Friday, May 7, 2010

Scotland Before Scotland

The first few chapters in Magnus Magnusson's book, Scotland: The Story of a Nation is about the first Scots, the Celts and Picts and ancient Gaelic tribes who fought against the vikings and the Romans. He talks of how the Romans came and tried to invade Britain and how they fought back. The Romans under Agricola tried to invade Scotland but found that the natives were none to happy with that. They met people like Calgacus who I talked about in an earlier post.

There were three tribes in the Lowlands at the time. The Votadini were in the east in Lothian with their capital Traprain Law. The Novantae in the south west (this in Dumfries and Galloway area now.) And then between them form Eskdale to the Cheviots was the Selgovae. This was really the beginning of tribes in Scotland, later to be known as clans. They were described as feuding tribes, unless they were threatened, at which time they would join together and fight their common enemy. This happened when the Romans came to conquer them. Calgacus and others who fought against them, were forced to gather together all the men they could, weather they were from feuding tribes or not. It was much the same throughout Scotland's history. And, of course, once the battle is over, they go back to fighting each other.

Then of course, you also have the wonderful standing stones from this time period, most still standing today. Eventually, I will write a whole post on some of the standing stones in Scotland. If you want to read up on them, There is a whole chapter devoted to famous stones in David R. Ross' book Desire Lines. Apart from the standing stones, there were also several burial mounds. One Magnusson mentions is the Maes Howe on Orkney. This one was quite a disappointment to the first people who stumbled across it, hoping for gold or jewels. These were Norse Crusaders who had dug a hole in the top to look around in the chamber, but were disappointed to find nothing of value in there. So they wrote a wee message on the wall to tell everyone else that there was nothing worth looking for in there:

To the north-west a great treasure is hidden. It was long ago that a great treasure was hidden here. Happy is he who finds the great treasure. 
It is surely true what I say, that treasure was taken away. Treasure was carried off in three nights before these Jerusalem-farers broke into this howe

I love how blunt they are. And how they admit right plainly that they broke in.

It really a shame we don't know more about the early Scots, but it's that way with all ancient peoples, and they didn't really have many records back then.

To go along with this post, here's a link to a website with a video of David R. Ross giving a wee tour of a church in Scotland that once had Viking connections and is now housing some wonderful artifacts from that time period. 

Talk to you again Monday. Have a good weekend!

Slainte, Hazel


  1. Well done, you! I have been ill this past week and have fallen behind on my reading but will be hitting the book again this weekend. I'm just getting through all the groups like the Scots, the Picts, The Angles, etc. It's hard to keep them all straight in my mind, but it's fascintating as well. And the list of places I want to visit is growing ever longer.

    I'm also on Goodreads under
    Happy reading!

  2. I've only just started chapter three myself, I have been busy with school and stuff, but, hopefully over the weekend, I will be able to sit down and read a bit more! I hope you fell better soon, I got something a couple weeks ago and I know how it's hard to do anything you have to concentrate on. I'll check out your website as well. Thanks!

  3. Hello Hazel, I've discovered your blog via Scotland for the Senses. Due to some crazy family happenings recently, I'm the farthest behind of everyone reading Magnusson's book. I'm just beginning chapter 2.

    I just wanted to say hi and that I'm enjoying your blog. I'm on Goodreads as well under

    Hope to catch up with everyone soon!

    BTW, I was surprised to see that you live nearby! I'm just up the road from you in DeLand.

  4. Wow another Floridian! Nut I have found out there are a good few people of Scots descent here. Don't feel too bad, I'm only in the middle of chapter three I have been way too busy lately to read much. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Thanks for the video link! Very interesting - I enjoyed watching it.

  6. There's a lot of other good things on that website as well. More of David Ross as well. I have a couple more links on other posts. I think there's one of Glasgow Cathedral and another of Ross demonstrating with Scottish weaponry. Glad you liked it!