29 August 2017

Before It Was Scotland: Pictavia

Before it was Scotland, everything north of River Tweed was held by tribes speaking Brythonic languages or variations thereof.  As much as the south of the island of Great Britain, the shape of northern society developed largely in reaction to the Roman invasions, though none of the lands north of Hadrian’s Wall were held for long.  Two of the major factors influencing what shape those societies took were the defensive works known as Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall.

This essay covers mostly Scotland north of the Firths, often referred to as Pictavia after its dominant and largest collective ethnic group.

Invasion and the Flavian Forts, 71 CE

The Romans invaded what is now modern Scotland for the first time in 71 CE, led by legatus Augusti pro praetore of Britannia Quintus Petillius Ceriallis.  After subduing the tribes south of the Firths, his troops proceeded with the construction of forts, fortlets, and watchtowers along the Roman road stretching from Drumquhassle at the southeast corner of Loch Lomond northeast to Strathcathro, possibly to Montrose referred to collectively as the Gask Ridge forts.

Agricola’s invasion and Inchtuthil, 82-87

The first mention by name of tribes beyond the Firths (of Forth and of Clyde) are in accounts of the invasion of the far north by Gnaeus Iulius Agricola, legatus Augusti of Britannia, in 83 CE, where the opposing peoples are referred to as “Caledones”.

Ceriallis’ successor, Gnaeus Iulius Agricola, moved to cement his predecessor’s gains, including establishing a permanent legionary fort at Inctuthil on River Tay southwest of Blairgowrie in the year 82 CE which covered 52 acres.  It was occupied by Legio XX Valeria Victrix.  Two years previous, the Romans had contructed a fort at Trimontium near Melrose in the south.  It was probably at this time that the Romans constructed the Glenblocker forts along the foot of the line of hills known as the Mounth.

The Battle of Mons Graupius took place in 83, and most Scottish historians agree the location lay somewhere in Stormont.  Indeed, it may have started as an attack on Inchtuthil.  The Romans eventually reached at least as far as Calder in Moray, sticking to the Lowlands and skirting the edge of the Highlands, and perhaps forward elements travelled as far as Easter Ross. 

After Agricola was recalled to Rome in 85, succeeding governors proved less ambitious.  Inchtuthil was abandoned in 87, upon which it was dismantled.  By the end of the century, the line of defense retreated south to a line of the Tyne River and Solway Firth.

The Lost Legion and the Revolt of 119

In 117, according to some sources which are disputed by others, Legio IX Hispana invaded the Highlands and was never heard from again.  This was the subject of the 2010 film Centurion and the 2-11 film The Eagle.  There is solid evidence of this legion being stationed in Eboracum in the years immediately previous years and little or no clear evidence of its existence after.

In 119, the Brigantes and the Selgovae rebelled against Roman domination, and Hadrian responded by sending Legio VI Victrix to the province, along with Legatus Quintus Pompeius Falco to serve as its new governor.  By the end of 121, the north was pacified.

Legio VI Victrix remained permanently in Britannia, replacing Legio IX Hispana.  The other permanent legions were Legio II Augusta and Legio XX Valeria.

Hadrian’s Wall

After visiting Britannia during the final year of Legatus Falco as governor in 122, Imperator Publius Aelius Hadrianus Augustus ordered the construction of an elaborate defensive works on the line between Pons Aelius (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) in the east and Luguvalium (Carlisle) in the west.

This limites, or defensive wall, the largest in the Imperium Romanum, included a massive stone wall built on a stone base.  Every mile between the two ends was marked by a gate with a milecastle (small fort with two towers) garrisoned by twenty to thirty limitanei (border soldiers), eighty of these in all).  There was also a large fort every five miles for a total of twenty-five.  A deep ditch guarded the Wall to the north, and to the south, beyond the military road stretching coast-to-coast was the Vallum, unique in the empire, a ditch half as deep as the northern one with embankments on either side.

This massive fortification, ten feet wide and twenty feet tall, was known as Hadrian’s Wall, but for most of its existence in use was simply called The Wall.  It was also supported by a line of forts running to the north.  Later it ends were extended to the fort of Segedunum (Wallsend) in the east and the fort of Mais (Bowness-on-Solway) in the west.

Antonine Wall, 141-164

In 141, Legatus Augusti Quintus Lollius Urbicus subdued the south of Scotland once again.  The next year the Romans began constructing the Antonine Wall (named for Imperator Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius) across the narrow neck of land between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde. 

The wall was anchored in the west by the fort at Old Kirkpatrick in the west and the fort at Carriden in the east, with fourteen forts between them and smaller forlets in support.  In addition, a fort at Bishopton on the right bank of River Clyde and a fort at Camelon (Camlann in Gaelic) north of the wall two miles east of Falkirk provided additional support.

This construction of the wall, much of it still existing, was of earth, ten feet tall and sixteen feet wide, and almost certainly topped with a wooden palisade.  Like its senior to the south, it had forts along its length, sixteen in all, with smaller fortlets between them.  It was abandoned in 164 when the Romans again withdrew to Hadrian’s Wall.

