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THE HISTORY OF SCOTLAND, BOOK I
HE Scots, desiring to show the antiquity of their race, just as other peoples do, claim to be descendants of the Greeks and the Egyptians. For (as it has been recorded by those who have written of Scottish antiquities) a certain Greek named Gathelus, the son of Cecrops, the founder of Athens, or, as others would have it, of Neolus of Argos, the fourth king of the Argive, having often been seized while wantonly plundering his way though Macedon and Achaia and unable to tolerate his elders’ severity, recruited a stout band of young men who likewise could not bear the authority of those who would rebuke them for similar malfeasances, fled his homeland, and came to Egypt. At that time Pharaoh, that scourge of the Israelites, was king of Egypt, and his son, who imitated and encouraged his father’s crime, afterwards perished in the Red Sea together with a great army, a victim of divine retribution. This Pharaoh gladly received the newcomer, and found Gathelus’ arrival all the more welcome because he appeared to be bringing help against the Ethiopians, who at the time had invaded Egypt with a disruptive war, having ravaged fields and depopulated towns as far as Memphis (the capital of Egypt in those days), and Pharaoh would have witnessed the wretched ruination of his nation, had not Moses’ industry altered the condition of Egypt’s affairs (for, as Josephus tells us, thanks to a divine oracle he had been appointed commander of Pharaoh’s armies). For, with the assistance of Gathelus, with only a moderate fight he put an end to this long-standing and difficult war against the Ethiopians, to the point that he stormed and captured their palace on the island of Meroe. After the happy ending of this war, Gathelus returned to Egypt, and because he was very strong of body and powerful of mind, he gained the favor, first of the gentlemen of the court, and then of the king. But this very fine victory gained Moses more disparagement than glory among the Egyptians, who loathed the entire race of the Israelites. For, coming home, he was the target of various accusations, and when he perceived that deadly plans were being made against himself, he sought safety in flight. Thanks to his excellent accomplishments, Gathelus was placed in charge of all the king’s forces by unanimous consent, and not much later, because he was seen by all men to be excellent for his moral uprightness, endowed with very great prudence of wit, and born of royal blood, Pharaoh joined his daughter (whose name was Scota) to him in marriage. Then Egyptian Thebes, taken away from the Israelites, was bestowed on Gathelus. Meanwhile the Greeks rejoiced to themselves as they observed their commander, hoping they would become so influential with the king that someday they would gain power over Egypt.
2. Some years thereafter, when Pharaoh had died at Amenophis, his son Bochoris ruled, having been bequeathed the kingship by his father. He oppressed the children of Israel with the yoke of servitude far more cruelly than had his father. They had no hope of liberty until Moses returned to Egypt from the land of the Troglodytes, where he had been in exile, and confronted the king with God’s commandment that the Hebrew race should be freed from their shameful slavery. Then Egypt was smitten by unheard-of plagues, because the king and his counselors had mocked Moses’ words and God’s commandment. The Egyptians quaked with fear and, as was that nation’s custom when confronted with manifest danger, resorted to divine fortune-telling. The oracle’s response was that Egypt was destined to suffer far more bitter plagues. Both the present evils and this divine response frightened Gathelus, and the was seized with the desire for abandoning Egypt, seeking a new home, and risking extreme perils, rather than awaiting God’s manifest vengeance. Not much later, having made all the preparations necessary for a sea-voyage, he took his wife, his children, and a mass of followers indiscriminately composed of Greeks and Egyptians who dreaded the coming plague, and set sail from the mouths of the Nile, in the year of Creation 3643.
3. After much wandering about the Mediterranean, he put in at Numidia. Forbidden entrance by the natives, he crossed over to that part of Iberia that would long thereafter be known as Lusitania. There are those that have said that Gathela called this the Port of Gathelus, so that in later years, thanks to a slight verbal corruption, Lusitania has regained its ancient name of Portugal. But who can affirm such a thing, when it happened so long ago? When he had landed, since he had been beset by his voyage over a long tract of the sea and its inevitable dangers, nothing necessary to support human life remained for him, so he sent his followers through the land to renew their supply of cattle and grain, to the great consternation of the locals. Those who owned the land came out with weapons to defend themselves against the violence of their ravagers, confronted them as they roamed about, and joined battle. The newcomers prevailed in that struggle, which gave them new courage and filled them with hope that they could put an end to their wanderings by finding a fixed home, and that the Iberians (now the Spanish) might consent to a pledge of future friendship, enter into a pact with themselves, and grant them a place for the foundation of a city. And not long thereafter a town began to be built on the bank of the river Minho, once called Brachara, and now Bracha. The natives repented what they had done, fearing that these refugees from some foreign place, men of a foreign nation, where growing too strong in their midst, and, if their strength were to be enhanced by the addition of nearby peoples, they might wage war. An armed band of young men was first sent to interfere with the building of the city, with the understanding that their remaining multitude would quickly follow. Gathelus, well aware that an impending battle could not long be delayed, drew up his forces and marched out to join battle. He urged his men to fight bravely for life and glory: they should have a sure confidence in victory, because they were going to fight against men they had already defeated, and against rustics wholly ignorant of martial discipline.
4. The leaders of the natives marveled at the courage of the newcomers, because they were marching out with great eagerness to fight a battle in an unknown land, and feared lest, defeated in this battle and compelled to surrender, they might procure themselves perpetual slavery. And so they they summoned Gathelus to a parlay, and showed him a land on the northern cost of Iberia (nowadays people call it Galicia), on the coast of the Cantabrian Sea, which was sparsely settled: they had received an ancient oracle that someday a foreign race would hold sway there. They urged that he go there in peace to gain that territory, and pledged their support, should anybody wage war against him in the future. Therefore Gathelus consented, saying the accepted their offer. Next, having performed the customary rites to his gods, he took all his forces and set out for Cantabria. Then, having made a public league with the locals, he founded a city called Brigantia, then Novium, and finally Compostella. There, having gained the title of king, he gave common laws to his people, so that he might defend his city at once with walls and with laws. And so that his entire nation would not only live under a single set of laws, but also share a single name, he called them Scots, naming them after his wife. Then they increased and wonderfully coalesced into a unified people.
5. Gathelus had two sons by his wife Scota, Hiber and Hemecus. And the Iberians, unhappy about the growth of this new people and of them opinion that it was unsafe for these newcomers’ Scottish affairs to flourish, attacked Gathelus soon thereafter, with the intention of wholly abolishing this newly-arrived nation. At the beginning of this war Gathelus led out his forces in battle array. For a while the fight hung in the balance, but finally the victory went to the Scots, although neither side came away from the battle happy, since both had lost stout captains. Nevertheless the newcomers proved the victors, and, out of necessity, both parties entered into a peace. Its conditions that, from that day forward, both sides would make an end to waging war against the others. Just like the Iberians, the Scots would live according to their own laws and possess the same land they did before the war, refraining from invading anything else. Hence it came about (although some years thereafter) that groups of men were sent out, one after another, to colonize Ireland. With peace obtaining between these people, Gathelus sat on a marble stone at Brigantia, where he had constructed the Scottish palace, and pronounced laws for his people. This stone was like a chair of destiny, in that, wherever it was found, it symbolized a realm for the Scots. Hence it came about that, when they had been borne from Iberia to Ireland, and from Ireland to that part of Albion now called Scotland, the Kings of Scots were crowned while sitting on that marble stone, down to the time of Robert I. As the thing itself shows, long centuries thereafter this was inscribed on the stone:
The Scots shall brook that realm as native ground,
If weirds fail not, wheree’r this chair is found.
