Scotland's Story - H. E. Marshall
Once upon a time there lived in Greece a king who had a son called Gathelus. Prince Gathelus was very handsome and brave, but he was wild, and gay, and wicked, and he caused his father much sorrow and trouble. Over and over again the King punished and imprisoned his son for his evil deeds. But in spite of all his father could do, Gathelus grew no better but rather worse. At last the King had no more patience with him, and banished him from the land.
When Gathelus knew that he was banished, he took a ship, and gathering as many of his friends as would come with him, he sailed away to a far country called Egypt.
When they arrived in Egypt, Pharaoh, the ruler of the land, received them very kindly, for he was at that time fighting great battles, and he hoped that these gay young knights would help him against his enemies.
This, Gathelus and his friends did, and when Pharaoh had, with their aid, defeated his enemies, he rewarded them richly and gave them a city in which they could live together. Gathelus alone was not content with the rewards, for he had seen Pharaoh's beautiful daughter Scota, and he longed to marry her. And as Pharaoh could refuse nothing to the gallant Prince who had freed him from his enemies, he gave his consent, and Scota and Gathelus were married.
For many years Gathelus lived in Egypt, growing rich and great, and ruling over his people, who became more and more numerous as the years went by. And Gathelus loved his wife so much that he commanded that in honour of her name Scota, all his people should be called Scots.
But when Pharaoh began to be unkind to the Children of Israel, and terrible plagues fell upon the land, Gathelus wished to. live there no longer. So he gathered a great fleet of ships, and with his wife and children, and all his soldiers and servants, and a great company of people, he went on board and sailed far away across the sea in search of another country.
After many storms and adventures Gathelus and his company arrived at last on the shores of Spain. They had been tossed and buffeted about by winds and waves for many days. They had eaten all the food which they had brought with them, and they were nearly starving. So they were very glad to be safe on land once more.
But the people of Spain were not glad to see these strangers, and they made ready to fight them. Gathelus too made ready to fight, and a fierce battle followed in which the Spaniards were beaten.
But Gathelus and his Scots wished to live at peace with the people of the land, and although neither could speak the language of the other, the Scots found means to make the Spaniards understand that they did not wish to fight against them or to hurt them in any way. So the two nations became friends, and the Spaniards gave a part of their country to the Scots, where for many years they lived in peace.
As the years went on, the Scots grew to be still richer and greater than they had been in Egypt, and Gathelus, who had been so wild and wicked when he was young, became a wise and good King. But when the Spaniards saw that the Scots had become a powerful nation, they were once more afraid of them, and they resolved to drive them out of the country.
Then both the Scots and the Spaniards gathered their mighty men, and there was a great and terrible battle, with awful slaughter on both sides. But in the end the Scots won the victory. Then once more peace was made, and the two nations agreed again to live side by side as friends.
But when Gathelus saw how the Scots still went on growing richer and greater day by day, he feared that the Spaniards would again become angry and want to fight. So he began to think how this might be avoided. At last, hearing of a Green Island which lay in the sea not far distant, he resolved to send some of his people there.
Gathering a great number of ships, he filled them with soldiers, and making his two sons, who were called Hiberus and Himecus, captains, he sent them away to seek for the Green Island.
For some days the ships sailed upon the sea seeking the Green Island in vain. But at last they came to it and landed there. The Scots soon found out that there were very few people on the Green Island, and those who were there were gentle and kindly, and had no wish to fight.
Hiberus and Himecus therefore, instead of fighting, tried to make friends with the people. This they easily did, for the inhabitants of the Green Island, seeing that the Scots meant them no harm, welcomed them gladly.
So the Scots settled in the Green Island and taught the people many useful things. They showed them how to sow and plough and reap, how to build houses, how to spin, and in many ways how to live more comfortably. Then presently, in honour of Hiberus, who was their Prince, they changed the name of the island to Hibernia. The island is still sometimes called by that name, although we generally call it Ireland.
For many years the Scots lived in Hibernia. Gathelus died, and Hiberus died, and after them ruled many kings. At last, when many hundreds of years had passed, a prince called Rothsay sailed over to the islands which lay opposite Hibernia, and took possession of them. The island upon which he first landed he called Rothesay, and to this day there is a town on the island of Bute called by that name.
The Scots, finding that these islands were fertile, and good for breeding cattle, sailed over from Hibernia in greater and greater numbers, bringing their wives and children with them. At last they filled all the little islands, and some of them landed in the north of the big island, which was then called Albion.
After many, many years, the north part of Albion came to be called the land of Scots, or Scotland, just as the south part was called the land of Angles, or England.
Some people think that this story of Prince Gathelus is a fairy tale. But this at least is true, that in far off days when people spoke of Scotia, they meant Ireland, and when they spoke of Scots, they meant the people who lived in Ireland, and Scotland took its name from the people who came from Ireland and settled in Scotland.
When the Scots first came to Albion, they found it already peopled by the Britons, and by another race called the Picts. It is not certain from where these Picts came, but they were a very wild and fierce people. It is supposed that they were called Picts, from the Latin word pictus, which means painted, because they painted their bodies instead of wearing clothes.
So there were three races living in Scotland, and these were divided into many tribes who often fought with each other. There were kings of Scots, kings of Picts, and kings of Britons, all ruling in Albion. Sometimes the kings and their peoples all fought against each other; sometimes the Picts and the Scots joined together against the Britons. Those were fierce and wild times, and they were all fierce and wild peoples. They lived in caves, or in holes dug in the ground and covered over with turf and with branches of trees. They wore few clothes except those made from the skins of animals, although the Scots knew how to weave and make cloth in bright coloured checks and stripes.
