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Gaelic Kingdoms

Kingdoms of Caledonia

 

MapKings of Pictland (Caledonia) (Britons)
Incorporating the Caledonii, Cornavii, Decantae, Epidii, Lugi, Smertae, Taexali, & Vacomagi

The Picts occupied Britain north of the Antonine Wall, although in actual fact there never was a race or tribe called the Picts. No Picts existed as any sort of identifiably separate people The name was one that was applied to them from outside, and more on an individual basis rather than as a specific tribal name. They were just 'painted people' a referral to their blue woad tattoos. The Pictish name for themselves remains unrecorded and unknown.

MapThey were an amalgam of northern Celts of various waves plus earlier indigenous peoples of Britain, those who had migrated to avoid later arrivals rather than being submerged by them. Celtic tribes were predominant (but not exclusively so) below the Antonine Wall. (See the map of most of Europe's tribes around the first centuries BC and AD to view the location of the Caledonian tribes in relation to all other Celts.)

FeatureThe Caledonii formed the main mass of northern peoples, occupying the Scottish Highlands. Some tribal structure is known from a sprinkling of names, but generally the Romans were not able to linger long enough to record their existence in any great detail. See the accompanying feature for a breakdown of this name and how it may link to the naming of all other border Celts.

The Lugi name, also used by a major Central European Celtic confederation, the Lugii, appears to have been based on the name of the Celtic god, Lugus (correctly in common Gaulish this should have an '-os' suffix, 'Lugos'). He is more commonly known as the Irish Lugh or Lug (probably cognate to the Latin 'lux', meaning 'light' - it is possible that this god shows up in the Nordendorf fibula as Logathore, probably also cognate with the Norse fire giant, Logi). In northern Iberia a sub-tribe of the Astures carried the name Luggones, and nearby were the similarly named Louguei sub-tribe of the Gallaeci. These should probably not be regarded as branches of the central European Lugii, but instead as either fellow adherents of the cult of the god Lugus, or followers of a tribal leader named after Lugus. Gaelic Ireland had its own Luceni, which may have been an extension or division of the Pictish Lugi.

The name of the Decantae tribe indicates that they were a division of the 'Cantae' or Cantii of southern Britain. It is a theory only, but it seems likely that Cantii nobles who were defeated by Rome took followers north to the far northern shores of what is now Scotland to escape domination, a process that had been happening since Caesar's initial conquests in Gaul. Tribes split, sometimes due to internal political conflict, and sometimes by moving elsewhere but leaving behind those who refuse to go with them.

Another tribe which in theory could have been an offshoot of a southern one was the Cornavii. The name (with minor variants) shows up in three locations in Britain, and the Cornovii of Cornwall appear to have been conquered by their neighbours, the Dumnonii. There was good reason for them doing this: money and goods. The trade with southern civilisations was in tin, which is found in Cornwall rather than Devon, so Cornwall was conquered. Possibly the Cornovii nobles were forced out by the Dumnonii and moved north. Whether this was to the midlands as the Cornovii (less likely, due to the hill forts there, something that was alien to the Cornish tribe) or to the northern tip of Scotland as the Cornavii, who can say.

As for Pictish kings, Edward Dawson suggests that the list of twenty-eight kings named 'Brude' found in the Pictish Chronicle seems to infer that it is a title of some sort. Each Brude is followed by a name which is probably the individual's true name such as, for example, 'Brude Cinid' (modern Kenneth). Then the name is followed by another Brude with the same name but with 'ur-' at the beginning of it, as in: 'Brude Urcnid'. 'Ur' could come from 'ard' ('high' - 'ardwo' in proto-Celtic, 'ardos' in Gaulish), and if this is the case then the name should read: Brude Gart (King Gart), or Brude Ar Gart (High King Gart). 'Brude' probably means a judge, equivalent to a magistrate, as in the Gaulish [verb] bratu- (to judge). The Gaulish magistrates were frequently equated with minor kings by the Romans, although they were electable and dismissible (by death if nothing else!).

(Information by Peter Kessler and Edward Dawson, with additional information by Brian Gibb, from The Oxford History of England: Roman Britain, Peter Salway, from De Excidio Brittaniae et Conquestu (On the Ruin of Britain), Gildas (J A Giles, Ed & Trans, 1841, published as part of Six Old English Chronicles (Henry G Bohn, London, 1848)), from the Pictish Chronicle, from Life of Agricola, Tacitus, from Geography, Ptolemy, from Ancient Man in Britain, Donald Alexander Mackenzie (Blackie & Son Ltd, 2014), and from External Links: Book of Deer, and De Situ Albanie (possibly written in the fourteenth century according to F T Wainwright, and discussed in the Oct 1978 Caithness Field Club Bulletin).)

