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Thread: The Picts

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    Regular Member Keegah's Avatar
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    The Picts

    Why do people keep treating the Celts and the Picts as separate peoples? Everything I've read about them - from place-names derived from the Pictish language and their artwork - seems to indicate they were Brythonic Celts.

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    Yeah but we can`t yet be sure what language the "picts" actually used. Whilst the ogham stones in Ireland are for the most translated, the pictish ones still remain a mystery. There are loads of people on this forum that deal with linguistics so maybe one of them will have an educated idea. :)

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    Hope what is your take on the possibility of the Picts also being Pictones of SW France My family comes from the neighboring Santone Tribal lands both are seafaring tribes I'm sure they traded in England Plus I heard the Picts had a navy

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keegah View Post
    Why do people keep treating the Celts and the Picts as separate peoples? Everything I've read about them - from place-names derived from the Pictish language and their artwork - seems to indicate they were Brythonic Celts.
    Quote Originally Posted by hope View Post
    Yeah but we can`t yet be sure what language the "picts" actually used. Whilst the ogham stones in Ireland are for the most translated, the pictish ones still remain a mystery. There are loads of people on this forum that deal with linguistics so maybe one of them will have an educated idea. :)
    There are two main sources concerning the language of the Picts. The first are Graeco-Roman sources, most notably the geography of Claudius Ptolemaios, which lists tribes and geographic features for the lands north of the Hadrians wall. The second are Gaelic sources, most notably the list of Pictish kings, for some which native Pictish names are given alongside of Gaelic translations. Both show that Pictish was a P-Celtic language akin to Brythonic or Gaulish. You brought up these "Pictish" Ogham inscriptions, but there is serious scepticism that this justifies the assumption that a non-Indo-European language survived into dark ages Britain.

    PS: I can recommend this paper on the Pictish language if you want to know more about the topic.

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    The Picts

    I have a theory that The picts May be of the Pictone tribe of SW France. The Pictones and the Santones "that controlled the land my family came from in France are both seafaring tribes. I have seen the Picts also had a navy. What are your opinions on this?
    Last edited by Taranis; 19-03-12 at 20:30. Reason: fixing thread title

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    This sounds like fellow Eupedia poster how yes no's theory about persistence of tribal names. And in some cases, we can see that tribal names did persist between the continent and the isles, such as the Belgae and the Dumnonii.

    The obvious trouble with the Picts, though, is that "Pict" wasn't what they called themselves, so there's no evidence of the persistence of tribal names. We don't know what they called themselves. "Pict" is from the Latin for "painted." Not to mention that the geography is much more distant than for the Belgae and Dumnonii.

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    Quote Originally Posted by L.D.Brousse View Post
    Hope what is your take on the possibility of the Picts also being Pictones of SW France My family comes from the neighboring Santone Tribal lands both are seafaring tribes I'm sure they traded in England Plus I heard the Picts had a navy
    Well there will probably be loads who will fly in here when I say this but here goes anyway. You could be right, to an extent. I think accepting the Romans meant Pritani as Brittones is wrong. They were very careful in their recording of details and I don`t see them making such a mistake. I think when they used the name Brittones for some British tribes they meant Pictones. The Pictones were a tribe also in Gaul and the Romans would have known of them from there.

    But I don`t think they were the Picts of Scotland who I think were probably those referred to as the Pretani. Hope that makes sense :)

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    Quote Originally Posted by sparkey View Post
    This sounds like fellow Eupedia poster how yes no's theory about persistence of tribal names. And in some cases, we can see that tribal names did persist between the continent and the isles, such as the Belgae and the Dumnonii.

    The obvious trouble with the Picts, though, is that "Pict" wasn't what they called themselves, so there's no evidence of the persistence of tribal names. We don't know what they called themselves. "Pict" is from the Latin for "painted." Not to mention that the geography is much more distant than for the Belgae and Dumnonii.
    I haven't much to add here, sparkey, other than to say that you're right. "Picts" is an exonym, whereas "Pictones" (or "Pictavi") is a Gaulish tribal name.

