Before it was Scotland, everything north of River Tweed was held by tribes speaking Brythonic languages or variations thereof. As much as the south of the island of Great Britain, the shape of northern society developed largely in reaction to the Roman invasions, though none of the lands north of Hadrian’s Wall were held for long. Two of the major factors influencing what shape those societies took were the defensive works known as Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall.
This essay covers mostly Scotland south of the Firths and all of the kingdoms including those much farther south that collectively were known to the Welsh as Hen Ogledd, the “Old North”.
After visiting Britannia during the final year of Legatus Falco as governor in 122, Imperator Publius Aelius Hadrianus Augustus ordered the construction of an elaborate defensive works on the line between Pons Aelius (Newcastle-upon-Tyne) in the east and Luguvalium (Carlisle) in the west.
This limites, or defensive wall, the largest in the Imperium Romanum, included a massive stone wall built on a stone base. Every mile between the two ends was marked by a gate with a milecastle (small fort with two towers) garrisoned by twenty to thirty limitanei (border soldiers), eighty of these in all). There was also a large fort every five miles for a total of twenty-five. A deep ditch guarded the Wall to the north, and to the south, beyond the military road stretching coast-to-coast was the Vallum, unique in the empire, a ditch half as deep as the northern one with embankments on either side.
This massive fortification, ten feet wide and twenty feet tall, was known as Hadrian’s Wall, but for most of its existence in use was simply called The Wall. It was also supported by a line of forts running to the north. Later it ends were extended to the fort of Segedunum (Wallsend) in the east and the fort of Mais (Bowness-on-Solway) in the west.
Antonine Wall, 141-164
In 141, Legatus Augusti Quintus Lollius Urbicus subdued the south of Scotland once again. The next year the Romans began constructing the Antonine Wall (named for Imperator Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius) across the narrow neck of land between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde.
The wall was anchored in the west by the fort at Old Kirkpatrick in the west and the fort at Carriden in the east, with fourteen forts between them and smaller forlets in support. In addition, a fort at Bishopton on the right bank of River Clyde and a fort at Camelon (Camlann in Gaelic) north of the wall two miles east of Falkirk provided additional support.
This construction of the wall, much of it still existing, was of earth, ten feet tall and sixteen feet wide, and almost certainly topped with a wooden palisade. Like its senior to the south, it had forts along its length, sixteen in all, with smaller fortlets between them. It was abandoned in 164 when the Romans again withdrew to Hadrian’s Wall.
Construction of this wall affected the Damnonii more than any other people as it cut off their northern regions from easy intercourse with their southern cousins.
Claudius Ptolemaeus c. 150
The Romans, at least in the first two centuries, referred to all the people beyond Hadrian’s Wall as Brittunculi, or “Little Britons”, leaving little doubt about their ethnicity.
South of the Firths and north of Hadrian’s Wall, i.e., “between the Walls” (Hadrian’s and Antonine), in the later province of Valentia, there were six tribes: Damnoni, Votadini, Novantae, Selgovae, Anavionenses, and Gadeni (the first four known from Ptolemy, the last two from other sources). The Maeatae may be another (see below). The territories of the Damnoni and the Votadini spread across the Antonine Wall, as did the Votadini with Hadrian’s Wall.
South of Hadrian’s Wall, in the region that later became the province of Britannia Secunda and amounted to the dominion of the Brigantes in their prime, lived Brigantes, Carvetii (in English Cumbria), Textoverdi, Lopocares, Setantii, Parisii (in East Riding of York), and Gabrantovices.
Identity of the Maeatae
Most authorities place the Maeatae just north of the Antonine Wall and the Caledoni to the north of them, but some place the Maeatae between the Walls. In later centuries Irish chroniclers refer to the kingdom of Manaw as Miathi, probably an Irish cognate for the same group. This leads to the conclusion that the group so named either alone or at the head of a broader coalition lived in what became known as Manaw, or Manaw Goddodin.
At the time Dio first mentions them, he refers to the Maeatae as living “next to the Wall which splits the island”, which usually refers to Hadrian’s Wall, which supports that last contention, though the other evidence suggests that the individual tribe of Maeatae were none other than those former Damnonii living north of the Antonine Wall cut off from easy commerce with their cousins and left to their own devices. Especially since the Damnonii are known to have spread north to include Stirling, Menteith, Strathearn, and Fothriff, precisely the territory of Manaw.
Dio’s reference dates from the 2nd century and likely refers to the confederation, while the Irish references are from the early 7th century and probably refer to its chief tribe, the former Damnonii north of the Antonine Wall who had formed into a separate people.
Revolt of Carausius, 286-274
From 259 to 274, the Britanniae belonged to the Imperium Galliarum along with Galliae (the Gauls), Hispaniae (the Spains) and Germaniae (the Germanies), but the center of that secession lay on the Continent, specifically the Germaniae.