Not exactly historical but, according to Pictish (or rather Gaelic) legend, there is an ancient Pictish king named Cruithne, son of Cing (from 'An Cruithain', the Gaelic word for Pict which means, naturally, 'painted people' - so the name is nothing more than the name of the people itself). Cruithne reigns for a hundred years, which does seem to suggest that he was a well established king but that the start of his reign - and perhaps his personal name - has been lost to oral history.

He has seven sons (the number seven being very important to the Picts), who are named Fib, Fidach, Foclaid (or Fotla), Fortrenn (Fortriu), Caitt (or Cat), Ce, and Circenn (Circind). These names are also equated to the seven provinces of Pictland as detailed in an ancient account of Scotland called De Situ Albanie (DsA, possibly written in the fourteenth century according to F T Wainwright). Their stated reigns are relatively reasonable.

Picts
The traditional view of Picts as the 'painted people' is based on a description given by the Romans, and the use of blue woad as a body paint does seem to have been highly prevalent in the far north of Britain

Argyll, which by the fifth century AD has been invaded by Gaelic Scotti, is not listed as a Pictish province, showing that the DSA is formed in its original state after this invasion. Fife, which is briefly occupied by Rome, is home to the Venicones.

Cing

'Father' of the Pictish kingdom.

Reigned 100 yrs

Cruithne

Ruled all Pictland for 100 yrs. 'Cruithne' is Gaelic for 'Pict'.

Reigned 12 yrs

Cat / Got

Son. Reigned 12 years.

Cat is the senior kingdom. Cat himself rules Caithness, Sutherland, the West Highlands, and the Northern and Western Isles. The name means 'Cat People'.

Reigned 40 yrs

Fidach (Moireabh?)

Brother. Reigned 40 years.

Fidach rules Moray, Nairn and Ross. The name means 'Woodsman'. In place of Fidach sometimes, Moireabh is used instead and would seem to be the origin of 'Moray'.

Reigned 15 yrs

Cé / Ce / Kay

Brother. Reigned 15 years.

Ce rules Banff, Buchan and parts of Aberdeenshire. The name Ce may survive in the town of Keith.

Reigned 30 yrs

Fótla / Fotla / Fotlaig / Floclaid

Brother. Reigned 30 years.

Fotla rules Athol and Gowrie. Fotla is also goddess of Ireland.

Reigned 60 yrs

Circinn / Cirech / Circin

Brother. Reigned 60 years.

Circinn rules Angus and the Mearns. The name means 'crest headed'. There was also Crus (son of Cirech) who was a warrior of the Picts. A battle was fought on the plain of Circinn against the Scots.

Reigned 70 yrs

Fortriu / Fortrann / Fortrenn

Brother. Reigned 70 years.

Fortriu rules Strathearn and Menteith. The name may mean 'people of the slow winding river'.

Reigned 24 yrs

Fib / Fibaid

Brother. Reigned 24 years.

Fib rules Fife and Kinross. In the Book of Deer the people of Fife are called the 'cu-sidhe' or fairy hounds. The Pictish name of Vepogenus is formed from Vepo (pronounced 'wepo'), which is also known as 'uip' and 'uib', or 'fib' in Gaelic, and is still used today as Fife. The second part, 'genus' or 'genos' is universal to Latin, Greek and Gaulish as 'race', 'stock', 'one's ancestry', so the name means roughly 'the guy of the race of Fife'. The name Vepogenus is found on a Roman inscription at Colchester, which reads: 'To the god of the battlefields Mars Medocius, and to the victory of [Imperator Caesar Marcus Aurelius Severus] Alexander Pius Felix Augustus, Lossius Veda the grandson of Vepogenus Caledos, placed [this] offering out of his own [funds]'. 'Caledo' means Caledonian (the early Roman name for what later became the Picts). The word 'Medocius' forms part of the argument for the naming of the Demetae tribe.

In the Pictish Chronicle there follows a list of Pictish kings who are purported to have existed but for whom no corroboration can be found. All those below who are without dates of rule fall into this grouping, and have been positioned in the list according to a rough approximation of when they might have lived rather than any firm data to pinpoint their lifetimes. Those with dates are sourced from elsewhere. Where there are two versions of the name, the first is the English translation, and the second is the original from the Pictish Chronicle. All these names are backed in lilac to highlight their lack of foundation in recorded history.

Gede olgudach

Reigned 80 years.

Denbecan (or Oenbecan)

Reigned 100 years.

Olfinecta

Reigned 60 years.

Guidid gaed brechach

Reigned 50 years.

Gest gurcich

Reigned 40 years.

Wurgest

Reigned 30 years.

Brude bont

Reigned 48 years.