Construction of this wall affected the Damnonii more than any other people as it cut off their northern regions from easy intercourse with their southern cousins.

Claudius Ptolemaeus c. 150

The Romans, at least in the first two centuries, referred to all the people beyond Hadrian’s Wall as Brittunculi, or “Little Britons”, leaving little doubt about their ethnicity.

In the mid-2nd century, the following tribes lived north of the Firths:  Cornovi, Caerini, Smertae, Carnonacae, Crenones, Lugi, Taexeli, Caledonii, Vacomagi, Venicones, Corionototae, Boresti (Horesti), Epidii, and Niuduari.

Revolt of Albinus, 196-197 (Dio Cassius)

On the cusp of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, Dio Cassius chronicles raids by and wars with those north of Hadrian’s Wall, whom he relates have coalesced into two confederations:  the Maeatae (Miathi) and the Caledoni (Coille Daon). 

In 196, Legatus Clodius Albinus, consularis of Britannia, declared himself Imperator and invaded Gaul in a revolt against Imperator Lucius Septimius Severus Augustus.  After Severus had ended the rebellion the next year (197), he sent Virius Lupus as the new consularis with instructions to divide the single province of Britannia into two. 

Virius Lupus took Britannia Superior for himself based in Londinium (London) as consularis, and sent the junior governor, ranked a praefectus, to Britannia Inferior based out of Eboracum (York).  On his arrival, he learned of the Caledonii and the Maeatae had broken their treaties and were raiding the south, so he paid off the Maeatae, which stopped the raiding.

Identity of the Maeatae

Most authorities place the Maeatae just north of the Antonine Wall and the Caledoni to the north of them, but some place the Maeatae between the Walls.  In later centuries Irish chroniclers refer to the kingdom of Manaw as Miathi, probably an Irish cognate for the same group.  This leads to the conclusion that the group so named either alone or at the head of a broader coalition lived in what became known as Manaw, or Manaw Goddodin. 

At the time Dio first mentions them, he refers to the Maeatae as living “next to the Wall which splits the island”, which usually refers to Hadrian’s Wall.  Other evidence suggests that the individual tribe of Maeatae were none other than those former Damnonii living north of the Antonine Wall cut off from easy commerce with their cousins yet leading a confederation of those to their immediate south.

Dio’s reference dates from the 2nd century and likely refers to the confederation, while the Irish references are from the early 7th century and probably refer to its chief tribe, the former Damnonii north of the Antonine Wall.

Severus’ War (Dio Cassius)

In 208, Lucius Septimius Severus Augustus travelled to Britanniae (“the Britains”) intending to conquer and subdue Caledonia once and for all.  He invaded north of Hadrian’s Wall, again subduing the southern tribes quickly. 

As part of his invasion, he regarrisoned the Antonine Wall and other fortifications in the north, such as the fort at Carpow, built to hold at least forty thousand.  The Carpow fort was separate from the Glenblocker forts along Gask Ride, half a mile east of the confluence of Rivers Earn and Tay.  Just south of the Antonine Wall, Severus constructed a massive 165 acre camp as a must and staging point.

By 210, the roughness of the terrain combined with constant guerrilla attacks were on the verge of necessitating a withdrawal and regrouping.  Fortunately for Severus’ ambitions, however, the constant warfare had likewise hurt the Caledonians, who sued for peace, which Severus granted them, provided that they give up the Central Lowlands.

Later in the year, the Caledones rose up again, this time with the Maeatae, and Severus gave orders for the extermination of the entire nation of the latter.  Unfortunately for his plans, however, the emperor fell ill, dying at Eboracum on 4 February 211.  Severus was succeeded by his sons, Caesar Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Augustus and Caesar Publius Septimius Geta Augustus, neither of whom shared his interest in conquest of the north.  The Romans soon withdrew once again to The Wall.

Detachments of Legio VI Victrix and Legio II Augusta remained stationed at Carpow at least until Severus’ death, maybe for a little while after too.

Had Severus not fallen ill soon after his invasion in 210, that year would have Great Britain’s first genocide.  Since he did, however, the island had to wait until the winter of 1069-1070, when the armies of William the Conquerer slew 100,000 outright, killed all the animals, and burned all the food stores, leaving another 100,000 to starve over winter.

Revolt of Carausius, 286-274

From 259 to 274, the Britanniae belonged to the Imperium Galliarum along with Galliae (the Gauls), Hispaniae (the Spains) and Germaniae (the Germanies), but the center of that secession lay on the Continent, specifically the Germaniae.

In 286, Marcus Aurelius Mausaeus Valerius Carausius, praefectus of the Classis Britannica (the imperial fleet in the British Channel) based at Dubris (Dover), revolted and set himself up as emperor of Britanniae and northern Gaul.  After ruling for eight years, he was murdered and usurped by his treasurer, Allectus, following a serious military setback in 294 at the hands of the western Caesar (the empire was then under the Tertrarchy), Caesar Marcus Flavius Valerius Constantius Herculius.

