New edition of ‘The Picts’

The Picts: A History
‘a valuable resource’ – Jessie Denholm (Scottish Genealogist, September 2011)

* * * * * * *

A revised and updated edition of my 2008 book The Picts: a History is now available. Like the original edition, it’s a straightforward narrative history, telling the story of the Picts from Roman times to c.900 AD.

The main textual revisions reflect my own changed perceptions of two aspects of Pictish history: the location of Fortriu, a topic mentioned in a recent post on this blog; and the 9th century ‘merger’ of Picts and Scots traditionally associated with Cinaed mac Ailpin.

Other changes are:
Illustrations – a re-vamped selection, which now includes maps and drawings as well as photographs
Further Reading – this section has been expanded, with items arranged by subject
Front Cover – this has been re-designed to incorporate an image from the Aberlemno Kirkyard cross-slab.

Like my recently-announced book The Men of the North: the Britons of Southern Scotland, the new edition of Picts is published in Edinburgh under the John Donald imprint and is available at Amazon UK and Amazon USA.

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29 comments on “New edition of ‘The Picts’

  1. [...] years later and an opportunity has arisen to publish a new edition of the book. A revised and updated version is scheduled to appear in September 2010. The original was never intended to be a highbrow text and [...]

  2. Phil says:

    Nice cover Tim. Just back from a half-term break in Angus. Topically visited the ‘Pictavia’ visitor centre in Brechin – my children (unusually) really enjoyed it. Also found time to finish ‘The Men of the North’ – an excellent read, especially liked the Strathclyde section.

  3. Mak Wilson says:

    Looking forward to reading this one too Tim … oh, and if you ever need any CGI reconstruction or illustrations done in future works let me know.

    Mak

    • Tim says:

      Thanks for the offer, Mak. In an ideal world, I’d like to see a whole series of CGI reconstructions of the ancient Scottish landscape. In an even more ideal world, the great Flat Eric* would be on the cover of my next book.

      [* see the photo gallery at Mak's website for a fine pic of Eric and Mak]

  4. Mak Wilson says:

    I’ve been rumbled!

    The CGI I might be able to do. If you want Flat Eric you’ll have to talk to a certain Frenchman … and Flat Eric himself of course.

    I used to co-run a company called Pastscapes and we did a number of historical reconstruction, including The Berth hillfort in Shropshire and Valle Crucis Abbey in Denbighshire. The latter was done for a realtime virtual tour of the abbey, covering three time periods.

    Unfortunately we were let down by two major jobs so we had to fold the company. None of the images from our jobs appears on the website, but if you’d like to see any, let me know.

    Off to order you book,

    Mak

    • Tim says:

      I can imagine your reconstruction of The Berth being of interest to folk who think it was an Arthurian site. I saw this theory many years ago, in a book which proposed Shropshire as Arthur’s base of operations.

      • Mak Wilson says:

        Yes, it was of interested to those who followed Phillips and Keatman’s theory about Owain Ddantgwyn being Arthur, including Phillips himself, but I wasn’t one of them. There’s no evidence, as yet, that it existed beyond the 4th century or, indeed, the Owain had anything to do with Powys. However, English Heritage have finally given permission to re-open the 1963 trenches. So we’ll have to wait and see what they turn up.

  5. Phil says:

    Happened to be in the National Museum of Scotland earlier today. You’ll be pleased to know both ‘The Men of the North’ and the new edition of ‘The Picts’ are quite prominently displayed in the book section of the shop. Best wishes for the festive season.

  6. Hi Tim,

    After reading “The Men of the North” I’m currently enjoying “The Picts” which I find a very clear and good read.

