A Short History of Scotland

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Two generations after Agricola, about 140-145, the Roman Governor, Lollius Urbicus, refortified the line of Forth to Clyde with a wall of sods and a ditch, and forts much larger than those constructed by Agricola. His line, "the Antonine Vallum," had its works on commanding ridges; and fire-signals, in case of attack by the natives, flashed the news "from one sea to the other sea," while the troops of occupation could be provisioned from the Roman fleet. Judging by the coins found by the excavators, the line was abandoned about 190, and the forts were wrecked and dismantled, perhaps by the retreating Romans.

After the retreat from the Antonine Vallum, about 190, we hear of the vigorous "unrest" of the Meatae and Caledonians; the latter people are said, on very poor authority, to have been little better than savages. Against them Severus (208) made an expedition indefinitely far to the north, but the enemy shunned a general engagement, cut off small detachments, and caused the Romans terrible losses in this march to a non- existent Moscow.

Not till 306 do we hear of the Picts, about whom there is infinite learning but little knowledge. They must have spoken Gaelic by Severus's time (208), whatever their original language; and were long recognised in Galloway, where the hill and river names are Gaelic.

The later years of the Romans, who abandoned Britain in 410, were perturbed by attacks of the Scoti (Scots) from Ireland, and it is to a settlement in Argyll of "Dalriadic" Scots from Ireland about 500 A.D. that our country owes the name of Scotland.

Rome has left traces of her presence on Scottish soil--vestiges of the forts and vallum wall between the firths; a station rich in antiquities under the Eildons at Newstead; another, Ardoch, near Sheriffmuir; a third near Solway Moss (Birrenswark); and others less extensive, with some roads extending towards the Moray Firth; and a villa at Musselburgh, found in the reign of James VI. {4}

CHAPTER II. CHRISTIANITY--THE RIVAL KINGDOMS.

To the Scots, through St Columba, who, about 563, settled in Iona, and converted the Picts as far north as Inverness, we owe the introduction of Christianity, for though the Roman Church of St Ninian (397), at Whithern in Galloway, left embers of the faith not extinct near Glasgow, St Kentigern's country, till Columba's time, the rites of Christian Scotland were partly of the Celtic Irish type, even after St Wilfrid's victory at the Synod of Whitby (664).

St Columba himself was of the royal line in Ulster, was learned, as learning was then reckoned, and, if he had previously been turbulent, he now desired to spread the Gospel. With twelve companions he settled in Iona, established his cloister of cells, and journeyed to Inverness, the capital of Pictland. Here his miracles overcame the magic of the King's druids; and his Majesty, Brude, came into the fold, his people following him. Columba was no less of a diplomatist than of an evangelist. In a crystal he saw revealed the name of the rightful king of the Dalriad Scots in Argyll--namely, Aidan--and in 575, at Drumceat in North Ireland, he procured the recognition of Aidan, and brought the King of the Picts also to confess Aidan's independent royalty.

In the 'Life of Columba,' by Adamnan, we get a clear and complete view of everyday existence in the Highlands during that age. We are among the red deer, and the salmon, and the cattle in the hills, among the second- sighted men, too, of whom Columba was far the foremost. We see the saint's inkpot upset by a clumsy but enthusiastic convert; we even make acquaintance with the old white pony of the monastery, who mourned when St Columba was dying; while among secular men we observe the differences in rank, measured by degrees of wealth in cattle. Many centuries elapse before, in Froissart, we find a picture of Scotland so distinct as that painted by Adamnan.

The discipline of St Columba was of the monastic model. There were settlements of clerics in fortified villages; the clerics were a kind of monks, with more regard for abbots than for their many bishops, and with peculiar tonsures, and a peculiar way of reckoning the date of Easter. Each missionary was popularly called a Saint, and the _Kil_, or cell, of many a Celtic missionary survives in hundreds of place-names.

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