Who are we Scots? Part Five

Blog 15 Nov 2013

In last week's blog we spoke about the Roman abandonment of Britannia, the native Britons enlisting the aid of Saxon mercenaries to defend their territory, and the consequential Saxon invasion.

The sheer number of Saxons, Jutes and Angles arriving to the small island of Britannia daily meant the native Britons were unable to defend their lands.

I've heard of the Saxons, but who were the Jutes and Angles?

The Saxons, Angles and Jutes were the three most powerful Germanic people of their time. They were a strong, seafaring people from modern-day Germany and Denmark. After the success of the Saxon invasion, the Angles and the Jutes sailed across the sea to settle in Britannia, each with their own territory. Collectively, they were named the Anglo-Saxons.

The thousands of Anglo-Saxon invaders meant it took very little time to conquer much of the south and east of Britannia, pushing the native Britons westwards. They eliminated many of the Celtic sub-kingdoms that had sprung to life after the Romans left, replacing them with their own Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, such as Northumbria, Kent and Hwicce.

It is here, in the 6th Century, we return to Scotland.
When we last covered Scotland, we spoke of the Gododdin, Pictland, and the Kingdom of Strathclyde, or 'Ystrad Clud'. 

However, times were changing for the Scottish Tribes.

For the Gododdin...

The Gododdin, based on the east coast of modern-day Scotland, were being fiercely attacked by the Anglo-Saxons. These Anglo-Saxons were located in Bernicia and were expanding into the territory of the Gododdin.

For the Picts...

On the west coast of Pictland, a new kingdom was appearing; the Kingdom of Dalriada. This kingdom was established by the Scottii from Ireland, who crossed the sea and met little resistance from the Picts. They based their kingdom on the hillfort of Dunnad, located in modern day Argyll.

Why did the Irish Scottii meet such little resistance from the Picts? Weren't the Picts fearsome warriors?

In the 6th Century AD, the Picts believed the west coast of their lands were unlikely to be raided. They based most of their defense on the east and southern borders.

In the last years of the 6th Century, four kingdoms existed in modern-day Scotland; the Picts, the Kingdom of Strathclyde, the newly formed Kingdom of Dalriada and the Kingdom of the Gododdin.

For hundreds of years, these kingdoms had been crossing across Hadrian's Wall, raiding deep into modern day English territory. However, since the Anglo-Saxons invaded Britannia, the Scots found themselves up against a fierce enemy, and one that was very interested in their land.

Not only had the Irish Scottii established their own Kingdom of Dalriada in Pictland, but the Anglo-Saxons of Bernicia, located at Bamburgh Castle in modern day Northumberland, were a growing threat to the Kingdom of the Gododdin.

The Gododdin, sensing this threat, decided to take action and gathered 300 of their best warriors, launching an attack on the Anglo-Saxons, called the Battle of Catterich. The battle took place around 600 AD and was a disaster for the Gododdin; their epic tale of destruction became a story for the bards to sing about for hundreds of years. The Gododdin were outnumbered and overwhelmed by the Anglo-Saxons, and legend states only three Gododdin warriors lived to tell the tale of the battle.

After the battle of Catterich, the Gododdin ceased to be. Within 40 years, their capital at modern-day Edinburgh was captured by the Angles, encorporating their newly gained territory into their Kingdom of Northumbria. The Gododdin never again played a major role in the affairs of what would come to be the Scottish nation.

In the next episode we look at other bloody battles that shaped the Scottish nation; the rise of the Dalriadan Scots, the fall of the Picts and the coming of the next wave of invaders whose DNA helped make the Scots who we are - the Vikings!