After finally defeating Allectus once and for all, Constantius Chlorus, as he is commonly known, then set about reorganizing the Britanniae once again, attempting to dilute any more power bases for revolt.  Such as the one his son, Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus, used to make himself Augustus and Imperator in 306.  He divided the two Britanniae into four: Maxima Caesariensis, based in Londinium (London); Britannia Prima, based in Corinium (Circenchester); Flavia Caesariensis, based in Lindum (Lincoln); and Britannia Secunda, based in Eboracum (York).  Thus the Britanniae became a diocese, with the governor of the first province ranked as a consularis while the other three ranked as praefecti, with a vicarius over them all.

Eumenius the Rhetorician, c. 297

Secretary to Constantius Chlorus when the latter was Caesar to emperor of the West Marcus Aurelius Valerius Maximianus Herculius Augustus under the Tetrarchy, Eumenius of Alexandria (then living at Augustodonum in Gallia Lugudensis), refers to “Caledones and other Picti” attacking the Wall (Hadrian’s) in a panegyric delivered in 297, the first known reference to the people later widely referred to as Picts under that name.

So, we can deduce that the Caledones were among those referred to as “the Picts”, probably the lead grouping of at least those with whom the Romans in Britanniae had contact, and that there were other groups as well.

The Great Conspiracy, 360-369

Historian Ammianus Marcellinus refers to the “Scoti” and the “Picti” raiding Britanniae (the Britains, south of the Wall) in 360, then again in 364, this time in conjunction with the “Attacotti” and the “Saxonici”. 

In 367, the Great Conspiracy breaks out, with the Roman garrisons along Hadrian’s Wall rebeling in conjunction with native frontier troops known as areani; northern and western Britanniae are overwhelmed.  In the midst of the chaos, Valentinus, an exile from Pannonia, and others begin planning a revolt.   The Great Conspiracy is finally defeated by a force under Flavius Theodosius, Comes Britanniarum.  Afterwards, he disbands the areani and organizes a new civil administration.

While these internal struggles ensued, the Picti, Attacotti, and Scoti were attacking Britannia and the Saxonici and the Franci attacking northern Gaul.

In 369, Comes Flavius Theodosius created the province of Valentia, which is usually held to have lain within the territory “between the Walls”.  The province is noted in the Notitia Dignitatum of circa 420, and was considered important enough to have a consularis rather than a praefectus as governor.

Implications for northern Scottish history

Ammianus notes that the Picti, presumably those north of the Antonine Wall, have coalesced into two major confederacies: the Verturiones (Fortriu or Fortrenn) and the Dicalydones (Caledon).  The seat of the former was at Inverness while the seat of the latter was likely in what later became Gowrie, possibly at Dunkeld (Dun Chaillean, literally “Fort of the Caledones”). 

These two confederations were the beginning of the rivalry which split the kingdoms of the Picts, of Abla, and of the Brets and Scots for nearly a thousand years, Fortrenn v. Caledon, Moray v. Alba, and MacHeth v. Cenel Connaill.

More raids

In 381, there was a fourth wave of raiding by Scoti, Picti, and Saxonici.  After their defeat in 382, Flavius Magnus Maximus, Magister Militum per Britanniae, brought over Aed Brosc of the Deisi and a contingent of his people as foederati, settling them among the Demetae in what is now southwest Wales, to help repel further raids. 

Maximus also assigned praefecti gentium to commands in the north among the peoples “between the Walls”:  Quintilius son of Clemens at Dinas y Brython (Alt Clut/Dunbarton); Paternus son of Tacitus at Din Paladur (Traprain Law); Catellius Decianus at Din Gefron (Yeavering Bell); and Antonius Donatus Gregorius (son of Magnus Maximus) in Novant; he later transfers to Demetia in Wales.  Ruling dynasties later traced their descent back to these praefecti.

Pictavia in the Dark Ages

Applicable only to Western Europe since the Roman Empire continued to exist in the East until 1453, even in North Africa through the first half of the 7th century and in Italy through the 8th century (the Senate of Rome lasted into the 7th century).  It also was not applicable to Ireland, which saw its Golden Age during this period.

The political entities which grew out of the two major confederations, Fortrenn and Caledon, continued to dominate the politics of the Picts and the rest of the far north for centuries, until the High Middle Ages, near the end of the Cenel Connaill dynasty called in Scotland the Kindred of St. Columba (Cenel Naomh Colmcille).

In addition to Fortrenn and Caledon, two other tribal confederations coalesced at more or less the same time, Caitt and Ce.  Of them all, Fortriu (nominative form of Fortrenn) rose above the rest to become superior of them all, the more northern and western of the two rather than the other way around as traditional Scottish history tells it.