    I’d like to discuss one detail however. Discussing Dunnichen battle you wrote that early medieval british warfare was mostly a matter of infantry. While I agree that most warriors would likely fight on foot, I think that elite did part of the fight on horseback. Celts from antiquity had a tradition of horseborn warfare, and we well know the chariots of the Britons that faced the Roman armies of the 1st and 2nd centuries. The Vindolanda tablets speak of those “Brittunculi” fighting on horseback.
    “The Britons are unprotected by armor. There are very many cavalry. The cavalry do not use swords and the Brittunculi don’t hold their men when throwing their javelins.”

    Romans employed a good deal of cavalry, especially in the later empire and this was likely of good influence on our Scots, Britons and Picts.

    Another great account of horseborn warfare among the Britons comes from… Brittany! Breton light cavalry posed a serious threat against the frankish armies of Carl the Bald in the 9th century. Some have theorised Bretons were influenced by Alans for this cavalry fashion, but I think it’s not likely.

    Here my (ackward) translation from french:
    “The saxon troups, whom the king (Carl the Bald) had bought off to support the rushes and the feinted retreats of the breton cavalry, were put in first line. But just after the first charge of the Bretons, and the first volley of javelins, the Saxons run to hide behind the rest of the army. The Bretons, following their usages and riding horses trained at that kind of fight, run on one side and the other. Sometime they attack impetuously, with all their strenght, in the deep mass of the frankish infantry and harass them with javelins, sometimes they fake a retreat, and the foes running after them don’t escape the darts in their chest. Accustomed to fight from near spear to spear, the Franks stay stonned, terrorised by this new unknown peril; they are not equipped to catch those light troops, and if they await them in close ranks, they got no shelter against their strokes.”
    Reginon de Prüm, Chronique, sub anno 860.

    The Franks were not used to that kind of foes. Bretons were even compared to Magyars, the difference beeing they used javelins instead of bows. The same light cavalry techniques were used by the later medieval irish hobelars.

    To me the Aberlemno stone can show that kind of tactics. Picts, Scots, Bernicians or Britons horsemen won’t charge directly in the mass of infantry of course. However, such cavalry would be very effective using javelins, faking retreats and doing counter-attacks, outflanking or outrearing the ennemy forces, slaying fugitives at the end of the battle, etc. Elite warriors on horseback from both camp may engage ennemy cavalry before the shock of infantry, and at occasion dismount to bolster the main formation. Nick Aitchison in his “The Picts and the Scots at War” postulates for such kind of fighting.

    On a completly different suggests, do you have any advises about good books on Early Medieval Ireland? Ireland has a profusion of texts and good archaeological backings for this part of her history. I just don’t know where to begin.

    And finally I’d like to show you this recente picture, my portrayal of a late 5th-6th century Briton chieftain or “tiern”:

    Thanks again!

    Benjamin Franckaert.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks for your feedback on the book, Benjamin, and also for the image-link. Your reconstruction is very impressive – a superb portrayal of how a 5th/6th century warrior must have looked.

      I’m glad you raised the subject of cavalry. It’s one of those controversial topics that make early medieval history so fascinating. I went back to the Picts book to see what I wrote about the battle of Dunnichen (e.g. ‘The battle was basically a clash of foot-soldiers with limited fighting on horseback’). Because the book is a ‘popular history’ rather than an academic study it has no footnotes, so statements like this don’t have any references to back them up. I suppose I could have altered it by saying ‘Some historians believe…’, or by inserting ‘in my opinion’ somewhere in the middle, but I decided to just acknowledge that there might have been a ‘limited’ amount of actual cavalry action at the battle.

      I then wrote about soldiers riding to war but dismounting to fight, interpreting the spear-wielding Pictish horseman on the Aberlemno stone as a ritualised depiction of combat. These views were adopted by me in the early 1990s, around the time when a scholarly debate about the use of cavalry in the 6th/7th centuries was being conducted. Among the key contributions were papers by Nick Higham, Craig Cessford and Nicholas Hooper (all in the journal Northern History) and Jenny Rowland in Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies. When my thesis was finished (in 2000-01) it didn’t include a detailed study of combat, the emphasis being rather on how warfare reflected state-forming processes. I had however followed the debate about cavalry with interest and eventually reached the conclusion that mounted combat was not a major feature of warfare in North Britain in the period c.400-750. This was never a fixed point in my perceptions and, like other opinions I’ve held over the years, it was always open to being changed if a more persuasive argument came along.

