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19 September 2014
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The Kingdom of the Picts
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Picts
Known as 'Picti' by the Romans, meaning 'Painted Ones' in Latin, these northern tribes constituted the largest kingdom in Dark Age Scotland. They repelled the conquests of both Romans and Angles, creating a true north-south divide on the British Isles, only to disappear from history by the end of the first millennium - swallowed whole by the history of another group, the Gaels. Together they created the Kingdom of Alba.
  • The Battle of Dunnichen - Factsheet
    The result of this battle was one of the most decisive in Scottish history. If the Picts had lost, Scotland might never have existed. For the Angles of Northumbria it was simply a disaster ending their domination of Scotland.

  • The Battle of Dunnichen was fought on Saturday 2nd March 685 AD and is one of the best recorded events in Dark Age Scotland. We even know that it was fought at 3 o’clock in the afternoon

  • The Subjugation of PictlandMap of Pictland
    The Kingdom of the Angles under King Oswui had rapidly expanded north, moving their frontier from the River Forth to the River Tay. Since 653 AD many of the major groups of people in Scotland - Britons, Gaels and much of Pictland - had been subject to the overlordship of King Oswui.

  • In 672 AD, after the death of Oswui, the Picts rose against their overlords, expelling Drust, their Northumbrian puppet king.

  • The new King of Northumbria, Ecgfrith, wasted no time in wreaking revenge on the Picts. The Picts were massacred at a battle near the town of Grangemouth, where the rivers Carron and Avon meet. According to Northumbrian sources, so many Picts died they could walk dry-shod across both rivers. By 681 AD Ecgfrith had founded a bishopric at Abercorn on the southern shore of the Forth - a symbol of Northumbria’s secure grip over the Picts.

  • The Pictish fightback
    The defeated Picts took Bridei, son of Bili, as the king of a much depleted Pictland. King Bridei was actually the cousin of his mortal enemy, King Ecgfrith of the Angles, but, in true Dark Age fashion, this didn't diminish their mutual desire to destroy each other. A almighty battle was on the cards.

  • The Battle
    The Chronicle of Holyrood gives us the best account of the battle:
    ‘In the year 685 King Ecgfrith rashly led an army to waste the province of the Picts, although many of his friends opposed it…and through the enemy’s feigning flight he was led into the defiles of inaccessible mountains, and annihilated, with great part of his forces he had brought with him.’

    Dunnichen Hill
  • The Angles were advancing up Strathmore, probably aiming for the Pictish fortress of Dunnottar, when they fell into Bridei's trap. Sighting a Pictish warband, the Angles set off in pursuit, then, as they came over the cleft in Dunnichen Hill, they found themselves confronted by the main body of the Pictish army. Caught between the Picts and the loch below the hill, the Angles bravely faced their doom.

  • The politcal map was altered. The Picts, Gaels and many Britons were freed from Northumbrian overlordship. Gaelic poets as far away as Ireland celebrated the battle's outcome. The Pictish frontier returned to the River Forth near Edinburgh and the Bishop of Abercorn fled, never to return. The Angles never fully recovered as major force in Scotland.


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