were The Picts?
A question that many historians/archeologists/researchers
have tried to answer. With the many different theories about their name,
their origin, their society, their beliefs that exist it is a hard one
to answer and of course the big question where did they go.
This mystery is mainly due to the fact that they left no written records.
All we know of them is from second-hand and unreliable evidence, lifted
from the various historical writers who recorded their own, possibly
biased impressions of the Pictish people.
From these accounts we are told that by the fourth century AD, the predominant
people in north east Scotland were referred to as "Picts".
The earliest surviving mention of the Picts dates from 297AD. In a poem
praising the Roman emperor Constantius Chlorus, the orator Eumenius
wrote that the Britons were already accustomed to the semi-naked 'Picti
and Hiberni as their enemies'. From Emenius' statement we can see that
the Picts were already a major thorn in the side of the Roman Empire.
Although there is little evidence of the Romans being on the offensive
– they tended to be defending what they had established in the
south from the Picts who were raiders.
The word Pict means "painted people" and may refer to the
Picts tattooing their bodies or embellishing themselves with war-paint.
But evidence for this is limited as the depictions of the male and female
Pictish nobles, hunters, warriors which are found on monumental stones
are without obvious tattoos. Perhaps they were in the early days but
certainly in their later history there are no mentions of them being
painted. What did they do?
Before the Romans arrived in Britain, these northern peoples were probably
fragmented tribes who spent much of their time fighting among themselves.
The Roman threat from the south, however, appears to have amalgamated
them into a Pictish state. This allowed the tribes to resist the continental
invaders as well as take advantage of the opportunity for plunder.
This forced co-operation in the face of the Roman invaders developed
over time. By the time the Empire abandoned Britannia in the fifth century
AD, the northern tribes had begun to form into what would later become
the Pictish Kingdoms.
The Picts continued to be a problem for all their neighbours –
continually harassing them for centuries after the Roman legions abandoned
Britain. They often went on raids of piracy and were said to have a
well established shipping fleet.
did they go?
The Picts survived until the early 9th century when they suffered a
disastrous defeat at the hands of the Vikings in 839 AD. The Norsemen
had by that year conquered and settled Shetland, the Outer Hebrides
and as far south as the mouth of the Clyde. Additionally, Caithness,
Sutherland and even Dalriada were being attacked and harassed by the
long boats. The brutalising defeat at the hands of the Vikings in 839
not only killed most of the Pictish nobility, including the King of
Picts and Scots Uven Mac Angus II, his brother Bran and "numberless
others", but also opened Mac Alpin's claim to the vacant Pictish
throne, via his mother, who was a Pictish princess.
one of the Pictish customs was said to be that of matrilineal succession
for the Pictish crown, it is evident that Kenneth Mac Alpin grounded
his claims to the Pictish crown from his mother's bloodlines. His
claim to the crown of Dalriada came from his father, who was a member
of clan Gabhran, which had produced most Scottish kings, such as his
ancestors King Eachaidh, King Alpin Mac Eachaidh, King Aed and King
archaeological work in mainland Scotland, continues to shed light on
the Picts, many of the theories about their way of life remains educated
speculation, with scholars divided on many elements. However, as there
are no records of them dying out through natural or unnatural causes
or moving elsewhere. It is highly likely that they formed the predominant
population within the developing multi-ethnic nation (Scoti, Picts,
Britons, Angles) which is now called Scotland.
The Picts have left their legacy in Scotland - place names, standing
stones and symbols and perhaps one day we will know more about what
they were trying to tell us!
The Glasgow Vikings portray the 9th century Picts – so
no tattoos (well maybe some but not Pictish) or painted or half naked