In 682, Bridei mac Beli of Fortriu conquered the independent kingdom of Orkney.  In 697, Bridei mac Dargart, of Cenel Comghall in Dal Riata but king only of Fortrenn, conquered Caitt (and presumably Fidach).  Oengus I mac Fergus (inaugurated 732) subjugated Argyll in 736, Atholl in 739, and Ce sometime later.  In addition, he must have at least extended his superiority over the former Caledones in Circinn and Fife, for it was he who founded St. Andrews.  He seems to have subjugated these lands but maintained them as separate entities. 

Oengus I’s descendants ruled Fortriu, dominating the entire north, until at least 848.  Prior to that date, however, the leadership of the kingdom was seriously weakened by massive losses in battle against the Norse in 839, according to the Annals of Ulster.

By 848,  a resurgent Caledon conquered Fortriu, which was besieged by frequent Viking raids and still suffering from a disastrous defeat nine years before.  Kenneth I mac Alpin thus became king of the Picts (rex Pictorum; ri Cruithentuath in Gaelic) like his predecessors for the previous couple of centuries and as his six/seven successors did until the beginning of the 10th century.

Fortrenn suffered yet another setback in 866 when the Norse once again devastated the region.

In 878, the rivalry between Fortrenn and Caledon reappeared when Giric Macrath mac Dungail of Fortrenn and Eochaid mac Rhun of Ystrad Clud (and Caledon) both attempted to claim sovereignty over all the Picts.  After their deaths in 889, Donald II mac Causantin becomes king, the last to use the title ri Cruithintuath.

After the death of Donald II in the Battle of Dunottar against marauding Vikings in 900, Causantin II mac Aedh becomes king with the title ri Albainn, a title used until the accession of David I, based in the southeast.  Beginning about the same time, the various sub-kings begin being denoted as mormaers rather than as kings, except for the ruler of Moray (as Fortrenn is coming to be known), whose office holder frequently claims the title of king.

Kingdoms of Pictavia

We’ve seen the kingdoms of the Old North, or Hen Ogledd, including those “between the Walls” which mostly are now part of Scotland, so let’s look at the kings in Skene calls Transmarine Scotland, or Scotland north of the Firths.

Caitt in the north took in Caithness, Strathnaver, Sutherland, mid and wester Ross, possibly northern Argyll, Orkney, and Shetland.

Fortriu (the nominative form of Fortrenn) rose to become for two-and-a-half centuries the predominant of all the northern kingdoms.  At the outset of the Dark Ages, it took in the later province of Moray at its greatest extent, then grew to include Ce, Fidach, Caitt, Atholl, and Orkney, as well as the lands of the southwest (of Pictavia) weakened by war with Northumbria.  The 21st century neologism for its people is Waerteras.

Fidach probably took in the later province of Ross, including North Argyll.

Ce took in Banff, Buchan, and Marr.

Circinn took in Angus and Mearns.  It was the chief kingdom growing out of the Caledon confederation.

Fibh took in Fothriff and Fife.

Athfodhla, or Atholl, “New Ireland”, existed by the 8th century and probably long before that, perhaps since at least the 6th century, because Oengus I mac Fergus of Fortrenn drowned its last king, Talorgan mac Drostan, in 739.  It took in Atholl, Drumalbane/Breadalbane, Gowrie (Gabhrainiag, from the Cenel nGabhrain), and Stormont; essentially the same territory as the later county of Perthshire.

Dal Riata in northeast Ulster began colonizing the western coast of Pictavia in the early 400s, as we have seen.  In the waning decades of the 5th century, the Dal Riata dynasty, under pressure from the Ulaidh who were themselves under pressure from the Ui Niall, moved its seat across the Straits of Moyle to Kintyre.  The territory occupied by the Dal Riata at their greatest extent included Antrim, the Inner Hebrides, Arran, Bute, and the coastal mainland from Kintyre in the south up to at least Applecross in the north.  The kingdom was conquered by Oengus I mac Fergus of Fortrenn in 736 and remained under Pictish overlordship until at least the Viking Age.

Aeron is known mostly from the same sources as Manaw and is cast in the same context and geographic proximity.  Strathearn (Srath Eireann), through which the River Earn (Albainn Eireann) runs, means “valley of the Irish”, which in Welsh would be Ystrad Aeron.  There is, in fact, a valley so-called in Dyfed, the most heavily Irish-settled part of Wales.  While there is another Strathearn in Moray, written Strathdearn in English to avoid confusion which may be one reason the river through it bears the name River Findhorn (still Albainn Eireann in Gaelic), its geographic remove places it too far away to be the same Aeron.

That the southern of these two Strathearns is the same as the Aeron of the Northern British epics is indeed what I propose.  It fits much better than Ayr, an identification arrived at with the same sort of contortionist logic that invented a previously unknown goddess to be a Welsh namesake for Ystrad Aeron in Dyfed, rather than the more obvious meaning, Valley of the Irish. 

