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Robertson’s Historical Proofs on the Highlanders
Chapter II


‘The wales through which my weary steps I guide,
In this researche of old antiquitie
Are so exceeding riche, and long, and wyde
And sprinkled with such sweet varietie
Of all that pleasant is, to care and eye,
That I, nigh ravisht with rare thoughts delight,
My tedious travel quite forgot thereby
And when I ‘gin to feel decay of might
It strength to me supplies and cheers my dulled spright.’
Spenser.

AD 78-80
AS already mentioned, the earliest authentic information regarding present Scotland is given us by Tacitus, who recorded the campaigns of his father-in-law, Agricola; these began in the year A.D. 78 in the south of Scotland, and he took two campaigns to sub­due what lies south of the Firths of Forth and Clyde.

AD 80
We are next told by Tacitus (chapter 22) that Agricola, in the third year of his cam­paigns, went further north into the Caledonian territory, and laid waste the whole country to the river Tay. He erected likewise no less than three large camps, all in Perthshire (and for which see the Map), namely, one at Ardoch, called Lindurn by the Romans; one also at Strageth, which they called Ierna, being on the river Earn, and another at Dalginross, near to Comrie, which they named Victoria. These three spacious camps were all situated within the. valley called Strathearn, in Perthshire.

AD 81
The fourth summer was employed by Agricola in settling those parts he had over­run.      -

AD 82
Was the fifth year, and the Roman Gene­ral appears to have been in Galloway and Ayrshire, as Tacitus says it was that part of Britain which looked on Hibernia, that is, Ireland.

AD 83
The sixth year, he again went north of the Forth, and began to move his army from his, three stationary camps already named, where­by they’re in three columns or divisions; and which movement, when the Caledonians discovered it, they by night attacked the ninth legion, which was at Victoria, that is Dalgin­ross, [Almost directly opposite to where this attack tqok place, there is at the head of Glenturret, in Strathearn, the hill called in English Benahony, but properly in Gaelic ‘Eeinn-na-Coineadh’__’ the mountain of weeping.’ The Caledonian Gael had retired there after the battle, and the remembrance of those whom they had lost caused the name. The English pronunciation is very near the Gaelic, though the spelling looks so different; in English it is sometimes written Benhonzie_—the Gaelic is Beinn’acojneadh.] and severely assaulted them; and after that fight we hear no more of the exploits of the ninth legion.

The natives of Caledonia, we are told, then sent their wives and children into safe places, and armed every one they could, in defence of their liberty and country; and at this period Tacitus states, in his 27th chapter, that the people sanctioned their engagements with sacrifices.

AD 84
This year the Roman fleet was sent north to plunder the country, and the army also proceeded there. The whole Caledonian forces then united under their king, called Galdi or Galgacus. Their arms are described by Tacitus as huge swords and short round targets. [The very same continued to be the arni.s of their descenda~ite, the HighJandem of Scotland, up to the middle of last century.] There were auxiliary Britons with Agricola’s army at this time, and they amounted to no less than 8000 men. The army of both sides; being assembled opposite each other, prepared for the fight. A very eloquent speech is given by Tacitus, as that of Galgacus. to the Caledonians and if it is only the spirit of what he said, that people were well worthy of obtaining the liberty and independence of their country, for which they were fighting. This battle; called that of ‘Mons Grampius,’ is with good reason considered to have taken place near Stonehaven (see the Map): but with palpable exaggeration, Tacitus makes the loss of the Caledonians (or Britons as he calls them) to have been 10,000, and of the Romans only 340 men. This victory, however, gave no fruits to Rome, as Agricola, we are told, retired. ‘by a slow march’ into winter quarters, no doubt to his permanent camps in Strathearn, Perthshire.

AD 85
This year the Emperor Domitian recalled Agricola. His successor was Trebellius, under whom the Roinans lost all, they had acquired in Caledonia.

AD 120
The Emperor Hadrian next came into Britain; but instead of being able to regain the former Roman territory within Caledonia, he built an extensive turf wall, from the Solway Firth to the river Tyne, eighty miles in length, and which then became the Caledonian bound­ary, and known as Hadrian’s Wall; and it is marked in the Map.

AD 140
Lollius Urbicus was the General of a succeeding Roman Emperor named Antonine, who, having gained some advantages about this time, built a wall. where Agricola had previously placed some forts. This wall was called the Wall of Antonine; it extended from the Firth of Forth to the Clyde, and it is shown on the Map.

AD 182
From another writer we are told, that of all the wars carried on at this period by the Emperor Commodus, the war in Britain (that is, with the Caledonians) was the greatest; and that, therefore, he sent his General, Ulpius Marcellus, against them, who inflicted heavy losses on them.