Brude bont is the ancestor of thirty (actually fifteen) Brudes who rule Ireland and Albany for a period of 150 years, although the Pictish Chronicle fails to note which of them rules which areas. Each name is duplicated, but with the addition of a form of 'ur', suggesting that each ruler or 'brude' becomes high king, or 'ur-' (see introduction for an explanation of these terms).

The fifteen Brudes are: Brude pant, Brude urpant, Brude leo, Brude uleo, Brude gant, Brude urgant, Brude gnith, Brude urgnith, Brude fecir, Brude urfecir, Brude cal, Brude urcal, Brude cint, Brude urcint, Brude fet, Brude urfet, Brude ru, Brude eru, Brude gart et urgart, Brude cinid, Brude urcnid, Brude uip, Brude uruip, Brude grid, Brude urgrid, Brude mund, and Brude urmund.

Gilgidi

Reigned 150 years.

Tharain / Taran

Reigned 100 years.

Morleo / Merleo

Reigned 15 years.

Deocilunon / Deocillimon

Reigned 40 years.

Cimoiod son of Arcois

Reigned 7 years. An outsider of sorts - name recorded in full.

Deoord / Deort

Reigned 50 years.

Bliesbltituth / Blieblith

Reigned 5 years.

Dectotric brother of Diu / Deototreic

Reigned 40 years. Another outsider?

Usconbuts / Conbust

Reigned 30 years.

AD 43

In the far south of Britain, the Cantii are conquered by the invading Romans, with defeat probably coming after the loss of the Battle of the Medway. Some elements of the Cantii may flee north to Pictland where they re-found the tribe as the Decantae.

76 - after 86

Corbredus / Calgacus / Galdus

Fought Agricola at Mons Graupius.

80 - 82

The Roman Governor of Britain leads two invading columns into Lowland Scotland, with (probably) the Twentieth (previously based at Glevum in Dobunni territory) and Ninth Legions meeting up at Inveresk (near Edinburgh) in the territory of the Votadini Britons. The force sets up permanent garrisons in its wake.

The following year, the Forth-Clyde line is secured, perhaps slightly south of the later Antonine Wall and edging into the territory of the Venicones. In 82, the Romans secure the western coast up to the Clyde to contain the tribesmen there (the Damnonii, Selgovae, and Novantae) and perhaps to prevent Irish landings.

83 - 84

Within the Pictish (northern British) heartland, firstly north of the Firth of Forth (in AD 83) and then at Mons Graupius (or Mons Grampius, in AD 84), the Romans under Governor Agricola win victories over what they call the 'Caledonides' led by Calgucus (using the diminutive form of the name, perhaps to suggest that this is viewed as a minor group, perhaps without a recognised leadership). The idea is to pre-empt an intended attack by the Caledonians, but it almost proves disastrous in the first year as the Ninth Legion is surprised by a night assault.

The following year, the Roman fleet goes ahead along the coast to spread terror, and is accompanied by British allies. The location of the decisive battle has been strongly identified with the mountain now known as Bennachie in Aberdeenshire. It is possible that the tribal grouping of the Creones and their neighbours along the western coast could be involved.

85 - 88

A large number of Caledonians had escaped after the battle, leaving the Romans with a very difficult security job. Agricola and his replacement, probably Governor Sallustius Lucullus, continue the job of securing the exits to the Highland glens along the east coast. But by 86-88 many forts are dismantled, possibly due to troop shortages while Rome is fighting the Dacian War. Apart from some possible watchtowers, the main Roman forces retire to the Tyne-Solway line.

90 - 556

FeatureFeaturePictland is obscured from history for most of the period of Roman rule in Britain by the very fact of its exclusion from the Roman empire and an absence of internal writings. During this period the tribal holdings (possibly in seven major groups) gradually coalesce to re-emerge into history as two distinct kingdoms, North & South, the latter of which is formed of about five occasionally feuding sub-kingdoms.

c.100 - 105

The northern Brigantes apparently revolt, perhaps under the leadership of Argiragus, a possible candidate for High King (as is any British chieftain who refuses to surrender to the Romans). Argiragus seems to be responsible for the burning of the auxiliary fort at Corsopitum, as well as others, as the British tribes of lowland Scotland stage a major uprising. By AD 100 the Romans give up Scotland, and fully establish their defences along the Tyne-Solway line.

Carvorst / Crautreic

Reigned 40 years.

120

Hadrian's Wall is built along the already-established Tyne-Solway defensive line.

Deo Ardivois / Deordiuois

Reigned 20 years.

140 - 143

The Romans move north to the Forth-Clyde line, roughly the southern Pictish boundary, reoccupying British Lowland Scotland and beginning construction of the more basic Antonine Wall. It is around this time that the geographer, Ptolemy, notes the tribes to the north of the wall. Some of them receive their one and only mention in history and it is thought that at least one or two tribes may have been created by refugees fleeing the Roman invasion of the south.