This being the case, Aeron at least included Strathearn (the southern valley so named) and Menteith.  It is also possible that this area, Aeron, was included within Atholl (Ath Fodhla in Old Irish), “New Ireland”, or was synonymous with Atholl.  Irish annals and chronicles of the 6th century describe the territories of Gabran mac Domangairt and his son Aedan mac Gabhrain as stretching from the Sea of the Hebrides east all the way across the island.  This could be the case literally, or it could refer to their possession of both Dal Riata and Manaw, the latter acquired through Gabran’s marriage to the heiress.

Manaw – Identification in Irish annals of this kingdom with the Miathi, almost certainly an Irish corruption of Maeatae, leads to the conclusion that it was the same group or the lead group within a broader coalition that outsiders dubbed with its name, as in the case of the Caledones dubbed for the Caledonii.  This kingdom lay about the head of the Firth of Forth, at least from the parish of Clackmannan in the north to the parish of Slamannan in the south.  If it did not fall in 638 along with Eidyn and Goddodin, it certainly fell in 663 when Oswiu conquered southern Alba.  In the records, it is often called Manaw Goddodin to distinguish it from Yns Manaw, the Isle of Mann.  Geographically, this kingdom belongs to Pictavia, but culturally to Hen Ogledd.

Timeline of Pictavia

71 – Quintus Petillius Ceriallis, legatus Augusti pro praetore of Britannia, invades the north of the island, and after securing the lands builds the Gask Ridge forts in Strath More.

80 – Gnaeus Julius Agricola, consularis of Britannia, reaches the River Tay and begins building a legionary fortress at Inchtuthil, which he plans to be the largest in the Imperium Romanum, and other fortifications north of the River Forth and River Clyde.  He also builds the Glenblockers forts in support stretching from Drumquhassle to Strathcathro.

83 – Battle of Mons Graupius between the Romans under Agricola and the Caledonii under Calgacus.  Agricola marches as far into the north as Calder (Moravian Cawdor), where his troops build a fort, then orders his praefetus classis to sail around the north end of the island.

85 - Agricola is recalled to Rome.  By the end of 87, all the northern forts are dismantled.

117 – According to several scholars, including ones stretching back to ancient times, the Legio IX Hispana marches into the Highlands and disappears this year.

119-121 – Revolt of the Brigantes and the Selgovae, put down by Legatus Quintus Pompeius Falco and Legio VI Victrix.

122-128 – Hadrian’s Wall is built from the mouth of the River Tyne to the Solway Firth, originally anchored in the east by Pons Aelius (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) and in the west by Luguvalium (Carlisle), until it is extended to the fort of Segedunum (Wallsend) in the east and the fort of Mais (Bowness-on-Solway) in the west.  A total of twenty-five forts in all support the Wall.

142-144 – The Antonine Wall is built between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde, with eleven forts along its length.

164 – The Romans abandon the Antonine Wall and fall back to Hadrian’s Wall.

180 – The Caledonii (Coille Daon) cross over Hadrian’s Wall to attack the Romans.

197 – Virius Lupus arrives to find the Maeatae (Miathi) and the Caledonii have broken their treaties with Roma and begun raiding the south.  Lacking sufficient troops to halt them militarily, Lupus pays off the Maeatae, the southernmost of the two confederations, to cease.

208-211 – Severus invades the North with three legions, 9000 imperial guards with cavalry support, and numerous auxiliaries and defeats the Caledonii, who have begun another war.  He is eventually forced back behind Hadrian’s Wall after losing too many men to guerrilla tactics by the defeated combined with an uprising of the Maeatae.  He is preparing another invasion at Eboracum in 211 when he dies.

297 – Eumenius the Rhetorician makes the first known reference to “Picti”, the Picts, by that name.

360 The Scoti and Picti raid the diocese of Britanniae.

364 – Raiding of the diocese of Britanniae by the Picti, Saxonici, Scoti, and Attacotti.

367-369 – War against the confederation of the Picti, Attacotti, and Scoti attacking Britanniae and the Saxonici and Franci attacking northern Galliae.  At this time, Roman sources report the Picti have consolidated into two known confederations, the Verturiones and the Dicalydones, though a third likely exists in the far north dominated by the Catti.

382 – Fourth wave of raiding by Scotti, Pictii, and Saxonici. 

405 – Fourth wave of raiding by Scotti, Pictii, and Saxonici.  The Dal Riata, pressured by the Ulaidh who are retreating before the northern Ui Neill, begin to colonize Earr a’ Gaidheal. 

410-650  - Sub-Roman Britain's Heroic Age.

410 - Coelistius, the Coel Hen of Welsh legend, assumes control of the North, the area known to the Cymry as Hen Ogledd, its people as the Gwyr y Gogledd, most likely as the last official Dux Limitum Britanniarum.  His authority covers the provinces of Britannia Secunda and Valentia.

411-429 – Raiding of Britanniae by Pictii, Scotti, and Saxonici.

501 – Death of Fergus Mor mac Eirc, who transferred the seat of the kings of the Dal Riata to Earr a’ Gaidheal.