In 286, Marcus Aurelius Mausaeus Valerius Carausius, praefectus of the Classis Britannica (the imperial fleet in the British Channel) based at Dubris (Dover), revolted and set himself up as emperor of Britanniae and northern Gaul. After ruling for eight years, he was murdered and usurped by his treasurer, Allectus, following a serious military setback in 294 at the hands of the western Caesar (the empire was then under the Tertrarchy), Caesar Marcus Flavius Valerius Constantius Herculius.
After finally defeating Allectus once and for all, Constantius Chlorus, as he is commonly known, then set about reorganizing the Britanniae once again, attempting to dilute any more power bases for revolt. Such as the one his son, Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus, used to make himself Augustus and Imperator in 306. He divided the two Britanniae into four: Maxima Caesariensis, based in Londinium (London); Britannia Prima, based in Corinium (Circenchester); Flavia Caesariensis, based in Lindum (Lincoln); and Britannia Secunda, based in Eboracum (York). Thus the Britanniae became a diocese, with the governor of the first province ranked as a consularis while the other three ranked as praefecti, with a vicarius over them all.
The death of Constantine the Great, 337
At the death of Constantinus Augustus, the Imperium Romanum divided into three praetorian praefectures (a fourth was added later). The Diocese of Britanniae fell under the Praetorian Prefecture of Galliae, which also included Galliae, Septem provincae, Hispaniae, Germaniae, and Tingitana (more or less Morocco).
In the Diocese of Britanniae, there were three commands, who officially reported to the Magister Militum per Galliae:
Comes Maritimi Tractus per Britanniae, later known as Comes Litoris Saxonici, whose command included the limitanei of the coastal forts (3000 foot, 600 horse), as well as Legio II Augusta.
Dux Limitum Britanniarum, whose command included the limitanei of the North (14,000 foot, 900 horse), as well as Legio VI Victrix.
Comes Militum Britanniarum whose command included mobile comitatenses of 2200 foot and 200 horse.
Legio XX Valeria probably remained stationed at Deva Victrix (Chester) on what later became the Welsh border.
Though one is never specifically listed, the overall commander of Roman forces in Britanniae would have been called Magister Militum per Britanniae. That such a position existed is evident from the history of later usurper Maxen Wledig, as he was and is known to the Welsh.
The naval forces of the British Channel, the Classis Britannica under a praefectus, were based at Dubris (Dover, England) in Britanniae and Bononia Gesoriacum (Boulogne, France) in Galliae.
Two commands in Galliae fell under the overall command of the Comes Litoris Saxonici: Dux Belgicae Segundae (limitanei in coastal Belgica and Germania) and Dux Tractus Armoricani et Nervicani (limitanei in coastal Armorica and Nervica).
In January 350, the general who would go on to become Flavius Magnus Magnentius Augustus rose against the rule, or rather misrule, of Imperator Flavius Iulius Constans Augustus, son of Constantine the Great. He quickly won support throughout the Prefecture of Galliae. However, the popularity and strength of support for the dynasty descended from Constantine proved too great, and Magnentius committed suicide after his defeat in the Battle of Mons Seleucis in 353.
One of the reasons for his popular support was his toleration of pagans, Jews, and Christian religious dissidents such as Arians.
The Great Conspiracy, 360-369
Historian Ammianus Marcellinus refers to the “Scoti” and the “Picti” raiding Britanniae (the Britains, south of the Wall) in 360, then again in 364, this time in conjunction with the “Attacotti” and the “Saxonici”.
In 367, the Great Conspiracy breaks out, with the Roman garrisons along Hadrian’s Wall rebeling in conjunction with native frontier troops known as areani; northern and western Britanniae are overwhelmed. In the midst of the chaos, Valentinus, an exile from Pannonia, and others begin planning a revolt. The Great Conspiracy is finally defeated by a force under Flavius Theodosius, Comes Britanniarum. Afterwards, he disbands the areani and organizes a new civil administration.
While these internal struggles ensued, the Picti, Attacotti, and Scoti were attacking Britannia and the Saxonici and the Franci attacking northern Gaul.
In 369, Comes Flavius Theodosius created the province of Valentia, which is usually held to have lain within the territory “between the Walls”. The province is noted in the Notitia Dignitatum of circa 420, and was considered important enough to have a consularis rather than a praefectus as governor.
Identity of the Attacotti
The identity of the Attacotti has been a subject of much dispute.
From the 18th century, the prevailing view was that Attacotti is a Latin corruption of the Irish aithechthuatha, or daortuatha, the subject or slave tribes. This view declined at the end of the 19th century, though it has again become popular. Others in the 19th century hypothesized that it referred to those from the extreme north of the island, what are now Caithness, Sutherland, and Ross, as its inhabitants were then known as the Catti.
The Notitia Dignitatum of the early 5th century lists four units of Attacotti in the ranks of the imperial army, indicating residence within or at least geographic closeness to the Imperium Romanum. That being the case makes more likely the third, and minority, opinion that Attacotti refers to a confederation of the tribes between the Walls, being a later name for the Maeatae or a succeeding or even rival confederation.
