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Notes on the Early History of Scotland
Ireland not the Hibernia of the Ancients

The instances cited from Adamnan’s work are not to the point either. According to the inference supposed, if he had said that Columba sailed from Pictland to Britain then Pictland would have been the same as Ireland. Better sentences for Pinkerton’s purpose could perhaps have been found in Adamnan’s work, but not one which says that Scotia was another name for Ireland.

Another proof, or rather two proofs, follow :—"Beda, speaking of Hibernia or Ireland, says Hex Scotorum patria est, ‘ This is the native country of the Scots.’ And in passages innumerable his Scotia is always Ireland, and his Scoti the Irish. Speaking of the Dalrendini, and their king Aidan, he calls them Sotli qui sunt in Britannia, ‘ The Scois in Britain,’ as a special mark of distinction from the Scotti or Irish, a term he sometimes puts absolutely. The Geographas Ravennas says, Hibernia qua; ut dictum est, et Scotia appellatur."

The work called the "Ecclesiastical History" of England by Bede, which is held to be an authority on the question at issue, will have to be dealt with separately, and as an endeavour will then be made to show that it cannot be depended upon as the genuine work of Bede, and that it is interpolated for the very purpose of identifying Ireland with the ancient Scotia, this may be deemed sufficient in the meantime. With regard to the Geographas Ravennas’ testimony, Pinkerton himself furnishes the refutation of this proof. He says that this geographer places Hibernia north of Britain. Ireland is not north of Britain.

Pinkerton’s next series of proofs are as follows:-

"In the ninth century Eginhart, in his Life of Charlemagne, says Norwegi Hibernium, Scotorum insulam, agressi, a Scotis in fugam conversi sunt,' ‘The Norwegians invading Ireland, the island of the Scots.’ It is certain, therefore, that the Irish alone are the Scots of Eginhart, and that the correspondence he mentions between Charlemagne and the reges Scotorum, kings of the Scots, refers solely to Ireland. That emperor procured learned men from Ireland, but did not probably know even the existence of the Dalreudini, or British Scots. In the same age Rabanus Marus, bishop of Mentz, says in his ‘ Martyrology,’ Natale Kiliani martyris, et duorum sociorum ejus, qui ab Hibernia, Scotorum insula, venientes, &c. Walafrid Strabo, in his Life of St Gallus, also repeatedly shows Ireland to be the Scotia. The monk of St. Gall, in his history of Chamlenmagne, also says of the famous Clemens and Albinus, founders of the University of Paris, Contigit duos Scotus de Hibernia, cum mercatoribus Britannis, ad litus Galia devenire vivas et in secularibus, et in sacris scripuris, incomparalaliter erudition, ‘It happened that two Scots of Ireland came to the French coast with British merchants; those men were incomparably skilled both in secular and sacred letters.’ King Alfred’s Scotland is always Ireland."

Most of the reasoning in this extract is the result of the false premise with which Pinkerton began his proofs. If Hibernia and the island now known as Ireland were different countries in the ninth century, all the conclusions founded upon the quotations given in this paragraph are unsound. Besides, it is a well-authenticated fact that both Iceland and Scotland were invaded by foreigners in the ninth century. Some historians, not on very clear grounds, assert that it was Danes who invaded Scotland then; but the testimony which describes the Norwegian colonisation of Iceland at tIme same period has never been questioned. We are also told, on good authority, that before the settlement of the Norwegians in Iceland the island was inhabited by a people called Papae. These men were lettered Christians, for they left books behind them when expelled by the Norwegians; and in all likelihood these are the people called Scots in the quotations transcribed in Pinkerton’s eighth series of proofs. In addition to this, the early history of Iceland favours the belief that it would then be able to produce men skilled in secular and sacred letters, while that of Ireland discredits such a belief, as an opportunity may afterwards be taken to show. These facts afford other objections to those previously given against the identification of Ireland with the Hibernia of the ancients.