6. But let me return whence I digressed. Even though Gathelus was well aware that the territory of Brigantia could not support a large population, he was minded to protect the boundaries of his realm rather than to expand them, fearing lest he be accused of breaking the treaty. At the advice of his prudent counselors, he sent out certain men to discover if there was, perhaps, any place in the ocean fit for leading out his people. There was a persistent rumor that an island lay to the south of Spain, peopled by some rustic lacking in civilization and laws, but sparsely inhabited. When Gathelus was informed of this by his scouts, he commanded that all his ships should gather in the bay adjoining Brigantia. When Hemecus with a portion of the nation, together with soldiers and sailors, had boarded ship, Gathelus placed Hiber in command of this fleet, bidding him seek out the island, now called Ireland. And so, when the signal to set sail had been given, they sailed out of the harbor, and the ships, borne by a favorable wind, came to land on the fifth day after they had set sail, at the bay of Dandalum, where they set all their forces ashore and encamped on the hills nearby. The rustics who inhabited the ireland were panic-stricken at their first coming and, driving their cattle before them, hid themselves in their caves. Then men sent to discover what mortals dwelt in the island and find out the manners of their life, came across the throngs of fugitives. Quickly those rustics joined a confused battle with the scouts, and some of these were killed, and others taken captive and brought to the camp. And when Hiber discovered by nods and signs (for they shared no common language) that for food this race employed milk, plants, and whatever nature freely supplied, commanded that it be left untroubled, as long as it remained in its subdued condition.
7. And so, as he continued to explore the island, its inhabitants, having now experienced his mercy, came a-flocking and surrendered themselves together with their fortunes. Nor was Hiber any the less kind in receiving them, wishing the two peoples to grow together into one, sharing the same laws and name, so he placed his brother Hemecus over them and bade them obey him. And so, these things happily accomplished and sacred rites performed according to their national customs, he left behind Hemecus with the greater part of their people, with their wives and children and a strong guard, and crossed over to Iberia, where at first arrival he learned that Gathelus had died and that the people had commanded that Hiber be king. Far more warlike thank his father, he extended the borders of his realm and included neighboring cities when they had been taken by storm. He always kept his young men under arms, relying on them to fend off sudden enemy incursions into his territory when the need arose. He quickly became so powerful in land that he was was both considered to be and was a source of fear to nearby peoples, and gained himself a great name in those parts, so that necessity inclined their minds towards peace. Thus a treaty was made, and Scottish power in Iberia grew to the point that both peoples merged into one, but only after the passage of some time. Afterwards there was no distinction between those peoples. They intermarried and mingled their blood and ancestry, and such good-will and kindness grew up between them that they forgot their ancient wrongs and each man, at home and in the field, protected his neighbor from his enemy, just as if he were a brother or a father. From them descended a long line of kings of the Iberians, among whom the most renowned were Metellius, Hermoneus, Ptolemy, Hibert, and Simon Brechus, whom I shall mention in the sequel when my subject so requires.
8. While these things were a-doing in Spain, Hemecus, the governor of the island I have just mentioned, mindful that the position he occupied was gained by the kindness of his brother, named the island Ireland in his honor. Two peoples dwelt on the island, the Scots and the rustics, I mean those discovered there by Hiber, whom certain men call the Aboriginal Irish and claim to have been descended from giants of immense size. But let readers look to those authors for their evidence. Hemecus governed both peoples with wonderful ability. He administered the law with an eye fixed on the times and conditions, because he regarded nothing as more conducive to joining diverse peoples into one, and yet this was something he could not achieve. For after his death they quarreled. The Scots wanted a leader to be chosen out of their number, but the Aborigines scorned such a one as a fugitive and a foreigner, and wanted the leader of both peoples to be elected from their own number. A savage war then ensued, not to be finished (as it was thought) without the destruction of of one of the two peoples, such was the extent to which greed for power gripped the minds of them both. The onset of this war was bloody, but when the power of both peoples were shattered, they were obliged to enter into a peace. With the passage of time, when their strength had grown anew, each pursued the other with war, and each inflicted great slaughter on each other.
9. At length the Scots sent ambassadors to Metellius in Spain (he was then ruling the Iberian Scots), conveying their complaints to the king and begging for his help in their present war against the Aborgines. They stated that that was a fierce race, very intolerant of foreign rule since it suffered no equals or superior, and that the Scots could never have a peaceful home in Ireland if they were not destroyed. If he did not quickly intervene, it would come about that they all would suffer the worst of outcomes and the ruination of their affairs. Therefore Metellius, thinking that this was a matter that touched on Iberian glory no less than the Scots’ safety, if he were to free a kindred race from such savage enemies nearby, sent three of his sons, Hermoneus, Ptolemy and Hibert, together with a choice band of soldiers, to Ireland where, not without a savage battle, the Aborigines were destroyed and Scottish affairs were put on a peaceful basis. Ptolemy and Hibert remained behind to govern the people and colonize new lands, while their elder brother Hermoneus returned to Iberia.
10. For many years thereafter the people enjoyed great success, with the supreme power given to whoever the people elected. Cities and fortified places were founded. Decrees and laws, insofar as that age of the world permitted, were promulgated for shaping the people’s manners, public and private rites were ordained, and priests were created for performing sacrifices and burning incense, according to the ancient custom of the Egyptians. So the people grew in wealth and power. But such are human affairs that prosperity often corrupts men’s minds, and if they possess no enemy abroad, at home they rage against each other more cruelly than any beast. For at this time two factions arose. They contended for power, and the thing was not far distant from coming to blows when Thanaus, easily the chief man of the nation of Brigantia next to the king, who had come from Spain a little earlier as an ambassador to congratulate this kindred race on their happiness, and was a man of great authority among them, having no malice in his heart towards either side, summoned a convention and exhorted them that henceforth they should avoid their usual squabbles at public meetings and the killings that occasionally ensued. They should appoint a king, and supreme power should reside in him and his heirs; they should submit to his will; the title of kings was venerable, kingship was a fair thing, and there was nothing better in human life than the government of the single man who was best. At this words the people’s minds were so gripped with the desire to have a king that, their contentions ended, they bade Thanaus to chose one as he wished: whoever he appointed would rule.
11. So he said, “I am aware that neither faction will welcome a king selected from its rival. In noble Spain there is a man outstanding for justice and noble with his royal blood, Simon Brechus. He is familiar with your law and customs, and he shares a common origin with you. He is an undoubted son of Metellius, whose sons set your affairs in a better state when they were tottering, by killing your enemies. In these homes are settled, as a great part of yourselves, the race of Metellius, brought here with their forces as to a colony. I believe it would scarcely be amiss to summon this man, who in all men’s view is most fit to occupy public office, from a kindred people, becaus, thanks to your grudges (some open, others hidden), it scarcely behooves you to select one of yourselves as king.” When they heard Simon’s name (for he was very well-known to that nation), they unanimously declared him king by acclamation. The greatest cheering ensued after that happy and blessed day of their parlay. Ambassadors were immediately sent to Iberia to indicate that the kingship of Ireland had been granted to Simon by the votes of one and all. When Simon heard this, he thanked the people in the person of their ambassadors. He then outfitted a fleet, and, having enjoyed a fair voyage, he arrived in Ireland, where he was received with great affection and honor by the people. Sitting on the marble Stone of Destiny, which he had brought with him from Iberia as if as a token that he was was founding a realm, he was hailed as king by all men with whatever pomp that age of the world could manage. He was the first of all men to be king over the Scots in Ireland, and the year of his reign’s beginning was 4504 after the Creation, 2262 after the Flood, 60 years after the foundation of the city of Rome, 472 after Brutus assumed the title of king in Rome, and 695 years before the incarnation of Christ.