In 381, there was a fourth wave of raiding by Scoti, Picti, and Saxonici. After their defeat in 382, Flavius Magnus Maximus, Magister Militum per Britanniae, brought over Aed Brosc of the Deisi and a contingent of his people as foederati, settling them among the Demetae in what is now southwest Wales, to help repel further raids.
Maximus also assigned praefecti gentium to commands in the north among the peoples “between the Walls”: Quintilius son of Clemens at Dinas y Brython (Alt Clut/Dunbarton); Paternus son of Tacitus at Din Paladur (Traprain Law); Catellius Decianus at Din Gefron (Yeavering Bell); and Antonius Donatus Gregorius (son of Magnus Maximus) in Novant; he later transfers to Demetia in Wales. Ruling dynasties later traced their descent back to these praefecti.
Revolt of Maximus, 383-388
In 383, the general’s troops proclaimed him Imperator Flavius Magnus Maximus Augustus against the then current emperor of the West, Imperator Flavius Valentinianus Augustus, who at the time was 12 years old. Intervention by the emperor of the East, Imperator Flavius Theodosius Augustus, stopped Maximus for gaining the entire West but won agreement for him to rule what amounted to the Prefecture of Galliae.
Unlike Magnentius, Maximus was quite harsh towards religious dissenters of all stripes, and is responsible to the first executions of Christians on grounds of heresy, Priscillian and six of his companions, over the strenuous objections of St. Martin of Tours. On the other hands, he issued an edict censuring Christians of Rome for burning down a synagogue in 387, for which he was rebuked by Aurelius Ambrosius, bishop of Rome, known to history as St. Ambrose.
That same year, Maximus, known to the Welsh as Macsen Wledig, had violated his treaty with Theodosius I by pushing out Valentinus II from Milan, then the imperial capital of the West which provoked a response that led to his ouster.
In 406, responding to the invasion of Galliae by the Suebi, Alani, Vandali, and Burgundi, the legions of Britain revolt and nominate a usurper named Marcus as emperor. Marcus was killed by his troops the next year because of hesitation and replaced with Gratian. Gratian was killed because he also would not cross over to Galliae by troops who then proclaimed Flavius Claudius Constantinus as Constantine III. This general then crossed over with the three legions, each of leaving behind a skeleton crew along with the nonlegionary limitanei.
In 409, the Saxonici began raiding the shores of Britanniae and Armorica in large numbers, and there were Irish incursions into Venedotia, Cornovia, Siluria, Demetia, and the Gower Peninsula.
Cut off by the chaos, the people of those regions appealed to Ravenna (then the capital) for assistance, but Imperator Caesar Flavius Honorius Augustus, who had his hands full with the Huns and Constantine III, told them to attend their own affairs. Therefore, they expelled their remaining imperial officials and declared independence.
In 411, Imperator Caesar Flavius Claudius Constantinus Augustus, last emperor from Britanniae, was captured at Arles and executed at Ravenna soon afterward.
By 417, the revolts in Armorica and Britanniae were suppressed, and some level of imperial presence returned to both regions.
A few medieval sources list 448 as the last year in which there is any Roman presence in Britanniae, but to what that might be referring is hazy. However, since other sources report for this year that, “Civil war and plague ravage Britain”, it is plausible some degree of imperial government still existed up to that time. Also, it’s hard to imagine Romanized Britons not maintaining some sort of contact with the Kingdom of Soissons (457-486) in northern Gaul, as we know they were doing with Armorica, which considered itself an exclave of the empire.
Birth of the Old North
The beginning of the collection of kingdoms known to the Welsh as “Hen Ogledd” (literally, “the Old North”) was in 410, when Coelistius, last Dux Limitum Britanniarum, assumed political as well as military control of Britannia Secunda, possibly with some influence in Valentia, effectively becoming King of the North, if you will. Coelistius is the person upon whom the medieval Welsh legends of Coel Hen, “Old King Cole”, are based.
According to histories compiled by Rhodri Mawr ap Merfyn of Gwynedd (820-878), Coel Hen died in battle against the Dal Riata and the Picts near the Water of Coyl in the later Ayrshire in the year 420. This demonstrates both the reach of Coel’s authority to the territory “between the Walls” and the colonization by the later Argyll by the Dal Riata early in the 5th century.
In the meantime, the Council of Britanniae continued to govern in the south. This was the likely point at which the fortunes of the north and the south of Roman Britain parted ways.
Previously the thought had been that The Wall was abandoned with the withdrawal of the legions, but archaeology has since proven this was not the case, though at this writing no one knows how long it was able to be maintained. The Wall was the border between the two provinces over which the “king of the North” asserted his authority.
Tribes of Valentia
Damnonii were the biggest in the north after the Brigantes, taking up the later Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire, Dunbartonshire, and Stirlingshire, and the districts of Menteith, Strathearn, Fothriff.
