ORIGINS OF THE SCOTS AND PICTS
The Picts were not Gaels, they spoke a different language and had different customs. Their origins are unknown, although there are many theories, and the Picts themselves had their myths and traditions which compounded their mystery. Recent dna tests have proven the Picts are closely related to the Basques of northern Spain. If it is determined some day where the Basques came from, then we will know where the Picts came from also. This relationship had been suspected for some time as it was known that the two groups were uniquely non Indo-European.
What is in a name? The Picts referred to themselves as "Albiones" (English translation) and to their country as "Alba." The Romans first called them "Caledonians," then "Picti." This no doubt means "painted people" in Latin. When the Picts became Christians, they adopted the Roman term"Pict."
The Scots, on the other hand, were a branch of the Irish Celts or Gaels. Ireland was divided between the earlier Cruithens (Picts, who migrated from Scotland around 200AD) and later arriving Goidels (Gaels), who were constantly at each others' throats. As Ireland never experienced a Roman invasion, it was a safe haven for raiders who plundered Roman provinces in England and Wales.
All Celts in western continental Europe were subdued by the Romans. However, the Irish branch maintained their cultural development free of the Roman yoke. After the Romans left Britain in about AD453, the Romanized (subdued) Gaels of England became easy targets for the fierce Scottic sea raiders. Scotti is related to an Irish verb meaning "to raid" or "plunder." Recent dna tests have proven the Scots are closely related to the Berbers of North Africa. It is certain that the Celts flourished in what is now Austria in the forth and fifth centuries B.C., when they achieved their greatest prosperity and expansion across Europe. They subjugated all those before them from Spain to the eastern Steppes. They pillaged Rome, invaded Persia and Macedonia, and developed contacts with Greeks, and a new power in the east, the Scythians.
THE SCYTHIANS EMERGE ON THE STEPPES OF EASTERN EUROPE
About 750 BC, a warlike Mongoloid people were expelled from their home territory in the north of China and moved westward. The pressure they exerted on other peoples began a mass movement westwards of scores of tribes.
Much like the waves of the incoming tide pounding on a beach, each tribe arriving in Europe was followed by another, usually more fierce and violent than the one before. Arriving with dust and thunder, fierce horsemen from the east burst upon the European steppe around 700 BC. Invincible for four centuries, these proud marauders grew rich on the dividends of conquest, decking even their horses with gold. Then, mysteriously, they vanished, leaving only tales of their courage and cruelty - and imposing tombs lavishly provisioned for eternity.
Scythians storming an enemy settlement, with a female warrior leading the charge. In their time, they were invincible.
Migrating from Asia, the Scythians were masters of the steppe for 400 years. Their empire reached from the Danube east across Ukraine all the way to the Don River and the Caucasus Mountains. They introduced Europe to oriental advances in horse equipment.
Scythia and it's expansion.
THE EMPIRE AND FORAYS OF SCYTHIA
The Scythians sold cereals grown by their sedentary subjects to the Greek merchants who had set up shop in strategic locations around the Black Sea. They soon became the prime source of grains for the Greek city states of the Adriatic. We know that in the fourth century BC, Sarmatians, another nomadic Asian people encroached on eastern Scythian lands. It is suggested that in the west, Scythians warred with Macedonians.
Historians disagree why their Empire suddenly collapsed, for instance it is known that for 100 years after the Scythians disappeared, their heartland was devoid of any human occupation. It may have been due to a severe climatic change, severe drought, over-grazing, or simply an implosion from within. The Greek historian Strabo, wrote that, at the sunset of their empire, some Scythians migrated to the mouth of the Danube and dispersed with other peoples in that vicinity, which would be the Celts.
CELTS ARISE IN THE WEST
The oldest surviving references to the Celts are by Hecataeus and Herodotus, writing in the fifth century BC. Therein the Celts were reported to have been established in southern France and around Styria in Austria. In 390 BC, the Celtic Gauls of present day France invaded Etruscan territory and sacked Rome. Three Celtic Tribes, called the Galati invaded Asia Minor and settled there. Another tribe invaded Macedonia. Contacts were made with the Scythians, Persians, Greeks and Romans. All these contacts resulted in advances in Celtic culture and sophistication.
PICTS FLOURISH IN "ALBA"
They are recorded to have reached Scotland by the first millennium BC, and chose the best areas for themselves. (The later British Celts had to take second best.) They absorbed the earlier tribesmen who were known as Orcades (who were definitely Celtic), and soonpart of the Brodgar Ring in the Orknies dominated the northern half of Scotland. When the Romans ventured into their domain, these warrior people were called "Picti" (painted or tattooed ones.) They were well organized, fierce warriors, and had several unique characteristics which differentiated them from other Celts.
They recorded their family genealogies along their female lines. They were not as quarrelsome amongst themselves as were the Scotti. They painted their bodies blue for battle, as was the ancient custom of the Celts. (This practice had died out in the more central areas of Celtic civilization.) They constructed huge hill forts of timber and stone. Their language was not identical with other Celts and, some scholars believe that the Picts were not Celts at all..
Picts had a tradition their ancestors were from Scythia.