The tribes mentioned include the Caereni, Caledonii (along either side of Loch Ness southwards from the Moray Firth to Ben Nevis), Carnonacae, Cornavii (possibly formed by members of the Cornovii tribe fleeing from the south), Creones, Decantae (on the western side of the mouth of the Moray Firth, possibly formed by fleeing Cantii), Epidii, Lugi, Smertae, Taexalli, Vacomagi (on the eastern side of the mouth of the Moray Firth), and Venicones (on the peninsula between the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth, possibly refugee Veneti from the Continent).

Vist / Uist

Reigned 50 years.

Ru / Caroust

Reigned 100 years.

197

According to Dio, the tribes north of the Forth-Clyde line have by now coalesced into two main bodies, the Caledonii and the Maeatae. The latter live close to the Antonine Wall, north of the Forth-Clyde isthmus. By 206, the Roman Governor of Britain, L Alfenus Senecio, seems to have had some military success in the region.

fl 208 - 211

Argentocoxos

King of Fib, and possibly king of all Picts.

209 - 211

The Roman emperor, Severus, leads a campaign in person against the Caledonii and Maeatae. The latter could be a southern grouping of British or Pictish tribes, as Dio says that they dwell 'next to the cross-wall that divides the island in half'. This would suggest the Antonine Wall which reaches from the Firth of Forth to the Clyde. A scorched earth policy is pursued to try and bring the ephemeral tribesmen either to a pitched battle or to surrender, neither of which actually occurs. Following Severus' death, either immediately or shortly afterwards, Rome permanently abandons Scotland, possibly in stages (barring campaiging).

Gartnaith loc / Gartnait Bolgh

Reigned 9 years.

Breth mac Buthut / Brede mac Muthut

Reigned 7 years. 'Brede Mac Muthut'?

305 - 306

Breth mac Buthut is sometimes shown as Brede Mac Muthut, a more Gaelic version of his name and therefore probably a later version. In this period, the Roman emperor, Constantius Chlorus, does much the same as Severus before him, personally leading a campaign into Caledonia to bring the elusive tribes in the Highlands to battle and ensure a period of renewed peace.

It is during this period (third to sixth century) that the Picts are using distinctive door-knob butted spears as part of what has been perceived by archaeologists to be a warlord-led society with a warrior elite supporting the warlord. An engraved stone at Tulloch, Perth, shows a generic warrior figure with such a weapon which could be used as a stand-off spear, or as a sword or club.

Pictish warrior on the Tulloch stone
The Tulloch stone and a recreation of the engraved figure of a warrior carrying a door-knob butted spear - archaeologists believe that he may represent a war-orientated social organisation that was integral to resisting the Roman empire and to creating the overtly hierarchical Pictish societies of the post-Roman period

310

The Panegyrici Latini Veteres, or Panegyrics, which praises the later Roman emperors, carries the first known use of 'Picts' to describe the British tribes of the far north of the country, meaning the Caledones 'and others'.

Vipoig Namet

Reigned 30 years.

Fiachu Albus

Not always shown. A real name, perhaps?

Canutulachama / Canutulachama

Reigned 4 years. 'Canatumel'. Unusually realistic reignal length.

360 - 361

At the start of 360, Roman Caesar Julian (the Apostate) is wintering in Lutetia Parisiorum (the early Paris) when reports reach him that the Scotti and Picts have broken a previous agreement (perhaps made in 343) and are plundering lands close to the frontier, presumably those of the Novantae and Selgovae. Whether the campaign goes ahead under a less senior commander after the original commander is recalled is unknown.

Donarmal / Dornornauch Nerales

Not always shown. A real name, perhaps?

364

According to Ammianus Marcellinus, the Picts, Scotti, Saxons, and Attacotti attack Roman Britain in what seems to be a serious incursion.

Vuradech / Wradech 'White Hero'

Reigned 2 years. An unusually realistic reignal length.

367

The Picts, now divided into two main peoples; the Dicalydonae and the Verturiones, are part of the Barbarian Conspiracy that sees Britain attacked from several sides at once.

c.370s?

Gartnait diuberr / Gartnaich diuberr

Reigned 40 years.

382

FeatureThe Picts again invade Britain but are defeated by the Roman commander, Magnus Maximus.

c.384 - 390

Warfare flares up between the Picts and Britain again, and according to Gildas it lasts 'for many years', although the situation is probably contained.

? - 388

Keother?

Did Keother lead the attacks on Britain?

388 - 413

Talorg mac Keother

Son. The Gaelic version is 'Talorc MacAchuirr'.

c.390

FeatureCunedda and his branch of Romanised Venicones are transferred from the Manau dependency of the Guotodin kingdom, traditionally by Magnus Maximus. They are moved to the former territory of the Deceangli in western Wales to secure the region from Irish raiders, and it is here that they found the kingdom of Gwynedd.

