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CELTIC-L  April 1998

CELTIC-L April 1998

Subject:

Re: Picts identifed!

From:

"d. w. fortin" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

CELTIC-L - The Celtic Culture List.

Date:

Wed, 22 Apr 1998 18:15:33 PDT

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (210 lines)

Hi Paul,

Only one post today, since I've got some stuff to do, but this is too
good to pass up.

 Tear me down
>if you will, but here it is:

 OK

>
>The Picts are historically defined the people living north of the
>Forth from around 300AD (when they are first mentioned by that name
>by the Romans)

Now this is intriguing right off the bat.  Tacitus, writing in the 1st C
AD, followed Agricola, who went all over the place in Scotland and never
mentions a people with attributes which we usually associate with the
Picts.  It looks like his flet got as far north as Loch Broom.  His main
army, at least crossed the  Clyde-Forth line.

Looking at good old Lewis and Short (dictionary of Medieval Latin) the
references for the word Picti (-orum) come from the following sources:

Ammianus Marcelinus, _historia_. 20,1,1 (400 AD)
Claudius Claudianus, III _De Conulatu Honorii_ 54 (ca 400 AD)
Claudius Claudianus  III _De Laudibus Stilichonis_ 2,254

Any ideas why you don't have Picti in Tacitus--could it be that his
Caledonii were Picts, but weren't called Picti at the time?

>a) the Picts were simply descendants of the Caledonian Britons who
>remained outside Roman Britain, and were there before 300AD

See above.  Most Favored Guess.

>
>b) the Picts were non-Celtic aboriginals, or partly that at least

Maybe.  There's some good work being done/has been done along these
lines.

>
>c) the Picts were a "new" people from elsewhere who displaced or
>conquered the Caledonians...
>1) from Scythia

Definitely not.  The Scythians were too far away, had a different way of
life and had too many good lands to settle in before they would have had
to jump in a boat and sail for North Britain.  If you got this from Bede,
he may have confused "Scandia" with "Scythia".

>2) from Scandinavia

Better possibility.  However, I don't think the archeological evidence
supports this.  You'd need some continuity between finds in Scandinavia
and finds in Sctoland to support this, and I don't think this exists.

>3) from Ireland

Even better possiblity for obvious reasons.

>4) from Gaul

Could be, but then you'd need the same for Scandinavia above, and there
would have had to have been some kind of funky movements going on to get
from Gaul to Caledonia.
>
>What do we actually know?
>
Not a lot.

>Firstly, the Picts were definitely Celts. Thier language was studied
>in depth by Kenneth Jackson back in the 50's and he concluded it was
>Celtic, Brythonic (not Gaelic!), with elements found in Gaulish but
>not in British. He also added there may have been a few bits of
>pre-Celtic non-Indoeuropean in it, but this was tentative.

Right, but as usual, no one's really gone back in depth over Jackson's
corpus.  He was one of the greats of the 20th C, but like all
scholarship, another few thorough goings over is needed before we can
fully accept some of the things he had to say.

 There is
>no evidence that the Picts spoke "two languages" or were remnants of
>the pre-Celtic aboriginal of Britain, as is sometimes claimed.

Right, but in a pre-historic (pre-written record) period, what a people
happened to speak (especially if they were outside the ambit of the
peoples who had developed written languages) at any given time is going
to be conjecture--especially if there's not even any inscriptions.  What
is then done is a form of philological guess-work, which may or may not
lead one down the right path, for history has proven not to be a happy
mistress to linguistic structural paradigms.
>
>Currently, the overwhelming academic belief is that the Picts were
>simply the Caledonians of old. I blow my nose at this cowardly resort
>to Occams razor!!!
>

Anyone have a Kleenax?

>I do not think the Picts were Britons. Bede talks unequivocly as
>Pictish being a distinct tongue from British, Gaelic, or Anglo-Saxon,
>and St Columba, who could converse with the Britons of Strathclyde
>fine, neaded a translator to talk to the Picts (this is where I think
>the "Gaulish" elements are important).

And this is a very good point.  Bede would have known, but try to focus
on his references to his present time--remember, as good anhistorian as
he was and as invaluable a source for the period, he _was_ writing in
731--a goodly amount of years beyond some of the events you mention.

 Also, the Pictish king lists
>and both Irish and British mythology are of the opinion the Picts
>came from across the sea seeking a new home, supposedly from
>"Scythia".

See above.  Also, read Herodotus' lengthy descriptions of the Scythians,
and you'll see that the whole thing is a joke.
>
>This leads me to opinion 3), that the Picts were really a new
>migrating people, like the Anglo-Saxons (this was a popular theory
>many decades ago, and while it's unfashionable now, I can't help but
>reach that conclusion). So, who were they?
>
So you reach this conclusion based solely on the linguistic evidence from
above?  Hmmmmmmm.  If you're saying that solely based on KJ's
interpretation of a language which we haven't really figured out yet, and
which there is little evidence of other than some inscriptions and Bede,
you're on thin ice.  But then again, any conjecture regarding the Picts
is going to be thin by nature.

>The clue is, I think, in the fact that even at the time of the Roman
>invasion the Caledonian Britons were not the only culture in
>Scotland. There were also the people who built the Brochs. Why the
>Broch-builders were distinct from the average hill-fort dwelling
>Caledonians is a topic in itself, but just to make a few quick
>points:

>a) At the time of the Roman invasion the Orkneys sent envoys to Rome
>submitting to Roman rule and seeking their protection. The Orkneys
>is a center of the Broch culture.

For Roman knowledge of the Orkneys, see Pliny, Natural History, IV, 103
Mela, III, 6.54
Eutropius VII, 13.2-3
Juvenal, II. 160-1.

Also, Agricola's fleet actually sailed there (see Agricolae 10).

>b) The Brochs around the Forth were not built until AFTER Agricola's
>invasion of Scotland, obviously at Roman invitation

Ah!  You answer a key issue!

>c) The only place the Picts are refered to living south of the Forth
>of is in Galloway. There also happen to be Brochs in Galloway.
>
>So I think the Broch-dwellers were the ones who took over the
>shattered lands of the Caledonains and became known as the Picts.

>Where did they come from? Well, we can discount Scandinavia as we
>know they were Celtic. We can discount Scythia, as several Celtic
>cultures shared that myth remembering thier dustanct origins. We can
>discount Northern Ireland, which is based on a complicated
>linguistic arguement over the word "Cruithne", which came to be used
>for "Pict", but on closer inspection turns out to be a complete
>furphy.

But from you're comments on the Brochs, why don't you instead go for the
broch-people of the Orkneys coming south?  This might even make some
linguistic sense, since then you could have a developement of a Celtic
language in a fairly isolated place, and work in the brochs?  Toss in
some possible Scandinavian or native elements and ta-daa!  Picts.

 I go for Gaul, and in particular a sea-going tribe from the
>Biscay peninsula called (wait for it) the Pictones! Again there a
>complicated linguistic arguements backing this up, but note that
>a) It explains the "Gaulish not British" elements in Pictish

Which is another example of a linguistic reach--there's not a whole lot
of gaulish to compare anything to, especially Brythonnic.

>b) The non-Celtic elements, if you believe in them, could be a few
>Basque words

Or perhaps the native non-IE languages which were pre-Celtic, (like the
Basques)?

>c) There are broch-like dwellings in the lands of the Pictones!

Now, are they brochs or broch-like?  What makes a broch a broch, and how
are brochs different from broch-like structures?

>
>So there you have it. I'll go away now and wait for the barrage of
>contrary opinoins!!

Me?  Contrary?  Never!

Valete,

Dave

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