12. This Simon Brechus occupied the supreme position with wonderful prosperity, particularly thanks to the good offices and guidance of the abovementioned Thanaus. That man’s modesty and goodwill, and his prudence, known to all men, quickly made him a close friend of King Simon, so that he was a father to the king in his counsels both public and private, and always played a prime role in managing the most difficult matters. And this Thanaus was granted land by the king, and an estate on the south coast of Ireland, between the Sacred Promontory and the river Barrow (now called Dowdale by its inhabitants), where he settled with his family, which followed him from Iberia. And he gave his posterity the name of Brigantia, taken from the Brigantes of the Iberian city where they had their origin. Some ages later the progeny of this family, men most noble for their warlike virtue, crossed over into Albion with Fergus I, king of the Scots in Albion, where they possessed the land of Brigantia, named after their race but nowadays called Galloway, not far from the Britons. As will be told in its proper place, they were always very hostile towards the Roman Britons. Claudius Ptolemy mentions them, as does Cornelius Tacitus, that learned writer of Roman history.
13. But I come back to Simon. His realm remained existed in security for forty years. Fendufus reigned next. He fathered Ethon, Ethon Glacus, Glacus Noitafilus, and Noitafilus Rothesaus. This last led some colonies to the Hebrides, for thus our writers of good authority say the islands westward of Albion were named after Hiber, and the island he first inhabited he called Rothesay after himself. But when his father died soon thereafter, he returned to Ireland and was created king by the votes of all. The year in which the Scots were first led from Ireland into Albion was the 133rd after the start of Simon’s reign, the 4617th after the beginning of the world. Henceforth Scotsmen frequently took their cattle (which passed for wealth in those days) and migrated to the Hebrides, since they found grassy places suitable for pasturage there. New colonists grew up, who, divided into clans according to their ancient national custom, inhabited various islands, and at length also the western parts of Albion, particularly those facing northwards. And, as is recorded in our annals, the place they first settled was called Argatheia after the father of their nation, the district that its inhabitants now call Argyll. So as not to live without government and laws, individual clans chose for themselves individual moderators (our age calls them captains), to whose will they submitted themselves in peace and war, willing to undergo all dangers under their leadership. And each clan’s chieftain was held in such reverence that those who forswore in his name, just like those who committed perjury in the name of the gods, were punished. Men placed in any kind of danger would invoke him as we do a saint, as if there were some divinity in him. This national institution endured for long centuries, and so they grew together for many years without any foreign war.
14. They say that not long thereafter a refugee people arrived at Ireland, coming from that part of greater Germany now called Denmark, but once named Hither Scythia, came seeking a home, who had been debarred from the shores of Gaul and Britain by their inhabitants. But at the urging of those who dwelt there, who never could suffer any dealings with a foreign nation, they went to Albion. Others say that they first came to the Orkneys and gained a home, and from there made the short crossing over to Cornana (modern Caithness), and thence penetrated into Ross, Moray, Merne, and Angus (although these districts had other names then). In the districts now called Fife and Lothian they drove off British shepherds and farmers , who had gained those regions in small numbers, and here they maintained their homes, as the remains of that ancient race in our own times go to show. The natives called these people the Picts, either because of the elegance of their bodies, or the varied color of their clothing, or else, more likely, they inherited the name from the Agathyrsian Picts, their ancestors. As evidence for what they say about the Orkneys being the Picts’ former realm, they add that the strait which separates the Orkneys from Caithness used to be called the Pictish Bosphorus. Some write that they are the remains of the Huns, who, driven out of Cimbria, came to Britain in search of a home; here they lost their King Humber in a battle waged by Locrinus and Camber, sons of that Brutus who founded the kingdom of the Britons, who afflicted this refugee race, so that they resorted to flight. I would approve this view, if only the chronology allowed. Others say that the Agathyrsi were a Sarmatian race, and called Picts because of their custom of tattooing their faces: once upon a time they left Agathyrsia and, after various wanderings about Sarmatia and Germany, at length they settled themselves in Hither Scythia, and after remaining there for long centuries they set sail and came to Albion in the manner I have already described. These people are mentioned by Vergil, Claudian, Mela, Eutropius, Paul the Deacon, and more recently by Vadianus and Sabellico. And Cornelius Tacitus agrees with them in his Life of Agricola, where he says that the Scots have a Spanish origin and the Picts a German one. But, no matter what that race may have been of wherever they first settled in Albion, it is sufficiently agreed that they were a people both civil and warlike, and that they had homes in Albion for a very long time. But this disagreement among the authorities, as is wont to happen about other things, is brought about by the antiquity of the evenst in question.
15. But let my pen return to the point whence it strayed. The year in which the Picts entered Albion was the year 4867 of Creation. As soon as they were brought here, they started to build fortifications, settle seaboard places, and, by the creation of a king, safeguard their population with laws. When they had been occupied in these and similar projects for a number of years, it occurred to them that, for want of women, their population appeared destined to endure for only a single generation, since they had neither any hope of children at home, nor any right of intermarriage with their neighbors. So they convened an assembly, and by decree of their elders sent ambassadors to the Scots, begging them to enter into kinship and alliance with the new people. The ambassadors were to add that they were newcomers who should not be disdained, since, even if they had survived the perils of sea and land and gained territories that were previously uninhabited and uncultivated, nevertheless they had high hopes (if only the gods so willed) that they would soon match their neighboring nations in industry and virtue, in both peace and war. So it would come to pass, if only the Scots would agree to their honorable requests, that both people would be strengthened by the accession of the other and could more easily ward off wars, if any should be waged against them, and, if the need arose, could wage war on their enemy with greater energy and power. At first the Scots have the ambassadors a grudging hearing, thinking it would be unworthy of them to permit intermarriage with a nation of runaways and homeless exiles. But at length they convened an assembly, since thus far Scottish affairs had not yet matured to the point that they could not yet match the Britons (for whom they had been an object of hatred since the outset), so that they were strong enough to ward off the assaults of their enemies. And so they readily reached this conclusion, that intermarriage with the Picts should be allowed, and that Scottish girls should be joined to them in marriage on these express conditions: that the two individual peoples would retain the individual territories they now inhabited, and should do so while remaining distinct in both name and actual fact; that they should join arms against enemy assaults for the sake of preserving their common liberty; that whoever declared war against either people would be regarded as an of both both; and when question should arise who the supreme ruler of the Picts should be, he should be chosen by matrilineal descent.