With regard to King Alfred’s Scotland being always Ireland, this is not true. What Pinkerton evidently refers to is, that he always renders the word Hibernia Scotland, as mentioned by Dr. Giles in his edition of Bede’s "Ecclesiastical History," published by Whittaker & Co., London, in 1343. If King Alfred’s translation of Bede’s "Ecclesiastical l-Iistory," as it at present exists, could be depended upon as a genuine work and free from interpolation, this would of course prove that Hibernia was also called Scotia or Scotland; but there are several discrepancies in it which cause it to be viewed with suspicion, and the fact that no reliable writer ever states that Hibernia was called Scotia is not in favour of the authenticity of the passages referred to. Besides, it can be shown that nearly all, if not all, the passages in Bede’s "Ecclesiastical History" which mention Hibernia are interpolations, consequently they must also be interpolations in the translation ascribed to King Alfred. In his Saxon translation of Orosius, Ibernia is identified with Ireland, and is said to be known also under the name of Scotland; but if the original edition of Orosius’ work was interpolated in order to make people believe that present Ireland was once called Scotia, it is not likely that this translation of it would escape similar treatment at the hands of the monks, to whom it would be well known.

There is a passage in Alfred’s translation of Orosius which seems to have escaped detection, and as it has an important bearing upon the subject at issue, it may as well he referred to, it is the one containing a description of Otliere’s voyage from the North Pole to the Baltic Sea. This is an addition of the King’s to Orosius’ work, and this may account for its being overlooked by the manipulators. It contains the word Iraland, which is repeated, so that there is not likely to have been a mistake in the spelling. But the country known to King Alfred under this name was evidently not present Ireland, but Iceland.’ This proves that Iceland was called Ireland as well as Hibernia.

Another proof follows :—In the tenth century Notkerus Balbulus, in his ‘Martyrology,’ speaking of Columba, V. Id. Jan., has in Scotia, insula Hibernia, depositio, S. Columba, ‘In Scotia, the island Ireland, the placing of the relics of St. Columba.’ The remarks made in treating of King Alfred’s Hibernia prove that these words in italics refer to Scotland. In fact, they appear to contain nothing else than a short account of the placing of Columba’s relics in Dunkeld. If they are intended to signify that Columba was buried in Scotland or Hibernia at the time of his death, they must refer to Hii, the island in which his principal monastery was built.

Pinkerton’s next proof furnishes very little support to his views:-

"In the eleventh century Marianus Scotus, at the year 686, has Sanctus Kilianus Scotus de Hibernia insula, &c., ‘Saint Kilian, a Scot of Ireland.’ Hermanus Contractus, in his Chronicle at the year 812 has Classis Danorum Hiberniam invadens a Scotis victa est, '‘A fleet of Danes invading Ireland is vanquished by the Scots.’ Rhegino, speaking of the same, says, Anno Dominicae Incarnationis DCCCXlI. Classis Nortmannorum Hiberniam ineulam agressa commissoque cum Scotis praelio, multi ex cis interfecti cetari fuga lapsi sunt. A writer of this century, published by Du Chesne, says at the year 846, Scothi a Northomannis, per annos plurimos, tributarii efficiuntur, ‘The Scots are rendered tributary to the Norwegians for many years.’ This passage, it is believed, our most zealous writers will not choose to apply to the present Scots, but to the conquest of the Irish by the Danes and Norwegians at this time. The same historian at the year  848 has, Scothi super Northmannis irrnentes, auxillo Deo victores eoes e suis finibus propellunt. Uderex Scothorum ad Karolam, pacis et amicitive gratia, legatis cum maneribus mittit, viam sibi petendi Romam concedi deposens. This was Melachlin, king of Ireland, as Ware justly remarks, who in that year obtained a victory over the Danes; but they soon returned, so that the tribute continued for many years in spite of this victory. The ‘Annals of Ulster’ date this victory 847."

Marianus Scotus is perhaps the worst author Pinkerton could have brought forward to support his arguments. This writer says he was a Scot, born in Scotia; but he nowhere says Ireland was ever called Scotia, as a historian living in his time would have said had the name of Scotia been given to Scotland for the first time at that period, as is alleged by Pinkerton. Marianus testifies rather that Scotland was the only Scotia, and the country in which he was born, for under the year 1034 he mentions the death of Malcolm as king of Scotia, and under 1040 he speaks of Duncan, king of Scotia, and under 1050 of Macbeth, king of Scotia. These were not kings of Ireland. Interpolated works like Florence of Worcester’s "Annals" make it appear, of course, that Marianus was born in Ireland; but if this were the case, it would be remarkable to find that this eminent Scot and celebrated historian takes no notice of the alleged transference of the name of his native country from Ireland to Scotland, and yet refers to the latter only under the name of Scotia.

