In Welsh, the Pictish country is called Prydyn, as opposed to Prydain which is the Welsh name for the rest of the island of Brtiain. In Q-Celtic (that is in Irish) the Pictish people or related people are called Cruthini. What the Picts called themselves is unknown.
Picts during the “Arthurian” PeriodEdit
Following the withdrawal of the Romans from Britain, Pictish raiding increased, as described by Gildas in his De Excido Britanniae who mentions raids by Scots (Irish) and Picts. Gildas claims that the Romans twice sent aid, but refused to do so a third time. Accordingly the British “proud tyrant” sought help from the pagan Saxons to fight the pagan Irish and Picts. Later tradition identifies the “proud tyrant” as the legendary Vortigern.
It appears that the Saxons were successful in fighting the Picts. At least they never appear as a menace to the Britons again, nor to the English. Perhaps the Picts were from that time forth more concerned with the invading Irish.
The Pictish King ListEdit
The Pictish King List is the only source which provides details of the Picts during the Arthurian period. The pertinent section of the King List reads:
Robai Alba cen rig fria re uile co h-aimsir Gud, cet-rig rogab Albain uile tri comarli no ar egin. Alban was without a king all along until the time of Gud the first king that possessed all Alban by consent or by force. Adberait araile comad he Catluan mac Caitming nogobad rige ar egin i Cruithentuath ⁊ a n-Eirind, .i. .lx. bliadna, ⁊ iar sin ragab Gud .i. .l. Others say that it was Cathluan son of Caitming who possessed the kingdom by force n Cruithentuaith and in Erin for sixty years and that after him succeeded Gud for fifty. Tarain .c. annis regnauit. Tarain reigned for 100 years. Deocillimon .xl. annis regnauit. Deocillimon reigned 40 years. Ciniciod mac Airtcois .vii. annis regnauit. Ciniciod son of Airtcois reigned 8 years. Deort .l. annis regnauit. Deort reigned 1 year. Blieberlith .v. annis regnauit. Blieberlith reigned 5 years. Deototreic frater Tui .xl. annis regnauit. Deotoreic the brother of Tuus reigned 11 years. Usconbest .xx. annis regnauit. Usconbest reigned 20 years. Crutbolc .xl. annis regnauit. Crutbolc reigned 40 years. Deordiuois .xx. annis regnauit. Deordiuois reigned 20 years. Uist .l. annis regnauit. Uist reigned 50 years. Ru .c. annis regnauit. Ru reigned 100 years. Gartnaid Loc .iiii. .ix. annis regnauit. Gartnaid Loc 4 reigned 9 years. Breth mac Buithed .vii. annis regnauit. Breth son of Buithed reigned 7 years. Uipoig Nauit .xxx. annis regnauit. Uipoig Nauit reigned 30 years. Canatulacma .iii. annis regnauit. Canatulcma reigned 3 years. Uradach Uetla .ii. annis regnauit. Uradach Uetla reigned 2 years. Gartnait Diupeir .lx. annis regnauit. Gartnait Diupeir reigned 60 years. Tolorc mac Aithiuir .lxxv. annis regnauit. Tolorc son of Aithiuir reigned 75 years. Drust mac Erp .c. annis regnauit ⁊ .c. cath rogein. Nono decimo anno regni eius Patricius sanctus sanctus episcopus ad Hiberniam peruenit. Drust son of Erp reigned 100 years and gained 100 battles. In the nineteenth year of his reign, the holy bishop Saint Patrick arrived in Ireland. Tolorc mac Aniel .iiii. annis regnauit. Tolorc son of Aniel reigned 4 years. Nectan Morbreac mac Eirip .xxiiii. annis rengauit. Tertio anno regni eius Darlugdach abbatissa Cille Dara de Hibernia exula pro Xristo ad Britanniam. Secundo autem anno aduentus sui immolauit Nectonius anno uno Aburnethige Deo ⁊ sanctae Brigitae presente Darluigdeach quae cantauit alleluia super istam. Nectan Morbreac son of Eirip reigned 24 years. In the third year of his reign, Darlugdach, Abbess of Kildare in Ireland, came to Britain as an exile for Christ. After a later two years, Nectan offered Abernathy to God and Saint Brigid in the presence of Darlugdah who sang Alleluia over the altar. Drest Guitimoth .xxx. annis regnauit. Dreat Guitimoth reigned 30 years. Galanarbith .xv. annis regnauit. Galanarbith reigned 15 years. Da Drest .i. Da Drest, 1. Drest filius Girom ⁊ Drest filius Budrost .xv. annis regnauerunt. Drest son of Girom and Drest son of Budrost reigned 15 years. Drest filius Girom solus .v. annis regnauit. Drest son of Girom reigned 5 years alone. Gartnait filius Girom .vii. annis regnauit. Gartnait son of Girom reigned 7 years. Caltaine filius Girom anno regnauit. Caltaine son of Girom reigned for a yars. Talorg filius Uiurtolic .xi. annis regnauit. Talorg son of Uiurtolic reigned 11 years. Drest filius Manaith uno anno regnauit. Drest son of Manaith regned one year. Galam Cennaleph .vii. annis regnauit. Galam Cennaleph reigned 7 years. Cum Briduo .i. anno. Cum Briduom 1 year. Bruide mac Mailcon .xxx. annis regnauit. In octauo anno regni eius baptizatus est a sancto Columba. Bruide son of Mailcon reigned 30 years. In the eighth year of his reign he was baptized by Saint Columba.