16. After these conditions had met the approval of both peoples, there immediately ensued a commingling of blood, as Scots maidens yielded themselves to Picts in marriage. The Britons regarded this affinity with suspicion. They feared that, if either people be joined to the other in kinghip and the two were to combine, they would achieve a greater increase in size than would be safe for themselves and their posterity. So they became gripped with a desire to eradicate both nations, and chose to achieve this thing by deceit: not immediately to wage war, but to provoke the Picts to commit sedition against the Scots, adopting the cunning strategy that, if either nation were to be destroyed in battle, the other would be weakened, and so could be easier oppressed by force. They put off the matter for three years, both so that their dissimulation might be hidden and so that the passage of time would offer even a specious excuse for a war. Meanwhile this alliance led to an abundance of childbearing and mutual good-will. The Picts devoted themselves to tilling their fields, and to the construction of fortifications and castles, for in these things they placed all hope for preserving and enhancing their commonwealth. The Scots exercised themselves in the arts of hunting and hawking, and pastured their flocks, for in these lay their wealth. They employed bow anf arrows, and wore light armor of iron or leather (commonly called jackets), and placed their hope of maintaining their freedom and protecting their realm in nothing other than battle in the field. The Britons sent ambassadors to the Picts to say that they were surprised that the Picts had preferred an alliance with the Scots to one with the Britons, so flourishing in wealth, and so endowed with martial glory, that by now they had filled not only the land, but also the sea, of Gaul and Germany with their reputation; they had an opulent realm, and their land was so well-endowed by nature with every manner of mineral and crop which could benefit their allies both in peace and in war. The Scots were an untamed nation with bestial manners, far removed from human intercourse and polite manners, trusting more in boldness than martial virtue; they inhabited mountains that were barren and all but unmanageable thanks to the harmful nature of their climate, and, being uncivilized, they took pleasure in the cruel murder of men and beasts.They should also add that there existed a prophecy that, if the Picts in Britain did not look better to their welfare, they were doomed to be destroyed to a man by Scottish treachery and cruelty. They should therefore invited them to ally themselves with the Britons, wage war against the Scots, and either expel them from Britain, or else (which would be far better) destroy them utterly, for, should the Scots be exterminated, they would gain a large home in Albion, freed from their enemies’ harm and from the necessity to fear them, and could live in peace. And the ambassadors should pledge that the Britons’ help would not be wanting, should they elect to wage war.
17. This embassy was given a friendly hearing by the Picts, since they feared the effects of the Scottish nation’s growth on their posterity. But that did not inspire them to wage war so much as the fact that divine oracles both ancient and recent predicting their success. They replied to the ambassadors that they had entered into an alliance with the Scots more out of necessity than good-will, and that they always had difficulty in tolerating Scottish manners and insolence. They preferred an alliance with the Britons to one with anyone else, nor did the gods’ oracular responses escape their notice. So at an opportune moment (should one arise), they would wage war, as the ambassadors were urging, but only if the Britons would consent to enter into an alliance with them on agreed-upon terms and supply them with the wherewithal to fight a war. When agreements had been made about what was to be done, the ambassadors were sent away. Not long thereafter, after the Picts had made a pact with the Britons, they made secret preparations for war. First, so as to hunt out a just excuse, they bade the Scots keep away from their fortifications and territory on pain of death, and henceforth killed any of them found there, on the grounds that they were in violation of the edict. Taking this insult amiss, the Scots immediately turned their thoughts to revenge. They killed no few Picts, nor did they cease from this killing until they had equaled the number of their own dead. Everything was immediately thrown into confusion and there was fearful slaughter on both sides. For without any regard to the occasion or the reason, if anybody on either side encountered a man of the other, he would be cruelly put to death. Soon the pretense of peace was dropped and the Picts declared war on the Scots. Frequent inroads were made by both nations. And, lest anything be done out of anger or lack of self-control, but rather that everything be managed with good counsel, the Picts secretly readied the things that would be of use to their soldiers in a war, and in many assemblies and frequent councils of their elders they considered the manner of waging this war: under which captains, employing what kind of generals, and whether to await an enemy attack or mount one of their own.
18. Simultaneously the Scots held a meeting, in which their clan chieftains expressed various opinions about the war. Some railed against Pictish treachery and urged an immediate assault on these violators of sacred treaties: the insult suffered by their nation was such that it brooked no delay. Others argued that war preparations should be made secretly, and that such a great business should be managed moderately and in good order. Then the up spoke the oldest. “I am aware, clansmen, that this mistreatment has so inflamed your minds that not a single day should be spared in gaining revenge, if our condition allowed. But affairs are not handled slothfully when they are done with counsel and deliberation. Anger without strength is a vain thing. The war that has arrived must be fought not just against the Picts, but also against the Britons, by whose urging and prompting (as we are well aware) this is being waged against us. As we know full well, the Picts are bound to receive help from them. We are not so large in numbers, and not possessed of strength and martial skill, that we can consider ourselves equal to both these nations when it comes to a war. Therefore it is proper for us to add counsel to our strength in fending off this harm. Let us fetch help from the Scots in Ireland, our original home, for its fighting. Next, because a multitude of captains often produces dissension, and none of these readily makes up his mind to defer to another, we shall enjoin that there be a single supreme commander, to whose authority and decision all things will be entrusted. We shall attack the enemy with our forces properly drawn up under his guidance, since we are about to fight against these treacherous folk for life, for liberty, for our wives and children, for our hearths and our homes, and thus (if the gods support us) will more easily gain the victory. For we are about to wage it against a nation which has received no harm at our hands, that we have received into kinship and enhanced by our kindnesses, a perfidious, forsworn, treaty-breaking nation. Nor can it be doubted that we shall obtain some help from a kindred nation from which we derive our origin, so that, assisted by this, we shall be equal to both those peoples, nor that, with the aid of the gods, we shall stoutly defend ourselves from a war unjustly waged by those who least of all should be doing it.” They all approved his recommendation.
19. Ambassadors were straightway sent over to Ireland, where in a public convention they expressed many complaints about Pictish perfidy and ill dealing, and easily obtained their requests from the king and the leading men of that kindred nation. Ferquhard, who was then ruling the Scots in Ireland, sent his son Fergus to Albion in order to defend the kindred Scots of Albion against this perilous war, together with his forces, all their property, their wives and children, and also the marble Stone of Destiny (so as to plant the hope of gaining kingship into his young mind). Fergus was a man in the flower of his youth, notable for his prudence and his skill at war. The Scots of Albion greeted the arrival of Fergus with his noble help with all the more joy, insofar as their affairs stood in peril. Next a parliament of their elders was held in Argathelia, where Fergus said, “You see, brave gentlemen, that the reinforcements fetched by your embassy from Ireland in order to ward off enemy violence from your territory, are now here. For we consider the Picts’ evildoing, of which your representatives complained in the presence of our king and elders, is committed against ourselves just as much as against you. Dutiful parents are so well-disposed toward their children by nature, that they consider whatever harm is done them to be a disgrace and insult to themselves. Therefore, since you are born from us and come here, yet have not yet forgotten your ancient origin, and have begged us for help and faith, we assuredly owe you that which fathers owe their sons: thus you must play the part of the children, and we that of the fathers, and let any harm worked against either people be regarded as committed against the other, since we are still conjoined, not just by the blood of our bodies, but the good-will of our minds. Let us always be conjoined in arms for the protection of our common safety. As you see, we have come here, the choicestt forces of the Irelandn Scots, to procure glory ourselves and honor and liberty for you, still a weak and growing people. But for a successful conclusion of this war we have chosen to undertake (and who does not know this?), what is particularly necessary for you is a form of supreme government, without which no method of lawgiving, no means of waging war, can be safe for any nation. Therefore you must decide whether you think it best to be ruled by a single man’s counsel and introduce the title of king, or whether you wish supreme command to be entrusted to certain of your best men, or else be governed by the will of them iltitude. Whatever form of government you chose, whether or public or private, I shall accept, having my eye fixed on the public weal and the safety of every individual man, since, thanks to the gods’ good-will and guideance, we have sailed here to fight this war with good success. As long as my powers do not fail me, I myself shall stay in the field with these forces you see. It will be your responsibility to decide what is best for your commonwealth regarding this business, and ours to obey your commands.”