398

The Romans again lead a campaign from Britain to defeat Pictish forces in the north, along with Saxon and Irish Scots.

c.400?

The period in which St Ninian is active is uncertain, with a general date of the fourth or fifth century being given. St Ninian (known as Ringan in Pictland and Trynnian to the Northern British), is certainly active in these areas. His base may be in the territory of the Novantae, which later houses a major shrine to him, while he spreads the word amongst the South Picts, becoming known as the Apostle to the Southern Picts. His work is carried out before that of St Patrick in Ireland, because the latter mentions the South Picts being apostates, meaning that they have renounced their conversion to Christianity.

413 - 453

Drust mac Erp / Yrb / Wirp

King of North Picts and South Picts.

449/450

Surviving records show that it is attacks by the Picts and Irish Scotti that prompts the High King of Britain, Vortigern, to hire Jutish and Angle mercenaries to fight them off. The second major attack on Britain by Drust is met by the mercenaries under the command of Hengist on land and at sea and the Pictish tide is repelled. The mercenaries subsequently turn on their masters and begin a conquest of south-eastern Britain, quickly forming a kingdom of their own in Kent.

FeatureDrust mac Erp serves to bring the Picts fully out of legend and into history. His title shows a strong ruler who dominates Pictland, but the name itself is a curious one, shown either as 'drust' or 'drest'. Used frequently by a number of Pictish rulers it has to be suspected of being a title or honorific. As with a breakdown of the name Britain (see feature link), going to Latin does the trick with the word 'durus', meaning 'hard, harsh, tough, strong, enduring'. In reconstructed proto-Celtic it would be 'duros', meaning 'hard', along with its apparent extension, 'durno', meaning 'a fist'. Is the '-ust/-est' of 'drust/drest' a suffix? It's hard to say. But there the name is in all its hard, ham-fisted ingloriousness: Drust, meaning 'tough guy'. Whith him it could be a name, but it quickly turns into a title of sorts for subsequent 'hard men'.

453 - 456

Talorg mac Aniel

Son.

456 - 480

Nectan Morbet mac Erp (the Great)

Younger brother of Drust MacErp.

The clan-lands of Nectan Morbet are in the region of Tay, embracing parts of Forfarshire, Perthshire, and Fife, while the king himself is traditionally held to be a Christian.

480 - 510

Drust Guorthinmoc

The Gaelic version is 'Drest II Gurthinmac'.

c.485

The Scotti of Irish Dál Riata begin to colonise Argyll at Cantyre. Apparently, Drust does nothing to stop them, and may not even know about them at first. He has to deal with pagan rebellions in the north, reason enough to be distracted from the west.

510 - 522

Galan Arilith / Galanan Erilich

522

This period probably marks the beginning of the division of Pictland into North and South. Drust mac Udrost and Drust mac Gyrom ruled jointly. Each would keep his seat in the capital of his clan, but in affairs that concerned all the clans they would lead together. It is not known who rules which division of Pictland.

522 - 527

Drust mac Udrost

Co-ruled with Drust mac Gyrom (with a north/south divide?).

522 - 532

Drust mac Gyrom

Co-ruler 522-527. Ruled a united Pictland (527-532).

532 - 539

Gartnaidh mac Gyrom

Brother.

539 - 540

Celtran mac Gyrom / Cailtram

Brother.

540 - 551

Talorg mac Murtholic

At this time Yellow Plague ravished the country.

549 - 552

MapFollowing the death of the powerful Maelgwyn of Gwynedd, and given the dearth of information about the Northern British kings at this time, it is entirely plausible to suggest that the northern kings are dominant for a time. The Yellow Plague that sweeps the country hits the Britons far harder than it does the Saxon invaders, finally shifting the balance of power in favour of the latter. Even the Picts seem to be affected by the plague, with the possible loss of at least one of their kings, Drust mac Munaith, in 552.

551 - 552

Drust mac Munaith

Possible Yellow Plague victim.

552

With the death of Drust mac Munaith Pictland appears to fragment for a time, although the degree to which central authority is lost is highly speculative, given the lack of documentation. North Pictland remains dominant. but South Pictland may have a degree of independence for at least some periods in the next century and-a-half.

Map North Pictland

It would appear to have been the Yellow Plague of 549-552 which fractured Pictland into two clearly-definable kingdoms based around a north-south divide. Previous to that the kings of what became North Pictland seemed dominant over South Pictland, and would be again at the end of this period of division. The plague had hit the island's Britons far harder than it did the Saxon invaders, finally shifting the balance of power in favour of the latter. The disruption possibly also allowed the Bernician Angles to forge a kingdom of their own on Britain's north-east coast - soon to become a deadly opponent of the Picts. Even the Picts themselves lost at least one of their kings to it in the form of Drust mac Munaith, in 552, which seemingly allowed the division to happen at all.

