The Scots

It is easy to think of the inhabitants of Scotland at the time of the Roman occupation of Britain as "Scots," but a mistake. Roman writers referred to the Irish as the Scotii. In the centuries following the collapse of Roman Britain, these Irish Scotii launched raids against the west coast of the British mainland. In the west coast of what is now Scotland, these raiders were followed by settlers.

A new kingdom was formed by the "Scots"

_! settlers called Dal Riada. It encompassed

Ulster in northern Ireland and large portions of the Scottish west coast. By the ninth century AD the Dal Riadan Scots had somehow united with the Picts who occupied the east of Alba (Scotland), to create a new, unified Celtic country in the north of Britain.

A significant body of archaeological and documentary information has provided historians with the opportunity to better understand the Scots of Dal Riada. Irish chroniclers recorded significant events in the development of the colony, while monks from the Celtic monastery at Iona provided even more detailed information from AD 563 onwards. There is also archaeological evidence for earlier contacts between western Scotland and northern Ireland. Both regions share similar Bronze Age features, such as the remains of crannog lake dwellings, fortified villages or

Below: Mote of Mark, major fortified center of kingdom of Rheged-Cumbria in the 6th century ad, Dumfries & Galloway. Scotland.

raths, burial mounds, and ceramic production.

The first Irish raids against the west coast of Britain date from the first decades of the fifth century AI). Accounts are contradictory, but the favorite version of the founding of Dal Riada comes from an Irish account, which claims that around AD 500 the colony was founded by the Ulster nobleman Fergus Mor, son of Ere. He then divided it into three parts with his brothers Oengus and Loarn. Another suggestion is that the region was already partially settled before AD 500, and the three divisions of Dal Riada reflect a coalition of three distinct settlements (known as Cenel Loairn, Cenel Gabrain and Cenel Oengusa).

Gabran and Comgall were the grandsons of Fergus Mor, and they consolidated the family grip over the colony, adding the island of Arran to Dal Riada during the mid-sixth century AD. Gabran (who died around AD 558) conducted campaigns against the Picts and the Celtic tribes in the Clyde and Forth valleys, but his successor Conall was too occupied by internal trouble to consider war against his neighbors.

Conall (c.AD 558-74) fought rebellions in the Western Isles, and campaigned against the other sub kings of Dal Riada. The colony was reunified by his cousins Eoganan and Aedan mac Gabran, and the arrival of St. Columba added further stability

Domnall Brecc Pictures

to the region. Of the two, Aedan was the most successful, helping the Celts against the Saxons of Northumbria, and campaigning against the Mets.

Picts and Scots unite

A Celtic defeat at the Battle of Degsasten (AI) 603) brought an end to Dal Riadan involvement in British resistance to the Saxons, and it appears that for the next generation the Scots avoided external adventures. This period of isolation ended around AD 635, when the Scots king Domnall Brecc fought a string of unsuccessful campaigns in Ulster and Pictland. He died in battle at the hands of the Celts of Strathclyde in AD 645, when it is said that "ravens gnawed his head." His passing marked a change in the internal structure of Dal Riada.

The kingdom was split up into small tribal territories, although a high-king drawn from the descendants of Gabran and Comgall exerted some degree of overall control over the colony. Unity was finally restored by Ferchar the Tall (c.AI) 680-96), a ruler of Cenel Loairn. Although the details remain unclear, some form of political or marriage alliance between the Scots and the Picts led to a temporary union between the two nations during the first half of the eighth century AD. The Hctish king Ocngus may have conquered the Scots in AD 741, but the colony regained its independence in AD 778.

Dal Riada was effectively controlled by the Picts, then it appears the reverse took place, with the Scots gaining ascendancy over their eastern neighbors. Eventually, the Dal Riadan high king Kenneth mac Alpin united the Picts and the Scots in AD 843. How or why this happened is still unclear. What is certain is that Kenneth mac Alpin was the first king of a unified Scottish nation. Scotland would remain an independent Celtic country until the death of its last Celtic king, Macbeth, in the 11th century.

Left: The Church tower at Abernethy in Angus dates from the 11th century, but was built on the foundations of an earlier settlement established in Pictland by Scots-Irish Celtic missionaries.

Pictland Map

The WeLsh

The inaccessibility of the mountainous Welsh lands ensured that the region would remain a bastion of Celtic resistance to the Roman invaders. After the Romans left the British Isles the region's inhabitants were threatened first by fellow Celts from Ireland, and then by the Saxons. The Welsh Celts were eventually subdued by the English in the Middle Ages, but Celtic identity remained strong in the country, and continues to the present day.

A~j lack of written sources mean that much | of the early history of the Britons of Wales is obscure. Archaeological evidence points to trading links existing between Ireland, Wales, and the rest of Britain long before the arrival of the Romans in the first century AD. Four Celtic tribes occupied the area; the Deciangeli in the northeast, the Ordovices in the northwest, the Demetae to the southwest and the Belgae to the southeast. The latter were the same tribe whose territory extended across southern Britain from the River Severn to the Solent.