20. After hearing Fergus say these things, or things like these, they scorned to grant supreme power to optimates or the multitude itself, lest they should seem to be creating many kings for themselves. And, lest this trend towards impending war might catch their people without a head, or their army without a commander, they all wished a king. And, since no clan seemed likely to defer to another in the choosing of a king, inasmuch as the member of any clan regarded the member of another as a stranger, in order that any semblance of disagreement might be removed, they chose to elect Fergus king, being a foreigner of proven virtue, born of royal bood, and regarded by one and all as a man worthy of ruling their multitude. Certainly nobody could by argue by right, or bring it about by force, that a member of his own tribe be preferred to him, he was so distinguished for his justice, and his prudence was so well-known to them all. So at length they voted to bestow the kingship in Fergus. First Fergus expressed his thanks to the elders for giving himself the kingship, and then the multitude, while seated on the Stone of Destiny which he had brought with him from Ireland as if it were a dvine oracle, a token of his establishment of a realm in Albion. He was the first of all the Kigns of Scots in Albion who was hailed as king by the happy acclamations of one and all, in the year 4869 of Creation, which was 333 years before Christ’s incarnation and the year 420 , and the year 837 after Brutus gained his kingship in Britain.
21. After the kingdom of the Scots in Albion had been founded in the manner I described, Fergus, having gained the title of king, applied himself singleminded to warding off the harm of impending war, and commanded the clan chieftains to come to him, each bringing forty days’ provisions for his soldiers on pack-horses: they should observe military discipline and keep themselves free of quarrels and squabbling, for nothing was more perilous for an army. They should not wander about far and wide, offering themselves as prey to the enemy. They must obey their captains. Then, having reviewed his those of his forces most ready for a fight and stationing them in the van, and having prayed to the gods with the traditional rites that they might bring this war, not begun by any fault of his nation, to a happy conclusion and make the slaughter fall on that people which had first injured the other and violated their sacred oaths, he placed himself in front of all the others. While these things were a-doing in Argathelia, the Picts, their armaments prepared and their British auxiliaries summoned, drew up their squadrons for a fight. So both sides were ready for a war that was very much like a civil war fought between allies, kinsmen, fathers-in-law, and sons-in-law. The Picts were the first to cross into Scottish territory, and Fergus raised his standards and was no less eager than energetic in taking his forces and going to meet them. His royal emblem was a red lion rampant on a field of gold, lashing its back with its tail (as is the lion’s habit when he works himself up for a fight), a symbol of noble wrath. Fergus was the first of all the Kings of Scots to carry that standard, which henceforth remained as the arms of the kings of Scotland, Now the battle-lines stood in sight of each other, and a wretched slaughter was anticipated. Meanwhile a rumor was circulating among the Picts that the Britons had gathered together not far away and were holding furtive conversations about the opportunity of destroying both armies: they had in mind a stratagem whereby, when they saw the Scots and Picts joined together in battle, and each succumbing to the other in the fight, they might attack the weary victors and, being lightly armed themselves, might pursue runaways with a dire slaughter. Thus, with both the victors and the vanquished put to the sword and their camps destroyed, they themselves would gain power over all Albion. And a runaway informed Fergus of very similar things about the Britons’ treachery and their betrayal of the two peoples. Hence it came about that both the Scottish and Pictish general was troubled about the danger faced by his enemy as well as his own army, and delayed the battle for several days. Amidst these things, King Fergus sent messengers to tell the Picts’ commander that there was need for a conference before they joined battle, and that he had full knowledge of things which touched the Picts no less than the Scots, which he would reveal if the other general would consent to a meeting.
22. The Pict did not refuse, and, as their two armies stood drawn up in battle array, he and a few companions met with Fergus in a conference. Then Fergus is reported to have been the first to speak, “It has often happened that nations and peoples, fighting for supremacy, have procured an empire for others, but ruin for themselves, and who is not so blind as to see that, if we persist in our fight, this will befall us today? I do not dispute that the reason for the war you have lately waged against us (at the moment it does not matter whether with or without justification) is the frequent unrequited injuries you have received at the hands of the Scots. But if one wants to speak the truth, and not just utter pretty words, it was a craving for power combined with the sly urgings of the Britons that provoked you to take up arms. For never would you have readied a war against your fathers-in-law, if not thanks to their suasion.Beyond doubt, they are enemies of us both, they have inspired you to take up arms, and done all they could to suborn you to commit parricide. You yourselves will more accurately judge whether these things are true are false, Neither I nor my fellow countrymen can have any doubt but that we are taking up arms for the ruination of both our peoples, if we persist in this war. Who, pray, will deny that, since we are fighting with equal strength, the victory will lie in doubt? But suppose we are conquered, which cannot done without bloodshed and death on your side: you will offer yourselves as prey to the Britons, you will procure them glory and power, and shameful servitude for yourselves. Can anything more impious, more hateful, be done than for sons to assault their fathers? We are the fathers, you the sons, your children are our grandsons. We are the fathers-in-law, you the sons-in-law. Whether we would conquer or be conquered, you would pollute yourself with a crime beyond expiation. I, their king, will supply reparation for all the wrongs done your nation by the Scottish people. Let us take the arms we have mutually prepared against ourselves (who are bound by the kinship we have contracted and the sworn league we have entered) and turn them against our common enemy, so that hatred will not seem to have more power among us than reason, loathing than fair dealing. I think there is no better way than this to secure our homes in Albion.”
23. Thus spoke Fergus. The Pictish king replied in unpremeditated words (for his mind had already inclined towards peace). And the sum of his speech was that within his nation it was not the right of a ruler to alter by his private choice what had been decided by public authority, and this war had been declared by a public decision, not a private one. Therefore, he would consult with his nation’s elders whether they preferred war or peace. On the following day he would return to the same place and report what he had decided with their help. Then the Pict summoned his elders to a parliament and related Fergus’ requests and told how, if that day they would come to blows with the Scots, they would be obliged to fight, not just against them, but also against the Briton’s treachery, which would be all the more dangerous because it had been unforeseen. As proof of his words he brought forward certain spies, who informed the fathers about the Britons’ betrayal and treachery. The frequent and untimely urgings of the Britons that they should go to war made the thing credible, so in a public meeting of the Picts the matter was argued to and fro. Some argued that friendship with the Scots was entirely to be scorned, for they had vexed their own people with so much killing and theft, and heaped such insult on them, that they could make no worthy reparations. All leagues with them should be rejected, all conditions of peace should be held in scorn, for they could not be firm or enduring, since the Scots placed more value on stealing than pious faith, more on wrongdoing than right, and since hatred outweighed reason, and wilfulness all sense of shame. Others maintained that a Scottish alliance was both honorable and necessary, because they had conferred various benefits and committed no violence, although themselves victims of wrongdoing. Both nations had a common enemy, as they had discovered, the Britons. Therefore they were confronted with the choice of seeking a new home, to their great shame, or renewing the league they had entered into with that nation. Added to this was the kinship they had contracted, and in human affairs there is scarcely any sin greater and more inexpiable, more unspeakable, or more deserving of divine vengeance, than to take up arms against a people with whom they had recently commingled their bloodline, with whom they had entered into pacts, having invoked the gods as witnesses. Their friendship with the Scots must therefore be renewed, unless they chose to repay affection with hatred, kindnesses with evildoing, good faith with deceit.
