Skip to comments.(October 28, 2002) How We Loved The Romans (Scotland Celts)
Posted on 10/27/2002 4:36:00 PM PST by blam
How we really loved the Romans
New research explodes myth that Scots were untameable barbarians
By Juliette Garside
The enduring myth that the Romans left the 'barbarians' of Scotland untouched during their conquest of the rest of the British Isles has been shattered by a new archaeological find. Not only did they settle in Scotland for around 15 years in the first century AD ... they even got our ancestors to swap their beer and lard for wine and olive oil. For hundreds of years, historians who based their theories on the classical writer Tacitus have always assumed the first major Roman push into Scotland was a brief and bloody affair. The then governor of Britain, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, was supposed to have marched his legions as far north as the Moray Firth and fought a decisive battle there in 84AD, before being immediately recalled to Rome by a jealous emperor Domitian.
History tells that his troops stayed on for a brief 18 months before a quarter of the British legions had to return home to fight at the Danube , in late 86 or early 87AD, and the frontier retreated to northern England, where Hadrian's Wall now stands.
The belief had always been that Agricola's stay in Scotland was too short to have had any significant cultural impact on the local population, a Celtic race whom Tacitus referred to as Caledonians.
While the English were learning to build villas with underfloor heating and baths with latrines, the northernmost inhabitants of the British Isles fought off the invaders and remained 'barbarians', untouched by Roman civilisation.
Tacitus's history of Agricola's career, made up and put into the mouth of one of the Caledonian chiefs, characterised the invaders as bringing nothing but destruction: 'To robbery, butchery and rapine, they give the lying name of 'government'; they create desolation and call it peace.'
Now the findings of a husband-and-wife team of archaeologists from Manchester University, to be revealed in the BBC documentary series Time Flyers next month, show the Romans were in Scotland for a stay as long as 15 years before their eventual withdrawal in late 86AD.
The archaeologists, David Woolliscroft and his wife Birgitta Hoffmann, have excavated along the line of the Gask frontier, a series of Roman forts and watch towers stretching from Perth to Dunblane which marked the line reached by Agricola.
They have found that the strong oak forts were rebuilt, in some cases not once but twice, suggesting the Romans stayed much longer than 18 months. The evidence of rebuilding and coins found on the sites have led the team to put the date of the first Roman conquest at around 70AD -- a decade earlier than was previously thought.
This means it would not have been Agricola, who happened to be the historian Tacitus's father-in-law, doing the conquering, but one of his predecessors, Petilius Cerealis or Sextus Julius Frontinus.
If the occupation did indeed last 15 years, a generation of ancient Caledonians grew up alongside the Roman barracks in the first century AD. Far from spending their time at war with the enemy, there is evidence the locals enjoyed an economic boom, with the production of meat and grain increasing in order to feed the foreign army, and luxury goods such as wine, olive oil, pottery and silverware finding their way into homes.
'The famous quote is the Romans make a desert and call it peace -- our research is showing probably the opposite,' said Woolliscroft, speaking in advance of the BBC show.
'The picture was the Romans arrived, they broke heads and they left again. We now have evidence that the Romans came and stayed longer than we thought and in certain areas their arrival may have been a benefit and stimulated the local economy.'
Excavations this August at a typical Celtic roundhouse near Doune uncovered fragments of glass bottles. These would have been of a square design, and used to hold olive oil or wine.
From the recovered pollen, the archaeologists found one well-off family were cattle owners rather than grain growers. And during the period of the Roman occupation, there are signs the number of animals on the surrounding land increased. There were even less trees than there are today, and the type of weeds that don't survive intensive grazing seem to have been killed off for a while.
'We are seeing signs that while the Romans are here agricultural activity really intensifies, either because of taxation or because the locals are supplying the army,' said Woolliscroft.
On other Celtic sites, luxury goods such as tableware and trays, amphorae, coins and glass have been found.