There are several confirming clues as to this claim:
º Reliefs of Pictish warriors on Orkney gravestones have a decidedly 'Assyrian' appearance.
º Celtic art drew its inspiration from Scythia, especially about animal representation; i.e. Stylized beasts, abstract geometric decorations.
º The Pictish wood-built burial chamber under a barrow was similar to that of the Scythians.
Horse bit and bridle mount.
º After the Scythians were overwhelmed by the nomadic Sarmatians, many migrated into Hallstatt (early Celtic) territory in Styria in present day Austria.
º Both Scythians and Picts had an extreme horse/riding and horse/driving culture, (more so than other Celtic tribes.)
º Trousers and woollen cloaks were worn by Picts and other Celts, which were especially convenient when riding horses. They were not derived from the Mediterranean nor from temperate Europe. They were obviously from horsemen of the cold eastern steppes, probably the Scythians.
º Both Pict and Scythian armies used women warriors, other Celts did not.
º Celtic, and Scythian societies were agricultural-pastoral as each tribe was engaged in its own food production. Therefore no large urban centres were realized.
º The Celts achieved a standard in arts and crafts unparalleled amongst the ancient inhabitants of trans/Alpine Europe, rivalled only by their Eurasiatic neighbours, the Scythians.
º At about 700BC, there appeared in the vicinities of Hungary, Bavaria, and Austria, bronze horse-bits, and bridle mounts, which were identical to types found in the eastern steppes of Scythia. Oriental bronze bridle found in Celtic settlement in Mindelbeim, Bavaria.
Who were these early Hallstatt Iron age Chieftains? Their horse-gear is an elaboration of their predecessors from the east.
- T.G.E. Powell, "The Celts".
The Picts, including the Irish Cruithens, put more emphasis on female ancestry than on the male line, though they did not allow a Queen to rule over them as did the Iceni and Brigantes of Britain, whose queensPictish 'Broch' (hillside fort) were almost demi-goddesses. The 'practical' Picts realized that a boy's best friend was his mother, and his father sometimes only a very fitful factor. Most of the names we now associate with being Scottish were in fact Pictish, i.e. Angus, Bili, Kenneth, Donald, Duncan, Hugh, Malcom, Ronald, and many others which are unpronounceable in English. The surname Alpin is Pictish and means mountain. It began as 'Ailphin', then 'Elphin', then 'Alpine.' The Picts maintained a system of succession whereby the crown was passed down to a brother or a nephew through the mother's line. The Picts favoured two forms of execution: Drowning was reserved for unwanted Kings. Beheading was reserved for the most shameful of deaths and was used in a ceremony of retribution. The Picts compared very favourably with later peoples and their diabolical execution methods.
ENTER THE SCOTS
The 'Scotti' ventured across the north Irish sea to Argyll in the 400s and called it "Dalriada" after their Royal House of "Dal Riada" in Ulster. Fourth century movement of Celtic tribes from Ireland into England and Scotland, and from southern England into Brittany They were afterwards referred to derisively as "Irish" for over one thousand years.) This marked the first time that Gaelic was spoken in what is now Scotland. The Picts were already established throughout northern Scotland and were not amused with these latecomers. For the next 400 years, Picts and Scots fought it out. Scottish kings arose in Dalriada where they existed with the tolerance of local Pictish Governors. When threatened by outside forces, the Scots and Picts had no qualms re co-operating to beat off a common foe. The Picts were better organized, more unified, and had a more powerful army. The Scots, on the other hand, were unruly, untrustworthy, cunning, and fierce fighters. When the 'heathen' Norse began pillaging northern Scotland, they hit the Picts harder as they had populated the north, and the western & northern islands, which were the prime targets of Viking plunder. The Picts outnumbered the Scots and left to their own devices would have eliminated them, however devastated by the Giant Norse raiders, the Picts became susceptible to infiltration by the Scots.
This resulted in many intermarriages and a blurring of racial lines. In a Scot/Pict marriage, the Pict line went on through the mother and the Scot line was carried on down through the males. In this way, the Picts were eventually 'married' out of existence.
PICTS WIN THE BATTLE BUT LOSE THE WAR
During the 800s, the Picts constituted about 90% of the population of northern Scotland, (the Scotti only about 10%). However they were constantly harried and were under heavy pressure by Norse in the north, Scots in the south-west, and by Germanic tribes of Angles in the south. In battle after battle, they succeeded in repulsing all comers. This land was defended many times after Rome's departure. The Picts fought invasions by the Scots in the west, the Britons and Angles in the south, and the Norse Vikings in the north. They sometimes lost great battles and huge chunks of land, only to regain it in the vicious warfare of the dark ages. In the 7th century the Scots pushed their frontier far north, and a victorious Celtic army came within a half-day march of the Pictish capital of Inverness before it was crushed. In the south, the Angles marched their Teutonic armies north and held Pictish lands for 30 years before they were butchered and sent fleeing south by a united Pictish army.
However, in AD837, the Picts suffered their most devastating military defeat - by the Norsemen. They lost their King and most of their leaders. This one event marked the beginning of the end for the Picts. They lost control of their own people and fell into a long period of civil wars and anarchy, and became fatally infiltrated by the Scots. By AD1000, they were gone.