      Your comment, Benjamin, got me thinking about this topic again. It was good to see the extract from Regino of Prum about the Breton cavalry and their famous ‘feigned retreat’. I remember reading about this and other Breton tactics in papers by Bernard Bachrach who, if I recall correctly, was a supporter of the idea that it came from the eastern steppes via regiments of Alans installed by Rome in Armorica/Brittany. If, however, there’s a possibility the tactic was devised by the Bretons themselves, then that’s a topic worth pursuing in itself.

      Regarding the Aberlemno stone, my views haven’t changed much in 15 years. I still think the mounted figures fit the concept of a limited cavalry role which included such activities as (quoting from your comment) ‘slaying fugitives at the end of the battle’. I think there was probably some spear-throwing from horseback too, but I envisage this as part of the ritual aspect. Although I think Nick Aitchison’s discussion of cavalry is a balanced and comprehensive survey of the evidence, I don’t share his ideas about Pictish horsemen using their spears as lances rather than javelins, i.e. for thrusting rather than throwing. I’m sceptical about this because the lack of stirrups deprives a rider of support for this kind of combat. The standard Roman cavalry saddle, with a pommel at each corner, compensates to some extent but doesn’t seem to give enough stability for lance-thrusts. Aitchison himself acknowledged that the absence of stirrups was a limiting factor and suggested that ‘Pictish and Scottish horseman also lacked saddles’ (The Picts and the Scots at War, p.81). He also wrote: ‘Despite the vivid portrayal in Pictish sculpture of horsemen in action, cavalry were probably of only limited effectiveness and nobles rode into battle as much to convey their status as for military reasons’ (p.80). He does however imagine cavalry galloping into infantry and demoralising them, but I don’t see this happening without saddles or stirrups – surely the riders would be in serious danger of being unseated as soon as the charge impacted on the enemy?

      Aitchison’s book was published in 2003 but there might be newer research on the subject. If I find anything relevant I’ll make a note of it. I have some catching up to do on medieval military topics, and I still haven’t got around to reading Irene Hughson’s papers on Pictish horse carvings (1993, 1997 and 1999). At some point I might write a blogpost on Pictish cavalry, to give people an opportunity to voice their opinions here.

      For a good introduction to Ireland in this period, I recommend Daibhi O’Croinin’s Early Medieval Ireland, 400-1200 published by Longman in 1995.

      Thanks once again for your input.

  7. I’m glad you like my impression. There is many more pictures of my group Letavia on our blog and my photobucket album:

    http://letavia.canalblog.com/

    http://s516.photobucket.com/albums/u323/Morcant_Gawr/

    Including “Drust map Talorgan” our Pictish warrior :

    Your points are very interesting. On Breton cavalry, I much doubt the Bretons were really influenced by steppic techniques. Like I mentionned before, we have a strong tradition of celtic and roman cavalry to explain that. Maurish origin can even be guessed! Maurs were famed as light javelin-throwing cavalry and we have two units of Mauri (Osismiaci and Veneti) in 4-5th century western Armorica. Of course of those Mauri by that period may have only remained the ethnic name, their ranks beeing made of Gauls, Germanics and Britons otherwise.
    Alans were settled in the region of Orleans. In the 440′s, their king Gohar was sent by Aetius in Armorica to break a rebellion of the armorican civitates against Rome. I don’t think they had much impact because:
    1- their intervention was only a short campaign
    2- Armorica encompass much more territory than what will became Brittany, it included also what is now Normandy, Maine and Anjou, some areas not settled by the Britons ; so their intervention may have concerned regions outside of the “Breton zone”
    3- we got no more mention of Alans in Gaul after most of their warriors died in the heart of battle at the Catalaunian fields fighting the Huns
    4- Alannic cavalry was armored, using the contus or two-handed thrusting lance, or the composite bows. Bretons used javelins.
    5- the name “Alan” which was fashionned in Early and High medieval Brittany has according to Léon Fleuriot more to do with animals with red-fur such as fox and young deer than with the Alans themselves.

