Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia


Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom, occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain. It shares a border with England to the south and is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and north, the North Sea to the northeast, and the Irish Sea to the south.

The northern half of the island of Great Britain, called Albany before the Scots arrived from Ireland in the fifth century and established territories there. In early Arthurian tradition – and in history – Scotland was populated primarily by barbarian Picts who had been driven north by waves of invading Europeans, like the Celts and Romans.

Geoffrey of Monmouth and the chroniclers describe Arthur’s wars against the Scots and Picts. In later Arthurian tradition, however, Scotland seems largely pacified and is generally subject to Arthur’s power.

Its kings are variously given as Caw (Welsh legend), Angusel and, later, Gwenddoleu (Geoffrey), Malaquin (Vulgate Lancelot), Urien (Meriadoc), Caradoc (Malory, who also mentions Angusel), and Tollo (Richard Blackmore). Malory also names a separate “King of Scots” who appears in several tournaments.

Chrétien de Troyes mentions that Arthur swelled his army with reinforcements drawn from Scotland.

Scotland included nine subkingdoms: Benoye, Estrangor, Garloth, l’Isle Estrange, The Long Isles, Lothian, the North Marches, Orkney, and Pomitain.

Scotland | 0 to 9th century AD

Pre-Roman and Roman Period | Before 1st century – 5th century
Before the Roman presence, various Celtic tribes, including the Picts in the north and the Britons in the south, inhabited the region. The Romans referred to the region now known as Scotland as Caledonia. They conducted several invasions into what is now Scotland, starting in the first century AD. The Romans built the Antonine Wall as a defensive structure, but it was later abandoned in favor of Hadrian’s Wall further south.

In the Roman period, Christianity began to spread in Britain, including what is now Scotland. Early Christian communities were established, particularly in the southern parts of Scotland, as part of the broader Romanization process.

Post-Roman Period | 5th century onward
With the decline of Roman influence in Britain, various Germanic and Celtic tribes vied for control. The Picts, a confederation of Celtic-speaking peoples, became prominent in the northern part of modern-day Scotland.

The spread of Christianity in Scotland was closely tied to the missions of Celtic Christian monks. Monastic communities, such as those associated with Saint Ninnian and Saint Columba, played a crucial role in spreading Christianity in different regions of Scotland. Saint Ninian is credited with establishing a church at Whithorn in the fifth century, and Saint Columba founded the famous monastery on the island of Iona in the sixth century.

Early Medieval Kingdoms | 6th – 9th centuries
In the sixth and seventh centuries, several distinct kingdoms emerged in what is now Scotland, including Dalriada and Pictavia. The kingdom of Dalriada, established by Gaelic-speaking Scots from Ireland, became a significant power. This period saw the spread of Celtic Christianity in the region.

The Picts were gradually converted to Christianity. Saint Columba is said to have undertaken missionary work among the Picts, and the establishment of the monastery at Dunkeld is associated with Saint Columba’s followers.

The Synod of Whitby in 664 had implications for the practice of Christianity in the broader British Isles, including Scotland. The synod addressed differences in liturgical practices and the calculation of the date of Easter. It marked a shift toward the Roman practices and authority, as opposed to the Celtic practices that had been prevalent in parts of Scotland.

Viking Invasions | 8th – 9th centuries
Viking raids and invasions, typical of the broader Norse expansion during this period, impacted Scotland. Vikings targeted monasteries and coastal areas. The Norse established settlements in parts of Scotland.

The Vikings also played a role in the Christianization of the region. The Norse settlers who established themselves in parts of Scotland brought Christianity with them. Some areas, like the Northern and Western Isles, became centers of Norse-influenced Christianity.

Formation of the Kingdom of Alba | 9th century
The unification of the Picts and Scots under Kenneth MacAlpin in the ninth century, a pivotal event in the formation of the Kingdom of Alba, saw the coalescence of various Christian traditions in Scotland. The reign of Kenneth MacAlpin is associated with a consolidation of royal power and the promotion of Christian institutions.

See also
Aguisel of Scotland | The Legend of King Arthur
Angusel of Scotland | The Legend of King Arthur
Celidoine of Scotland | The Legend of King Arthur
Escoce | The Legend of King Arthur
Gaddifer of Scotland | The Legend of King Arthur
Glasgow | The Legend of King Arthur
Islay | The Legend of King Arthur
Molendinar Burn | The Legend of King Arthur
Stater of Scotland | The Legend of King Arthur
Queen of Scotland | The Legend of King Arthur
Vridebrant of Scotland | The Legend of King Arthur

Culhwch and Olwen | Late 11th century
Historia Regum Britanniae | Geoffrey of Monmouth, c. 1138
Vita Merlini | Geoffrey of Monmouth, c. 1150
Lancelot do Lac | 1215-1220
Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230
Vulgate Merlin | 1220-1235
Historia Meriadoci Regis Cambrie | Late 13th century
Le Morte Darthur | Sir Thomas Malory, 1469-1470