WHO WERE THE SCOTS?

By

W. E. Filmer

THE RECENT issue of a postage stamp to commemorate the Declaration of Arbroath - from ‘Greater Scythia’ draws attention to this curious document of A..D. 1320. In this the Scots claimed that and Spain. This poses a problem because there are good grounds for thinking that the Anglo-Saxons came from Scythia whereas, from their Gaelic language, it would appear that the Scots were more nearly related to the Celts of Wales than to the English.

As regards the origin of this document, it will be remembered that in 1296 Edward I carried off from Scotland the Coronation Stone and placed it in Westminster Abbey. By this act, and the removal to London of their national records, he sought to demonstrate to the Scots that he had annexed their country. A few years later, in reply to a Papal Bull, the justice of his claim was substantiated on the grounds that the British had been in possession of the whole of their island ever since the days of the Judges Eli and Samuel. It would seem that this view was derived from The History of Britain (II) by the ninth-century writer Nennius.

The Scottish nationalists, however, continued to resist and, following their victory over the English at Bannockburn in 1316, they made a further appeal to the Pope in the Declaration of Arbroath. In it they wished to point out that the Scots had always been a free people ever since before the Exodus, and had never been subject to anyone, let alone the English.

The following extract is of particular interest:

‘We know, Most Holy Father and Lord, and from the chronicles and books of the ancients gather, that among other illustrious nations, ours, to wit, the nation of the Scots, has been distinguished by many honours; which, passing from the greater Scythia through the Mediterranean Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and sojourning in Spain among the most savage tribes through a long course of time, could nowhere be subjugated by any people however barbarous; and coming thence one thousand two hundred years after the outgoing of the people of Israel, they, by many victories and infinite toil, acquired for themselves the possessions in the West which they now hold, after expelling the Britons and completely destroying the Picts, and, although very often assailed by the Norwegians, the Danes and the English, always kept themselves free from all servitude, as the histories testify. In their kingdom one hundred and thirteen kings of their own royal stock, no stranger intervening, have reigned.’

THE HISTORY OF NENNIUS

The History of Britain, written by Nennius some five centuries earlier, would doubtless have been among the books of the ancients to which reference was made. There, following an account of various migrations of people from Spain to Ireland, we read (15):

‘According to the most learned among the Scots, if any one desires to learn what I am now going to state, Ireland was a desert and uninhabited when the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea, in which, as we read in the Book of the Law, the Egyptians who followed them were drowned. At that period, there lived among this people, with a numerous family, a Scythian of noble birth who had been banished from his country, and did not go to pursue the people of God. The Egyptians who were left, seeing the destruction of the great men of their nation, and fearing lest he should possess himself of their territory, took counsel together and expelled him.’

We are then told that this Scythian and his family, after wandering through many countries, eventually ‘landed in Spain, where they continued many years, having greatly increased and multiplied. Thence, a thousand and two years after the Egyptians were lost in the Red Sea, they passed into Ireland’.

It should be observed that in this account the migration from Spain to Ireland took place one thousand and two years after the Exodus, whereas the Arbroath document says it was one thousand two hundred. We shall return to this later, but meanwhile we must notice a gross anachronism, in that a Scythian was living in Egypt at the time of the Exodus. The earliest that Scythians are mentioned in any historical document was in 675 B.C. when the Assyrians reported them in northern Iran close to where the Israelites had been placed in captivity half a century earlier. It follows that either this man was not a Scythian or he did not live at the time of the Exodus.

Now, although it is frequently stated in the old Scottish and Irish histories that their ancestors were in Egypt at the time of the Exodus, it is submitted that this is due to a very ancient blunder arising from a forgotten tradition that there was a colony of Jews in Egypt at that time. These Jews were, in fact, not the people that Moses led out of Egypt but the remnant of Judah taken to Egypt by Jeremiah, following the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

A study of the old Irish legends reveals that early Irish historians had very great difficulty in filling the gap of over a thousand years between the time of the Exodus and the migration from Spain into Ireland. The ninth century poet, Maelmura, for example, in an historical poem quoted in the Irish version of Nennius, fills this gap with some incredible migrations which ultimately involved sailing between the Black Sea and the Caspian, and thence to the Arctic Ocean (ed. J.H. Todd, pp. 233-239). Since this piece of fiction cannot be reconciled with the true story of a migration directly from Egypt to Spain, later historians have woven both into one by having two men marrying Scota in Egypt, one at the time of the Exodus, and the other a thousand years later. Thus, regarding the first Scota, Keating writes:

‘You must now understand that this woman was not the same Scota who was the wife of Galamh, called Miledh of Spain, and who bore him six sons’ (History of Ireland, O’Mahony’s Translation, 1857, p. 156).