    The only eastern influence that can be recognised for me is that of the Taifali. Those were a danubian tribe of germanic or steppic stock, famed for their cavalry and settled in Poitou. Early Breton laws speak of taifalic and saxon horses sold to Bretons.

    On cavalry gear. The four-horned saddle was replaced in the 5th century roman army by the steppic saddle, introduced by the Huns. I used to be a horse-rider but I have not done much mounted re-enactment and not yet with the good saddle types. Yet from what I read from other re-enactors, both those saddle types gave a great stability. Combining this and the skill of horsemen trained since childhood, I think they could have well performed spear thrusting. Especially weilding the spear overarm. But the evidence also shows steppic warriors, roman heavy cavalry or the macedonian cavalry using two-handed spears, the contus, on stirrup-less saddle (and no saddles for the Macedonians).
    You can read some very interesting experimentations of roman cavalry gear at Comitatus website:

    http://www.comitatus.net/cavalry.html

    Like you see I’m a strong tenant of the effectiveness of antique and early medieval cavalry :)

    I read Daibhi O’Croinin’s book last year, it was a good read, albeit I’m looking for some new ones. I plan to get Nancy Edwards’ book “The Archaeology of Early Medieval Ireland”. I must say the quantity of early irish texts and the quality of the excavations in Ireland is impressive.

    Best Regards,

    Benjamin Franckaert.

    • Tim says:

      Drust the Pict looks very authentic!

      I was interested to read your points about the Taifals and Alans and didn’t know the latter suffered heavy losses in the battle of 451. Also interested to learn that the idea of Alannic influences in Brittany is questionable. This kind of information reminds me that my knowledge of Breton history has many gaps – I really need to catch up. In fact, I have been meaning to do this for a while. One future project I have in mind is a comparison of how the Bretons and North Britons interacted with powerful neighbours and to what extent these dealings were beneficial.

      And now turning back to our cavalry discussion…..

      It is clear that the stability of saddles is an important aspect of the debate. The Comitatus website is very informative on this issue and leaves us in no doubt as to the effectiveness of Late Roman cavalry. I am however still a long way from being convinced that these reconstructions are automatically or easily transferrable to post-Roman Britain. My image of the Picts and Britons is that they used cavalry in a minimal way, for certain ‘light’ purposes. One such purpose is performed by members of the Comitatus group who describe it on their site as ‘riding down specially trained stunt legionaries with javelins’. I imagine Picts and Britons doing this (but not with stuntmen!). I also imagine them hurling spears into enemy ranks from horseback, to intimidate and disrupt their foes as much as to inflict casualties, but I still don’t see this as a big part of their tactics. I find it hard to visualise full-scale cavalry charges against infantry, by warriors using kontos-type lances or overarm thrusting-spears, anywhere in 5th-7th century Britain. Probably what I’m envisaging are tactics based around riders harassing the enemy, killing a few here and chasing a few there, rather than actually engaging in mounted combat in a mass-melee situation.

      But, like I always say, I’m happy to change my views if I’ve missed something important.

      Another point about cavalry is in my reply to Mak’s comment below.

      The book by Nancy Edwards is an ideal companion to the one by O’Croinin. You’re right about the Irish textual and archaeological data – it’s all fascinating, but almost too much for one person to absorb in a single lifetime.

  8. badonicus says:

    A very interesting debate gentlemen.