The northern Picts were combined in one kingdom, that of Cat (Caithness), under the powerful Brudei. St Columba needed interpreters to be able to speak to the king, evidence either that the Picts did not speak the Celtic language of the Irish and Scots (or at the very least not the Gael version of the Celtic tongue), or that the two branches had diverged noticeably.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from A History of the English Church and People, The Venerable Bede (Leo Sherley-Price translation - revised by R E Latham), from Early Sources of Scottish History AD 500-1286, Volume 1, Alan Orr Anderson (Reprinted with corrections, Paul Watkins, Stamford 1990), from Kings and Warriors, Craftsmen and Priests in Northern Britain AD 550–850, Leslie Alcock (Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 2003), from Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland AD 80-1000, Alfred P Smyth (1984), and from External Links: 'Incredible' find made by archaeologists at elite Pictish power centre, Alison Campsie (Scotsman), and De Situ Albanie (possibly written in the fourteenth century according to F T Wainwright, and discussed in the Oct 1978 Caithness Field Club Bulletin).)

553 - 584

Brudei mac Maelcon / Bridei

Pagan son of High King Maelgwyn Gwynedd.

563

FeatureSt Columba, a descendant of the high kings of Ireland, arrives in the kingdom with twelve companions. He is granted land on Iona where he founds a monastery in order to introduce the Picts along the western coast to Christianity. Visiting the king, he wins his respect and subsequently plays a major role not just in winning converts for the church but also as a diplomat. In 565 he is thought to be the founder of a monastery at Portmahomack on the Tarbat Peninsula, with it being built on the site of a fifth century burial site (see feature link).

Coincidentally perhaps, in the same year in Ireland (563), the princes of the Northern Uí Neill fight the Battle of Móin Dairi Lothair against the Cruthin tribes in the north. Strongly suspected of being migratory Picts, the Cruthin are crushed, and the Uí Neill are able to expand into the modern County Londonderry as far as the River Bann.

573

Brudei hands the invading Dál Riatan Scotti a heavy defeat at Lora (or Delgu/Telocho), and lays waste to their territory in the west.

584 - 599

Gartnait mac Aedan (IV)

Son of Aedan mac Gabrán of Dál Riata. Son-in-law of Brudei.

584

Gartnait is the 37th Pictish king in The Pictish Chronicle, the only historical writing to have been left by the Picts.

599 - 621

Nectan mac Connon mocu Erp (II)

Powerbase in the Tay and Forfar regions to the east.

c.600

In the territory of Ce (Kay), which had probably been part of the territory of the Taexili, there is a fortification in use at this time. Rare Late Roman pottery found during an archaeological excavation at the site at Rhynie in 2011 reveals a collection of eight unique Pictish symbol stones. Also revealed is an array of imported goods, the most remarkable of which are large fragments of a Roman amphora which comes from the Eastern Mediterranean. Many of the finds at Rhynie, such as a small sherd of glass that has been identified as a drinking bowl from the sixth or seventh century, or the bronze pins and two amber beads, suggest that it is a place of high status associated with fine dining and drinking. The finds suggest that this part of Britain is much more important than has been thought, perhaps playing an important role in the power politics of early medieval Scotland.

621 - 631

Ciniath mac Luthrenn

631 - 635

Gartnaidh or Nectan mac Wid/Uid (III)

635 - 641

Bridei / Brude mac Wid (II)

Brother.

641 - 653

Talorg mac Wid (IV)

Brother.

653 - 657

Talorcan mac Eanfrith

Son of Eanfrith, former king of Bernicia (632-633).

657 - 663

Gartnaidh mac Donnel

663 - 672

Drust / Drest mac Donnel

Brother. Deposed after defeat in battle.

672

Drust (or Drest) tries to expel the Northumbrian invaders from Pictland, but is defeated by Ecgfrith and removed from the throne. Whether these invaders have enjoyed supremacy over the kingdom or not is unclear, although the accession in 653 of Talorcan son of Eanfrith would suggest this. The Northumbrians are also dominant in the Lothian region, and a sub-king has already been appointed to Dunbar, possibly a relative of the king. He rules the Picts in Ecgfrith's name.

672 - 693

Brudei mac Billi (III)

Pictish Chronicle confirms reign. Killed Ecgfrith of Northumbria.

685

Brudei faces a huge Northumbrian host on the plains of Dunnichen (Dun Nechtain), in Angus, probably with descendants of the Creones tribe amongst his forces. The Battle of Nechtansmere (the English name which may originate from the same root word as the Caledonian one) is a turning point in which Brudei makes his name. The Northumbrians had previously defeated every force they had faced, and had occupied southern Pictland for thirty years, probably as part of the territory of Dunbar. Brudei defeats them and massacres the entire enemy host including its king, and proceeds to clear Pictland of the remaining Northumbrians who have settled there, killing or enslaving them.