'A whole generation grew up alongside the Romans.' said Hoffmann. Far from fearing the invaders, local children would probably have hung about the nearest fort in the hope of getting little treats from the soldiers. 'They would have known that if you went to the fort you could get the equivalent of chocolate. Roman soldiers would have been like the GIs in the second world war.'
The English were just then learning how to pick lice out of their hair back in Denmark, Saxony and other as of then un-named or un-known barbarian heartlands!
I'll have you know that my English ancestors didn't learn to pick lice out of their hair until centuries later. And my Scottish ancestors (when they weren't running around naked, painting themselves blue, and conking each other on the head) no doubt served as the best pimps and call girls the Roman soldiers ever had the pleasure of knowing.
Who were the Picts? Well, if you were looking for an area that is full of controversy this is it! This is in no way a comprehensive picture but an outline of one or two theories of the origins of the Picts. I will however be going into more detail of the Picts and the various areas mentioned here in future articles.
There is no doubt that the whole subject of their origins is misted in Fables, Legend, Fabrication and a severe lack of historical and archaeological information. Were they Celtic, Iberian, Scandinavian etc? I think to try and make sense of it all we must first go back to go forward, to a time not long after the ice age and Scotlands hunter-gatherer Mesolithic past (8000 4000 BC).
These Iberian hunter gatherers moved through France and lower Britain to enter Scotland around 7000BC. Remains of their campsites are rare, Morton in Fife and another on the River Lussa being two examples. At Lussa the camp contained stone rings approximately 1.5m in diameter and may be the oldest stone structures in Scotland. The West of Scotland Islands give a further reinforcement to the movement of these Mesolithic people by the finds of large shell mounds and various tools such as fish hooks and harpoons but as I said Artefacts of the period are scarce.
A slow transition took place for these Mesolithic people and by (4000 2500 BC) they moved into a Neolithic farming life. Many other things must be taken into consideration at this time too like the introduction of new flint and stone tools, pottery, permanent settlements, new religious beliefs and Tombs and Temples. These structured Tombs were round barrows called Cairns in the East, like Calva Cairn while in the West and North the Chambered tomb such as Maes How in Orkney was preferred and these Tombs are probably the best supplier of artefacts of this time. There is very Little evidence of the settlements but probably the best known is that of Skara Brae in Orkney which remained virtually intact due to being covered for many centuries. Other Neolithic monuments in Scotland include henges and stone circles. Henges are widely spread across the country including two in Orkney - the Ring of Brogar and the Stones of Stenness. A henge is a banked and ditched enclosure, there is a central platform enclosed by a deep ditch, the ditch material is then thrown onto the outer edge to form a bank around the whole.
(2500 700 BC) sees the entrance of the Beaker People from Northern and Central Europe and the start of Scotlands Bronze Age. The beaker people are known by this name for the cremated remains of their dead being cremated and buried in pots and interred in single graves, unlike the Neolithic people who buried their dead in groups. It is also recognised that the beaker people were the ones to introduce metalwork to Scotland. There is no record of any conflicts between the two peoples in Scotland although their lifestyles were in many ways so different and it is the bonding of these two peoples into various tribes (who for unknown reasons seemed to be forever pushed northwards). That leads to the theory that the Picts were an aboriginal race and non-Celtic. The difference in language must also be taken into consideration with this theory, as it is believed that the Picts did not speak with a Celtic tongue.
The second theory of the Picts is that their origins were Celtic. Believers in this describe the two branches as Q-Celts and P-Celts. Both origins were that of Indo-European qu being Q-Celtic and the other transforming the qu into p became P-Celtic. Examples given of this are Q-Celtic were Goedelic languages such as Irish, Scottish, Gaelic and Manx and the P-Celtic were Gaulish and Brittonic that of British, Welsh, Cornish and Breton.
It is suggested that the Q-Celts reached Ireland by the 6th Century BC and the P-Celtic entered Scotland in the 4th Century BC at the start of the Bronze Age. There is no doubt that the Q-Celts entered the South of Scotland in Argyle from Ireland but there is week evidence apart from possible similarity of language and the written Ogham (the Brandsbut Stone at Inverurie being an example) that the Picts were of Celtic origin.