Novantae occupied the later Wigtonshire.
Anavionenses lived in the district of Annandale.
Selgovae took up the later Kirkcudbrightshire and western Dumfriesshire.
Gadeni lived in the later Roxburghshire.
Votadini occupied the Lothians, Peeblesshire, and Berwickshire.
Tribes of Britannia Secunda
Carvetii held Cumbria, or at least Cumberland.
Textoverdi lived in the upper South Tyne Valley and may have been at one time a subtribe of the Brigantes.
Lopocares lived along the River Tyne and may have been at one time a subtribe of the Brigantes.
Brigantes, by far the largest group in Britannia, held the Yorkshires, County Durham, Tyne and Wear, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Westmoreland, and south Northumberland.
Setantii took up Lancashire and may have been at one time a subtribe of the Brigantes.
Parisii occupied the East Riding of Yorkshire.
Gabrantovices lived on the Yorkshire coast of the Oceanus Germanicus.
Kingdoms of the Old North
In 420, Coelistius, first (and last) “King of the North” died, and the lands of his office, were divided between his “descendants”, probably subordinate officers, but they may have included actual sons as well. Three of those below preexisted Coelisitius’ death, one of them by centuries. The two German lands (Beornicia and Deira) included in the list were not part of “the Old North”, but they did exist at the time.
Manaw – Identification in Irish annals of this kingdom with the Miathi, almost certainly an Irish corruption of Maeatae, leads to the conclusion that it was the same group or the lead group within a broader coalition that outsiders dubbed with its name, as in the case of the Caledones dubbed for the Caledonii. This kingdom lay about the head of the Firth of Forth, at least from the parish of Clackmannan in the north to the parish of Slamannan in the south. If it did not fall in 638 along with Eidyn and Goddodin, it certainly fell in 663 when Oswiu conquered southern Alba. In the records, it is often called Manaw Goddodin to distinguish it from Yns Manaw, the Isle of Mann.
Alt Clut/Ystrad Clud/Cumbria - Around 410, the Damnonii or their descendents established the kingdom that became known as Alt Clut, with the capital at Dinas y Brython (Dunbarton). It was under serious pressure after the fall of Rheged then Caer Gwenddoleu from the advance of Northumbria, with Eadberht conquering Kyle in 752. Generally known as Alt Clut until Vikings destroyed its seat in 870, when the capital moved to Govan and the land became known as Ystrad Clud, or Srath Cluid (Strathclyde) to its neighbors (restricted as it was to the later county of Lanarkshire, which was known as Clydesdale before the county was erected). Just a few years later, however, conquest of Northumbria by the Danes in 867 enabled Ystrad Clud to expand southward to include the later English countries of Cumberland and Westmoreland, hence the change of annalists and chroniclers to the term Cumbria. It became a dependency of Alba in the latter 11th century. Cumbria was incorporated into Alba in 1124.
Novant/Wyr Enouant – Called Novant in the poems of the Old North and Wyr Enouant in later Welsh, this kingdom arose in 418 among the Novantae, ruled by descendents of Antonius Donatus Gregorius. In 683, Wyr Enouant fell to Beornicia. That was the end of Novant, but the region later gained quasi-independence in another guise as Galloway. The country is not heard of again until the appearance of “Jacob of Galwegia” at the Chester council in 973.
Caer Ebrauc – Also seen as just Ebrauc, from Eboracum, this kingdom based in what became York was by far the dominant among the states of the Old North, at least in its early decades. Strictly speaking, its direct power was limited to the region south of the Wall and only became a distinct entity after Bryneich and Deifr broke away in 420 after the death of Coelistius. It fell to the armies of Deira in 580 in the aftermath of a disastrous expedition against Beornicia.
Goddodin - Founded about the time Coelistius’ death (420), this kingdom of the Votadini lay between the eastern border of Manaw and the northern border of Bryneich, taking in everything east of Slamannan south to Hadrian’s Wall, later restricted to the north of River Tweed. It was conquered by Northumbria in 638.
In 671, Northumbria established a sub-kingdom called Din Baer north of River Tweed and east of River Avon which may have lasted until the fall of Northumbria to the Danes in 867, at which time the north of that kingdom became the province of Beornicia (its rulers being first called earldormen, then high reeves, and finally eorls).
Bryneich - Straddling the eastern end of Hadrian’s Wall, it began as the kingdom of the southern Votadini just after the death of Coelistius (420). Its north border was River Tweed, its south border equidistant from the Wall. Its king was expelled from Din Guardi (Bamburgh) in 547 by Ida of Bernicia, who subsequently occupied it, but Bryneich itself continued at least to the end of the 6th century, the period of its last known king, Morcant Bulc.
Gwynedd – Became associated with the Old North when the governor or ruler of Goddodin, Cunedda ap Aeternus, was transferred to what is now northwest Wales to deal with the influx of Irish immigrants who left their name as Venedotia (from Feni) in 452. Gwynedd was cut off from the rest of the Old North when Argoed fell to Mercia in 613. It eventually became the dominant region of the Kingdom of Wales.
