The Attacotti Timeline

The Attacotti Timeline

After my very recent investigations into the Huns (last post), which led to their association with the Attacotti, I thought it prudent to assemble the following timeline which shows how this obscure tribe was formed & remembered in history. They really only turn up in the records over a span of three or four decades, before vanishing as obscurely as they arrived. I would like to here propose that the reason for this was their absorption into the Pictish diaspora. The information is best presented in chronicle format.

c.450 BC

The Agathyrsi were described by Herodotus as a tribe of mix’d Dacian-Scythian origin, whom he places in Romanian Transylvania; ‘from the country of the Agathyrsoi comes down another river, the Maris, which empties itself into the same.’ Herodotus then describes the Agathyrsi as being quite a sexually liberated bunch; ‘The most luxurious of men and wear gold ornaments for the most part: also they have promiscuous intercourse with their women, in order that they may be brethren to one another and being all nearly related may not feel envy or malice one against another. In their other customs they have come to resemble the Thracians.’

c.350 BC

The Thracian-Agathyrsi link maintained by Herodotus turns up in the list of the Pictish Kings, with version D relating they, ‘came from the land of Thracia; that is, they are the children of Gleoin, son of Ercol. Agathirsi was their name.’ The Agathyrsi also appear in the writings of Scotland’s 16th century writer, Hektor Boece’s ‘History & Chronickles of Scotland;’

Sum authouris sayis {the Picts} come first in Orknay; and, sone  efter, in Cathues, Ros, Murray, Mernis, Angus, Fiffe, and Louthiane: and expellit all the pepill, that inhabit that region afore thair cuming. Thir pepill war callit Pichtis.. fra the Pichtis namit Agathirsanis, thair anciant faderis. In probation heirof, Orknay wes calht the auld realme of  Pichtis. Siclike, thee seeis betwix Cathnes and Orknay war namit Pentland Firth ; and all the landis, quhilkis ar now callit Louthiane, war callit than Pentland.

150 AD

In Ptolemy’s 2nd centry AD Geography we may witness topographical support for the Agathyrsi of Heredotus settling in the same regions as the Picts of the Kinglist. Herodotus regurgiates a Pontic Greek myth – i.e. Greeks who had settl’d the Black Sea area – which states that a certain Agathyrsus was the eldest son of Herakles, & brother to a certain Skythes. The latter’s name strongly resembles Sketis, an island which appears roughly where the Shetland islands, or Sketland islands, should be if the mainland is correctly retilted. A variant name for Sketis given by Ptolemy was Ocitis, & in these name we see both; A-gath-yrsus/O-cit-is & Sk-yt-hes/Sk-et-is. Ptolemy essentially gives the Orkneys & Shetlands twice – once wehere they should be (as Dumna & Thule) & once where they’d be if the Scotland was tilted at the Forths.

IMG_20160512_035026

300 AD

The Roman grammarian Maurus Servius Honoratus (c.400 AD) wrote a commentary on the works of Virgil, which states that the Agathyrsi sent a contingent across the sea to Scotland. He adds that they were formidable warriors and seriously fatigued all who stood against them & a crucial fact that these Agathyrsi became identified with Picts. This explains why the Attacotti would dissappear from the records.

These Agathyrsi are, in fact, a branch of the Hunnish Acatir. The name Attacotti translates as ‘both Acotti’ – & reflects the merging of the Pictish branch of the Agathyrsi with the Hunnish incomers.  The “Agatziri” or “Akatziroi,” were first mentioned by Priscus, who described them leading a nomadic life on the Lower Volga, and reported them as having been Hunnic subjects in pre-Attila time.  Priscus relates anecdote in which two brothers, Denghizikh and Hernak were discussing making war on the Romans, but Priscus says that the the Acatziri, Saraguri, and the other Hunnic tribes, who lived by the Caucasus and the Caspian, were then engaged in a war with Persia; and that it would be folly to engage in two wars at once. A century later, Jordanes located the Acatziri to the south of the Aesti (Balts) & roughly the same region as the Agathyrsi of Transylvania, and he described them as “a very brave tribe ignorant of agriculture, who subsist on their flocks and by hunting.”