With regard to the Quotations about the Danes or Northmen invading Hibernia in the first half of the ninth century, nothing in early Scottish history is better authenticated than the ravages committed by the Gentibus, as they are called by the "Annals of Ulster," in Scotland at that time, as noticed by Dr. Skene.’

Pinkerton thus concludes his proofs:-

"Nay, in the twelfth century St. Bernard, in his Life of St. Malachy, calls Ireland Scotia and the Irish Scotti. For he calls Malachy Hibernus, and after says, Ab ulteriori Scotia usque concurrit ille ad mortem. And telling the aversion of the Irish to Malachy’s building a chapel of stone at Benchor when wood had alone been used before, he makes them say, Scoti sumnus non Galli. Giraldus Cambrensis, also speaking of the Irish, says, Dicti sunt et Gaideli, dicti sunt et Scoti."

The same objection which has been taken to other proofs applies here also; but even if St. Bernard’s Life of St. Malachy identified Ireland with Scotia, a saint’s life of the twelfth century, which in all likelihood contains more falsehood than truth, could not be allowed to settle the matter. Giraldus Cambrensis is not speaking of the inhabitants of Ireland when he says the Gaideli were also called Seed. He is speaking of the Picts of his own day, now represented by the Highlanders of the present time, and they are even yet sometimes called Gaels as well as Scots. Besides, the Gaideli of Giraldus were not the Scots, but only called Scots because they were born in Scotland, just as those who speak the Gaelic language are called Scots by us, though they are not, strictly speaking, Scots. And Pinkerton knew this, for two pages farther on he says— "The people of ancient Argyle...were not Scoti but Gaideli, as the ‘ Chronicon Pictorum ‘ and the ‘Descriptio Albaniae’ show."

Other five pages farther on he again refers to this subject thus:-

"The Chronicon Pictorum ‘ calls the eastern inhabitants of Scotland uniformly Scoti ; but the western, Gaideli, by a special distinct name. The ‘Descriptio Albaniae’ says, Montes qui dividunt Scociam ab Arrogaithel, ‘The mountains which divide Scotland from Argyll;' and it after speaks of Argyle as possessed by the Gaeli or Hibernesses, quite a different people from the Scots. And it shall presently be shown that the Scots of the eleventh century and of this day are quite a different people from the British Scots of Adamnan and Beda."

It was an easy task for him to show that the Scots of the eleventh century and of this day are a different people from the British Scots of Adamnan and Beda, for the latter are only an imaginary people, invented by the monkish interpolators who lived many hundred years after the authors whose works they have tampered with.

All these proofs of Pinkerton’s, it will be seen, hang upon the identity of ancient Hibernia with Ireland, and as the only testimony produced in favour of this being the case is that of a weak, credulous, and inaccurate Spanish historian of the fifth century, it will perhaps be allowed that this is a very insufficient foundation for the assumption that Ireland was the ancient Scotia. It might seem to some people that the objections brought forward here against the arguments of Pinkerton have clearly established the fact that Scotland was the only Scotia; but as the idea that Ireland was the ancient Scotia has now been thoroughly engrafted in the history of Scotland, it will be requisite, to dispel the doubts of some writers, to go over the whole available grounds which support the views entertained by the present writer.


In endeavouring to ascertain what country or countries went under the name of Hibernia or lerne in the ninth and preceding centuries, it will be necessary to show that Iceland was not always known by its present designation.

The account given of the origin of the name of Iceland is so mixed up with the usual incredible circumstances, that there is every reason to believe that it is a monkish invention. The story of the three ravens which Floki took with him from Sweden to enable him to discover the island is "evidently copied from the history of the deluge in Genesis."

As the Scots apparently came from this island to Scotland, it is not surprising to find the interpolators who were commissioned to darken and obscure the early history of the Scots at work here also. But the fraud which was committed to make it appear that Iceland was known by that name before it really was so called having already been discovered and exposed by the Icelandic writers, a summary of the method adopted and the way they have laid it bare is sufficient for the purpose in view.