Rheged – Running from the Solway Firth south to border Powys and Gwynedd, this kingdom rose to become powerfull enough to rival, then eclipse Ebrauc. It broke away from the greater northern kingdom around 450 with its capital as Caer Ligualid, the former Luguvalium and later Carlisle. In 535, its southern region broke away as Argoed. The decline of its fortunes began to decline when its king, Urien ap Cynfarch (whose son was Owen), was assassinated at the behest of Morcant Bulc in 590. It finally assimilated into Beornicia by peaceful means about 643, due to the marriage in 638 to Rieinmellt, heiress of Rheged, to Oswiu, the future king.
Elmet – Occupying South Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, and eastern Derbyshire, this little known kingdom lay south of Ebrauc, east of the Pennines, and west of Deifr. It was carved out of the Northern Kingdom about 470 and conquered by Edwin of Deira in 617.
Pennines – This is the name given to the kingdom known to have occupied the entire chain of the Pennine Mountain beginning about 470. It divided into three around 525.
Calchfynydd – Mentioned in one single poem in the Book of Taliesen, its name also survives in the name of one of its rulers, Cadrawd Calchfynydd, to whom Welsh sources refer as one of the Men of the North (Gwyr y Ogledd). It was probably founded under the name Cynwidion by Cynfelyn ap Arthwys, youngest son of the king of the Pennines, in Northamptionshire and the vicinity around 480. That’s outside the geographic area of Hen Ogledd but is included here, like Gwynedd, because of the family connection. Cuthwulf of the Gewissae conquered the kingdom in 571 and absorbed it into his own.
Arfderydd – Better known by the name of its capital, Caer Gwenddoleu (Carwinley), it occupied what is now the parish of Arthuret in the former county of Cumberland. It was carved out of Rheged around 505 and conquered by the joint forces of Ebrauc, Dent, and Alt Clut in 573 over possession of Caerlaverock. Afterwards, it was dependent on Rheged, though it remained separate until
Dent – Was the northern of the three kingdoms into which the Pennines divided in 525. It was overrun by Beornicia in 591.
Craven – Only recently recognized to have existed and given this name by historians, this was the central of the three kingdoms into which the Pennines divided in 525. Bernicia conquered it along with its southern sister in 590.
Peak – With a named based on conjecture from the Anglian people who later occupied it (the Pecaestan), this third of the three kingdoms into which the Pennines divided in 525 was conquered by Bernicia in 590, like its sister to the immediate north.
Argoed – More often called South Rheged, this kingdom split from Rheged in 535 and remained independent until 613, when it was conquered by Mercia. Even then, Mercia allowed its king, Llywarch Hen, to remain on the throne as a subordinate until 620, when they expelled him to Powys, where he becames a bard of the rank of Aneirin, Taleisin, and Myrddin.
Eidyn – This kingdom, a division from Goddodin, arose in about the year 545. It spread at least from Din Eidyn (Edinburgh) to Caer Eidyn (Carriden) but may have included all of Mid Lothian. It fell in 638 along with Goddodin.
Bernicia – Beginning as a coastal settlement on the island of Medcaut in the late 530s or early 540s, this kingdom may have been built on a foundation of a laeti colony under Ochta and Ebissa in 452, expanding into a kingdom that eventually swallowed its host by the end of the century.
Deira – In the late 550s, an Anglish leader named Aelle landed with his followers on the coast of Deifr and rapidly spead inland.
Aeron – Was not part of the Hen Ogledd, though it is known from many of the same sources as Manaw and plays a cameo role in several places in Northern British literature, and was not in the vicinity of Ayr. See below for its location and identity.
Timeline of the Old North
297 – Caesar Marcus Flavius Valerius Constantius Herculius (Constantius Chlorus) divides Britannia Superior and Britannia Inferior into four new provinces: Maxima Caesariensis (Londinium); Britannia Prima (Corinium); Britannia Secunda (Eboracum); and Flavia Caesariensis (Lindum).
369 – An additional province, Valentia, is added in the north, probably in southern Scotland between the Walls, with its seat at Luguvalium. Its governor is a consularis.
382 – Fourth wave of raiding by Scotti, Pictii, and Saxonici. After their defeat, Flavius Magnus Maximus, Magister Militum per Britanniae, assigns praefecti gentium to commands in the north:
Quintilius son of Clemens at Alt Clut (Dinas y Brython/Dunbarton); Paternus son of Tacitus at Din Paladur (Traprain Law); Catellius Decianus at Din Gefron (Yeavering Bell); Antonius Donatus Gregorius (son of Magnus Maximus) in Novant. Ruling dynasties later trace their descent back to these praefecti.
405 – Fourth wave of raiding by Scotti, Pictii, and Saxonici.