    I’m a little surprised, Tim. that you don’t think the northern Britons used cavalry much considering what we read in ‘Y Gododdin’ … although I realise the battle discussed is much later. (Of course, we get the reverse problem here with people thinking that it must only have been cavalry!).

    Cavalry, like tanks, are only effective under certain circumstance and topographical conditions. As you know, they wouldn’t be used like the later medieval cavalry but more as moving weapons platform for throwing javelins from, or for charging down retreating or running enemy. (I often wonder if the ‘Celtiberian circle’ was used in Britain, where the rider would not only hurl his javelin whilst galloping along the line of a shieldwall, but would throw them whilst his horse galloped away by turning in the saddle?).

    Being able to have mounted men must also have depended on the terrain in which they lived and the warband’s ‘wealth’ as to whether they could have horses and keep them fed. So I’m sure there would be warbands who could have (or get together) large cavalry units and those that couldn’t. There would also be the added problem if a battle led to a great many mounts being killed; and one would think they made an easier target than the man on top of it. If they didn’t have a large surplus of horses, what would they do?

    We also get the same argument been made about the Anglo-Saxons, that they didn’t use cavalry, when there is enough evidence to show that they did.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks for your comments, Mak. Having looked at Benjamin’s views, and now yours, I definitely think it’s worth reviving the old Pictish cavalry debate as a separate topic. A blogpost is now in the pipeline. Not sure when it will appear, but hopefully in the not-too-distant future (i.e. as soon as I’ve located and re-read the old articles and located new ones). Of course, if someone wants to get there first with a post on their own website, then we’ll pick up the discussion there.

      Turning to your specific points…..

      I’m cautious about using Y Gododdin as a guide to 6th/7th century military history. In fact, I’m pretty cautious about using it for any type of history before c.800. By then, the stirrup had reached Western Europe from its origin-centre on the borders of China (or wherever) so we’re probably looking at a slightly altered set of circumstances anyway.

      On the other hand, we can’t entirely ignore the Gododdin. Whoever created it was evidently keen to say something about the Britons of Lothian in the period 550-650. Some parts are probably relevant to this discussion about cavalry. But which parts, and can we accept them as ‘history’?

      The points you make in your third paragraph touch on what I regard as an important aspect of the debate. Sculpture and literature tell us that horses were regarded as symbols of wealth and status among the Picts and Britons. These animals were prized possessions. Breeding, feeding and training them were costly activities in terms of time and resources. Unless horses were easy to obtain, and unless replacements were available in considerable numbers, why risk such valuable assets by riding them headlong into a unit of spearmen? As you say yourself: ‘If they didn’t have a large surplus of horses, what would they do?’

      Maybe some areas were able to maintain such a surplus. Wealthy households may have had enough stabling capacity and enough pasture to keep spare steeds for the lord, his sons and a few retainers. I would, however, be surprised if extra horses were bred or purchased, and then kept at considerable expense, for the primary (or even secondary) purpose of replacing those that died in battle. I wonder instead if spare mounts were kept primarily for non-military use, such as recreational riding by other (especially female) members of the lord’s family. Here I’m moving into what is for me uncharted territory, into the kind of equestrian subjects covered by Nerys Ann Jones (Celtic) and Sarah Larratt Keefer (Anglo-Saxon).

      I may not have much more to add until I go back to stuff I haven’t looked at in 10+ years. But I’ll pitch in with comments in the meantime, if you and Benjamin (and maybe others) want to continue bouncing ideas around. It’s a good topic to discuss, and one with a nice bit of controversy behind it.

  9. About Brittany; an excellent and quite up-to-date book is available in english translation. “The British Settlement Of Brittany: The First Bretons In Armorica” was written by Bernard Merdrignac (historian and hagiography specialist), Philippe Guigon (Archaeologist) and the late Pierre-Roland Giot (anthropologist and archaeologist). Early Brittany is a fascinating topic, much complicated. The settlement originated under roman rule and was at that time (4-5th century) concerning the whole northern Gaul, before concentrating on western Armorica in the 6-7th century, this time in collaboration (or conflicts) with the frankish merovingian power.