    There are some Brythonic tribes which clearly had ties with Gaul (such as the Atrebates and the Parisii), but that doesn't apply to the Picts.

    When names persist (endonym or exonym is irrelevant), they always must conform to the respective sound laws as a language evolves. To illustrate that, I'd like to bring up a few names which really (in modified form) persisted where this applies:

    (Proto-Germanic) Chatti > (German) Hessen

    (Celtic) Volcae > (Proto-Germanic) Walhaz > Wales, Wallonia, Wallachia (modern place names)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taranis View Post
    (Celtic) Volcae > (Proto-Germanic) Walhaz > Wales, Wallonia, Wallachia (modern place names)
    Interesting. Does that mean that the Volcae were the first Celtic tribe that the Germanic people met?

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    Taranis I tried that link but it`s not opening anything.

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    There is not a lot written about the Santones as they helped the Romans. Even built a fleet of ships for Rome for the invasion of England. The help was for Rome warning them about the Helvetii plans to settle their lands. IMO the Pictones and Santones were the same type of people But I also think they differed from other Celtic tribes. Being Seafaring they may not have the same origins as rest or the tribes

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taranis View Post
    There are two main sources concerning the language of the Picts. The first are Graeco-Roman sources, most notably the geography of Claudius Ptolemaios, which lists tribes and geographic features for the lands north of the Hadrians wall. The second are Gaelic sources, most notably the list of Pictish kings, for some which native Pictish names are given alongside of Gaelic translations. Both show that Pictish was a P-Celtic language akin to Brythonic or Gaulish. You brought up these "Pictish" Ogham inscriptions, but there is serious scepticism that this justifies the assumption that a non-Indo-European language survived into dark ages Britain.

    PS: I can recommend this paper on the Pictish language if you want to know more about the topic.
    So Taranis what is the tongue of the writing of the oghams, do you know? Also are the tribe names we associate with the Picts
    such as the Taezeli, Vacomagi or the Caledonii , are they celtic names ? :)
    Last edited by hope; 20-03-12 at 03:06.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hope View Post
    So Taranis what is the tongue of the writing of the oghams, do you know?
    Well, I'll give you an example of those "Pictish" inscriptions:



    You're free to transliterate this yourself, but I read this as "IRATADDOARENS". Most so-called 'Pictish' inscriptions are similarly short. So, I'll return the question: do these rather unreadable inscriptions justify the assumption that a non-Indo-European language survived in dark ages Scotland?

    Also are the tribe names we associate with the Picts
    such as the Taezeli, Vacomagi or the Caledonii , are they celtic names ? :)
    "Caledonii" - you can compare the name with Breton "kalet", Welsh "caled" and Old Irish "calad", which all mean 'hard'. It's also found in the Gaulish tribal name "Caleti". The '-on-' is an augmentative form also typically Celtic (think of tribal names like "Senones" and "Lingones", etc.).


    "Vacomagi" - the first element is also found in the Gaulish "Bellovaci", as well as possibly the Celtiberian "Arevaci" and "Vaccaei". The second element is probably the same as Old Irish "mag" and Gaulish "magus" ('plain', 'field').

    About "Taezali" what should be added that other versions give the name as "Tazali" or even as "Taexali" - it's unclear what the original form was. What should be added (to quote Forsyth 1997, the link which I provided above):

    "If we are wavering in accepting the Celticity of these problematic tribal names, it is surely of the greatest significance that the river Deva ran through the territory of the Taezali. If Celtic-speakers were sufficiently established in the region to have named the major river, this should give us pause before dismissing a Celtic explanation for the local tribal name. Likewise with the river Tama and the place-name Bannatia in the territory of the Vacomagi."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taranis View Post
    Well, I'll give you an example of those "Pictish" inscriptions:



    You're free to transliterate this yourself, but I read this as "IRATADDOARENS". Most so-called 'Pictish' inscriptions are similarly short. So, I'll return the question: do these rather unreadable inscriptions justify the assumption that a non-Indo-European language survived in dark ages Scotland?