ORIGINS IN ASIA MINOR

The Scottish historian, John of Fordun, on the other hand, produced an account in 1385, in which the gap has almost entirely vanished. ‘In the days of Moses,’ he wrote, ‘a certain king of one of the countries of Greece, Neolus, or Heolus, by name, had a son beautiful in countenance, but wayward in spirit, called Gaythelos, to whom he allowed no authority in the kingdom. Roused to anger, and backed by a numerous band of youths, Gaythelos disturbed his father’s kingdom by many cruel misdeeds, and angered his father and his people by his insolence. He was, therefore, driven out by force from his native land, and sailed to Egypt, where, being distinguished by courage and daring, and being of royal birth, he married Scota, the daughter of Pharaoh. Mother Chronicle says that in those days all Egypt was overrun by the Ethiopians who, according to their usual custom, laid waste the country from the mountains to the town of Memphis and the Great Sea; so that Gaythelos, the son of Neolus, one of Pharaoh’s allies, was sent to his assistance with a large army; and the king gave him his only daughter in marriage to seal the compact’ (History of Scotland, Transl, Skene, 1872, pp. 6, 7).

Asia Minor and the Black Sea in the seventh century B.C.

Following quotations from other chronicles and a list of the successive kings of Egypt down to Pharaoh, Scota’s father, who was drowned in the Red Sea, we are again told that Gaythelos was expelled from Egypt after the Exodus:

‘Gaythelos, therefore, assembled his retainers and, with his wife Scota, quitted Egypt., and as on account of an old feud he feared to retrace his steps to those parts whence he had come to Egypt, he bent his course westwards’ (p. 10).

After wandering for forty years through many lands, he eventually left Africa and ‘embarked in such ships as he could then get, and went over into Spain’, where he built a town by the name of Brigantia (pp. 11, 12). In Roman times a town of this name existed near Coruna in the province of Gallicia in north-west Spain.

Two sons of Gaythelos, after first making a reconnaissance of Ireland and returning to Spain, finally migrated there after Gaythelos had died. In support of this Fordun quotes the Legend of Brandan as saying:

‘Now one of the sons of Gaythelos, Hyber by name, a young man but valiant for his years, being incited to war by his spirit, took up arms, and having prepared such a fleet as he could, went to the aforesaid island, and slew part of the inhabitants he found, and part he subdued. He thus appropriated that whole land as a possession for himself and his brethren, calling it Scotia from his mother’s name’ (p. 15).

MERCENARIES EMPLOYED IN EGYPT

Now this story, shorn of its connections with the Exodus, would fit very well into the time of Jeremiah. The statement that Gaythelos was the son of Neolus would mean only that he came from the town of Miletus, the principal port of the Greek province of Caria in Asia Minor which Herodotus (IX, 97) tells us was founded by Neileus, the son of Codrus. In fact, other Irish legends actually state that their eponymous Gaelic ancestor was surnamed Miledh or Miletus, on account of his exploits at that city, thus accounting for the name of the Milesian dynasty.

It is well known that between 650 and 550 B.C. the Egyptians employed large numbers of Greek mercenaries who came mainly from Ionia and Caria; in fact, Herodotus informs us that Psammitichus I (655- 610 B.C.) was the first to employ them about 655 B.C. to overcome his rivals, and become sole king of Egypt. He then tells us:

‘To the Ionians and Carians who helped him gain the throne Psammitichus granted two pieces of land, opposite one another on each side of the Nile, which came to be known as the Camps. The tracts of land where the Ionians and Carians settled lie a little distance seaward from Bubastis on the Pelusian mouth of the Nile’ (11,154).

He says that later:

‘The Egyptians had guardposts in various parts of the country: one at Elephantine against the Ethiopians, another at Daphnae at Pelusium against the Arabians and Assyrians, and a third at Marea to keep watch on Libya’ (11,30)

THE SITE AT TAHPANES

Daphnae is the same as the Biblical Tahpanhes to which the residue of the House of .Judah fled following the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Jeremiah relates that

‘Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, took all the remnant of .Judah, that were returned from all nations, whither they had been driven, to dwell in the land of Judah; even men, and women, and children, and the king’s daughters, and every person that Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Jeremiah the prophet, and Baruch the son of Neriah. So they came into the land of Egypt: for they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: thus came they even to Tahpanhes’ - (Jeremiah 43:5-7).