    Back to cavalry. I just imagine early medieval british cavalry acting just like the Bretons did in the 9th century. Those had likely saddles and stirrups, yet I think this kind of warfare was in their tradition before the introduction of the stirrups in the west, in the 8th century. No charge with thrusting spears in the deep of an infantry mass. Such would be suicidal.
    We got numerous exemples of effective “light” (not engaging in melee) cavalry in ancient and medieval times:
    - the Maurs, riding bareback and used as auxiliaries by the Romans, famed to root infantry forces throwing javelins
    - the Germanic cavalry employed by Cesar in the Gallic Wars, those had certainly no saddles
    - the medieval irish hobelars, no stirrups and maybe even no saddles, one good exemple is MacMurrough ambushing the English

    About the Gododdin, as the point was raised by Mak. I read on a forum discussion (about 7th century cavalry in Britain!) that there is no clear mention of actual fight on horseback in the poem. I don’t know to what extense this is true.

    A really good discussion anyway. I’ll be off to Cornwall and Devon from tomorrow for one week, so may not add more in the meanwhile.

    • badonicus says:

      Hi Benjamin & Tim. I’m a little busy at present to join in the debate, but I am slowly working on something, which I’ll post when it’s ready.

      • Tim says:

        Sounds interesting, Mak. If you’re thinking of posting it on your blog, we could continue the discussion over there when Benjamin gets back. If not, I’ll open a new post here (after I’ve located the old articles).

  10. badonicus says:

    The reply wouldn’t be that long Tim, and probably not that interesting, so I’ll post it here or on your new post if you prefer.

    • badonicus says:

      Sorry it’s taken me so long to post this, but I’ve been very busy with the day job. Really enjoyed the book Tim. Well written and thought provoking.

      I think there are several things to consider with regards to cavalry. The first is just how much the Romans influenced the northern Britons and how long that influence (and technology) may have lasted. If the Romans did put commanders in charge of the inter-wall tribes after the Barbarian Conspiracy they may indeed have been influenced by them and that influence could have been past down. The Roman cavalry were very effective and they didn’t have stirrups. So if the technology was past down from generation to generation it could have survived. This could also depend on which ‘Roman’ units got left behind after the ‘withdrawal’ and if they stayed put in the Wall region.

      The other thing that should point to how the mounted warriors may have been utilised is sword length. Using a sword from horseback requires a longer sword. Long swords have been found, but they could just belong to very tall warriors, but they could also show their use in cavalry.

      Another observation with regards to the Picts is the use of the small square or round bucklers. Whilst they would have spears to protects them, it’s hard to imagine them being able to form an effective front line shieldwall against incoming missiles. The mounted warriors, on the other hand, appear to have larger shields and it could be argued that it was they who dismounted and formed a shieldwall, with the others as light infantry, hurling javelins from behind, or in front of the shieldwall in the softening up process or during charges.

      I think there’s also a definition problem as ‘cavalry’ conjures up an images of medieval knights charging head long into either another cavalry or infantry. I think Early Medieval cavalry, or mounted warriors, would be effective in other ways. Firstly is their use as high speed javelin platforms. The fact that that they could launch a javelin whilst traveling at 20 to 30 mph must have made their missiles that little bit more effective with the added kinetic energy. Secondly, there would be there use against the opposition’s cavalry. Unless there was an etiquette about who did what when, there must have been instances when they galloped forth at the same time. Their other use would be to charge down fleeing infantry.

      All these various uses must have made them effective in their own way, but, perhaps, maybe not how we might first imagine.