La Peyrère’s "Account of Iceland," dated Copenhagen, December 18, 1644, contains the following:-

I have by me two Chronicles of Greenland written in Danish, one in verse, the other in prose. That written in verse begins uith the year 770, when it says Greenland was first discovered. The other assures us that the person that went first from Norway into Greenland passed through Iceland, and tells us expressly that Iseland was inhabited at that time; whence it is evident that Iseland was not first inhabited in the year 874. Angrim Jonas will perhaps object that my Danish Chronicles don’t agree with that of Iceland, which says that Greenland was not discovered till the year 982, nor inhabited till 986. But I must tell him that my Danish Chronicles were founded upon the authority of Ansgarius, a great prelate, a native of France, who has been acknowledged the first apostle of the Northern world. He was made Archbishop of Hamborough by Lewis the Mild; his jurisdiction extended from the river Elbe all over the frozen sea; the Emperor’s patent constituting the said Ansgarius the first Archbishop of Hamborough is dated in the year 834, and was confirmed by Pope Gregory IV.’s Bull in 835. The true copy both of the patent and of the Bull is to be seen in the first book of Pontanus’ Danish History of the year 834, where it is expressly said in the patent, ‘That the gates of the Gospel are set open, and that Jesus Christ had been revealed both in Iceland and Greenland,’ for which the Emperor gives his most humble thanks to God."

The patent or praecept of King Louis the Mild (AD. 814840), and the Bull of Pope Gregory IV. as quoted by Pontanus, certainly bear out La Peyrèn's affirmation, but Mr. Burton considered it possible, that as Greenland is mentioned in these documents along with the islands and terra firma of Europe, it might be the name of some district in the Scancanavian peninsula, and that Iceland might occur under similar conditions. To ascertain this, he procured an official copy of the Gregorian Bull, and found there the words quoted by Pontanus; but the Very Rev. Father O’Callaghan, Principal of the English College, Rome, who furnished him with the copy, said that he had carefully examined the fourth volume of the Bollandists, and found that they agreed with Mabillon in omitting mention of Iceland and Greenland in their version of the Bull. Mr. Burton then gives Mabillon’s version, and also the priecept as it is contained in the Acta Sanctorum, showing that they both agree in omitting these and other countries, which are found in the versions given by Pontanus, and he adds, " It is curious to remark that the same tampering has been attributed to the precept as to the Bull, and it is not easy to divine the mode in which the double fraud was so successfully effected." Mr. Ion A. Hjaltalin, as quoted by Mr. Burton, thus refers to the subject :—

"Unless a copy of the letter of Ludwig and the Bull of Gregory, of a date anterior to the times of Adalbert. can be produced, I do not see any impossibility in all the copies mentioned, the earliest of which dates from the thirteenth century, being derived from a copy falsified by Bishop Adalhbrt ; at any rate, if all the copies can be derived from a true one, as Dr. Perz seems to think, they can as well be derived from a false one. The Bullarium does not help us (as we have only the older ones, not that of 834), as it does not state from what MS. the Bull is printed. But even if the Bull is proved true, which can only be done by producing the original, or at least a copy anterior to Bishop Adalbert, it would hardly establish the fact that Iceland was known by that name, prior to its Norwegian discovery; for many of the names mentioned in these documents, such as Gronlondon, Seriderindon, and Halsingaldia, are Perverted Norwegian districts, and I would be inclined to look upon Islandon in the same way. But in my own mind I am perfectly satisfied that Professor Dahlman is right in pronouncing the interpolated passages as forgeries."

These extracts clearly establish the probability of Iceland being known by another name at an early period of time. Many people, however, might probably at once conclude, from the numerous vague assertions that have been made to this effect, that it was the country known as Thule; and it will be necessary, therefore, to show that this name was applied to Norway and Sweden. The account given of Thule by Procopius leaves no doubt of this. He was an eminent Byzantine historian of Caesarea in Palestine, who went to Constantinople and acquired a high reputation there as a professor of rhetoric, As private secretary to Belisarius, he accompanied him in all his important campaigns in Asia, Africa, and Italy. He was born about the beginning of the sixth century, and died about 565. He is said to write with the clearness, insight, and fulness of knowledge that might be expected of a man who had been an eye-witness of much that he narrates, and who had occupied a position that fitted him thoroughly to understand what he had seen. He is the only early writer whose description of Thule can be depended upon. The Roman writers are all open to the suspicion of having been tampered with; and besides, their descriptions of Thule are too indefinite. They may be found gathered together in the first volume of Burton’s "Ultima Thule."