507 – Death of Domangart Reti mac Fergus of Ceann Tir; succession of Comgall mac Domangairt, ancestor of Cenel Comgaill. 

538 - Gabran mac Domangairt returns to Dal Riata to assume the throne.

540 - Death of Comgall mac Domangairt of Dal Riata; succession of Gabran mac Domangairt, ancestor of the Cenel Gabrain.

558 – Bridei mac Maelchon (ap Maelgwn) of Fortrenn defeats Gabran mac Domangairt.

560 – Death of Gabran mac Domangairt of the Dal Riata; Conall mac Comgaill of the Cenel Comgaill succeeds him.

563 – St. Colmcille establishes an abbey on the Hebridean island of Iona, then travels to Inverness to meet with Bridei mac Maelchon (Maelgwn Wledig), king of Fortrenn, to gain his permission to stay there.

568 – The Cenel Loairn and the Cenel nOengusa rise against Conall of Cenel nGabrain, but he defeats them with the aid of Coman Bec of Midhe.

569 - Aedan mac Gabrain of the Dal Riata establishes himself as king of Manaw by right through his mother; he is married to Demlech, daughter of Maelgwn Wledig of Gwynedd.

574 – Death of Conall of the Dal Riata; succession of Aedan mac Gabrain of Cenel nGabrain, who is reportedly enthroned by St. Colmcille and perhaps is the greatest king of the Dal Riata.

575 - The Council of Druim Ceatt, hosted by St. Colmcille between Aedan mac Gabrain of the Dal Riata in Alba, Colman mac Comgellan of the Dal Riata in Ulster, and Aedan mac Ainmuir of the northern Ui Neill; they form an alliance against Baetan mac Cairill of the Dal Fiatach, high king of Ulster, and they agree that the Dal Riata in Alba have no obligation to the High Kings.

580 - Death of Galam (Cennalath), king of the Picts. 

Aedan of Dal Riata leads an expedition against the Picts of Orkney.

583 – Aedan of Dal Riata attacks the Ulstermen who have recently conquered Ellan Vannin, allegedly ending their occupation of the island.

584 – Battle of Circinn and death of Bridei ap Maelgwn; accession of Garnait mac Dornelch (or mac Aedan).  He is succeeded by Garnait son of Damelach.

588 - Aedan mac Gabhrain wins the Battle of Leithri.

594 - Battle of Manaw, which Adomnan calls the Battle of Miathi, in which Aedan mac Gabhrain of Dal Riata is victorious, but with the loss of his sons Eochaid Finn and Artur.

603 - Battle of Degastan between Aethelfrith of Bernicia and Aedan of the Dal Riata, with support from Mael Umai mac Baetain of Cenel nEogain and Fiachnae mac Baetain of Dal nAraidi, king of Ulster, resulting in a devasting defeat for the Scotti in which Domangart mac Aedan dies, along with Aethelfrith’s brothers Theodbald and Eanfirth.

608 - Death of Aedan mac Gabhrain of the Dal Riata. 

616 – Aethelfrith of Bernicia is killed by Edwin of Deira at the Battle of the River Idle and his children escape north, his heir, Eanfrith, to Fortrenn, while the rest go to Eochaid Buide of the Dal Riata.

637 - Defeat of Domnall Brecc of the Dal Riata and Congal Caech of Ulaidh and Dal nAraidi, supported by Oswald of Northumbria, by Domnall mac Aedo, Ard Ri Eireann and king of Cenel Connaill along with the Sil nAedo Slaine at the Battle of Mag Rath (Moira).  Domnall Brecc’s force includes Scots, Picts, Angles, and Brythons. 

That same day the Ard Ri’s fleet defeats a combined fleet of the Dal Riata and the Cenel nEogain at the Battle of Ceann Tir (Kintyre).  The outcome is domination of the north by the Ui Neill for the next thousand years along with their subjugation of western Dal Riata, while eastern Dal Riata becomes a client of Northumbria, then of Fortrenn.

653 – Talorgan ap Eanfrith becomes king of Fortrenn.

654 – Death of Dunchad Bec of the Dal Riata in battle against Talorgan I of Fortrenn at Strath Ethairt. 

663 – Oswiu of Northumbria invades the southern Picts and establishes overlordship over Fibh, Circinn, and Strath Eireann.

664 - The Synod of.

672 – Drest of Circinn is desposed and replaced by Bridei, son of Beli I of Alt Clut.

673 – Domangart mac Domnaill of Dal Riata submits to Northumbria as overlord upon his accession.

680 – Bridei of Fortrenn attacks Dunnottar.

682 – Bridei subjugates Orkney.

683 – After a successful seige of Dunadd, Bridei brings the Dal Riata under his hegemony.

685 - Ecgfrith of Northumbria marches his army north to engage the Picts at the Battle of Nechtansmere.  The Dal Riata and Alt Clut Britons join the Picts in a thorough defeat of the Anglish forces.  The latter lose much land south of the Forth to Dumnagual II of Alt Clut in the process.