My Own Thoughts!
My own thoughts are that the Picti (painted people) named by the Roman Eumenius in 297 AD for these fierce warrior tribes, certainly north of the Antonine wall were indeed non Celtic in their origin. Apart from the movement of peoples as briefly laid out above, there is other evidence to support this theory. Again I will try to keep this brief, as I would like to cover these areas in a more detailed manor in future topics on Pictish Pages.
The first part to tackle I feel is the controversial area of language. You would think that if Picts spoke a form of Celtic, that at least some of the spoken word would be the same. This does not seem to be the case, as St Columbus biographer states, that the Irish saint needed an interpreter when he preached to the Pictish King Brudei in 565 AD on the banks of Loch Ness. The Ogham the written language of the Picts found carved on some of the standing stones in Pictland is also shrouded in doubt, as although the markings are similar to that of the Celts, the script is not in Celtic context and is barely, if at all, decipherable.
The Irish name for the Picts was Cruithne, likewise thought to mean Painted People and was a name also used by the Irish, to describe a group of aboriginal people in Ireland prior to the coming of the Celtic Gael. These people were at one time one of the most predominant tribe in the North of Ireland around Ulster. Munster, another part in Ireland was also predominately Cruthne and is also the place to have similar inscription stones to that of the Pictish Ogham.
Accompanied by the uniqueness of the carved standing stones found in Pictland their art and their lineage, which was taken from the mother and not the father. Leaves no doubt in my mind that the people of Pictland were Non Celtic. There are also other areas in this synopsis which I have not covered like What do the Palaeontologists have to say but I will cover this in future articles.
Note here that the "blue gene" is NOT sex-linked! Men and women can be "blue blind".
Give me a good heavy fog, a dreary winter's day that starts at 10:30 AM and is gone by 1:30 PM, and anybody painted blue is invisible! About the only thing I can see is the red veins in the whites of their eyes!
Tells me the Picts had to wear eyecovers as well to avoid that extra pick-up on the "red".
The Romans just had to love these guys!
They would have been speaking the same language, BTW.
The Romans smartly brought folks in from Ossitia who spoke the same language.
The Scythians, or proto-Scythians you are referring to are probably the linguistic fellows of the folks who ran Troy, or Illium, or, in their own language, Allium!
Recall that big find at Ebla? Most eyes were on the mention of David and Soloman. My eyes were on the letters from the King of Troy! They were in a written Celtic language. The Greek tradition was that in that time the Celts were totally illiterate (which is still the English tradition).
With Troy at one end of the Silk Road, it's not hard to imagine that the folks around Troy as well as the hard working traders on the Road all the way to China all wore kilts.
Something happened in that period to cause the Picts, Scota and others to flee to the far West.
Their lifestyles and manner of dress probably remind us of Vikings, but most properly the Vikings lived in Scanderhoovia and beyond.
Nope. Saxons were Germans from Northwest Germany. Ever hear of Saxony? Vikings were Scandinavian seafaring warriors from, er, Scandinavia.
Who were the the Angles?
Another Germanic tribe that settled in Britain.
By the way, if Icelandic historic culture exemplifies the Saxon...
Sigh! It doesn't. Iceland was settled by Vikings and a few Irish slaves that they captured.
The Danelaw was not extablished by the Saxons who invaded Briton with the Angles and Jutes in the 6th Century but by the Danes -- real Vikings -- who invaded in the 9th Century.
(A caveat on some of these dates. I'm doing this solely from memory.)
Thanks for the reply. I knew you would add something interesting.
I think it was a massive drought.
The Hakka (Chinese), who I think are the Asian equivalent of the (European) Picts, migrated all the way from the Tarim Basin region to Southern China. To this day, they are known as 'the guests' in China.
I think the people from that region were of mixed Caucasian/Chinese race and the mainly Chinese mix (Hakka) fled into China and the mainly Caucasian mix (Picts) fled west.
The Hans later conquered the whole region to the Caspain Sea and even made contact with the early Roman empire.
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