Age of the Picts (364 AD to 550 AD)

•     364 AD        During the early Dark Ages the people of Scotland included the Britons who lived mostly south of the Forth-Clyde line, and the Scots and Picts who inhabited the area above it. Above the Forth-Clyde line lived the Picts. Without a doubt, the change in nomenclature from Caledonians and Maetae to Picts did not mean that new inhabitants moved into the area. Classical sources suggest that Pritani was the name the people of the Iron Age used to describe themselves. The Roman nickname for the people of the North was Picti or painted people, referring to the practice of painting or tattooing designs on their skin. The Picts were divided into the Dicalydones (north) and the Venturiones (south). The Venturiones somehow translated from the Maetae, which had originated as the Venicones of Ptolemeic times. Their territory became the basis of the later Pictish sub-kingdom of Forturiu, the first part of Pictland to be taken by Dalriada. Above the Strathclyde the Scots from the Irish Kingdom of Dal Riata lived. South of the Forth Clyde line the Votadini formed the British kingdom of Gododdin. Later, this and the Selgovae (who disappear as an identifiable group) were absorbed into the Anglian kingdom of Northumbria. Eventually, early in the eleventh century, the old territory of the Votadini was acquired by the medieval kingdom of Scotland. The fate of the British Novantae is harder to disentangle. They were organized into the Kingdom of Rheged. When this fell, the region came under Viking, Stratclyde and Northumbrian influence before it too was absorbed into an independent Scotland. The Domnonii formed the basis of Strathclyde, another British Kingdom of the dark ages, which eventually formed part of a united Scotland.1

•     364-365 AD     The Roman historian, Ammianus Marcellinus, identified Dicalydones, Verturiones, Scots, Attacotti and Saxons for the first time. These tribes caused problems on all Britain’s frontiers. To what extent they were working in collusions is not clear – the Saxon raids on the south are unlikely to have been connected.2

•     367-9 AD     Count Theodosius was sent to end the ‘barbarian conspiracy’ or the Picts allied with the Scots and Attacotti. Peace lasted about little more than 10 years. The extent of the conspiracy is hard to determine. They may have been blown out of proportion for political reasons.3

•     380 AD         Final Withdrawal of Roman forces from Scotland.4

•     382-90 AD   The Picts and the Scots invaded Britannia and were driven back by Magnus Maximus.5 These Pictish wars are mentioned by the monk Gildas writing in c. 540 AD. The Picts are also independently mentioned by the ‘Gallic Chronicler.’6

•     396-8 AD     The General, Stilicho, repulsed additional raids on the province by the Picts. These raids are attested to by the historian Claudian, and the Monk Gildas, each writing independently.7

•     400 AD         Ninian arrives in Galloway after having undergone some form of training in Rome. He had been invited to become Bishop of Whithorn (Galloway), from where he launched a mission among the Southern Picts. The implication of this is that when St Ninian arrived in the southwest he found a Christian community already in existence. He introduced the stone church.8

•     400 AD         St Ninian converts Southern Picts to Christianity after his return from Rome. The saint’s miracles are described in the 8th century account The Miracula Nynie Episcopi. The traditional view of St Ninian was that he was a fifth century figure sent out from Carlisle to minister to the already existing Christian community at Whithorn in Galloway. There is evidence for a Christian community at Whithorn. Later legends make him a contemporary of St Martin of Tours.9

•     400 AD         Angles begin to settle in Deira.10

•     407 AD         The last vestige of the Roman army is withdrawn by Constantine III, the western Emperor, in his unsuccessful attempt to bring the entire empire under his control.11

•     410 AD         Romans abandon Britain.12

•     429 AD         A battle is fought by the Britons against the Picts and the Saxons. The Britons win the battle under the leadership of the St Germanus, Bishop of Auxerre. The battle is described in the account of his life and in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People.13

•     449 AD         King Vortigern invites Angles to come to his kingdom and help fight the Picts. According to legend, their leaders were Hengest and Horsa.14

•     450 AD         The mercenaries turn against the Britons and fight King Vortigern.15 They create their own kingdom called Anglia.16

•     450s AD        The monk, Gildas, reports the Britons appealed to ‘Agitas Thrice Counsul’ who defeated the Picts. Agitas is usually identified with Aetius consul for the third time in 446. Aetius died in 454.17

•     478 AD         Drust, the legendary Pictish King of the 100 years and 100 battles dies in about 478 AD.18

•     485 AD?       King Nechtan of the Picts invites St Brigid to send representatives to receive a gift of land at Abernethy.19 St Patrick’s letter to the Soldiers of Coroticus written in the fifth Century refers to the ‘apostate Picts.’ To be apostate you must have been converted at some time. This suggests some Picts were converted in the 4th or 5th century. Candidates for this description are the Southern Picts living north of the Firth of Forth. Christian Cemeteries dated to the early 5th century exist at Catstane cemetery, Kirkliston, Midlothian. Other cemeteries with ‘long cists’ similar to that found at Catstane were also found at Lothian and Fife.20