696 – Death of Taran of Fortrenn; succession of Bridei, son of Dargart mac Finguine of Cenel Comgaill and of Der-Ilei, daughter of a Pictish king.  Bridei is the first of the Dal Riata to rule in Inverness, but he does not rule the Gaels of Argyll.  He changes the patron saint of the Picts from St. Columcille to St. Peter.

697 – Bridei nac Der-Ilei subjugates Caitt.

706 – Death of Bridei mac Dargart of Fortrenn; Nechtan mac Dargart of the Cenel Comgaill ascends the throne.

711 – Northumbria invades Pictavia and is defeated in Manaw.

724 – Nechtan mac Dargart of Fortrenn retires to a monastery in favor of his nephew Drostan mac Talorcan.

726 – Drostan imprisons Nechtan and is deposed by Alpin.

729 – Oengus mac Fergus of the Eoghanachta Mag Geirginn defeats Alpin in battle and restores Nechtan to the throne of Fortrenn.

The Picts invade Manaw and are defeated.

732 – Oengus mac Fergusa, married to an heiress of the Cenel Loairn, becomes king of Fortrenn upon the death of Nechtan; the throne in Inverness remains in his family until the disaster of 839.

733 – With the death of Eochaid mac Echdach of Cenel nGabrain, last overking of Dal Riata, comes the final separation of western Dal Riata from those in Argyll.  Indrechtach of Dal nAraide becomes overlord over the western branch; his descendants are the O’Lynch clan.  The ancestor of the O’Quinns is direct king over western Dal Riata in the Glens of Antrim.
A fleet from eastern Dal Riata in Argyll fights for Flaithbertach mac Loingsig, chief of Cenel Conaill (overlords of eastern Dal Riata), in his war with Aed Allan of Cenel nEogan, and suffers heavy losses. Dungal mac Selbaig of Cenel Loairn is deposed and replaced with Muiredach mac Ainbcellaig.

736-839 - The Eoghanachta Mag Geirginn/Cenel Loairn rule the North.

736 – Second campaign of Oengus of Fortrenn against Dal Riata, defeating both Dungal and Muiredach, ending the kingdom’s independence, making him the first king of both Picts and Scots.

739 – Talorgan ap Drostan, king of Ath Fodhla, is executed by drowning; first mention of Ath Fodhla.

750 – The Alt Clut Britons under Teudebur defeat Talorcan mac Oengusa at the Battle of Mugdock.  Decline of the power of Oengus I of Fortrenn. 

756 - Oengus I of Fortrenn and Eadberht of Northumbria successfully attack Dumnagual of Alt Clut at Dinas y Brython; however, Alt Clut subsequently wipes out Eadberht's entire force at the Battle of Newburgh-on-Tyne.

761 – Death of Oengus mac Fergusa of Fortrenn.

789 – Accession to the throne of Fortrenn by Caustantin mac Fergusa, nephew of Alpin ap Feredach, who is credited with founding the church at Dun Chaillean.

806 – Vikings massace 68 monks at Martyrs’ Bay on Iona.

820-834 – Vicious attacks by the Vikings against the north of Scotland.

820 – Death of Caustantin of Fortrenn; succession of Oengus II mac Fergus. 

834 – Death of Oengus II of Fortrenn.

839 – Deaths of Eoganan mac Oengusa of Fortrenn and Aed mac Boanta of Dal Riata in battle against the Vikings along with a large portion of their leading warriors; succession of Feradach mac Bargoit in Fortrenn.  The report is in the Annals of Ulster, and since the location is not given the battle is simply known as the Disaster of 839.

848-1034 - The Cenel nGabhrain rule Alba.

848 - Cinaed mac Ailpin of Cenel Gabrain becomes Ri Cruithintuath, largely with the help of his Finn Gall and Gall-Gaidheal allies in the Hebrides; he moves the seminary from Dull in Glen Lyon to Dun Chaillean (from which it is moved to Cenrighmonad, later St. Andrew’s).

858 – Death of Cinaed at the palace of Cinnbelachoir (Forteviot).  His oldest daughter, Maelmuire, first marries Aed Finnliath of Cenel nEogain, to whom she bore Niall Glundubh, ancestor of the O’Neills, and secondly Flann Sinna of Clann Cholmain.  His youngest daughter marries Rhun of Alt Clud.

866 - Devastation of Fortrenn by the Norse.

878 – Death of Aed, ri Cruithintuath, in the “civitas of Nrurim”, possibly at the hands of his own people, though his death is connected to a battle against Giric (Cyric) MacRath mac Dungail, king of Fortrenn/Moray, who then asserts himself as king of all the Picts.

Death of Rhun of Ystrad Clud.  Succession of his son, Eochaid, who also attempts to assert his claims to the throne of all Picts through his mother.

889 - Eochaid of Ystrad Clud and Giric Mac Rath of the Picts are deposed by Viking invaders.  Domnall mac Caustantin becomes Ri Cruithintuath, the last to be so called.