693 - 697

Taran mac Entifidich

A weak king. Deposed.

697

Taran is deposed after ruling for only four years. Two of these years are nominal, the real power during that time being in the hands of Brude, chief of the powerful house of Derelei, who becomes sovereign. It seems to be this takeover that cements Pictland as a single nation.

United Pictland

FeatureThe Picts occupied Britain north of the Antonine Wall, roughly along a line between the Clyde and the First of Forth. In actual fact, though, there never was a race or tribe called the Picts. The name was one that was applied to them from outside, and more on an individual basis rather than as an all-encompassing name. They were just 'painted people' a referral to their blue woad tattoos. The Pictish name for themselves remains unrecorded and unknown (see feature link, right). They were an amalgam of northern Celts of various waves plus earlier indigenous peoples of Britain, those who had migrated to avoid later arrivals rather than being submerged by them.

By the second half of the sixth century AD, the various units that made up North Pictland had been combined into one kingdom, that of Cat (Caithness), under the powerful Brudei. South Pictland may have experience periods of semi-independence from the more powerful north at times over the century and-a-half after that unification, but by the reign of Brude Derelei at the very end of the seventh century AD the Picts were firmly united under one king, mainly in the face of the threat post by the powerful Northumbrians on their southern border. That threat may also have been the main factor behind increasingly close links between the Picts and the Dál Riatan Scots during this period.

That name, Brude or Brede, appears regularly in this list, as it does in the list of North Pictland and early Pictish kings. It appears thirty times in succession in the Pictish Chronicle for the earlier, semi-mythical period prior to Corbredus of AD 76, and Edward Dawson's suggestion (see main introduction) that it may be a title of some sort holds just as true for these later kings. The numbering is applied to Pictish kings by some modern lists (primarily those based in the US, it seems). It is an entirely modern tool to differentiate between kings of the same name - they would have had no use for it themselves. Any notion of their position in the line of descent would have been based on reciting their ancestry, not on whether they were the first, second, third or fourth ruler to bear the same name.

It was in the eighth century that the royal Pictish stronghold at Burghead reached its peak. The site may been one of the most important elite settlements of the kingdom of Fortriu which formed the heartland of the unified Pictish kingdom in this period. Fortriu also contained the Pictish capital of Scone, both of which were firmly parts of South Pictland during the preceding period. Perhaps the north did not entirely subsume the Picts of the south after all.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from A History of the English Church and People, The Venerable Bede (Leo Sherley-Price translation - revised by R E Latham), from Early Sources of Scottish History AD 500-1286, Volume 1, Alan Orr Anderson (Reprinted with corrections, Paul Watkins, Stamford 1990), from Kings and Warriors, Craftsmen and Priests in Northern Britain AD 550–850, Leslie Alcock (Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 2003), from The Kingship of the Scots 842-1292: Succession and Independence, A A M Duncan (Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 2002), from Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland AD 80-1000, Alfred P Smyth (1984), and from External Links: 'Incredible' find made by archaeologists at elite Pictish power centre, Alison Campsie (Scotsman), and Book of Deer.)

697 - 706

Brude Derelei (IV)

Deposed previous king of the North Picts.

706 - 724

Naiton / Nechtan mac Derile

Abandoned Celtic Church in favour of Rome.

711

Nechtan tries to befriend the Northumbrian Angles. They send a war party under the leadership of Bertfrid (Beorhtfrith of Dunbar, King Osred's chief ealdorman) and a battle is fought on the Moor of Mannand / Manaw (a location that had been important to a branch of the post-Roman Goutodin). The battle results in heavy losses on both sides, and no recorded victory. Coincidentally, perhaps, a border skirmish takes place farther to the west between Alt Clut and Dál Riata, again with no perceivable outcome.

Burghead Pictish stronghold
Now an archaeological excavation site alongside the village of Burghead, the Pictish stronghold in the foreground of the photo was at its height of expansion and the level of its defences in the eighth century

Nechtan enters a monastery for a few years in 724 and the succession becomes muddled by in-fighting and rapid successions (thanks to the practise of matrilineal descent followed by the Picts, and a large number of eligible would-be kings). Nechtan is defeated in his retirement by Angus in 728-729, and Nechtan's immediate successor, Drust, is killed in battle.

724 - 726

Drest / Drostan mac Talorc

Removed by Alpin. Killed 729.

726 - 728

Alpin (I)

Later king of (part of) Dal Riada (733-736). Died 736.

728

Angus / Oengus mac Fergus

From Dal Riada. (Ann Cam). Temporarily sidelined by Naiton.

728 - 729

Naiton / Nechtan mac Derile

Returned to fight Angus. Died 732.