The site was excavated by Sir Flinders Petrie, who found there the remains of a great fortress. He wrote:

‘There were doubtless some state apartments in the fortress for the Egyptian governors who might visit there. Those might be at the disposal of the royal daughters, and Johanan and his men of might would strengthen the camp. Of this an echo comes across the long ages; the fortress mound is known as Qasr Bint el Jehudi, the palace of the Jew’s daughter. It is named Qasr, a palace, not Qala, a fortress. It is not named Tell Bint el Jehudi, as it would be if it were called so after it were a ruinous heap. Qasr is a name which shows its descent from the time of habitation, and habitation for nobility and not merely for troops. So through the long ages of Greek and Roman and Arab there has come down the memory of the royal residence of the king’s daughters from the wreck of Jerusalem’ (Egypt and Israel, 1931 ed., P. 90)

WAR WITH ETHIOPIA

Now, according to the sources quoted by Fordun, Gaythelos, ‘backed by a numerous band of youths’, and driven out of his country, sailed to Egypt which at that time ‘was overrun by the Ethiopians’. This could well refer to the Ethiopian invasion that occurred about 665 B.C., but on that occasion they were driven out by the Assyrians. After that no further wars between Egypt and Ethiopia are reported until the end of the reign of Psammitichus II (595-589 B.C.). Herodotus says that ‘During the six short years of his reign, Psammis [Psammitichus] attacked Ethiopia; but soon after the expedition he died’ (11,61).

Gaelic migrations by sea in the sixth century B.C.

Whether the Ethiopians actually invaded Egypt again we do not know. But there can be no doubt that the Egyptians attacked Ethiopia again in 589 with the aid of foreign troops for at Abu Simbel, well within Ethiopian territory, there is a Greek inscription on one of the colossi of Ramesses II which reads:

‘When King Psammitichus came to Elephantine, this was written by those who sailed with Psammitichus the son of Theocles, and they came beyond Kerkis as far as the river permits. Those who spoke foreign tongues were led by Potasimto, the Egyptians by Amasis’ (A. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs, 1961, p. 359).

In the Scottish legends the name of the Egyptian general, Amasis, may have got confused with Moses, and thus contributed to the idea that this took place at the time of the Exodus.

The actual date of this event was thus 589 B.C., three years before the fall of Jerusalem but, owing to the death of the Egyptian king, there would doubtless have been some delay in the awarding of honours. When, however, the Jewish refugees arrived at Tahpanhes a few years later, the new Pharaoh Hophra may well have adopted the heiress to the throne of Judah, hoping thereby to acquire a title to her lands, and then offered her in marriage to Gaythelos. Whether her name was, in fact, Scota, is doubtful, as it was usual in legends to invent ancestral names that would account both for the origins and names of nations.

THE DATE OF THE MIGRATION

How long the Jewish refugees remained at Tahpanhes we do not know, but the foreign mercenaries were removed and the camp abolished by the Egyptians about 565 B.C. This would be the latest date for Gaythelos to leave Egypt so, allowing forty years for his travels before reaching Spain, he must have arrived in Brigantia at the latest by 525 B.C. Actually, it was probably earlier, for the forty years given by Fordun’s source was apparently based on the Israelites’ forty years in the wilderness. Since we are told that he died in Spain, and that his sons migrated to Ireland, we arrive at a date in the last quarter of the sixth century for this event.

Let us now return to the statement of Nennius that ‘a thousand and two years after the Egyptians were lost in the Red Sea, they (the Scots) passed into Ireland’. This figure looks as if it were not a rough guess but a precise figure arrived at by calculation. The original migrants from Egypt and Spain would not, of course, have brought with them a knowledge of the date of the Exodus, so the calculation must have been made at a time when the Scottish legends were being correlated with Biblical and secular history. However, it is not the true date of the Exodus that we need to know, but the date used by somebody for the purpose of this calculation. There is reason to believe that St Patrick himself went to Rome in A.D. 442 and returned with a copy of the Chronicle of Eusebius, and Nennius, in his introduction, includes Jerome and Eusebius among his sources of information. Now Eusebius gave the date of the Exodus as 1512 B.C. and, subtracting 1002 years from this, we arrive at 510 B.C. as the date of the migration from Spain to Ireland. This is in remarkable agreement with the date we have already obtained independently.

OTHER MIGRATION ROUTES

It must not be assumed that there was only one group of people who migrated from the eastern Mediterranean to Ireland, for the Irish legends name several coming by different routes. W F. Skene, for example, quotes one mentioned in the Acts of St Cadroe.