      • Tim says:

        I’m very pleased to hear you enjoyed the revised edition of the Picts book, Mak.
        Regarding your latest comments about cavalry…

        On the possibility of Roman influence on the military organisation of the North Britons, we can only shoot a few wild guesses. The excellent painting by Angus McBride in the Osprey book Arthur & the Anglo-Saxon Wars shows two 6th century North British cavalrymen who look distinctly ‘Roman’. One carries a draco, a Late Roman cavalry standard (a dragon-shaped windsock) but it’s just a guess that such things were used by the Britons. Some people think the red dragon of Wales originated as a draco but I’m not sure if the idea has serious support. If it’s true, it would seem to support the theory of direct Roman influence.

        I’m sceptical about such influence, because I don’t see the corresponding evidence for Roman units or command-structures surviving much after c.400. On the other hand, I cautiously run with the idea of native foederati being tasked by Rome with a defensive role beyond Hadrian’s Wall pre-367. In an earlier comment I mentioned Bernard Bachrach who has written extensively on continuity of Roman military units in Frankish Gaul, where some regiments apparently lingered to c.500. His research is very useful for Breton military history but doesn’t turn up meaningful analogies for northern Britain. The evidence from Hadrian’s Wall, for example, suggests that discontinuity and abandonment were the norm. We can’t even use Birdoswald as an exception: the 5th century occupants may have had no connection with the last Roman garrison. So I remain sceptical about direct Roman military influences on the North Britons.

        Interesting points about sword-lengths and shield-sizes. The image of Pictish horsemen dismounting to form a shieldwall fits neatly with my ideas about cavalry, as do the images of spear-throwing from the saddle and pursuing routed enemy foot-soldiers. I still need to write up a proper blogpost on all of this…

  11. Tim says:

    Feel free to post it in this thread, Mak, if it’s ready before I get the new post sorted.

  12. badonicus says:

    Finally got my copy of the book Tim! Looking forward to reading it.

  13. badonicus says:

    Hi Tim. Of course, you’re right about the evidence, or lack of, for the Roman influence on Northern Britons beyond the Wall. The only influence I was really referring to was the technology – saddles etc – not so much command-structures.

    That old draco question goes on and on, doesn’t it. There’s a slight possibility it became the emblem of Wales. But why Wales? There were far more cavalry units and influence in the north. It’s possible, but I think it’s far more likely to be from the Dinas Emrys story from Geoffrey of Monmouth.

    Look forward to your “proper blog” on this.

    • Dave Mowers says:

      The “old Draco” question being a Great Red Dragon? The “dragon” is a war standard representing the animal totems of multiple nations combined for the sole purpose of war. Some might say that civilization exists solely because of war that it began as a response to it and that has a Biblical connection in the stories of Nimrod. The war dragon of Sumer-Babylon is the caduceus. What’s missing is an historical representation of a “dragon-like” constellation as Draco is but only a tail.

  14. Ray Stirton says:

    Hi Tim, just a wee Q..I live in Perth, and was wondering, is the Fortriu the tribe which would have been around these parts, and possibly on Moncrieff hill fort?
    regards again
    Ray

    • Tim says:

      That was certainly the prevailing opinion until 5 years ago, Ray. Pretty much everyone assumed Strathearn and other parts of southern Perthshire corresponded to the old Pictish kingdom of Fortriu, the homeland of the Verturiones of ancient times. Then, in a groundbreaking article published in 2006, Alex Woolf of St Andrews University argued that Fortriu and the Verturiones should be re-located to Moray. This idea has since found widespread acceptance and has become the new orthodoxy. Not everyone was convinced at first, and some still hold to the old Fortriu=Strathearn belief. I myself was among the latecomers, not really getting both feet on the new bus until about 3 years ago.

      Strathearn is now seen as a territory of the ‘Southern Picts’. Moncrieffe Hill was one of their forts but may have been long abandoned when a battle between rival Pictish factions was fought there in 728.

      In a blogpost last year I traced the history of the Fortriu debate and also my reasons for converting to the Moray theory. Here’s a direct link to it.

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