Authority, Verse and theTransmission of Senchas

Gregory Toner

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This paper explores the ways in which Irish scholars of the eleventh and twelfth centuries used verse to evaluate the veracity of accounts of the past. Verse was widely employed as a medium for encoding and transmitting historical knowledge and later scholars frequently cite earlier verse to authorise and authenticate their own work. It is argued here that certain compositions were considered authoritative and were used to refute competing accounts of the past; others lacked authority and were themselves rebutted. Moreover, historians were capable of distinguishing between authority and fact, so that authority was not necessarily accepted as factual certainty. However, the bulk of verse is not evidential at all but is used to add an appearance of authenticity to texts. The increased use of the prosimetrical form may be due, at least in part, to the authoritative and authenticative uses of verse.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)59-84
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2005


    • medieval Irish historiography
    • senchas
    • historical authority
    • auctoritas
    • mnemonic
    • prosimetrum


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