Part One – Who Were The Picts ?
When I was first taught “ Scottish” history as a school boy many decades ago , I recall being told emphatically that the Picts had “ just vanished leaving a mystery behind that will never likely be solved “ . In previous Blogs we have looked at numerous aspects of our valuable heritage here in Strathearn . It is clear that too little is being done to high light our incredible past for both present and future generations . Let us now examine something about those people who had “ just vanished “ !
Classical and later historic sources use a variety of evolving terms to signify the people who inhabited Scotland and /or their territorial divisions prior to the late eighth century. Of these terms Picti , first recorded in 297 and derived from the Picts’ own name for themselves , or possibly a Roman nickname meaning ” the painted ones” , has been the most enduring . The Picts were referred to as assailants of the Roman frontier in northern Britain. Much ink has been spilt over what the ancient writers meant by Picts, but it seems to be a generic term for people living north of the Forth - Clyde isthmus who raided the Roman Empire. There need be no suggestion that they were a nation or indeed a uniform people. Two of the main tribes are referred to as the Maeatae and Caledones . We cannot even be sure that these were the sole inhabitants of the country.
In historical terms the term Pictish might be applied to the period between 79 AD ( when the Romans advanced beyond the Forth - Clyde isthmus into Caledonia) and 850 AD – when Kenneth mac Alpin becomes the first King of the Scots . What then is the connection with Strathearn and the Picts ? Working back from late ninth - century documentary sources, it appears that there were at least seven provinces in Pictland . The earliest source is a king list which contains a pseudo- tradition that Cruithne , the “ eponymous father of the Picts “, had seven sons . The names of some of these correspond to Pictish districts or Kingdoms . Pictland or Pictavia was sub divided into north and south by the Grampians or Mounth ( modern Deside ) The southern Kingdoms were four in number : Fife – called Fib ; Atholl called Foltlaid ; Strathearn and Menteith called Fortrenn or Fortriu ; Angus and Mearns called Cicrcinn ; Although this legend was undoubtedly created to imply that Pictland had long been unified , the seven Kingdoms probably came into existence at different times. Their description includes all the Pictish mainland, but Caithness would have been Norse by the time the tradition was included in the king - list ; Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles , all excluded from this description, would already have been under Viking domination. In the 6th century Bede , a Northumbrian monk , differentiates between the Northern Picts and the Southern Picts , the latter having been converted to Christianity by St Ninian. In the fourth century Pictish power lay in Strathearn. By the time of the battle of Dunnichen Moss on Angus when the Picts defeated the Northumbrian invaders, Fortren was unchallenged as centre of Pictish royal power where it remained. To quote the historian Lynch : “The growth of the kingdom of Fortren/ Fortriu conveniently summarises the development of Pictish kingship. The seventh century saw the development of this tribal power into being ‘ overkings’ of all Pictland south of the Mounth by the second half of the 7th century.”
Part Two will look at what Pictish remains survive in the Strath as well as some surprising information concerning the battle of Mons Graupius between the Picts and the Roman invaders .