409 – The people of Britanniae and of Armorica appeal to Rome for assistance with marauders. emperor Honorius tells them to attend their own affairs; therefore, they expel their imperial officials and declare independence.
410-650 - Sub-Roman Britain’s Heroic Age.
410 - Coelistius, the Coel Hen of Welsh legend, assumes control of the North, the area known to the Cymry as Hen Ogledd, its people as the Gwyr y Gogledd, most likely as the last official Dux Limitum Britanniarum. His authority covers the provinces of Britannia Secunda and Valentia.
411-429 – Raiding of Britanniae by Pictii, Scotti, and Saxonici.
417 – The revolts in Armorica and Britanniae are suppressed, followed by the return of some level of imperial presence in both regions.
418 – Descendants of Antonius Donatus establish a Sub-Roman kingdom in Wyr Enouant (Novant), the area that eventually becomes Galloway.
420 - Death of Coel Hen in battle against the Picts and Dal Riata invading Alt Clut near the Water of Coyl in the later county of Ayrshire. The lands of his office are divided between his descendants, known as the Coelingas, becoming Ebrauc, Bryneich (Din Guardi/Bamburgh), Deifr, Rheged, Argoed, Peak, Elmet, and Calchfynydd.
446 – The Britonici appeal to Patricius Aetius for military assistance against the Pictii and the Scotti, but he has his hands full with Attila the Hun.
448 – According to some chronicles and annals, the end of Roman presence in Britanniae was in this year, plausible given that others note for this year that “civil war and plague ravage Britain”, implying a serious disruption.
450 - Rheged is formed out of Northern Britain. The new domain reaches from the southern border of Alt Clud to the northern border of Gwynedd.
452 - According to the Historia Brittonum, Cunedda Wledig ap Aeternus and his retinue are transferred from Manaw to Gwynedd, called Venedotia in Latin (from Feni, the Irish); Germanius ap Coelistius is transferred from Gododdin to Manaw; and the Frisian foederati Ochta and Ebissa are sent to replace Germanius.
470 – Establishment of the kingdom of Peak in the southern Pennines.
471 - Ceretic of Alt Clut raids the Irish Coast and carries off some of St. Patrick’s new flock and sells them into slavery, receiving a written reprimand from the Irish evangelist.
520 - Pabo Post Prydain of Peak abdicates his throne and retires, as a hermit, to Ynys Mon.
525 - The kingdom of Dent is established in the Pennines.
Gabran mac Domangairt of Dal Riata, marries Lleian, daughter of Brychan of Manaw and niece of Cedric of Alt Clut, and settles with his men and their families in the region.
535 - Sawyl Penuchel of Peak is expelled from his kingdom by Bernicia and flees to Powys.
Death of Meirchion Gul of Rheged; the southern part of the kingdom breaks away as Argoed.
537 – According to the Annales Cambriae, the Battle of Camlann where “Arthur and Medraut fell” was fought this year. Camlann is Scottish Gaelic for Camelon, the Roman fort north of the Antonine Wall two miles west of Falkirk.
547 - The king of Bryneich is expelled from his fortress of Din Guardi (Bamburgh) by the Angles and Frisians, whose leader, Ida, becomes king of Beornicia.
550 - War between Alt Clut and Gwynedd.
558 – Bridei mac Maelchon (ap Maelgwn) of Fortrenn defeats Gabran mac Domangairt.
559 – Deifr falls to the Angles and Frisians under Aelle of the Angeln dynasty Icelingas, who renames it Deira.
560 – Elidyr of Alt Clut invades Gwynedd in right of his wife, trying to expel brother-in-law, Rhun Hir ap Maelgwn, but dies at the Battle of the Cadnant.
565 – Riderch Hael of Alt Clut mounts a revenge attack on Rhun Hir of Gwynedd. Rhun marches on Alt Clut and reinforces the armies of his half-brother, Bridei, in Pictavia.
569 - Aedan mac Gabrain of the Dal Riata establishes himself as king of Manaw by right through his mother; he is married to Demlech, daughter of Maelgwn Wledig of Gwynedd.
570 - The kingdom of Elmet founded.
570-575 - The Northern British Alliance is forged between kingdoms of Rheged, Alt Clut, Bryneich, and Elmet. They fight the Beornicians at the Battles of Gwen Ystrad and the Cells of Berwyn.
573 - Peredur and Gwrgi of Ebrauc ally themselves with Dunod Fawr of Dent and Riderch Hael of Alt Clut. They march north to claim the fort at Caerlaverock from Gwendoleu of Caer Gwendoleu. The latter is killed in the Battle of Arthuret and his bard, Myrddin Wyllt, flees into the Coed Celyddon, where he goes mad and becomes a prophet.
575 - Owein of Rheged kills Theodoric of Bernicia at the Battle of Leeming Lane.
580 - The army of Peredur and Gwrgi of Ebrauc marches north to fight Bernicia. Both are killed by Adda’s forces at Caer Greu.