728 - 761

Angus / Oengus mac Fergus

Later king of (part of) Dal Riada (739-748). (A Cam). Died 761.

744

After defeating the Dal Riada Scotti in their Caledonian territories and ruling over them, and also in Ireland, Angus turns his attention south to Alt Clut, and may defeat them in open battle in this year, although his own forces are unsupported by any allies so a potential victory may not be followed up.

736? - 750

Talorcan / Talorgan mac Fergus

Brother. Killed at Mocetauc by Britons (Annales Cambriae).

750

Angus' attention remains fixed on taking territory from Alt Clut. His brother, Talorcan, leads a Pictish army at the battle of Mocetauc (he is either commanding with Angus' blessing or may be in contention for the Pictish throne). Talorcan is killed, as is Tewdur, king of Alt Clut, but the Britons hold the battlefield. Eadberht of Northumbria is said to take the plain of Kyle (around modern Ayr) in the same year, presumably snatching it from Alt Clut.

Plain of Kyle
The Northumbrians seized the plain of Kyle following a heavy battle between its former owners, the Britons of Alt Clut, and the Picts - presumably this loss cut off the Britons from the southern territory of Cumbria

756

One last attempt is made to conquer Alt Clut, this time with help from Northumbria. The combined armies nearly succeed in capturing Dumbarton, but a reversal sees them almost destroyed, and Angus retreats back into Pictland.

761 - 763

Brude mac Fergus (V)

Brother.

763 - 776

Cinead / Cineod mac Wredech

Also known as Kenneth MacFeredach. (Annales Cambriae).

768

The Dal Riadans re-establish their independence when their king, Aedh Finn mac Eochu, launches an invasion of Pictland. Clearly the attack is enough to disrupt Pictish strength or unity without generating major retaliation. In fact, within a decade what would seem to be a Dal Riadan king is also ruling Pictland.

776? - 781

Fergus (or Alpin / Elpin mac Wroid (II))

King of Dal Riada & Pictland.

781? - 782

Dubh Tolarg / Talorc (II)

(Annals of Ulster).

783

Drest / Drust mac Talorgen (VII)

May have ruled the North only.

783? - 785

Talorgan / Talorc mac Angus (III)

May have ruled the South only.

785 - 789

Conall mac Tadc / Taidg / Tadg

Went to rule Dal Riada (789?-807), surrendering Pict throne.

789 - 820

Constantine mac Fergus

Opponent of Conall. Also ruled Dal Riada (811-820).

Constantine mac Fergus is often counted in Scottish lists as Constantine I, probably due to his simultaneous rule of Pictland and Dal Riada and the likelihood that his father also bears Dal Riadan ancestry.

Scotland
It is important to remember that 'Scotland' as a name didn't exist until at least the tenth century, showing that a later hand was behind some of the writing in the annals where that name was used

820 - 834

Angus / Oengus mac Fergus (II)

Brother. Also ruled Dal Riada (820-834).

832 - 834

Alpin

Co-ruler.

834 - 837

Drest mac Constantine (VIII)

Son of Constantine.

837

Talorc / Talorgan mac Wthoil

May have ruled jointly from 834.

837- 839

Eoganan / Uven mac Angus

King of Pictland & Dal Riada. Killed in battle.

839

The line of descent of Pictish kings is broken when the Pictish army is destroyed and Eoganan is killed while leading his men against the Vikings in what seems to be a huge battle. This shattering defeat also sees the death of his brother (and successor) along with 'others almost without number'.

This decimation of the Pictish warrior class by the Vikings is perhaps the most decisive point which swings the pendulum of control towards the Scots. Pictland eventually merges with Scotian Dal Riada through intermarriage to become Scotland (and has in fact already been doing that for several generations). The Annals of Ulster record no more Pictish kings, but some extra rulers are named in other lists, and may have ruled only in the north for a time.

839 - 842

Uurad / Wrad mac Bargoit

Reigned jointly with Brede for his final year.

842 - 843

Brede mac Degart

Last Pictish sovereign mention in Pictish Chronicle.

843

Kenneth mac Ferath

Northern Picts only.

843 - 845

Brede mac Fethal

Brother of Brede. Northern Picts only.

845 - 848

Drest mac Fethal (IX)

Northern Picts only. Killed by Kenneth mac Alpin.

850

Drest, the sixty-ninth king on the amalgamated lists of Pictish kings, is also the last, being killed by the shadowy figure of Kenneth MacAlpin. Kenneth's control of Pictland sees him absorb this remaining independent northern province so that he is able to unite most of the country, a feat which is extended to cover all of Scotland by subsequent kings. The heritage of the Picts as the rulers of a united 'Scottish' kingdom before the ascendancy of the Scots themselves is largely forgotten by later generations.