•     501 AD         Reportedly, Fergus, son of Eric, dies. The Senchus fer Alban (Tradition of the Men of Scotland) copied in the 11th century from an earlier 7th century document provides a sort of Doomsday Book listing holdings in Argyll and providing a muster of land and sea forces. The Senchus reports that the colonization in Argyll was spearheaded by Fergus, son of Eric, the descendent of Ness (possibly a river goddess) who arrived with his brothers and established control before dying in 501. Fergus’s brothers are recorded to be Oengus and Loarn who established themselves at Lorn. Modern opinion favors the opinion that the sons’ of Fergus were invented to explain earlier migration that occurred before Fergus.21

•     547 AD         By 547, an Anglian chieftain by the name Ida established the Anglian settlement to rival the earlier Anglian Kingdom of Deira. The Anglican King Ida thrust his way far northward over the Humber, across the Tees and the Tyne, and establishes his royal seat at Bamberg22 in what had been Bernicia. It is near Lindisfarne. The two later merged to form Northumbria.23

•     550 AD         St Ninian comes to Whithorn (Galloway).24

•     550 AD         Bridei mac Maelcon becomes King of the Picts. He defeated the Scots and established peace between the Picts and the Scots for 15 years. Bridei’s stronghold was near the river Ness according to Adomnan in his life of St Columbia and has been located by others at Craig Phadrig, Inverness.25


  1. 364 AD-Ancient Scotland, Stewart Ross 1991, Barnes & Noble, 1998, pages 120-121. 

  2. 364-365 AD-The Picts and the Scots, Lloyd And Jenny Laing, © 1993, published with corrections 1994, Reprinted 1994, 1995, page 9. 

  3. 367-9 AD-The Picts and the Scots, Lloyd And Jenny Laing, © 1993, published with corrections 1994, Reprinted 1994, 1995, page 11. 

  4. 380 AD-Ancient Scotland, Stewart Ross 1991, Barnes & Noble, 1998, page 182. 

  5. 382-90 AD-The Picts and the Scots, Lloyd And Jenny Laing, © 1993, published with corrections 1994, Reprinted 1994, 1995, page 11. 

  6. 382-90 AD-The Picts and the Scots, Lloyd And Jenny Laing, © 1993, published with corrections 1994, Reprinted 1994, 1995, page 13. 

  7. 396-8 AD-The Picts and the Scots, Lloyd And Jenny Laing, © 1993, published with corrections 1994, Reprinted 1994, 1995, pages 11, 13-14. 

  8. 400 AD-Ancient Scotland, Stewart Ross 1991, Barnes & Noble, 1998, page 108. 

  9. 400 AD-The Picts and the Scots, Lloyd And Jenny Laing, © 1993, published with corrections 1994, Reprinted 1994, 1995, page 24. 

  10. 400 AD-Ancient Scotland, Stewart Ross 1991, Barnes & Noble, 1998, page 182. 

  11. 407 AD-The Age of the Picts, W. A. Cummins, 1995, reprinted by Barnes & Noble Books, 1998, page 64. 

  12. 410 AD-Scotland, The Story of a Nation, ©Magnus Magnusson, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2000, page 693. 

  13. 429 AD-The Age of the Picts, W. A. Cummins, 1995, reprinted by Barnes & Noble Books, 1998, page 64. 

  14. 449 AD-The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, Translated and collated by Anne Savage, 2000, pages 29,30. 

  15. 450 AD-The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, Translated and collated by Anne Savage, 2000, pages 29,30. 

  16. 450 AD-Scotland, The Story of a Nation, ©Magnus Magnusson, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2000, page 27. 

  17. 450s AD-The Picts and the Scots, Lloyd And Jenny Laing, © 1993, published with corrections 1994, Reprinted 1994, 1995, page 15. 

  18. 478 AD-The Age of the Picts, W. A. Cummins, 1995, reprinted by Barnes & Noble Books, 1998, page 64. 

  19. 485 AD?-The Age of the Picts, W. A. Cummins, 1995, reprinted by Barnes & Noble Books, 1998, pages 62-3. 

  20. 485 AD?-The Age of the Picts, W. A. Cummins, 1995, reprinted by Barnes & Noble Books, 1998, pages 62-65. 

  21. 501 AD-The Picts and the Scots, Lloyd And Jenny Laing, © 1993, published with corrections 1994, Reprinted 1994, 1995, pages 36-37. 

  22. 547 AD-Scotland, The Story of a Nation, ©Magnus Magnusson, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2000, page 27. 

  23. 547 AD-Ancient Scotland, Stewart Ross 1991, Barnes & Noble, 1998, pages 116,140. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, Translated and collated by Anne Savage, 2000, page 36. 

  24. 550 AD-Scotland, The Story of a Nation, ©Magnus Magnusson, Atlantic Monthly Press, 2000, page 693. 

  25. 550 AD-The Picts and the Scots, Lloyd And Jenny Laing, © 1993, published with corrections 1994, Reprinted 1994, 1995, page 15.