Friday, 1 August 2014

The Scots invade Britain from Ireland

The Scots invade Britain from Ireland

As Roman Britain stood on the edge of collapse raiders from Ireland pillaged western areas. Known as Scotti, these men eventually turned from raiding to settlement and farming. In some areas they were absorbed, in others driven out, but in northern Britain they stayed and founded the kingdom that later became Scotland.

The arrival of the Scots in northern Britain was a major turning point in history. The language of the people had been Pictish beyond modern Stirling and British further south. But the Scots changed the language to the Gaelic form of Celtic spoken in Ireland. Strangely there is no known tribe in Ireland called the Scots. The word seems to derived from a Gaelic word meaning ‘to rob’ or ‘to plunder’, appropriate for a band of sea-borne raiders.

The Scots themselves preserved an oral tradition that they arrived in Argyll from northern Ireland in three ships, each carrying fifty men. No date is given for this invasion, but anytime between about 390 and 420 is likely. The ships involved were probably large open rowing boats, about 17 metres long. Within a few years many more Scots must have arrived for, in about 450, they could field an army 1500 strong and send 20 ships to sea.

In contrast to their military might, the Scots who settled in Argyll left almost no trace in the archaeological record. It is known that they took over the great British fortress of Dunadd soon after landing, but digs on the site have shown no sign of them. The pottery, stonework and other finds are effectively identical to those of a British tribe. It is possible that the invaders were made up only of a chief and his warriors. The lack of women and children would explain the lack of Irish domestic utensils. But the men must have been formidable indeed to create a nation by themselves.

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