Helping the Celtic tribes repel the Romans, the Picts
were a fierce and formidable adversary. After the withdrawal of Roman
soldiers who couldn't vanquish them, the Picts would dominate the military
and political culture of Scotland until the 9th Century AD.
The Pict were in place several centuries before Christ. St. Columba tried to convert he King of the Picts to Christianity in 600 AD at an overgrow hill-fort near Inverness. The converted looked to Iona as the head of their church. Through Christianity, they Picts eventually blended into Celtic culture.
In 672, there was an attempted Pictish uprising. But it was put down by the controlling Northumbrians with the utmost ferocity and many of the Pictish aristocracy were massacred. In 685 AD, the Picts repelled the Northumbrians in the decisive battle of Nechtansmere (Dunnichen) in Angus.
The Picts were slaughtered
around 850 AD, which marks the close of the Picts as a documented ethnic
or political entity. "The common people say that the Scots destroyed them entirely; but I think it is not likely that they could kill such great numbers of people." ~Sir Walter Scott, Tales of a Grandfather, Chapter 1
Other Accounts Conflict and Confuse
Dwelling in the northwest were the savage and fearsome Cereni,
Smertae and Carnonacae, who all were said to smear their faces with
the blood of the slain.
The territory the Caledonii inhabited lay between Dunkeld (the
fort of the Caledonii) and Schiehallion (the fairy mountain of the
Tribes and Locations
7000 BC - Celts arrive
80 AD - Romans arrive
84 AD - Battle of Mons Graupius
382 AD - Romans defeat the Pict
850 AD - Picts slaughtered
Caereni - Far west of Highlands
Carnonacae - Western Highlands
Cornavii - Caithness
Creones - Western Highlands
Damnonii - Near the Firth of Clyde (south
Smeartae - Caithness
Vacomagi - Cairngorns
Strath = a vale,
a valley through which a river runs
Carn = (original meaning) a heap of stones
Cairn = shelter of stones
Cruithni = Celtic name for Pict
Sept = a family name related to a clan or larger family
either through marriage or for protection.
How the Romans Viewed the Tribes of Caledonia
[source: Scotland: The Story of a Nation" by Magnus Magnusson, 2000 Grove Press, New York]
A century before they left, the Romans had given this enduring name to the main enemies in the north of Scotland: in the year 297 a Roman poet had referred to them as Picti ('painted ones'). The name stuck, and "Picts" became a generic term for the many "Calendonian" tribes who lived north of the Forth-Clyde line and who thwarted the imperial ambitions of the Romans at their ultimate frontier.
See Roman History]
The northern region of Great Britain comprising present-day Scotland
was known by the Romans as Caledonia, after a local Celtic tribe,
the Caledones. Caledonia was inhabited by two main groups of people.
The first group, people of Celtic origin, began migrating into northern
England from mainland Europe in approximately 7,000 BC and continued
well into the time of Caesar, in the late first century BC. The
second group, known later as the Picts, are the subject of much
debate and theories of their origin include: they may have been
an aboriginal people who lived and evolved in Northern England,
migrations from Germany and Scythia (today's Eastern Europe and
Central Asia), or as a mix of aboriginal and Celtic peoples, among
The Romans identified and classified 17 tribes and loosely identified
the territories they occupied. In addition they also observed that
tribal chiefs had a religious as well as a royal function. The succession
of leaders was matrilineal: it mattered more who their mother was
than who their father was. This perpetuated the myth, that later
romantics enhanced, that Pictish society was democratic, but it
was in fact full of social different nations. Under the tribal leader
there was a class who maintained Chariots and fought from them.
These charioteers had the status of Baron's, owned cattle and land
in their own right and usually they owned slaves who worked their
land and sea are in their homes. The slaves would normally be prisoners
of war, although their status was often hereditary. There may also
have been raids to obtain slaves from other tribes and vulnerable
coastal communities. Between the ranks of barons and slaves were
the freeholders, who owned shares in the common land of each tribal
This is the name of peoples who lived in the Scottish Highlands
and Islands. The Romans used the word Caledones to describe both
a single tribe and all who lived in the Great Glen between the modern
towns of Inverness and Fort William. They also called all the tribes
living in the north Caledonians. We know the names of some of these
other tribes. They include the Cornovii and Smertae who probably
lived in Caithness, the Caereni who lived in the far west of the
Highlands, the Carnonacae and the Creones in the Western Highlands.
The Vacomagi lived in and around the Cairngorns. Other unknown tribes
lived in Orkney, Shetland and the Hebrides. Warriors from many of
these tribes came together to resist the Romans under a leader called
Calgacus at battle of Mons Graupius in AD 84. Although the Romans
won this battle, they never successfully conquered the Highlands.
The Romans admired the Caledonii for their ability to endure cold,
hunger and hardship. Tacitus described them as red-haired and large-limbed.
also British Tribes at the Time of the Roman Conquest and
The Roman Empire's Caladonia
In 1603, England and Scotland were united when Queen Elizabeth of England died without an heir and Scotland's King James (son of Mary, Queen of Scots) also became King of England. James promptly moved to England where he ruled until his death in 1625. Charles I ruled until his execution in England in 1649.
Religious factions governed both realms, via Parliament, under the auspices of The Solemn League and Covenant, signed in 1643. With the First Civil War in England (1642-1646) monarchy was out of vogue in England.
The staunch Presbyterians of Scotland were opposed to the more liberal influences of the English Protestants. The Jacobites, seeing the rift between the Protestants, tried to restore the deposed Monarchy to affect a government more tolerant to the Catholic faith.
In 1646, the Clan MacKenzie Chief (the Earl of Seaforth) was still in possession of the Castle Chanonry of Ross [no longer exists]. James Graham the Marquis of Montrose laid siege to the castle and took it from the MacKenzies.
In 1649 a large force of Covenanters stormed Inverness Castle. Among the commanders were Thomas Mackenzie of Pluscardine. They opposed the authority of the current parliament. They assaulted the town and took the castle, expelling the garrison and raising the fortifications. Parliamentary forces led by General David Leslie forced the clans back into Ross-shire. However the MacKenzies left a garrison in Inverness Castle and Leslie withdrew to deal with a rising in the south. The MacKenzies retook the Castle Chanonry of Ross from the current Parliamentary forces. However, the Parliamentary forces, led by a Colonel Kerr, soon after took the MacKenzie's Redcastle and hanged the garrison.
February 5, 1649 : Scotland proclaims Charles II as King of Great Britain. The English had just thrown off the yoke of one king and had no wish to have another. This act, in effect, smashed the Union of the Crowns.
January 1, 1651: Charles II crowned Scottish monarch.
October 15, 1651: Charles II escapes to France/Holland.
1651- 1660: The Interregnum - Cromwell rules Scotland peacefully until his death.
1660: The Restoration - Charles II is restored to the throne and begins taking revenge on those, including the Marquis of Argyll, who humiliated him during his 18 months in Scotland.
about The Picts
Scottish History (An online book by Robert M. Gunn provides
a detailed history with excellent pictures)
& Septs of Scotland
Bice-Smart Version of Our History?
Distribution of Smarts in Scotland 1881
Scotland Council Areas