rebels were killed. Two memorials mark their memory. A Celtic Cross and gravestone, and a stone, said to be the Lia Fail, The legendary Stone of Destiny, was moved a short distance to mark their supposed burial place. In 1843, Daniel O’Connell drew on the symbolic power of Tara in the national consciousness when he held a ‘Monster Rally’ that called for the Repeal of Ireland’s Union with Britain, attended by a crowd that numbered over a million people.
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