890 - Domnall Ri Cruithintuath expels the Briton aristocracy of Ystrad Clud.  They flee south to North Cymru (Gwenydd).

900 - Death of Domnall, Ri Cruithintuath; succession of Caustantin mac Aeda, the first to use the title King of Alba.

Fortrenn, now also called Moireabh, begins refusing to acknowledge the king of Alba at Scuin, and its rulers are referred to as either Ri Fortrenn or Ri Moireabh in the Irish Annals.

915 – Defeat of Alba and the Bernician exiles from Lothian by the Vikings of Dublin in the First Battle of Corbridge.

937 – Constantine, king of Alba, Owain, king of the Cumbrians, and Olaf Gunderson, king of Dublin and the Isles defeat Aethalstan of England at the Battle of Brunanburh

973 – Maccus mac Arailt of the Isles, Kenneth III of Alba, and Malcolm of Strathclyde form a defensive alliance.

John, Lord of Galwegia (Galloway), Malcolm of the Cumbrians, Dyfnwal, Kenneth of Alba, Maccus mac Arailt of the Isles, Iago of Gwynedd, and others meet with Edgar I the Peaceful at Chesterfield, where he recognizes Alba’s possession of Lothian.

1014 – Battle of Clontarf.

1018 – Malcolm II mac Kenneth brings Bernicia north of the Tweed under his control.

1031 – Malcolm II of Alba, Macbethad mac Findlaech of Moireabh, and Echmercach mac Ranald of Mann and the Isles submit to Cnut the Great at the River Tay.

1034-1040 - The Cenel Connaill rule Alba.

1034 – The Cenel Connaill take the throne of Alba when Duncan mac Crinain becomes king at Scone; his father Crinan, abbot of Dunkeld, Mormaer of Atholl, Abthane of Dull, Kirkmichael, and Madderty, Seneschal of the Isles, and head of the Cenel Conaill in Scotland, is son-in-law to Malcolm II.

1040 – MacBethad mac Findlaich of the Cenel Loairn, king of Moireabh/Fortrenn, becomes king of Alba, when his predecessor dies in battle after having invaded Moireabh.  In contrast to his portrayal by Shakespeare, he is widely  acknowledged as an excellent ruler, and is the first king in Scotland to import Norman knights and petty lords.

1045 – Crinan of Dunkeld is killed in battle against MacBethad.

1057 – MacBethad of Alba is killed in battle against the sons of Duncan I, and is succeeded by his stepson Lulach, who rules only one year, after which the Cenel Conaill of Alba retake the throne in the person of Malcom III Ceannmor mac Duncan.

1058-1290 - The Cenel Connaill rule Alba.

1068 – After joining a failed rebellion, Edgar the Aetheling, last remaining male member of the Cerdicingas, flees to the court of Malcolm III in Scotland.  The next year Malcolm marries Edgar’s sister, the later St. Margaret, and along with Sweyn Estridson of Denmark joins an invasion of England under Edgar’s leadership to regain his throne.  The effort is unsuccessful.

1124 – David I mac Malcolm usurps the throne of his nephew Malcolm mac Alexander I and assumes the throne of Scone, uniting Alba with Strathclyde and Lothian into the Kingdom of Scotland.  The influx of Norman, Breton, and Flemish nobles increases exponentially.  David promulgates the Laws of the Brets and Scots, which last until 1305.

1124-1230 – The MacWilliams-MacHeth Wars.  The former descend from William, son of Duncan II, while the latter descend from Alexander mac Crinan, Malcolm Ceanmor’s elder brother.  Both William and Alexander married into the royal dynasty of Moireabh, and the wars, often fought with the two families as allies, are a continuation of the Fortrenn-Caledon rivalry that goes back to the 2nd century CE.

Scotland in the Middle Ages

Beginning with Malcolm III Ceannmor mac Duncan, monarchs in the north began using the Latin title “rex Scottorum” along with “ri Albann”. 

In 1124, David I united Alba (the north), Cumbria, and Lothian as one nation under a single set of laws called the Law of the Brets and Scots.  From his reign through that of Alexander III, that royal title was also written as “rex Brettorum et Scottorum”, as in the seal of the latter.  With the accession of John I Balliol, the sole official title became “rex Scottorum”.

Moray frequently reasserted its claims to leadership or independence in the next few centuries, most notably during the reign of Macbethad mac Findlaeich, noted as both king of Moray and king of Fortrenn, who defeated Duncan I to become king of Alba.  The Fortrenn-Caledon rivalry continued on in the struggles of the MacHeths and MacWilliams, whose strength lay in Moray and Ross, against the main line of the Cenel Connaill (or Kindred of St. Columba) in Scotland that lasted until 1215 and 1230 respectively.  Both families, frequently allied in “rebellion”, are disinherited branches of the main royal line but had intermarried with the local dynasty of Moray and Ross that traced back to both Cenel Loairn and the Pictish kings of Fortrenn.

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