Thursday, February 4, 2010
Today I am going to introduce you to the first Scot ever to get his name recorded in history. His name was Calgacus, which comes from the Gaelic calgath meaning swordsman. Calgacus lived around AD 84 when the Romans were in Britain. They had already conquered England with general ease and were marching up north to try and conquer Scotland as well. (Nice try!) Scotland, at this time was called the Gaelic Alba, but the Romans called it Caledonia. Calgacus obviously didn't want to Romans to take over his country, so he gathered the different clans and tribes together and went to fight the enemy.
Calgacus was not only the first Scot to get his name recorded in history, but he was also the first Scot to get his words quoted. This was all due to a Roman scribe named Tacitus who took down his pre-battle speech to his men before they met the Romans on the battlefield of Mons Granpius.
Here's a bit of it:
"Former battles in which Rome was resisted left behind them hopes of help in us, because we, the noblest souls in all Britain, the dwellers in its inmost shrine, had never seen the shores of slavery and had preserved our very eyes from the desecration and the contamination of tyranny: here at the world's end, on its last inch of liberty, we have lived unmolested to this day, in this sequestered nook of story.
But today the farthest bounds of Britain lie open; there are no other peoples beyond us; nothing but seas and cliffs and, more deadly even then these, the Romans, whose arrogance you shun in vain by obedience and self-restraint. Harriers of the world, when the earth has nothing left for their ever-plundering hands, they scour even the sea; if their enemy has wealth, they have greed; if he be poor, they are ambitious; neither East nor West can glut their appetite; alone of people on earth they passionately covet wealth and want alike.
To plunder, butcher, steal--these things they misname 'empire': they make a desert, and they call it peace."
These are fantastic words and you can imagine how they effected the men listening to him, for after he was done talking, the Scots took up the battle cry of "Freedom!" and rushed forward with a vengeance to meet the Romans.
Unfortunately, victory was not to be won that day and Calgacus was slain on the battlefield. The defeat didn't break the clans though, they went on to chase the Romans out of their land for good, never to come back again.
There is an interesting thought on where the battle took place. Today no one knows where "Mons Granpius" is. Some historians think it might come from the Grampian mountains, and others think it might have been fought somewhere up near Inverness, perhaps even on the battlefield of Culloden where the clans were broken in 1746. Where ever it really was though, we may never know.
As a wee fun thing, here is a link to a funny song about the Roman invasion of Scotland, sung by Matt McGinn. This made me laugh really hard the first time I heard it. Enjoy!