310 AD

The leader of the Acatirs who came to Britain is no other than the mortal Woden, not the divine god, but the very human being on which that deity was based. The evidence begins with Snorri Sturluson, who describes Woden-Odin as controlling ‘great lands near the Turks.’ Snorri then states that Woden’s, ‘descendents would live in the northern parts of the world,’ & has him conquering lands in France, ‘Saxland’ & Scandinavia.  One of Woden’s sons, Siggi, is clearly depicted the Völsunga saga as being a Hunnish king. Woden’s coming from Asia also has a clear remembrance in the mythologized tribal name for the Teutonic gods, the ‘Aesir.’

320 AD

The famous Brythonic king, Cunedda, appears in the Pictish King List as Canutulahina – as Cunedda the Hun – & is followed as Pictish king by ‘Wradech,’ evidently the Cunedda’s son, Ceredic. We connect him to the Hunnish Woden  thro’  the very Pictish broch near Duns in the borders, Edin’s Hall, formally known as Wooden’s Hall.  From Edin we get to Edern & Aeturn, variant names for the father of Cunedda. Harleian MS 3859 then tells us how Tybion was Cunedda’s first-born son, which mirrors Titmon/Tẏtiman/Titinon being Woden’s grandson in the royal Anglo-Saxon genealogies of East Anglia.

367-68 AD

The Attacotti are active against the Romans during ‘The Barbarian Conspiracy.’ The Roman historian, Ammianus Marcellinus tells us; ‘ at that time the Picts, divided into two tribes, called Dicalydones and Verturiones, as well as the Attacotti, a warlike race of men, and the Scots, were ranging widely and causing great devastation.’

c.390

In the late 4th century St Jerome traveled to Gaul, where he observed certain members of the Attacotti getting up to some rather bestial behaviour. In his Adversus Jovinianum (c.393AD) he writes;

Why should I speak of other nations when I, a youth, in Gaul beheld the Attacotti, a British tribe, eat human flesh, and when they find herds of swine, cattle, and sheep in the woods, they are accustomed to cut off the buttocks of the shepherds, and the paps of the shepherdesses, and to consider them as the only delicacies of food.

More evidence for the Attacotti on the Continent comes in the Notitia Digitatum, compiled about 400 AD, which lists four Attacotti auxillary regiments as fighting in the Roman Legions, two of of whom, the Honoriani Atecotti seniores & the Atecotti iuniores Gallicani,  were stationed in Gaul. It seems that after Count Theodosius’ restoration of Roman order in Britain, the Attacotti were recruited to fight as auxilia palatina in the legions. The Notitia reads

In Italy: Atecotti Honoriani iuniores

In the Gauls with the illustrious master of horse in Gauls:
Atecotti Honoriani seniores
Atecotti iuniores Gallicani.

AtecottiComparison

398 AD

When the Roman poet Claudian wrote ‘The Orcades ran red with Saxon slaughter,’ in response to the activities of Theodosius in 398, we can now assume that the Hunnish-influenced Attacotti were considered as ‘Saxons’ by the Roman world. The same cultural name-switch appears in the story of  one of Woden’s sons, the Hunnish king Siggi. This figure also appears as the founder of the royal house of Deira, ie the Anglo-Saxon kingdom between the Humber & the Tyne.

Siggeat
Seabald  
Saefugel
Swerta
Soemel
Westerfalca     
Westorwalcna
Wilgils 
Uxfrea
Yffe
Ælle

Offering more support, Siggi’s son in the geneaology, Seabald, appears in an Irish text known as ‘The adventure of the sons of Eochaid Mugmedón’ as a king of the Saxons called Sachell Balb.

448

In 448 the Acatziri were a main force of the Attila’s army. Their commander was a certain  Karadach or Curidachus, whose name is a clear philochisp of Cereticus – as in the son of Cunedda & other figures in the 5th century who this leader of the Acatziri just well might be. I mean, in 449 Vortigern is using a translator called Cereticus in his negotiations with Henghist – who was descended from Woden, & thus of at least Hunnish ancestry. In that same period, 448-449, Priscus of Panium visited the court of Attila the Hun as part of an official delegation & tells us; ‘no previous ruler of Scythia or of any other land had ever achieved so much in so short a time. He ruled the islands of the Ocean and, in addition to the whole of Scythia, forced the Romans to pay tribute.’ Writers such as  Orosius & St Augustine were definers of the British Isles as among the ‘islands of the Ocean.