Procopins’ description of Thule is as follows:-

"The island is ten times larger than Britain, and far to the north. The greater part of it is desert. The inhabited region contains thirteen great peoples, each governed by its own king." After giving an account of a curious phenomenon with regard to the sun witnessed there, and describing some of the customs of the people, whom he styles barbarians, he adds: "The Thulitae adore several gods and demons, some of whom they believe to inhabit the sky, others the air; some are on the earth and in the sea, while others of the smaller kind affect the rivers and springs. They often offer sacrifices and immolate all manner of victims, the most acceptable being the first man captured in war; he is sacrificed to Mars, the most powerful of their gods." The ancient name of Thule still lingers in the Norwegian canton of Tyle-mark.

The above quotation dearly proves that Iceland was not the ancient Thule, as it cannot be said to be ten times larger than Britain; and it is now left open to identify Iceland with the ancient Hibernia or lerne, if it suits the descriptions given of that country by the ancients. As there seems reason to believe that Scotland also went under these names, and it is not easy to say which country is sometimes referred to when Hibernia or lerne is spoken of, it may not be out of place, before proceeding to show that Iceland may have been the Hibernia of the ancients, to produce authority for believing that Scotland was once called lerne. John Elder, clerk, and a Reddeshanke, writing to King Henry VIII., thus speaks of what he calls the Yrisehe Lords of Scotland, commonly called Reddeshankes, and by historiographers Picts:-

Scotland, before the incoming of Albanactus, Brutus’ second son, was inhabited, as we read in ancient Yrisehe stories, with giants and wild people, without order, civility, or manners, and spoke none other language but Yrische; and was then called Eyryn veagg, that is to say, Little Ireland, and the people were called Eyrvnghe, that is to say, Ireland men. But after the incoming of Albanactus, in reducing them to order and civility, they changed the foresaid name, Eyryn veagg, and called it Albon, and their own names also, and called them Albonyghe, which two Yrische words, Albon, that. is to say, Scotland, and Albonvghe, that is to say, Scottish men, be derived front Albanactus, our first governor and king which derivation the Papistical cursed spirituality of Scotland will not hear in no manner of ways, nor confess that ever such a king named Albanactus reigned there. The which derivation all the Yrische men of Scotland, which be the ancient stock, cannot nor will not deny. But our said bishops derive Scotland and themselves from a certain lady named Scota, which came out of Egypt, a marvellous hot country, to recreate herself amongst them in the cold air of Scotland, which they cannot affirm by any probable ancient author."

Dr. Skene says Elder’s account of the origin of the name Alban is the legendary story contained in our earliest documents before the chronicles were tampered with. This may therefore be considered a trustworthy statement so far as it does not partake of a legendary character, and this cannot be said to be the case with the assertion that Scotland was formerly called Eyryn veagg. The name Earn is still used to designate a large district of central Scotland, Strath-earn, as well as a river and a loch in the same locality. And Dr. Skene says the form of the name of the river Earn, as it appears in St. Berchan’s Prophecy, is identical with that of Erin, or Ireland. But while this confirms the supposition that Eyryn was also an ancient name of Scotland, it must be borne in mind that it may have been called Eyryn veagg, or little, not to distinguish it from Ireland, but from Iceland, which we hope to be able to identify with the great lerne of one at least of the Greek writers. When the name of Erin was first given to Ireland it would be difficult to say, but there is reason to think that it was not so called till after the eleventh century. In addition to Scotland being called Eyryn or lerne as well as Iceland, it seems probable that it also went under the name of Hibernia, as well as the northern island. This might easily be accounted for if it can be proved that the Scots originally came from Iceland to Scotland, and an endeavour may afterwards be made to do this. Settlers often give the name of the country or district from which they came to their new settlements.