24. Since the majority favored this view, it was evident that many men’s minds were now swayed towards peace, and one of the elders, very ill-disposed towards the Scots for having killed his brother during the war’s first inroads, said, “Why, brave sirs, this blind contention among you? Is not Scottish treachery sufficiently familiar to us? Have we not sufficiently experienced the cruelty of that nation? Is it your pleasure once more to risk maintaining a treaty with this faithless people, a people of a savage nature, cruel, wild, and born for our destruction? I think we bear it in mind (unless we are exceedingly thoughtless) that, when the gods were consulted, they gave the response that this impious nation is destined to destroy us. So are we to regard the god’s oracles as vain things? So should we bring down such danger on our own heads and on our realm? Should we nurse our own ruin? This nation is undoubtedly treacherous, monstrous, cruel, and someday, if the gods foretold the truth, this great, unquenchable conflagration will consume us.” To these words another man responded, “Are we to be moved by the gods’ oracles? If they are true, what man can avoid them? If they are false, then why, I ask, are they to be feared? And so let all insult, all treachery, deceit, perfidy and shamefulness be set aside. Let us have regard for honor, far be it from us that oaths and sacred treaties are violated by our fault. There is no lack of examples set by many men, even famous ones, of how impious it is to sully one’s good word, and to have no fear of the gods, who are ill-disposed toward those who violate sworn pacts. Therefore no man should say that that necessary league we entered into with the Scots ought to be broken by our doing, either to our shame or at the cost of insulting the gods. Let us live according to this pact, let us persist in it, offering no insult either to the gods nor to our fathers, who by rights ought to be dearest to us of all men. Let us wholehearted love our fathers-in-law, in accordance with nature, that best of all parents, since, all falsehood set aside, they devotedly love our sons as their own grandsons, and will continue so to do. And so there is no need for violence, none for a battle, but rather for the affection due one’s parents, lest we become a laughing-stock to our enemies for having failed in our duty.”
25. After he has spoken these words, the Pictish wives, who had joined the army because they missed their husbands and were standing around with their children, broke out in tears and begged their husbands not to commit this sin of unspeakable parricide, not to join battle with their common parents, saying, “It is better to inflict any manner of death on us wretched women, together with our children, rather than for us to witness our fathers ranged on one side and our husbands on the other, slaughtering each other with mutual woundings.” The weeping band of women used these and similar words, stretching forth their hands towards their husbands, together with their sons, whom they had instructed to do the same insofar as their young age permitted. The Pictish elders, moved by love of their wives and children, and by their due piety towards God and their fathers-in-law, voted that peace with the Scots should be renewed by a fresh treaty, and that mutual wrongs should be expiated by mutual reparations. Inasmuch as the Britons, responsible for the present war, had adopted the strategy of destroying either nation as the opportunity arose, should henceforth be regarded as the enemy of them both. By common consent, the rest was left to the king’s decision: on what terms the peace should be renewed, and whether he was satisfied with its old terms, or whether he deemed it necessary to add new ones so that it would be rendered more welcome, more firm, and more enduring.
26. On the following day, when the two generals were met together, the Pict was the first to speak, saying, “In yesterday’s conference, Fergus, you said many things which gravely affect our nation as well as your own, and when these were reported to our elders they met with great approval, and they unanimously voted to reply to your wishes, which struck us all as most reasonable. Let an end be made to this present war, let our grievances be expiated in the traditional way, by making sacrifices to the gods. With peace obtaining between us, let the Britons always be held in suspicion as perpetual enemies, because they have contrived a thing which is neither just nor honorable, in the eyes of men chosen for this from both our peoples, who ought to be men of the best judgment. These are the decisions of myself and my nation’s elders. So let all remembrance of our old hatred be erased, since this war meets the approval neither of gods nor men. Nor is it enough to end the present struggle: we must ask in what way all grounds for future war may be removed. For, as far as our future concord goes, we will have a sound enough peace if each man of us is content with his his own lands and does not begrudge another man his good fortune and success, but considers whatever fine thing someone else has achieved as a glory and an ornament, and comes to his aid in his great and arduous undertakings, especially when our common enemy presses. If you do not like the conditions of the league we have already entered into, let others be submitted to my judgment. I have no doubt that whatever we have settled in this business will be welcome to my elders and my people. And I believe that this is the best way to achieve a stable and enduring peace between ourselves.”
27. These things were all the more to Fergus’ liking because he appeared to have brought the Pict over to his way of thinking. So the generals appointed a day for renewing their ancient peace by means of a new league, and for doing what appeared needful for that business. At the same the Britons who had come to assist the Picts went home, fearing lest this concord work themselves some mischief. On the appointed day, when the commanders were met together with the chief men of both nations, their first order of business was to settle and extinguish their old grounds for hatred in a way that no new reasons for dissent would seem likely to blaze forth in the future. New terms were added to their old league: any foreign war waged against either of them would be regarded as shared by them both; when it was necessary for one to fight against the Britons, both would join in the fray; and further agreements were made on further terms. Afterwards they both went home. When these were reported to Coilus, King of the Britons (he was staying at Eboracum, where Briton’s palace then existed), he anxiously stifled his thoughts. For he greatly feared the nearby excessive growth of this hated nation, nor did he know by what means it might be ended. For the man had been baffled regarding the scheme he had recently hatched. And so he made up his mind to discover whether these wandering, exiled peoples of unknown origin, who were brave enough when it came to hunting game, would dare join battle with his own warlike nation. He delayed the project for the better part of two years, seeing if perhaps fortune would give the Britons a suitable opportunity to fight, if either nation in its arrogance would commit some wrong against the other. For from the beginning all the Britons had been convinced that, should the Scots and the Picts grow together in harmonious peace, they themselves would never be destined to enjoy a peaceful home.
28. Therefore, keen to stir up grounds for war between these peoples, they harassed the Pictish territory with furtive acts of thefts, and when the Picts sought their stolen property, they denied that they were guilty of the act, blaming the Scots for the theft and robbery, since it was they, not the Britons, who were in the habit of driving off cattle. At length, the Britons’ responsibility was brought to light. And so it came about that both people were inspired with great hatred of the Britons: their fields were ravaged, their inhabitants killed, and booty was openly carried off. Coilus, taking this disgrace amiss, prepared to do in open warfare what he had not been able to accomplish by furtive counsel. When all war preparations had been made ready within a short time and all his forces had come together, he moved against the Scottish region washed by the Vergivian and Irish Sea. There, having plundering many things and put more to fire and the sword, he and his army encamped on the bank of a stream known as Duneaton Water, sending men to scour the region and bring back any Scot or Pict they found for punishment. At that time, when Fergus first heard that war was afoot, prior to the invasion he had given orders that all cattle and livestock should be driven from their farmsteads into the highest mountains, that wives with their children should go to cliffs and similar places all but inapproachable by nature, and that the menfok should join in a fortified place together with both his army and that of the Picts, and also commanded his soldiers that the Britons should be worn down by delay and lack of supplies, and that they should tend to their bodies and be present when the tome demanded, wielding their swords in accordance with their leader’s command. A certain Scottish runaway betrayed his people’s strategy to King Coilus. In reaction to this news, he sent five thousand Britons accustomed to moving about in steep country to drive off booty from the Highlanders. He himself had decided to lead his forces against the enemy at first light. When this maneuver was reported to the Scots and Picts by scouts, there was no fear in the camp. Then Fergus announced to his council what was to be done about this matter.Some argued against a fight, frightened by the Britons’ numbers and speed. Others urged the king to join battle, saying he had a sufficiency of soldiers, and that they, with him present and exposing himself to dangers, they would stoutly fight on behalf of their wives, their children, and their liberty. It was no less necessary than honorable to try the fortune of war, and war was more often won by courage and daring than by numbers.