A great part of the country was covered with forests. In these forests wild beasts prowled about. Bears, wolves, wild boars, bisons, and a kind of tiger, were the fiercest, but there were also several kinds of deer, beavers, and many other animals which are no longer to be found in Scotland.
The people hunted these animals and killed them for food, and also for their skins, of which they made clothes. In hunting they used bows and arrows. Bows and arrows were used too in war, as well as a long, blunt, heavy spear. And in hunting and fighting the men spent nearly all their time.
Years went on. Many kings, good and bad, lived, and ruled, and died, and at last a great and clever people called the Romans heard of the island of Britain, and came sailing over the sea to conquer it. They landed first in the south of the island and tried to conquer the people there, and it was not until the year 80 A.D., more than a hundred years after the Romans first came to Britain, that a general called Agricola marched into Scotland against the Caledonians, as the Romans called all the tribes who lived in the north part of the island.
Agricola took some of his soldiers into Scotland by land. Others sailed there in great galleys, as the Roman ships were called. The Caledonians did not fear the Roman soldiers. They had already fought against them many times, for they had often marched into the south of the island to help the Britons against the Romans. 'They were willing,' says an old writer, 'to help towards the delivery of the land from the bondage of the Romans, whose nestling so near their noses they were loth to see or hear of.'
But if the Caledonians did not fear the soldiers, the great galleys of the Romans filled them with awe and dread. Never before had they seen so many nor such great ships. 'The very ocean is given over to our enemies,' they said. 'How shall we save ourselves from these mighty conquerors who thus surround us on every side?'
But although the Caledonians were filled with dread, they fought bravely. As Agricola marched northward by the coast, his galleys followed him on the sea. Sometimes the galleys would come close to the shore, and the sailors would land and join the soldiers in the camp. There they would tell stories to each other of the battles and dangers, of the storms and adventures, through which they had passed, each trying to make the others believe that their adventures had been the most exciting, their dangers the greatest.
The Caledonians fought fiercely, but Agricola's soldiers were far better trained, and gradually he drove the islanders before him into the mountains beyond the rivers Forth and Clyde. There he built a line of forts. He knew that he had neither conquered nor subdued the fierce Caledonians. So he built this line of forts in order to cut them off from the south, and shut them, as it were, into another island.
Having built this line of forts, Agricola marched still farther north. But the Caledonians fought so fiercely that some of the Roman leaders begged Agricola to turn back. Agricola would not go back, but as the winter was near, and the roads were so bad as to be almost impassable, he encamped and waited for the spring before fighting any more.
The Caledonians spent the winter in making preparations for battle. All the various tribes forgot their quarrels and joined together under a leader called Galgacus. Sending their wives and children to a safe place, the men, young and old, from far and near, flocked to Galgacus eager to fight for their country.
When spring came and the roads were once more passable, the Romans left their camp and marched northward, seeking the Caledonians. They met, it is thought, somewhere upon the slopes of the Grampian hills, but no one is sure of the exact spot.
The Caledonians were little more than savages, yet they were ready to fight to the last for their country. They were almost naked. They wore no armour and carried only small shields. For weapons they had bows and arrows, blunt iron swords and heavy spears. Those in the centre of the army were mounted upon rough little horses, and there too were gathered the war chariots with swords upon the wheels ready to dash among the enemy and cut them down.
Against these savage warriors came the splendid soldiers of the Roman Empire, clad in glittering coats of mail, armed with swords and spears of sharpened steel, every man among them trained to obey, to fight, and to die.
As the Caledonians stood ready for battle, Galgacus made a speech to them. 'Fight to day,' he said, 'for the liberty of Albion. We have never been slaves, and if we would not now become the slaves of these proud Romans there is nothing left to us but to fight and die. We are at the farthest limits of land and liberty. There is no land behind us to which we may flee. There is nothing but the waves and rocks and the Romans in their ships. These plunderers of the world having taken all the land, now claim the seas, so that even if we fly to the sea there is no safety from them. They kill and slay, and take what is not theirs, and call it Empire. They make a desert and call it Peace. Our children, our wives, and all who are dear to us, are torn from us, our lands and goods are destroyed. Let this day decide if such things we are to suffer for ever or revenge instantly. March then to battle. Think of your children and of the freedom which was your fathers', and win it again, or die.'
When Galgacus had finished speaking, the Caledonians answered with great shouts and songs, then with their chariots and horsemen they rushed upon the Romans. Fiercely the battle began, fiercely it raged. The Caledonians fought with splendid courage, but what could half naked savages do against the steel clad warriors of Rome? When night fell, ten thousand Caledonians lay dead upon the field. The Romans had won the victory.
All through the night could be heard the desolate cries of sorrow and despair, as women moved over the battle field seeking their dead, and helping the wounded. All through the night the sky was red with the light of fires. But in the morning the country far and near was empty and silent, and the villages were smoking ruins. Not a Caledonian was to be seen. They had burned their homes and fled away to hide among the mountains.
Agricola, knowing that it would be useless to try to follow them through the dark forest and hills, turned and marched southward again beyond his line of forts. A few months later he was called back to Rome.
Agricola had been four years in Scotland, and when he left it the people were still unconquered.