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Full Version: Our Enemies in the North
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Cassius Dio, writing about the Severan campaigns north of Hadrian's Wall, describes the tribes of the north Britons thus:<br>
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Quote:</em></strong><hr>There are two principal races of the Britons, the Caledonians and the Maeatae, and the names of the others have been merged in these two. The Maeatae live next to the cross-wall which cuts the island in half, and the Caledonians are beyond them.<hr><br>
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Ptolemy, in the previous century, lists the northern tribes of Britain, including the Caledonii but not mentioning the Maetae. In 297, meanwhile, the northerners are called the Caledonians and the Picts.<br>
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There seem to be a lot of theories - some rather eyerolling - about who all these people might have been - were they essentially the same as the (southern) Britons, being merely an unromanised version, or were they a different group altogether? And how do they relate to the 'Picts'?<br>
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I'm curious to know whether anyone here has a particular theory, or can suggest a new interpretation, as to the real identity of these 'northern barbarians'... <p></p><i></i>

Anonymous

I'm far from an expert here, but I believe that the Picts are unromanized Britons, and other groups mentioned are probably tribes of Picts. There is another group, that appear to be seperate from the Picts, I believe they are the Attecotti (though I could be very wrong on this).<br>
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Then again, I could be wrong on everything I've writen today<br>
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Cavetus <p></p><i></i>
Avete!<br>
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My impression is that the Caledonians and Picts were not Celtic but pre-Celtic or proto-Celtic people, possibly not even Indo-European. Similar to the Britons in many ways, of course, after several centuries of co-existence, but from different linguistic and cultural roots.<br>
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Another thing I like to toss out is that the ancient writers never refer to the Britons as "Celts"--that is a term reserved for Gauls and other tribes on the Continent. Britons are just Britons, usually referred to by their tribal names (Silures, Iceni, etc.).<br>
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Remember that there was a lot of variation among even the Continental Celtic tribes in terms of language and culture. But even they knew that had blurred in some areas due to migrations and conquests.<br>
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Valete,<br>
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Matthew/Quintus <p></p><i></i>

Anonymous

Glad nobody has mentioned the Woads !!!<br>
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The term Picts has been applied to those beyond the wall and relates to what I percieve as a global term ...like Barbarian ( stemming from barb ..beard ..or in some theories a take on the way they spoke thier language ) and in the case of the Picts it refers to their habit of painting themselves with woad in a tattoo fashion. This was not singular to them as it was a habit of a lot of Celts but I gather that they still hung onto it well past its sell by date elsewhere.<br>
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It is poissible that the Atecotti were of "Pictish" origin but got a special mention as they came from the far reaches and were particularily agressive and are likely to have been the mixture Matthew mentioned ( part Celt part indiginous ).<br>
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The Caledonii seem to have been the main tribe well up to the<br>
pull out in 410AD and they seem to have been British in nature and warefare, chariots etc. In fact the tribal nature of British society seems to have survived the Roman occupation as for instance the Votadini appears to have occupied a recognisable area near the wall and were moved on mass to north Wales ( as is now ) as a buffer against the Irish.<br>
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Conal<br>
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Although the Romans may not have called the British tribes 'celts', I think there's no doubt that the two peoples were closely linked - the Britons are believed to have crossed from Gaul in about the second century BC, which is why so many British tribal names are the same as Gallic ones. Caesar mentions that the languages were virtually the same.<br>
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As for the Caledonians, the two names recorded in Roman sources (Calgacus, in Tacitus, and Argentocoxus in Dio) are both perfectly good 'celtic' names, of the same family as British and Gallic, meaning that at this date the Caledonii were either celts or spoke the 'p-celtic' language. A later reference to 'Caledonians and other Picts', then, suggests that the picts were just the same as the Britons. <em>However</em>, there's a reference in the Life of St Columba to a tribe called the Miathi - surely the Roman Maeatae - who are usually described as Picts and who were defeated by the Dalriada Scots c.600.<br>
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The Votadini, Damnii, Selgovae etc mentioned by Ptolemy were surely Britons - I'm not sure, though, how their (apparent) brothers north of the Forth-Clyde line should suddently metamorphose into 'Picts' at some point at the end of the third century...<br>
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About woad, incidentally - I read recently that woad makes a very bad body paint indeed! There's no actual evidence that it was used by the ancient Britons or anybody else - it seems more likely that the blueish skin colouration noted by Caesar and others was caused by solutions of copper (oxidised?) or iron. Therefore, perhaps, Claudian's line about 'designs marked with iron on the face of the dying Pict', which could also refer to tattoos or some kind of scarification. Anyway, it seems the recent 'Arthur' film is wrong all over the place! <p></p><i>Edited by: <A HREF=http://p200.ezboard.com/[email protected]k>Nathan Ross</A> at: 8/26/04 11:41 am<br></i>

Anonymous

and you're suprised because... <p></p><i></i>

Anonymous

I'm confused.... who is surprised ? <p></p><i></i>
I have been sifting through my Pre roman native peoples reference collection and I am quite firmly convinced that the whole Picts thing is just the romans equivalent of allied troops in the2nd war referring to Kraut's, Jerry's, Hun's or what have you. i.e pict really means person I have to fight on a depressingly regular basis. <p></p><i></i>
I have been inclined to agree with you, Tasciovanous, about the Picts being the Britons by another name. However, there is a problem with this, in that so many post-Roman sources give the Picts as a seperate group, often allied with the Scots and Saxons against the British nations (Strathclyde, Gododdin, etc). It's possible, I suppose, that the Picts might just have been a rival British group - wars don't always have to be ethnically based, and it's probably a mistake to assume that every conflict in post-Roman Britain had some tribal or 'racial' difference at its heart.<br>
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However, there's an odd bit of evidence to suggest otherwise, perhaps - around the Forth estuary and just south of the old Antonine wall there's a grouping of ruined brochs, very similar to those found in the Orkneys but dating from the 2nd century AD. As this is approximately the heartland of Dio's Maeatae, it might suggest the movement of some group from the western highland area to the Roman frontier, perhaps around the time of the withdrawal to the southern wall, and the building of defensive structures by this group.<br>
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Well, it's a thought, but I suppose we'll never know... <p></p><i></i>
A little drift in topic, but there's a neat little article about the post-Roman Picts in the current <em>Archaeology</em> magazine. Apparently they were much more advanced than any of their contemporary writers gave them credit for. <p></p><i></i>
Danno - does this article put forward any theory as to who the picts might have been? (In other words, of course, were they (celtic) Britons, or some other lot altogether!) <p></p><i></i>