We must also recall that 80 years later, the Romans also considered Britain to be under the ‘Gothic’ influence, with Procopius recording Belisarius as saying, ‘we on our side permit the Goths to have the whole of Britain.’ The presence of the Huns in late Roman Britain was also remembered in the 8th century by Bede, in whose Historia Ecclesiastica we read; ‘He knew that there were very many peoples in Germany from whom the Angles and the Saxons, who now live in Britain, derive their origin… Now these people are the Frisians, Rugians, Danes, Huns, Old Saxons, and Boruhtware (Bructeri).’

 c.600

For a long, long time, scholars have speculated on the homelands of the Attacotti, but to no avail. So far I’ve connected them to the saxons of the Orkneys in 398 AD, but there is also a definitive epigraphical remembrance of them on the Shetland Islands. Etched into what is known as the Lunnasting Stone, are four words;

ettecuhetts: ahehhttannn: hccvvevv: nehhtons 

The Senchus fer n-Alban indicates that Gartnait, the son of Áedán mac Gabráin, King of Dál Riata, sired a son named Cano, names which seem to appear in the inscription alongside Attacotti. We do know that Aedan was active in the Orkneys in the 580s, which may be of relevance for just like the Picts controlled Lothian & the Orkneys, & just as the Arthurian King Loth did the same, so Aedan would become a king of the Lothians.

Chispologically speaking, Ettecuhetts is a lovely match for Attacotti, especially when we combine two variant spelling in the Notitia, being ‘attecotti’ & ‘attcoetti,’ as in;  Attecoet / Ettecuhet. Elsewhere on the Shetlands, at a place called Cunningsburgh, another Pictish stone also seems to mention the Attacotti.

  Transcription :   +TTEC[O^G][–] | [–]A[V^BL]:DATT[V][B!][–] | [–][A!]VVR[–]
     Reading :   ETTEC[O^G] [–][A!]VVR[–]A[V^BL]: DATT[V][B!][–]

There is an island called Mousa, just a stone-skip across the waters from Cuningsburgh, which is home to the greatest of all the stone, Pictish roundhouses known as Brochs. Archeologists calculate a date of 100 BC for its construction.

Looking once more at the Notitia shield patterns, it is with the Junior Honorianes that a real clincher can be found. Their shield carries a curious image of two heads facing each other, with at least one of them seeming to be a bill-beaked bird. An extremely similar image is also found on a Pictish stone discovered in 1887 at Papil, West Burra, in the Shetlands.

papil03
The stone was found at a pre-norse  Christian centre – the name Papil comes from papar – a Nordic word for priests – & was removed to the National Museum in Edinburgh, though a replica still stands in the churchyard of St Laurence’s Church, Papil. Kelly A Kilpatrick, in his ‘The iconography of the Papil Stone: sculptural and literary comparisons with a Pictish motif’ (Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 141 (2011), 159–205), writes of the birdmen,
 They have commonly been regarded as a misrepresentation of the Temptation of St
Antony, but this theory is debatable and needs to be compared and contrasted within the wider framework of this motif in Irish and Pictish art. Examples of axe-brandishing human and beast-headed figures are, however, found in Pictish sculpture, and are comparable with the imagery on the Papil Stone. Furthermore, the bird-men motif on the Papil Stone has striking parallels with contemporary battlefield demons in early Irish literature
 A common interpretation of the Papil birdmen is that they are a distorted representation
of the Temptation of St Antony, a scene in which Antony was tempted by women disguised as birds who whispered into his ear. This was, in the words of Radford), ‘a favourite scene on the Irish crosses, where it is usually pictured in a more realistic manner.’
Detail of the Temptation of St. Antonny the hermit. Moone high cross, Kildare
 