It is generally believed that Mailcon, father of Bruide, is the same as Maelgwn Gwynedd.
Picts in Pseudo-Historical WorksEdit
11. Æneas reigned over the Latins three years; Ascanius thirty-three years; after whom Silvius reigned twelve yeaars, and Posthumus thirty-nine years: the latter, from whom the kings of Alba are called Silvan, was brother to Brutus, who governed Britain at the time Eli the high-priest judged Israel, and when the Ark of the covenant was taken by a foreign people. But Posthumus his brother reigned among the Latins.
12. After an interval of not less than eight hundred years, came the Picts, and occupied the Orkney Islands: whence they laid waste many regions, and seized those on the left hand side of Britain, where they still remain, keeping possession of a third part of Britain to this day.
Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae has Brutus defeat King Goffar the Pict in Aquitaine. But Goffar seeks help from the rest of the Gauls, who attack Brutus at Tours. After defeating the Gauls, Brutus departs for Britain.
Historically in pre-Roman Gaul a people known as the Pictones or Pictavi dwelt in Aquitaine, centered on the city of Lemonum on the river Ligier, later to become Poitiers on the river Loire. Their power extended north to the region of the Turones who gave their name to Tours. Some have tried to connect these Pictavi with the British Picts. Geoffrey’s account suggests such a connection but barely avoids making it explicitly.
Geoffrey sets the Pictish invasion of Britain during the reign of King Marius son of Arviragus, which follows the Roman conquest. The name of the King of the Picts is Sodric. Marius kills Sodric in battle and a stone is set up in Westmorland as a monument to this victory. Marius allows the defeated people to dwell in Caithness, which at that time is deserted. The Picts, who have no women with them, seek wives from the British. When they are refused, they successfully get them from the Irish. The Scots are descended from the Picts and the Irish.
Geoffrey mentions Roman clashes with the Picts.
Then, during the reign of Magnus Maximus, Geoffrey brings in an army lead by Wanius King of the Huns and Melga King of the Picts who have been sent to Germany by the eastern Emperior Gracian to attack those who support Maximus. Their troops slaughter the shipwrecked British women who are being sent to become wives of the men of Little Britain. Then learning that Britain is now undefended, for most of its troops are in Gaul with Maximus or Conan Meriadoc, Wanius and Melga make a treaty with the neighboring islands, land in Albany in northern Britain, and begin to attack the southern lands.
At this point Geoffrey stops speaking of Wanius and Melga, though he continues to tell of the ravages of the Picts in passages based on Gildas’ account. Wace’s Roman de Brut, and Lawman’s Brut even more, personalize these attacks by continuing to use Wanius and Melga as their leaders. Indeed Lawman keep Wanius and Melga alive to be slain by King Constantine in his first battle. Then women are called out to seek for the defeated soldiers, whom they tear apart.
But it is a Pict, named Cadal by Lawman, who treacherously slays King Constantine. And Vortigern tricks a band of Picts into killing Constatine’s son Constans. This, in part, explains why the Picts are so hostile to Vortigern so that he must get aid from Hengist and Horsa to oppose them. From that point on, the Picts cease to be mentioned.
Picts Unmentioned in Arthurian RomancesEdit
The Picts are not mentioned in Arthurian romances.
In the Story of Merlin King Constantine, here named Constant, is not said to be killed by a Pict. His son is likewise not killed by Picts, but by a conspiracy of Britons who have been tricked by Vortigern. It is a rebellion by Britons related to these men which leads Vortigern to call in Hengist the Saxon.
Picts in Hector Boece’s Scotorum HistoriaEdit
Hector Boece in his Scotorum Historia first makes King Loth into a King of the Picts, not a King of Lothian. Loth marries Anna, who in Boece’s account is sister to Aurelius Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon. When Ambrosius dies childless and Uther has only an illegitimate son, Loth’s eldest son Mordred becomes the rightful heir to Britain. Accordingly King Loth battles both with Uther and with Arthur, until an agreement is made that Arthur may continue to rule, but that Mordred will be Arthur’s heir. Mordred is married to a high British nobleman named Gualone, and Mordred’s sons are brought up in Arthur’s kingdom with British not Pictish as their first tongue. The intent is to downplay Mordred’s Pictish lineage.
However, after King Loth’s death, the Britons repudiate the agreement and chose Constantine of Cornwall as heir instead. Hence Mordred rebels against Arthur.
Some Name VariationsEdit
LATIN: Picti, Pictus (singular); FRENCH: Pi, Pis; ENGLISH: Peutes, Peute (singular); WELSH: Ffichtiaid, Ffichdiaid.