    "Caledonii" - you can compare the name with Breton "kalet", Welsh "caled" and Old Irish "calad", which all mean 'hard'. It's also found in the Gaulish tribal name "Caleti". The '-on-' is an augmentative form also typically Celtic (think of tribal names like "Senones" and "Lingones", etc.).


    "Vacomagi" - the first element is also found in the Gaulish "Bellovaci", as well as possibly the Celtiberian "Arevaci" and "Vaccaei". The second element is probably the same as Old Irish "mag" and Gaulish "magus" ('plain', 'field').

    About "Taezali" what should be added that other versions give the name as "Tazali" or even as "Taexali" - it's unclear what the original form was. What should be added (to quote Forsyth 1997, the link which I provided above):

    "If we are wavering in accepting the Celticity of these problematic tribal names, it is surely of the greatest significance that the river Deva ran through the territory of the Taezali. If Celtic-speakers were sufficiently established in the region to have named the major river, this should give us pause before dismissing a Celtic explanation for the local tribal name. Likewise with the river Tama and the place-name Bannatia in the territory of the Vacomagi."
    Good full answer Taranis, thank-you. Tell me do you know anything of the Senchineoil tribe or the root of that name?

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    Do you think there was ever a time that all Celts spoke the same language?

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    your right .

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    Quote Originally Posted by L.D.Brousse View Post
    Do you think there was ever a time that all Celts spoke the same language?
    The Celtic languages constitute one branch of the Indo-European languages, and all Celtic languages (living or extinct) are thought to have descended from one common Proto-Celtic language, which is generally thought to have been spoken in the bronze age.

    Quote Originally Posted by L.D.Brousse View Post
    I think my son looks Celtic.
    Sorry, but how can any person look "Celtic"?! That statement doesn't really make much sense.

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    Was it the mixing with other cultures that caused the language to change from tribe to tribe Kind of like in America we speak English but with a lot of slang making it hard sometimes for Brits to understand us and for us to understand them. The same in other former colonies. It looks like a language can't survive away from it's origins for long in it's original form. I guess like Germans and the Dutch

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    Quote Originally Posted by L.D.Brousse View Post
    Was it the mixing with other cultures that caused the language to change from tribe to tribe Kind of like in America we speak English but with a lot of slang making it hard sometimes for Brits to understand us and us them the same in former colonies
    It depends on the situation, I think. Are you asking specifically how Brythonic became P-Celtic, while retaining elements from Goidelic not present in Gaulish? Or why Pictish was considered a different language than the forerunner of Welsh/Cornish/Breton?

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    So, the common consensus here seems to be that the Picts were a Celtic people - in that case, again, why does it seem like they are they so often referred to as separate from their surrounding Celtic neighbors?

    I mean, if I had to guess, I would say that it's because since we know fairly little about the Pictish language, we can't be absolutely certain that it was, in fact, Celtic. But it seems like the lion's share of the evidence points to it being similar to the other Brythonic languages.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Taranis View Post
    Well, I'll give you an example of those "Pictish" inscriptions:



    You're free to transliterate this yourself, but I read this as "IRATADDOARENS". Most so-called 'Pictish' inscriptions are similarly short. So, I'll return the question: do these rather unreadable inscriptions justify the assumption that a non-Indo-European language survived in dark ages Scotland?



    "Caledonii" - you can compare the name with Breton "kalet", Welsh "caled" and Old Irish "calad", which all mean 'hard'. It's also found in the Gaulish tribal name "Caleti". The '-on-' is an augmentative form also typically Celtic (think of tribal names like "Senones" and "Lingones", etc.).