The island of Anglesey (Morn) provided a last refuge for the Celtic druids, and when the

Wales, from the first to eighth centuries, showing Roman ^on occupation and later Celtic ^So} . e 0o

MONA INS (Anglesey)

I Deva




ft a

• Mediolanum


• Roman legionary camps and major Roman civic centers


Levobrinta •



• Viroconium



Br ych,

1 Moridunum





Roman governor Suetonius Raulinus captured the island in the mid-first century AD he destroyed the power of the druids, who he saw as the instigators of resistance to the Romans. Later Welsh chronicles suggest that the region prospered under Roman rule, and the withdrawal of the Romans from Britain in the early fifth century AD left the region vulnerable to attack by the Irish. The Romans had allowed the local Celtic rulers to govern their own affairs, and these tribal leaders suddenly found themselves responsible for the defense of independent kingdoms.

Clashes between the Welsh Celts and those in the rest of Britain and Ireland continued over the next few centuries, but increasingly the sub-Roman British were being forced westward by Anglo-Saxon invaders. As Wales played host to streams of Celtic refugees, the local Celtic rulers did whatever they could to halt the Anglo-Saxon advance. When the Saxons reached the River Severn in the late sixth century AD, the Welsh Celts found themselves on the front line.

By this time the old Celtic tribes had matured into a handful of small Celtic states. Dvfed in the southwest was the descendent of the tribal territory of the Demetae, although it was ruled by an Irish dynasty during the late Roman period. The origins of Powys are obscure, but it was based in mountains of north Wales, and maintained a good relationship with the Romans and its sub-Roman neighbors. Gwynedd was based around the territories of the Ordovices, and was named after its ruling dynasty. These rulers were singled out by the historian Gildas as being evil, and were linked to Maglocunus, the dragon, which eventually became the national symbol of Wales.

Land of Weahlas

The sixth century AD was seen as a particularly vibrant period for the Welsh, and the era was subsequently known as "the age of saints." The Christian conversion of the Welsh was completed during the sixth century AD, while the first written accounts of Celtic Welsh culture were produced.

By the seventh century AI > the Anglo-Saxon

Din Lligwy Celt

Left and Below: Din

Lligwy, Celtic village from the Late Roman era. Anglesey.

English had established their western border at the foot of the Welsh mountains, enclosing the remaining Celts in the Welsh peninsula, which they called the land of the weahlas, or foreigners. The Celts themselves called the country Cymru —land of the comrades. During the following century the English king Offa (AD 747-96) built a dyke that joined the Rivers Severn and Dee, creating a boundary between Wales and English Mercia. For the next five centuries, the Welsh struggled to retain their political independence in the face of English and Norse incursions.

After the Norman conquest of England in

1066 the Normans created a military buffer zone along the Welsh border. By the end of the 13th century, the English were simply too powerful for the Welsh to stop. Edward I of England (1272-1307) not only invaded and occupied Wales, but also built huge castles to maintain English control. Although Wales would maintain its cultural identity, apart from brief periods of revolt the region would remain firmly controlled by the English. Despite this, the Welsh retained a good measure of autonomy, and today Wales (Cymru) is a truly Celtic country, whose cultural and linguistic roots are treasured.

Left and Below: Din

Lligwy, Celtic village from the Late Roman era. Anglesey.

The CoRnisb

The only region of what is now Kngland to avoid Roman occupation, Cornwall was left with its Celtic identity intact. The peninsula even thrived by exporting Cornish tin throughout the Roman Kmpire, as it had done centuries earlier with other Mediterranean peoples such as the Phoenicians. Following the Roman withdrawal from Britain and the subsequent invasions by Angles and Saxons, Cornwall's geographical isolation allowed it to retain a fragile autonomy.

Land's End—Celtic Cornwall remained isolated from Roman and then Anglo-Saxon influence, and still retains aspects of this independence today.

lefore the Roman invasion of Britain in the j mid-first century AD, Cornwall was the tribal homeland of the Cornovii, and the region was largely unaffected by the Roman occupation of Britain. Trade between the Cornovii and Romans flourished, with the Roman city of Exeter becoming the trading center for exported Cornish tin and imported Gallic produce. When the Romans left ^^

Britain at the start of the fifth century AD, Cornwall (or

Sub Roman Britain

sub-Roman Kingdom of Dumnonia to the east, and that of Cornouaille in Brittany. This all changed with the coming of the Saxons.