AD 197
The same author (Dio) . says, that the. Caledonians at this time did not keep their promises, but prepared to defend their fellow countrymen near the north and south of the Forth, called by the Roman writers the Meatae [This word is considered to be similar to the May in Invermay and Innermeath, Perthshire, and Meath in Ireland, being only the Latinised form of it. There is also the Gaelic word ‘maith’ for ‘good,’ which might have been applied to the Lothians, a part of the country of this portion of the Caledonian people. Innnes calls the Meatae, Britons; but this they could not be, as the Caledonians were ever their enemies.] and the Roman General had to obtain peace by a large sum of money.

AD 207
The Emperor Severus entered Caledonia this year, says Dio, to reduce and conquer it; but had much more to do than he expected— from the forests, marshes, and rivers—the native Caledonians also continually harassing the Roman soldiers, who fell into ambushes and snares, and they also suffered from the want of water. The losses of the Romans are put down by this writer at 50,000: and after having reached no further than the Moray Firth, the Emperor retired, having previously entered into a treaty with the Caledonians, by which they agreed to yield a part of their country—probably what lay south of the Forth—and this likely was done to get rid of the Romans.

AD 208
This year the Emperor Severus seems to have discontinued his hopeless efforts to conquer the Caledonians, as he now built his immense wall, close to Hadrian’s, going from the Solway to the Tyne. This was the greatest of all the walls built by the Romans, and became known as the Wall of Severus; and again, it formed the Caledonian southern boundary, and will be found laid down in the Map. It is most highly honourable to the Caledonian Gael the noble resistance they made to retain the liberty of their country; and the building of these walls was the greatest proof the Romans could give, that to conquer Caledonia was a hopeless task.

AD 296 - 309
The next thing to be recorded is the first intimation we have of the name of the ‘Picti’ or Picts this is by the orator Eumenius in the year A.D. 296; which was the date of his first oration, and delivered in the presence of the Roman Emperor Constantius, and he therein speaks of ‘the Picts’ and Irish as the only enemies the Britons had known prior to the Romans.

It is very material to be understood, that the Picts were identical, and in every way the same people as the Caledonians, only under a new name; precisely as, before said, at a still later period they came to be called Scots;— and this fact is proved by the same author (Eumenius) when he delivered a second oration in 309—before the Emperor Constantine, son of the above Oonstantius, wherein he speaks of ‘Caledonii et alii Picti,’ that is, ‘the Cale donians and other Picts.’

Thus the same author who first speaks of them proves their identity.

The name undoubtedly came from the practice of self-painting—and which, Caesar’ says, was universal with the Britons—the writer Herodian also states that in the time of the Emperor Severus, when he made his invasion to the north in A.D. 207, the Caledonians were all painted; also the Roman poet Claudian says, as if to justify the new name

‘Nec falso nomine Pictos’

‘Not wrongly named Picts, (or painted).’

This same author is quoted by Robertson in his work on the Early Kings of Scotland (vol. ii., page 225, in a note), and also by Ritson in his Annals of the Caledonians (vol. i., pages 18, 19), showing the manner in which it was done, namely, punctured or traced with iron, probably needles:

‘ferroque notatas
Perlegit exanguese Picto moriente flguras.’

‘He discovers bloodless figures with iron marked,

Upon the dying Pict.”

The earliest Scotch writer on the identity of the Picts, and Caledonians, is T. Innes,— he most clearly proves the impossibility of the Picts being a new people who had come into the Caledonian territory in the third century—(see his work, vol. i., page 451.) He is commonly called father Innes, from being a Roman Catholic priest. His work is in two volumes, and called a ‘Critical Essay,’ etc.— many of the foregoing authorities have been derived from it—in his second volume some valuable documents were given for the first time to the public—the date of his work is 1729.

In the end of last century (1790) the learned antiquarian writer, Pinkerton, also de­clares that the Caledonians and Picts were un­questionably the same people, he says, ‘it is unnecessary to dwell longer on a subject so universally known and allowed, as the identity of the Caledonians and Piks, and which, indeed, no one can deny, who does not prefer his own dreams to ancient authorities of the best note.’ Skene says, ‘We may, therefore, hold it established as an incontrovertible fact, that the Picts and Caledonians were the same people, appearing at different times under different appellations.’ Chalmers, the historian, also testifies to the Picts and Caledonians being the same, he says, ‘the Picts were the old Caledonians under a new name.’

AD 360
Up to this period we have never heard of the people called the Scots. The Caledonian Picts alone are mentioned in history; the man­ner in which this new people from Ireland first appear in North Britain, and afterwards came to form a settlement in Argyleshire, will be fully treated of in the next and following chapters.


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