The earliest known allusion to lerne is contained in a work called "Argonautica," and ascribed to Orpheus, a Greek bard or priest in the service of Zagreus, the Thracian Dionysius. He is also spoken of in Greek records as the first musician, and the inventor of letters and the heroic metre—of everything, in fact, which was supposed to have contributed to the civilisation and initiation into a more humane worship of the Deity among the primitive inhabitants of his native country, Thracia, and all Greece. To this task he is said to have devoted his life after his return with the Argonauts, whom he accompanied in their expeditions. These particulars are given here, as they indicate a remote connection in several ways with the early Scots legends. The "Argonautica" of Orpheus describes the voyage of the Argonauts, which was probably undertaken for the purpose of discovering unknown countries. It speaks of them sailing round the north of Europe, and on their way south they are said to have passed the island Iernida, and then another island full of pine trees. It is improbable that the Argonauts could have passed an island full of pine-trees after passing present Ireland, which some writers have taken to be the lernida of the "Argonautica ;" but if we consider Scotland to be the island full of pine-trees, a description applicable to it, we are led to conclude that lernida was to the north of present Scotland, and that Iceland was the island so designated by Orpheus. Whether he or the Argonauts landed on Iceland we are not informed, but it is remarkable to find that a close connection between Icelandic language, poetry, and customs, and the language, poetry, and customs of the East has been indicated by several writers.

The geographical details in the various accounts of the voyage of the Argonauts are said to vary so much that it is impossible to determine whether the expedition sailed north, east, or west from its starting-point. Not much reliance can therefore be placed on the reference to the situation of lernida contained in the account of the voyage; and it is given here only because it harmomises slightly with the Icelandic traditions regarding the arrival of Odin, and the introduction of arts, religion, and civilisation into Iceland by him. It may be taken for granted, however, that if the Argonauts passed an island called Iernida, it was not Ireland, but Iceland, as all the more reliable references of later writers tend to prove.

Aristotle is said to call the British islands by the names of Albion and lerne; but as he wrote in the fourth century B. C., not much dependence can be placed upon his statement, especially when it is unsupported by later or more trustworthy authority. As early as the second century B.C., if not earlier, the British isles were called by Greek writers Bitannia; and in all likelihood, if the truth could be got at, they would be known to the Romans by the same name, as all the later and more reliable statements regarding the geographical knowledge of the ancients tends to show.

Julius Caesar, who invaded Britain about 54 B.C., and added it to the Roman empire, is one of the earliest writers who gives anything like a description of the island. It is certainly not very intelligible as it now stands; but it has to be remembered that he was a Roman writer, and his writings would be accessible to those who have tampered with the history of ancient Hibernia. Notwithstanding this, something may perhaps be made out of it if looked at in the light afforded by the descriptions of later Roman and Greek writers. It is as follows:-

The island is triangular; one side of which lies opposite to Gaul. Of this side the angle which is in Kent, whither the ships from Gaul are generally steered, points towards the east, and the other to the south. The extent of this side is about 500 thousand paces. The other looks towards Spain and the west on which is situated Hibernia, less by half, as is imagined, than Britain, but equally distant thence as Britain is from Gaul. In the middle of the intervening space is an island called Mona. The length of this side, according to the common opinion, is DCC thousand paces. The third lies towards the north, beyond which, there is no land but the angle of that side is principally directed to Germany. The extent of this side is computed. to be DCCC thousand paces."

There can be little doubt that Ceasar’s Britain includes only the country south of the Firths of Forth and Clyde, and Ireland, as suggested by Goodall. Procopius makes Britain longer from east to west than from north to south. Cresar evidently did the same. Strabo also makes Britain longer from east to west than from north to south. Ethelwerd, an English historian of the tenth century, whose work has apparently escaped the vigilance of the interpolators, as already mentioned, states that Julius Caesar called Ireland Bretannis; and Caesar is followed here also by Stephanus Byzantinus and Procopius. Both these writers are said to speak of Britain as consisting of two islands, called Brettia and Bretania. Probably the words they wrote were Britain and Britanis, meaning Britain and Little Britain, Ireland is said to have been called Little Britain by Ptolemy; and we have thus good corroborative testimony to prove the truth of Ethelwerd’s words. The country south of the Forth would be called Great Britain to distinguish it from Ireland, a name now given to Scotland and England together. It will be readily granted that if Ireland and Britain south of the Forth were considered to be one country, an author would be quite correct in saying that its greatest extent was from east to west.

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