29. Thus varying advice was offered on all sides, and in the end they decided that Fergus and his soldiers should attack the Britons’ watchmen during the first vigil of the night, and the Pictish king and his race should cross over Duneaton Water at a place he would be shown a ford, march through some stony places that were all but impassible, and therefore were left unguarded, and, when the Scots made an uproar, attack the enemy from the rear. The rest they left to fortune. A little while thereafter, Fergus made a sudden night attack against the enemy camp. A frightful hullabaloo was quickly raised, and, when the Britons confronted the Scots to protect themselves, the Picts attacked them from behind unawares. Then some of the Britons, scarcely awakened from their sleep, lacking any standards or commander, made their escape by night; others, ignorant of the lie of the land, ran headlong into twisting byways and steep hills and were overwhelmed by the crowds of pursued and pursuers. Among these was Coilus himself, who, being carelessly protected by his soldiers, was overcome and died, forever bequeathing his name to the place for posterity (although with a slight change men now call it Kyle). In the morning, after the battle, the Scots and Picts retired to their standards on a high hill. The Britons who had survived the panic in the night collected together, and, hearing that their king was dead and the greater part of their army lost, sent a herald to the enemy generals in order to request peace. The Scots and the Picts, unusually emboldened by their recent victory, haughtily jeered at the Britons and made up their minds to refuse this request. But the kings, not unfamiliar with the Britons’ martial virtue, telling their followers that good fortune ought to be used with moderation, saw to it that a peace treaty was struck with the Britons. After these things, when the Picts had taken away a portion of the spoils according to the military custom and gone home, Fergus dismissed his army and went off to Argathelia, where he made the following speech at a meeting of the elders of the realm.
30. “I imagine, brave sirs, that none of you does not know how plain it is that it was by the gods’ help that you prevailed over your enemy, and that it was by your consummate prudence that you placed our affairs, which had been wholly imperiled, on a peaceful footing. When it came to time to join battle with the enemy, we were far inferior in numbers and strength. But the favorable gods answered our prayers. We inflicted a slaughter on a nation which we above all others were obliged to fear. We trampled our hateful enemy underfoot, and you see him destroyed together with his entire army. Rich spoils of the enemy have come to you. Those who survived the dreadful massacre have humbly begged you for peace, a peace that was more necessary than honorable. And those who recently scorned you with their proud insults as weak, helpless, and unarmed runaways,. have now groveled at your feet and begged for pardon and mercy,setting an example of how frail a thing it is to trust in human powers. Nor are we unaware, or could be, of the wealth, strength, and martial virtue which allow the Britons’ nation to flourish by land and sea. And so it redounds to our greater glory, and to their shame, that they were defeated and put to rout by (to use their words) a herd of helpless exiles. We have granted peace in response to their humble petitions and have employed no violence against them since the end of the battle. We have overcome our wrath and innate ferocity, lest Fortune (or rather, lest the gods, who have granted us this fairest of victory, someday grown angry) give us over to our enemies as a mockery. Those spared the sword in our nocturnal battle we have allowed to depart with their arms and all their property. We have entered into a pact with our conquered foe for the sake of our safety and (as is reasonable to imagine) for that of our entire posterity. The purpose of these things is that we must prudently ensure that this land, our wives, children, fortunes, and whatever we possess in this life, together with that freedom of which our enemy impiously intended to despoil us, which we fully recognize to have been undoubtedly preserved in this battle, will not again be endangered. An fin my opinion, we will more easily achieve this if we revere the gods and abide by the pacts we have made with the Picts and the Britons, and if in the future we maintain the form of public government you have freely chosen, and stand by our word. With internal seditions, pernicious assemblies, avaricious business dealings and other evils, which by their very nature create dissent, abolished, by common agreement we shall share our territories, or lands, forests, and grassy place, together with their increased populations, peoples and tribes. And if every man of us, content with his own lot, can learn to refrain from harming his neighbor, we shall all live in harmonious peace. And I can say without any hesitation that these things will furnish us with wealth, strength, and steady happiness, and will fill our enemies with dread. Would that I may see these things in you, a people dearer to me than life itself, before I depart this life, so that I may have a sure confidence about the welfare of yourselves and your posterity, and in death may report these things to the shades of our ancestors!”
31. When he had thus finished his peroration, a shout was straightway raised by the whole assembly that the people would do not only what he had hoped, but whatever he might command: the treaties they had made would remain inviolate, royal government was greatly to their liking, and the land that they possessed should be parceled out in accordance with his will. Although the king had not requested this, they unanimously swore an oath of loyalty to him, adding that they would never tolerate any form of government but kingship, nor tolerate any kings over the Scots in Albion save those of the blood of Fergus. If they should break their faith, then let all those evils which their ancestors in Egypt and Spain had been accustomed to call down on oath-breakers in accordance with their ancestral law and pious religion, befall themselves and their posterity. Fergus arranged that this new solemn engagement of the people, freely affirmed by their oath, would be preserved in written documents and inscribed on marble tablets, employing animal-shaped letters, as was then his people’s customary way of recording arcane things and what they wished to be preserved for the ages, entrusting this to priests, who were to deposit them in their temple and preserve them there. Then, having allowed a few days for them to refresh their minds and bodies at the hunt and with honorable games, Fergus reconvened the parliament of elders, and said, “Since I see that sufficient provision has been made for placing the realm on a sound footing, both for ourselves and our posterity, I have concluded that now is the time to share out the land which you have settled confusedly and in no proper order (and hence not without frequent quarrels), among the nobles, peoples, and clans, both those who joined me in crossing over from Ireland and those who possessed homes here previously. For the accomplishment of this task, I am of the opinion that seven men should be appointed out of our whole multitude, men notable for their prudence and good faith, who should divide our regions, paying heed to determining boundaries: I mean, when they have seen that the soil is more barren, there they should make the boundaries wider, but where it is fertile and prosperous, they should decrease them, and they should establish a lottery by which every man will receive land as his possession.” The king’s motion greatly pleased them all, and soon thereafter seven men of outstanding prudence were chosen who, having surveyed all of the Scots’ lands, divided them with fair boundaries as best they could.
32. Four months later they returned to Argathelia, where the King Fergus was residing, and in his presence the names of his nobles and elders were placed in a lottery. The district lying between the promontory of Dumma (now called Duncansby Head), which faces the Orkneys, and the river Thane fell to Cornach, a man of distinction, and his very sizeable clan. From this Cornach, this region (the modern Caithness) was in that age of the world called Cornana, and its people the Catani. The second lot fell to Lutorth, a man of outstanding nobility. He had come out of Ireland with Fergus, bringing a choice band of soldiers, and he received the territory reaching from the Thane to the Ness, which never freezes at any time, although its deep waters run very sluggish. For a very time this region retained the name Lugia, taken from that man, but our age calls the greater part of it Ross. In breadth it ran from the bank of the river we moderns call Cromarty to the mouth of the Lochty, and once there existed therein the famous castle of Urquhart, celebrated by many a writer, whose remains and ancient ruins, very artful and lofty, elicit admiration from the viewer. The Wares, so called after their chieftain Warroch, received the land from the Ness to the Spey, extending from the German Sea over to the Irish one, which was called Warrochty. But this people suffered from chronic internal dissent, and frequent foul murders ensued. So it came about, but only after some centuries, that by royal authority they were expelled from this territory and it was given to the Murrays, a German people (as will be told in its proper place), for settlement, and then they gave it the name of Moray for posterity. The land alongside the Tey fell to the Thales, named after their chieftain Thale, and now it is divided into a number of regions: Boyne, Enzie, Bogewall, Garioch, Formartine, and Buchan. The name of Thalia was applied to the district because of these inhabitants, who were very numerous, being indiscriminately conflated out of many ancient Scottish tribes.