    "Vacomagi" - the first element is also found in the Gaulish "Bellovaci", as well as possibly the Celtiberian "Arevaci" and "Vaccaei". The second element is probably the same as Old Irish "mag" and Gaulish "magus" ('plain', 'field').

    About "Taezali" what should be added that other versions give the name as "Tazali" or even as "Taexali" - it's unclear what the original form was. What should be added (to quote Forsyth 1997, the link which I provided above):

    "If we are wavering in accepting the Celticity of these problematic tribal names, it is surely of the greatest significance that the river Deva ran through the territory of the Taezali. If Celtic-speakers were sufficiently established in the region to have named the major river, this should give us pause before dismissing a Celtic explanation for the local tribal name. Likewise with the river Tama and the place-name Bannatia in the territory of the Vacomagi."
    Well that definitely translates as IRATADDOARENS just as you say, even though the second A seems to lie slightly different angle. But it makes no sense to me..whats your idea on it .Addoaren or Ethernan ?
    Last edited by hope; 21-03-12 at 12:31.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keegah View Post
    So, the common consensus here seems to be that the Picts were a Celtic people - in that case, again, why does it seem like they are they so often referred to as separate from their surrounding Celtic neighbors?
    I think this has a lot to do with Scottish national identity, which is usually (in the Scottish context, anyways) equates Celtic = Gaelic. Acknowledging that the Gaels supplanted an earlier, different Celtic people, doesn't quite fit into that image. It's much more convenient to portray the Picts as an exotic, non-Indo-European people.

    There's more: acknowledging the Picts were relatives of the Britons to the south means that Scotland is part of Britain, and, cynically put, large swathes of Scottish history revolved around not being a part of Britain. If you look at the upcoming Scottish independence referendum, that even applies today.

    The last component, in my opinion, is probably a religious one: the dichotomy between Christianity/Catholicism and Paganism.

    I mean, if I had to guess, I would say that it's because since we know fairly little about the Pictish language, we can't be absolutely certain that it was, in fact, Celtic. But it seems like the lion's share of the evidence points to it being similar to the other Brythonic languages.
    To say that it was similar to the other Brythonic languages is only partially correct. Pictish was probably more similar to (if not the same as) the "old" Brythonic language that was spoken in Britain at the time of the Roman invasion, but by the dark ages (5th century onward), Brythonic and Pictish must have been clearly distinct languages. Most importantly, it would appear that Pictish retained the Proto-Celtic *w- (shifted to *f- in Old Irish, shifted to *gw- in Brythonic, retained in all "old" Celtic languages).

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    Quote Originally Posted by hope View Post
    Well that definitely translates as IRATADDOARENS just as you say, even though the second A seems to lie slightly different angle. But it makes no sense to me..whats your idea on it .Addoaren or Ethernan ?
    Their writing is lines at different angles and positions? And it this a Name?

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    Quote Originally Posted by L.D.Brousse View Post
    Their writing is lines at different angles and positions? And it this a Name?
    This writing system, in the case you were unaware, is the so-called Ogham alphabet. It was invented in Ireland in late(st) Antiquity (ca. 4th century AD, but perhaps earlier), and they represent the earliest examples of written Irish language. When the Gaels arrived in Scotland, the Picts adopted this writing system for themselves.

    Some Pictish inscriptions do include names which are also found in the Pictish king lists, such as "Nechtan"/"Nechton" and "Tallorc". So yes, it's likely that this represents a name.

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    Quote Originally Posted by L.D.Brousse View Post
    Their writing is lines at different angles and positions? And it this a Name?
    It seems it may be L.D. I asked what Taranis` opinions on it were, but no answer yet so I looked it up in what I had from while back.First of all it`s known as the Brandsbutt Stone and the writing is ogham and says, as Taranis stated, IRATADDOARENS which could be a name. There have been a few opinions on who it might refer to but I go with Eddarrnon which is a rendering of St. Ethernanus, who was a local Saint of the area.
    Dated: circa. 500AD :)

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