The Deirans rise up under Aelle, and move on the city of Ebrauc. Peredur’s son Gwrgant Gwron is forced to flee; Ebrauc falls, with Catraeth going to Rheged.
586 – Battle of Circinn and death of Bridei ap Maelgwn; accession of Garnait mac Dornelch (or mac Aedan). He is succeeded by Garnait son of Damelach.
588 - Aedan mac Gabhrain wins the Battle of Leithri.
590 - Siege of Lindisfarne. The Northern British Alliance (Rheged, Alt Clut, Bryneich, Elmet) lays siege to Hussa of Beornicia and almost exterminates the Beornicians. Urien Rheged is assassinated at the behest of his jealous ally Morcant Bulc of Bryneich. Beornicians recover while internal squabbles tear the British Alliance apart.
Peak falls to Beornicia.
591 - Dunod Mawr of Dent mounts an invasion of Rheged, but is repulsed by its king, Owein, and his brother, Pasgen. Elffin of Rheged is simultaneously attacked by Gwallawc Marchawc Trin of Elmet.
593 - Morcant Bulc of Bryneich invades Rheged and kills Owein in battle. Pasgen of Rheged flees to the Gower Peninsula. A greatly diminished Rheged continues under the rule of their brother, Rhun.
594 - Battle of Manaw, which Adomnan calls the Battle of Miathi, in which Aedan mac Gabhrain of the Dal Riata is victorious, but with the loss of his sons Eochaid Finn and Artur.
595 - The aging Donud Mawr of Dent dies fighting off a Bernician invasion. His kingdom is overrun and his family flees to join his grandson in Gwynedd.
598 - Mynyddog Mwynfawr of Din Eidyn and Cynan of Gododdin ride south to fight Beornicia against enormous odds at the Battle of Catterick, seat of Rheged. The British are victorious, though Geraint of Dyfneint (Dumnonia) is killed in the fighting.
599 - Death of Taliesin, poet for Urien map Cynfarch of Rheged, great-great-great-grandson of Coel Hen, and for Owain map Urien. His works are collected in the Llyfr Taliesin.
600 - Aneirin of Dent writes the poem Y Gododdin recording the events of the Battle of Catterick.
603 - Battle of Degastan between Aethelfrith of Bernicia and Aedan of the Dal Riata, with support from Mael Umai mac Baetain of Cenel nEogain and Fiachnae mac Baetain of Dal nAraidi, king of Ulster, resulting in a devasting defeat for the Scotti in which Domangart mac Aedan dies, along with Aethelfrith’s brothers Theodbald and Eanfirth.
604 – Aethelfrith of Bernicia conquers Deira and unites the two kingdoms as Northumbria.
605 – Beornicia conquers Rheged and penetrates of Galloway.
608 - Death of Aedan mac Gabhrain of the Dal Riata.
Argoed falls to Mercia.
616 – Rheged falls to Mercia.
Aethelfrith of Bernicia is killed by Edwin of Deira at the Battle of the River Idle and his children escape north; his heir, Eanfrith, flees to Fortrenn and the rest to Eochaid Buide of Dal Riata.
617 - Edwin of Deira conquers Elmet. Ceretic of Elmet is killed in the fighting.
620 - Llywarch Hen is expelled from Argoed, probably by Edwin of Deira, and flees to Powys to become a famous bard.
623 - Edwin of Deira is baptised by Rhun of Rheged.
630 – Calchwynedd falls to the Middle Angles and the Chiltern Saxons.
633 - Death of the great bard, Llywarch Hen of Argoed, supposedly aged one hundred. His works include Canu Hedledd and Geraint son of Erbin.
635 – St. Aidan is sent out from Iona to the Angles of Northhumbria, where he founds a monastery on the island of Medcaut (Lindisfarena).
638 – Din Eidyn and and Gododdin fall to Northumbria, their aristocracy escaping to Alt Clut.
Rhianfelt, heiress of Rheged, marries Oswiu of Northumbria. Northumbria embraces Rheged in a peaceful takeover, and also becomes overlord of Circinn.
642 - Owen ap Beli of Alt Clut kills Domnall Brecc at the Battle of Strathcarron.
653 – Talorgan ap Eanfrith becomes king of Fortrenn.
654 – Oswiu is the first to assume the title king of Northumbria as supreme ruler of the united realms of Beornicia and Deira.
663 – Oswiu of Northumbria invades the southern Picts and establishes overlordship over Fibh, Circinn, and Strath Eireann.
664 - The Synod of Whitby.
671 – Northumbria establishes the sub-kingdom of Din Baer in the former territory of the Gododdin, also called Lleuddiniawn (Lothian).
672 –Ecgfrith of Northumbria conquers Cumberland (English Cumbria) and Dumfries.
683 – The kingdom of Wyr Enouant ruled by the line of Antonius Donatus falls to invasion from Beornicia.