33. The name of Martinum was given to the entire region stretching from Thalia to the Irish Sea, encompassing modern Mar, Badenoch, and Lochaber. The chieftain of that people was Margtach and he bequeathed to postery the name of Martha for that region where they settled. The people of Novanta (from whom the fields wherein they dwelt took the name of Novantia) received all the land which extends in the direction of Martha and the Irish Sea, together with its peninsula and lofty mountain, stretching in its longest dimension from the sea, which nearly surrounds the promontory of Cantyre (our native word for a headland). Now that region embraces Lorne and Cantyre, hilly terrain, grassy, and rejoicing in its pasturage. Atholus, a man born of the Spanish Scots, notable for many fine achievements both at home and in the field (he had come from Spain to Ireland, and thence with Fergus to Albion, together with many excellent soldiers), gave the name of Athol to the lands that fell to his lot, and this name has remained for that district. Its boundaries were Novantia, Martha, and the Caledonian Forest, beginning at the place where the Caledonian castle (Castle Callendar, nowadays Dunkeldin) is built along the river Tay. The Croones and the Epydii, taking their names from their chieftains Croth and Epydyth, received by lot the western part of Caledonia. After a long passage of time, however, these people lost their old names and acquired new ones, and were transformed into Strathbraun, Bradalbain, and other adjoining nations. And the Argatheli, because they were the first of all the Scots to enter Albion, long retained the region and name they had inherited from Gathelus, the father of their race, but at this time, by a slight change of name, the district is called Argyll. Legoth obtained by lot the part called Lelgon, and the people over whom he presided were called the Lelgonae (Ptolemy called them the Elgonae). Today this is Lennox. They also received the district of Clydesdale, namerd after the river Glyde or Clyde (called by Cornelius Tacitus the Glotta), which waters it.
34. Next, the Silures, together with their chieftain Silurth, always a race of harsh nature and the most warlike of them all, received the fields lying between the river Clyde and Brigantia. Not long thereafter, when troubled by domestic strife, this region was divided into Cunninghame, Kyle and Carrick. These names have endured, both for the region and its people, down to our own time, it having lost its previous one (as happens regarding ancient things). A district was given to the Brigantes, the bravest of all Scottish people, which they themselves called Brigantia, but a later age called Galdia after King Galdus, as I shall relate at a more opportune place, and which, by a small alteration, our own time calls Galloway). It was granted to them, not by lot, but by public decree, since they surpassed the rest in their warlike virtue and would be obliged to engage in constant warfare with the Britons, their innate enemies, alongside whom they would be obliged to dwell. Some of these Britons, subsequently banished for foul treason, intermarried with certain rascals of Pictish blood driven by this same fury, and possessed nearby Annandale. There posterity attained such a degree of savagery that they exercised their cruelty on their neighbors, their womenfolk as well as their men. Ιndeed, these women, far more merciless than the men, marched off to war determined to participate in battle, they never spared those they conquered, and they thought it a sin to be taken alive, but the most fair of things to be killed. Lest their elderly parents or members of their household die of ailments, which they regarded as unkind, it was their tradition to put them to death. This valley has a narrow entrance, and elsewhere it is surrounded on every side, either by the sea, marshland, or quicksand, so it was difficult to access and its inhabitants disdained government, be it of the Scots, Picts, or Britons. They dwelt in caves and caverns, and mostly earned their living by theft and plundering. Loud-voiced watchmen guarded the entrance by day and by night. When one of them gave a shout, they would take up arms. When it it came time to march off to war, the man who declined to take up arms or hid himself, or refused to participate in battle, would be put to death by his wife, and he who was taken alive by the enemy and was subsequently set free was compelled to act as a slave to the women (a custom which, as we read, was also observed by the Dacians) until he seemed to have been received sufficient punishment for this disgrace or erased this blot by some fine deed. They used their wives as common property, and their offspring were regarded as everybody’s, since they could not point out their own fathers. Cornelius Tacitus once called this savage race the Ordovices, but our own annals the Ordaci, possibly because they very greatly surpassed the Dacians when it came to savagery.
35. The places and peoples I have enumerated have been mentioned, not just by our own writers, but by foreign writers, and by the most trustworthy. Ptolemy of Alexandria, that notable astrologer and geographer of his own time, and likewise Cornelius Tacitus, who wrote a profound history of the doings of the Caesars from Augustus almost down to the end of the reign of Domitian, frequently speak of these peoples and districts. And Vairement, a Spaniard by birth, elegantly and accurately recorded the antiquities of the Spanish and Irelandn Scots, as well as those of Albion. For the most part, the names of the places and peoples I have described endured until the times of Fergus II, when Scottish rule was interrupted for more than forty years, and then restored by this same king, when new names were introduced by new settlers. The other districts now subject to the Scottish crown were at that time held by the Picts: Merne, Angus, Stermund, Gowrie, Airdale, Perth, Fife, a large part of Caledonia, Sterling, Lothian, Merch, Deiera, Annandale, and all other districts with dale in their name, which Bede informs us to have signified parts or portions in the Pictish language. In more suitable places I shall report the ancient names of these regions, insofar as I have been able to discover them. As far as the distinction of the names of these places and peoples go, I believe I have in large part satisfied the requirements of the present context.
36. I must therefore return to Fergus. With these districts parceled out, as has been related, to leaders, peoples, and tribes, and with all things pacified, he now turned his mind to improving his subjects with better institutions. And so that the rest might go more auspiciously, he made his start with justice, that surest protector of human life, for he was well aware that, in its absence, human society could not grow together nor, indeed, exist. He pronounced certain laws by which he forbade freebooting, homicide, plundering, and most of all theft, all of which were being committed in broad daylight at the time. He built the castle of Bergonium in Lochaber in the west part of Albion, facing the Hebrides, and there he chose to administer the law, so that both the islanders and the mainland Scots could more easily gather when he laid down the law and administered justice. He led the rest of his life enjoying great peace with the Picts and the Britons, striving for this with might and main, so that the minds of his subjects might grow together with mutual zeal and good-will. Finally, being summoned by the elders of Ireland, so that he might use his advice and authority to settle a quarrel that had arisen in their pubic meetings about the choosing of a king, he did not only put an end to it, but did so utterly. And this was his final act in this life. They say that, while making the crossing from Ireland to Albion, he was caught in a storm amd was wind-driven onto a crag, and died, after having reigned more than twenty-five years, and that the name of Crag Fergus was given to this place. At the time Esdad ruled the Britons, and Cruthneus Camelonus the Picts. He founded a city in Pithland (modern Lothian), on the banks of the river Carron, and named it Camelodunum after himself, desiring it to be the capital of the Picts. Once there was a harbor here, the most wholesome of them all and very fit as a winter shelter for shipping, but now it has been filled in with silt and grass growing in the mud, so that, because its marshland drained over a long passage of time and it is rarely visited by men, it has been transformed into very pleasant pasturage. For many centuries this city endured, enjoying many advantages although vexed in warfare both by the Romans and the Britons. Eventually, as will be told in the proper place, Kenneth King of Scots, who destroyed the Picts’ realm and its people, leveled it to the ground after it had become abandoned. King Cruthneus also founded the town of Agnedh and a fortress very stoutly protected by the lie of the land. A later age named this town Ethinburgh or Edinburgh, after Ethus, a king of the Picts, and called its fortress Maiden Castle, because certain noble Pictish girls used to be kept there in strong custody to learn the manual arts,until they attained to what was then deemed to be marriageable age.
37. And so in this Book (of whatever quality it may be), I have recounted how the nation and the kingdom of the Scots had its beginning, and told of Fergus, who founded this kingdom and ruled it, and of how he met his end. Now I must continue by telling of his successors.
Go to Book II