As the Anglo-Saxons moved westward through Britain and established the Kingdom of Wessex, the Kingdom of Dumnonia (now the counties of Dorset and Devon) provided a bulwark from the Saxons for over a century. In 577 the Saxons drove a wedge between Dumnonia and the remainder of Celtic Britain when they captured the valley of the River Severn. Dumnonia finally fell to the Anglo-Saxon armies advancing from Wessex during the first decade of the eighth century. King Geraint, the last British King of Dumnonia was killed in battle, and by 710 the Saxons had reached the old Roman city of Exeter.

By the time the invaders had finished consolidating their hold on their new territories, the Britons had reorganized their defenses around Exeter. In 721 the Britons defeated a Saxon invading army at Camelford, on the River Camel. This decisive battle effectively prevented any further Anglo-Saxon incursions into Devon and Cornwall for another century.

Cornwall was seen as a distinct political entity in Britain by the late eighth century, as Bishop Kentsec of the Celtic Church is recorded as being granted the title of Bishop of Kernow, the Celtic name for the region. (Kern was a term given to Celtic warriors). To the Anglo-Saxons or English, the inhabitants of Kernow were known as the Kearn Weahlas, or Kern foreigners. The term Cornwall was deriv ed from this (but note the similarity to Cornouaille, accross the Channel in Brittany).

Throughout the early Medieval period, the Ornish were also known as the West Welsh. At the start of the ninth century Kernow extended beyond the modern county boundary of Cornwall which starts at the River Tamar, and stretched through much of former Dumnonia to xeter. The city was probably seen as a frontier rtress between the English and the Britons.

Nanstallon Cornwall Map

)i Bury Barton

Cullompton g Tmtagel

■ Nanstallon

H Totenais ftotresi

Cross-Channel trade with Cornouaille In Brittany

The Celtic peninsula

In 814 a revitalized Anglo-Saxon kingdom renewed the offensive. Led by King Kgbcrt of Wessex, the border raids started again and, in 825, he won a significant victory over the Cornish. Although it has never been proven, it has been suggested that the Cornish were driven back to the line of the Tamar, and the Celtic area from modern Plymouth to Exeter was occupied by the English.

The Cornish were driven to desperate measures to ensure their own survival. In 838 they made an alliancc with the Norsemen, and a combined Celtic-Norse army fought King Egliert's Anglo-Saxons at Hingston in Devon. Although the allies were defeated, Egbert died the following year, and the English were unable to take advantage of their victory. Internecine fighting among the English prevented any renewed . offensive against Cornwall for *

almost a century.

Finally in 927 the Anglo-Saxon high-king Athelstan marked his victory over the Celts of Northumbria and Cumbria by holding a ceremony, where the remaining Ccltic rulers of southern Britain paid homage to him. These Celtic rulers included King Hywel of the West Welsh. Three years later Athelstan invaded Kernrnv, although it is likely that he simply re-established the frontier along the Tamar by driving the Celts out of Devon to the east. The English crown claimed ovcrlordship of Cornwall, as King Edmund (939-46) styled himself King of the British Province (Cornwall). Nevertheless, the Cornish territories were only incorporated into Anglo-Saxon England on paper, and the region maintained its own laws, Church, and social hierarchy. It was only after the Norman conquest of 1066 that Cornwall was forced to become an integral part of the English state. To the Cornish, the notion of a separate identity continues to this day.

Left: Celtic bronze mirror found in a grave at Trelan Bahow, St. Keverne, Cornwall, dating from the 1st century bc.



■ Tiverton r "] Cornish territory i__j tn H5R

///■',' , ■ North Ochementone W Tawton iOKohjmptoiy. /


Julius Caesar Grave

Expansion of Republican Rome from 200 bc to the eve of Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul In 58 bc, and the frontiers at the end of the Gallic Wars in 43 bc.


Trelan ScottTrelan Scott




• Amerita Augusta







Expansion of Republican Rome from 200 bc to the eve of Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul In 58 bc, and the frontiers at the end of the Gallic Wars in 43 bc.





Left: Before Julius Caesar. Rome's greatest general was Gaius Marius, who reformed the Roman citizens' army and made it into the professional force that would soon conquer the Western world. The forced-march tactics he developed and the roads he built later helped Julius Caesar's campaigns in Gaul. But it was Caesar who honed the Roman legionaries that, because they carried everything needed on their backs, were known as "Marius's Mules."

klpine gaul


■ Roman territory c.200 bc I Roman territory c.100 bc \[Jj \ disputed territory at 58 bc

□ Roman territory after conquests of Julius Caesar c.43 bc

• provincial Roman capital

—i-r - r ——-----~rr*"y/~ v- • *------".TZ!:

Enneagram Essentials

Enneagram Essentials

Tap into your inner power today. Discover The Untold Secrets Used By Experts To Tap Into The Power Of Your Inner Personality Help You Unleash Your Full Potential. Finally You Can Fully Equip Yourself With These “Must Have” Personality Finding Tools For Creating Your Ideal Lifestyle.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment