), the northern part of Britannia.
The name is variously derived.
In the present Welsh, celydd == a sheltered place, a retreat, a woody shelter
(see Owen's Dict.), the [p. 1.478]
plural form of which is celeddon.
In the same language called == thistle stalks.
Name for name, the former of these words gives us the preferable etymology for Caledonia. Growth for growth, that of the thistle
predominates over that of timber.
As far as the opinion of the native critics goes, the former etymology is the more current.
Whatever may be its meaning, the root Caled
) is Biitish.
It may or may not have been native as well, i. e. if we suppose (a doubtful point) that the Caledonii were notably different from the Britanni. Pliny (4.16. s. 30
) is the first author in whose text it appears; but, as it appears in Ptolemy (2.3
) also, and as Ptolemy's sources were in certain cases earlier than those of Pliny, or even Caesar, there is no reason for believing it to have been a name one whit newer than that of any other ancient nation. The Dicalidones of Ammianus Marcellinus (27.8
) are most probably the same population under a designation augmented by a derivational or inflexional prefix.
The import of the term is not less doubtful than its etymology.
With the later writers it is wide; and Caledonia
is the term expressive of one of the great primary divisions of the populations of the Britannic islanders; coinciding, nearly, with the present kingdom of Scotland, as opposed to England and Ireland.
But, assuredly, this was not its original power. Aristotle knows no distinction between southern and northern Britain.
He merely knows the one between Albion (Great Britain) and Ierne (Ireland). Mela differs from Aristotle only in writing Britannia
instead of Albion.
The Orcades and the Hemodae (Hebrides
) he knows; but he knows no Caledonia.
Pliny, as aforesaid, is the first author who mentions Caledonia; Tacitus (Agr.
11) the one who deals with it most fully.
The authorities, however, are the same in both.
The one wrote as the biographer of Agricola; the other evidently bases his statements on the information supplied by that commander,--“triginta prope jam annis notitiam ejus Romanis armis non ultra vicinitatem silvae Caledoniae propagantibus.” (Plin. l.c.
Solinus gives us the following mysterious passage.
He speaks of the Caledonicus angulus,
and con. tinues--“in quo recessu Ulyxem Caledoniae appulsum manifestat ara Graecis litteris scripta votum” (100.22). To refer this to a mistaken or inaccurate application of the well-known passage of Tacitus, wherein he speaks of Ulysses having been carried as far as Germany, of his having founded Asciburgium,
of his having an altar raised to his honour, and of the name of Laertes being inscribed thereon (Germ.
3), would be to cut the Gordian knot rather than to unloose it; besides which, the explanation of the Caledonian Ulysses by means of the German would only be the illustration of obscurum per obscurius.
Again, the traditions that connect the name of Ulysses with Lisbon (Ulyssae pons
) must be borne in mind. Upon the whole, the statement of Solinus is inexplicable; though, possibly, when the history of Fiction has received more criticism than it has at present, some small light may be thrown upon it.
It may then appear that Ulysses--and many other so-called Hellenic heroes like him--are only Greek in the way that Orlando or Rinaldo are Italian, i. e. referable to the country whose poems have most immortalised them. A Phoenician, Gallic, Iberic, or even a German Ulysses, whose exploits formed the basis of a Greek poem, is, in the mind of the present writer, no more improbable than the fact of a Welsh Arthur celebrated in the poems of France and Italy.
In continuing our notice of the earlier classical texts, Ptolemy will be taken before Tacitus.
He presents more than one difficulty. When Ammianus Marcellinus (27.8
) speaks of the Picts being divided into two gentes,
and Vecturiones, it is difficult to believe that he means by the former term any population different from that of the simple Caledonians.
His whole text confirms this view. Equally difficult is it to separate the Di
-calidones from the Oceanus Deucaledonius
(Θ̓κεανὸς καλουμενος Δουηκαληδόνιος
) of Ptolemy (2.3
); however difficult it may be to determine whether the ocean gave the name to the population or the population to the ocean. Now, the Deucaledonianocean is on the south-western
side of Scotland; at least, it is more west than east. The Chersonesus of the Novantae, and the estuary of the Clota (the mull of Galloway and the mouth of the Clyde) are among the first localities noticed in the Description of the Northern Side of the Britannic Island Albion, above which lies the Ocean called Deucalidonian.
Now the Caledonii of Ptolemy are to a certain extent the same as the coastmen of the Deucalidonian Ocean, and, to a certain extent, they are different. Their area begins at the Lelamnonian Bay
and reaches to the Varar Aestuary,
and, to the north of these, lies the Caledonian Forest
). Dealing with Loch Fyne
and the Murray Firth
as the equivalents to the Lelamnonian Bay
and the Varar Aestuary,
the Caledonii stretch across Scotland from Inverary to Inverness. Still, in the eyes of Ptolemy, these are only one out of the many of the North British populations. The Cantae, the Vacomagi, and others are conterminous with them, and, to all appearances, bear names of equal value.
There is no such thing in Ptolemy as Caledonia
and the divisions and sub-divisions of Caledonia
--there is nothing generic,
so to say, in his phraseology.
The Caledonia of Tacitus is brought as far south as the Grampians at least, possibly as far south as the valleys of the Forth and Clyde. The Caledonia, too, of Tacitus is more or less generic,
at least the Horesti seem to have been considered to be a people of Caledonia just as Kent is a part of England.
Putting the above statements together, looking at the same time to certain other circumstances, such as the physical condition of the country and the nature of the Ptolemaic authorities, we may probably come to the belief that, until the invasion of Agricola, Caledonia
was a word of a comparatively restricted signification--that it denoted a woody district--that it extended from Loch Fyne to the Murray Firth--that the people who inhabited it were called Caledonians
by the Britons, and Di-caledonians
(Black Caledonians?) by the Hibernians--that Ptolemy took his name for the ocean
from an Irish, for the people
and the forest from a British, source--that the western extension of these proper Ptolemaic Caledonians came sufficiently near the western extremity of the rampart of Agricola to become known to that commander--and that it was extended by him to all the populations (east as well as west) north of that rampart, so becoming more and more general.
Such seems to be the history of the word.
As to [p. 1.479]
the original tract itself, the question lies open to a refinement on one or two of the details. The Silva Caledonia
of Ptolemy lies north of the Caledonii,
i. e. north of Loch Ness, &c.
But this is a country in the heart of the gneiss, where forests can scarcely have existed, except so far as there is a tract of the old red sandstone immediately to the north of Inverness.
The true forest can scarcely have lain north of a line drawn from the mouth of the Clyde to Stonehaven--this being the southern limit of the barren and treeless gneiss. Again--though this is a mere point of detail--Loch Linhe may be a better equivalent to the Sinus Lelamnonius than Loch Fyne.
Caledonia, then, was in its general sense a political
term, denoting the part of Albion north of Agricola's boundary. Beyond this, the Roman remains are next to none. (See Wilson's Prehistoric Annals of Scotland.
How far does the following passage in Tacitus (Agric.
11) suggest an ethnological
signification as well?--“Rutilae Caledoniarn habitantium comae, magni artus Germanicam originem adseverant.” In the first place, the German origin is an inference
being the large limbs
and the sandy hair.
The interpretation of this passage is to be collected from its context in the Agricola,
and from the ethnological principles that guided Tacitus, as collected from the Germania.
The chief distinctive character of the German was his want of towns, and, at the same time, his settled habitations.
The one separated him from the Gaul, the other from the Sarmatian. Where each occurred there was, quoad hoc,
a German characteristic. Now there were fewer towns in North than in South Britain.
This directed the attention of the historian towards Germany. Then, there were the limbs and hair. What was this worth? The Britons were not small men; so that if there were a notable difference in favour of the Caledonians, the latter must have been gigantic. Their military prowess, probably, magnified their stature. Nor yet were the Britons dark. The Silurians, who were
so, are treated as exceptional. Hence their stature and complexion are mere questions of more or less.
The combination of these facts should guard us against too hastily denying the Keltic origin of even the most Caledonian of the Caledonians.
Whether they were Britons or Gaels, is noticed under PICTI, SCOTI. Probably they were Britons.
The previous view favours the derivation from Caledon == forest,
as opposed to Called == Thistle stalk.
The further the Romans went north the ruder they found the manners. Xiphilinus, speaking after Dio Cassius, thus describes the chief tribes:--“Among the Britons,” (observe, this name is continued beyond the wall), “the two greatest tribes are the Caledonii and Meatae; for even the names of the others may be said to be merged in these. The Meatae dwell close to the wall--the Caledonians beyond them--having neither walls, nor cities, nor tilth, but living by pasturage, by the chase, and on certain berries; for of their fish they never taste. They live in tents, naked and barefooted, having wives in common. Their state is democratical. They fight from chariots: their arms consist of a shield and a short spear with a brazen knob at the extremity; they use daggers also.” (76.12.)
For the chief populations of Caledonia, in the wider sense of the term, and for the history of the country, see BRITANNIA.