685 - Ecgfrith of Northumbria marches his army north to engage the Picts at the Battle of Nechtansmere. The Dal Riata and Alt Clut Britons join the Picts in a thorough defeat of the Anglish forces. The latter lose much land south of the Forth to Dumnagual II of Alt Clut in the process.
697 – Bridei mac Der-Ilei subjugates Caitt.
706 – Death of Bridei mac Dargart of Fortrenn; Nechtan mac Dargart of the Cenel Comgaill ascends the throne.
711 – Northumbria invades Pictavia and is defeated in Manaw.
722 - Death of Beli of Alt Clut; Teudebur ap Beli succeeds to the throne.
729 – The Picts invade Manaw and are defeated.
750 – The Alt Clut Britons under Teudebur defeat Talorcan mac Oengusa at the Battle of Mugdock. Decline of the power of Oengus I of Fortrenn.
Elidyr ap Sandde moves the exiled royal house of Argoed from Powys to the Isle of Man.
Eadbert of Northumbria conquers the plain of Kyle
756 - Oengus I of Fortrenn and Eadberht of Northumbria successfully attack Dumnagual of Alt Clut at Dinas y Brython; however, Alt Clut subsequently wipes out Eadberht's entire force at the Battle of Newburgh-on-Tyne.
793 - Lindisfarne is destroyed by the Norse.
844 – The Battle of the Plains of Manaw is fought between River Avon and River Carron.
871 – Dinas y Brython, seat of Alt Clut and its king, Artgal, is destroyed by Olaf of the Norse kingdom of Dublin and his Viking warriors. The capital of Alt Clut is moved to Govan and the kingdom becomes known as Ystrad Clud.
872 - Artgal of Ystrad Clud is slain through the connivance of Causantin mac Cinaeda, Ri Cruithintuath, and his Viking allies. Artgal's son, Rhun, succeeds to the throne.
878 – Death of Rhun of Ystrad Clud. Succession of his son, Eochaid, who also attempts to assert his claims to the throne of all Picts through his mother.
889 - Eochaid of Ystrad Clud and Giric Mac Rath of the Picts are deposed by Viking invaders. Domnall mac Caustantin becomes Ri Cruithintuath, the last to be so called.
890 - Domnall Ri Cruithintuath expels the Briton aristocracy of Ystrad Clud. They flee south to North Cymru (Gwenydd).
927 – Ystrad Clud extends its southern border to River Eamont, close to Penrith, upon which it becomes known as Cumbria.
945 – Edmund I cedes Cumberland to Malcolm I.
960 – Alba captures Edinburgh/Dunedin, the former Din Eidyn.
973 – Maccus mac Arailt of the Isles, Kenneth III of Alba, and Malcolm of Strathclyde form a defensive alliance.
John, Lord of Galwegia (Galloway), Malcolm of the Cumbrians, Dyfnwal, Kenneth of Alba, Maccus mac Arailt of the Isles, Iago of Gwynedd, and others meet with Edgar I the Peaceful at Chesterfield, where he recognizes Alba’s possession of Lothian.
1014 – Battle of Clontarf
1018 – Mael Coluim mac Cinaeda brings Bernicia north of the Tweed under his control.
1054 – Siward of Northumbria defeats Macbeth in battle, places Malcolm ap Owain Foel (“Malcolm, son of the king of the Cumbrians”) on the throne of Cumbria.
1072 – Gospatric, formerly Earl of Northumbria, is expelled to the north, where he recieves vast lands as Earl of Lothian, essentially the lands of the former Dinbaer.
1092 – William Rufus conquers Cumberland and incorporates it into England as the Earldom of Carlisle
1124 – David I mac Malcolm, Prince of the Cumbrians, usurps the throne of his nephew Malcolm mac Alexander (I) and assumes the throne, uniting Alba with Cumbria and Lothian into the Kingdom of the Brets and the Scots.
Scotland in the Middle Ages
Beginning with Malcolm III Ceannmor mac Duncan, monarchs in the north began using the Latin title “rex Scottorum” along with “ri Albann”.
In 1124, David I united Alba (the north), Cumbria, and Lothian as one nation under a single set of laws called the Law of the Brets and Scots. From his reign through that of Alexander III, that royal title was also written as “rex Brettorum et Scottorum”, as in the seal of the latter. With the accession of John I Balliol, the sole official title became “rex Scottorum”.
Moray frequently reasserted its claims to leadership or independence in the next few centuries, most notably during the reign of Macbethad mac Findlaeich, noted as both king of Moray and king of Fortrenn, who defeated Duncan I to become king of Alba. The Fortrenn-Caledon rivalry continued on in the struggles of the MacHeths and MacWilliams, whose strength lay in Moray and Ross, against the main line of the Cenel Connaill (or Kindred of St. Columba) in Scotland that lasted until 1215 and 1230 respectively. Both families, frequently allied in “rebellion”, are disinherited branches of the main royal line but had intermarried with the local dynasty of Moray and Ross that traced back to both Cenel Loairn and the Pictish kings of Fortrenn.