‘According to this legend,’ he wrote, ‘the Scots were Greeks from the town of Chorischon upon the river Pactolus, which separates Choria (Caria?) from Lydia. Having obtained ships, they went to Pathmos, Abidos and the islands of the Hellespont to Upper Thrace and, being joined by the people of Pergamus and the Lacedaemonians, they are driven by the north wind past Ephesus, the island of Melos and the Cyclades to Crete, and thence by the African sea they enter the Illyrian gulf (Adriatic). Then by the Balearic Isles they pass Spain, and through the Columns of Hercules to remote Tyle, and finally land at Cruachan Feli in Ireland’ (Celtic Scotland, 1886, Vol. 1, p. 182).

This story is remarkable as much for its correspondences as for its differences with the previous one. Although a visit to Egypt is entirely left out, the place of origin is the same, namely, the Greek province of Caria on the Aegean coast. Coming by this shorter route, this group of people would doubtless have arrived in Spain first, and this would agree with the Milesian tradition which in most of its forms tells that Miledh found a colony of his kinsmen already in Brigantia when he arrived.

SCYTHIAN CONNECTIONS

Many of the Scottish and Irish legends, however, as indicated by the Declaration of Arbroath, say that the remote Scottish ancestors came from Scythia. This was the ancient name for south Russia, but archaeological evidence has now proved beyond reasonable doubt that the earliest Scythian remains in that country cannot be dated earlier than 580 B.C. But we have already seen that some Scottish ancestors had sailed for Egypt before 589 B.C., SO, if they had earlier come from Scythia, then they could not have been real Scythians. It may be that history recorded at a later date that they came from Scythia, but only in the same way as we might say that William the Conqueror came from France, without implying that he was a Frenchman.

Now Herodotus tells us that in his day ‘What is now Scythia is said to have been once inhabited by Cimmerians’ and, to prove his point, stated that ‘There are still traces of the Cimmerians in Scythia: one finds, for instance, remains of fortifications, a Cimmerian strait, a Cimmerian Bosphorus, and a tract of land called Cimmeria’ (IV, II, 12).

He was evidently alluding to the Crimean Peninsula and the Kerch Straits. Consequently, modern archaeologists, finding a burial mound in the Crimea, and other remains on both sides of the Kerch Straits which they date to 650-600 B.C., have good reason to suppose that these were of Cimmerian origin.

CIMMERIANS IN ASIA MINOR

Herodotus must, nevertheless, have been mistaken in assuming that these Cimmerians originated in Russia, for his own account of the history of Asia Minor, and particularly of Lydia. shows that there were Cimmerians operating south of the Black Sea throughout the whole of the seventh century B.C. Correlating the Greek with the chronologically precise Assyrian records, it has been established that the Cirnmerians overthrew Midas, king of Phrygia, in the first quarter of the century, and occupied the port of Antandros in the west about 675. About ten years later they made their first attack on Lydia, but were repulsed in 652 and again in 645 they overran the whole country, capturing Sardes, the capital, except for the citadel (Herodotus, 1,15).

After that they went on to make raids on the Greek settlements, Ephesus and Magnesia being named as cities that were attacked. Finally, Herodotus informs us that Alyattes, king of Lydia, expelled the Cimmerians from Asia Minor altogether (1,16).

Since it is known that Alyattes reigned from about 607 to 560 B.C., this statement could well account for the expulsion of Gaythelos, surnamed Miledh, from Miletus, as well as for his reluctance to return to the country he came from. The testimony of Herodotus, confirmed by archaeology, that the Cimrnerians had colonies in the Crimea, or ‘Scythia’, might explain how some Cirnmerians who had returned thence to raid the Greek cities in Asia Minor, could be said in the Scottish legends to have come from Scythia.

CELTIC RELATIONSHIPS

It has been pointed out in the Synopsis of the Migrations of Israel that the Cimmerians were derived from those Israelites placed in captivity in the region of Gozan who had escaped by way of the upper Euphrates gorge (2 Esdras 13:43). Most of these crossed the Black Sea to the Carpathian region, called in the Apocrypha Arsareth. Thence they migrated up the Danube into central Europe and became known as Celts. It is well known that these were the ancestors of the ancient British and the Welsh.

We have now seen that the Scots as well as the Welsh came from the same Cimmerian source in Asia Minor in the seventh century B.C., but by sea through the Mediterranean. This would account for the relationship between the Gaelic and Welsh languages, while their complete separation after 600 B.C. would explain how these languages came to diverge. The Israelite captives in Media, on the other hand, had totally different contacts, and so their AngloSaxon descendants acquired a very different language.

 


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