Picts, Caledonians, and Belgians

The Picts were called by the Irish writers, Cruithnidh, which O’Brien considers to be the same as Britneigh or “Britons;” others derive the name from Cruit, “a harp;” hence Cruitneach the Irish for “Pict,” also signifies “a harper,” as they are said to have been celebrated harpers. The ancient Britons are mentioned by Cæsar, and other Roman writers, as having painted their bodies a blue colour, with the juice of a plant called woad: hence the painted Britons were by the Romans called Picti. The Picts or Cruithneans, according to the “Psalter of Cashel,” and other ancient annals, came from Thrace, in the reign of the Milesian monarch Heremon, and landed at Inver Slainge, now the Bay of Wexford, under two chief commanders named Gud and Cathluan; but not being permitted to settle in Ireland, they sailed to Albain, or that part of North Britain now called “Scotland,” their chiefs having been supplied by Heremon with wives from among the widows of the Tuath de Danans slain by the Milesians in their conquest of Ireland. The Cruithneans became possessed of North Britain, and founded there the kingdom of the Picts, which continued for many centuries, until they were conquered, in the ninth century by Kinneth Mac Alpin, King of the Dalriadic Scots or Irish colony in North Britain: and from that time the Scottish kings, of Milesian race, ruled over Scotland. According to the Irish writers the Picts, in their first progress to Ireland from Thrace, settled a colony in Gaul, and the tribes called Pictones and Pictavi, in that country, were descended from them; and they gave name to Pictavia or the city of “Poictiers,” and the province of “Poitou;” and from these Picts were descended the Vendeans of France. The venerable Bede states that the Picts came to Ireland from Scythia, or borders of Europe and Asia, and afterwards passed into North Britain. It appears that the Picts were Celto-Scythians (or a mixture of Celts and other branches of the Scythian family); and spoke a dialect of the Celtic language.

The Caledonians, or first inhabitants of Scotland, are considered to have been the same as the Picts, and mixed with Cimbrians (or Britons) and some of the Milesian Scots from Ireland. The country was called by the Irish Alba or Albain, and by the Romans Caledonia. There are various opinions as to the origin of the name “Caledonia:” some say it was derived from “Cathluan,” the first commander of the Picts; others consider that the inhabitants were called Coilldaoine, from the “Coill,” the Irish for wood, and “daoine,” people, as they lived chiefly in the woods—most of the country, in those early ages, being covered with the great Caledonian forest; and from “Coilldaoine” the Romans made the Latin name Caledonia. Others consider the name Coilldaoine to be derived from coill. “a wood,” and duna, “fortresses,” as the chief habitations and strongholds of the people were in the forests.

The Belgians were called in the Gaulish or Celtic language Bolg, and Bolgach, a quo Firbolgs and Firvolgians; and by the Roman writers, Belgæ, Belgii. O’Brien, in his Dictionary, considers the name to be derived from the Celtic bolg, “a quiver for arrows,” as they were great archers. The word Bolgach also signifies “corpulent:” hence others are of opinion that they might have derived their designation from being stout men of large size; they were celebrated for their bravery, fought with great valour against the Romans, and were called by Cæsar Fortissimi Gallorum, or “most valiant of the Gauls.” The Belgians possessed an extensive territory, called by the Romans Gallia Belgica; which comprised the northern parts of Gaul or France, and the country now called “Belgium;” they were divided into many nations or tribes, as the Parisii, Rheni, Bellovaci, Atrebates, Nervii, Morini, Menapii, etc. The Belgians, according to Appian, were a mixed race of Cimmerians and Germans; others consider they were a mixture of Gauls and Germans, and partly of the same origin as the Cimbrians, of whom an account has already been given. The Belgians of Gaul, being intermixed with the adjoining Germans, partly adopted their language, and hence some have considered they were a Gothic or Teutonic race; but they were chiefly Celts or Gaels, and spoke a dialect of the Celtic language, but mixed with the German or Teutonic tongue. The Belgians of Gaul, many centuries before the Christian era, sent colonies to Britain; and when Cæsar invaded Britain they were a powerful people, and possessed the southern parts of England, from Suffolk to Devonshire. The following were the chief Belgic tribes in Britain:—the Cantii, in Kent; the Trinobantes in Essex and Middlesex; the Regini and Atrebates, in Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire, and Somerset; the Durotriges, in Dorsetshire; and the Damnonii, in Devonshire and Cornwall. The capital city of the British Belgians was Venta Belgarum, now “Winchester.” Colonies of Belgians from Gaul also came to Ireland in the early ages.