The Papil bird-men have a stronger connection with axe- and weapon-carrying hybrid & monstrous human-like figures in Pictish sculpture. There are 10 similar examples in the corpus of Pictish sculpture, three of which, it should be emphasised, have bird-features. They occur as single figures or as single figures associated with an anmimal or beast, & also as paired figures like the Papil bird-men. They must have had a long currency in Pictish art, for they are found on a variety of monumental media, ranging from simple incised stone boulders to panelled motifs on elaborate cross-slabs and even on a sculpted shrine panel.
Of these, the image of a dog-masked man found at Cuningsburgh, Shetland, where as we have seen there was an inscription to the Attacotti, seems the most important. Also of interest is a stone found at Murthly, Perthsire.  When comparing it with the Juniores shield pattern, we see that to the left is the long-beaked bird & to the right is the stubby-nosed dog or boar.

THE ANTHROTREE: CULTURAL SUBNOTES

The Anthrotree is a shortened version of ‘Anthropological Factotree,’ which constitutes the main trunk of the ancient peoples, or tribe, we are discussing. Out of this entity shoot branches – & of course sub-branches – representing Culture, Theology, Linguistics, Archeology & Genetics. If any theoretical tree is living well & prospering with the vital energies of life, a rush of green foliage soon flows into & between the branches like tidal water into coastal rocks. In the same fashion, if the hyperbasis of an anthrotree is correct, & the evidence which has created its branches infallible, then we should be able to find upon the tree certain corresponding literary legacies – ie leaves. Together they make up the foliage of an anthrotree, which I shall call Cultural Subnotes.

Cultural Subnote 1 – No Writing Records : That the Picts left no writing can now be explained by Aristotle, who tells us of the Agathyrsi (Problemata, xix. 28), ‘Why are the nomes which are sung so called ?  Is it because before men knew the art of writing they used to sing their laws  in order not to forget them, as  they are still accustomed to do among the Agathyrsi?’

Cultural Subnote 2 – Tattoos: The Agathirsi, or the ‘painted Agathyrsians,’ as described by Virgil,  were given more detail in the 380s by Ammianus-Marcellinus, who describ’d them as dieing, ‘both their bodies and their hair of a blue colour, the lower classes using spots few in number and small – the nobles broad spots, close and thick, and of a deeper hue.’ That the Agathrysi nobility have more tattoos reflect the Picts, whose name, according to Isidore of Seville, whose name was ‘taken from their bodies, because an artisan, with the tiny point of a pin and the juice squeezed from a native plant, tricks them out with scars to serve as identifying marks, and their nobility are distinguished by their tattooed limbs.’

Cultural Subnote 3 – Animal Depictions: Despite the distance between ancient Scythia & the mountain fastnesses of northern Britain, both cultures are bound by vivid, animal-based art. Some of these symbolic depictions were imprinted in the form of tattoos, a practice given to the Picts by several classical authors, including;

They tattoo their bodies with colored designs and drawings of all kinds of animals; for this reason they do not wear clothes, which would conceal the decorations on their bodies. Herodian of Antioch

Barbarians, who from childhood have different pictures of animals skillfully implanted on their bodies, so that as the man grows, so grow the marks painted on him; there is nothing more that they consider as a test of patience than to have their limbs soak up the maximum amount of dye through these permanent scars. Solinus

 

The Scythian Chieftain found in 1948
The Scythian Chieftain found in 1948

Pictishesque body-tattoos were found on the frozen bodies of a Scythian chieftan & a twenty-five year old warrior-priestess, both discover’d in the same region of Siberia. It seems no coincidence that the chieftan still retained a bright red mop of hair, a Pictish trait retained in 13 percent of Scotland’s population, as compar’d to only two percent of the world’s population. Other links include the Pictish Beast symbol’s perfect match to the Scythian Ibex,  a sea-goddess image at Meigle in Perthshire which matches Scythian goldwork found in the Ukraine; & a stone figure discovered on Boa, an island in Northern Ireland, which is nigh-identical to a Scythian Kurgan Stele from Kyrgyzstan.

Scythian Ibex
Scythian Ibex
Pictish Beast
Pictish Beast

Cultural Subnote 4 – The Sarmatian Connection : The Sarmatian peoples of the steppes were part of the wider Scythian umbrella, & it seems that they at some point joined the Agathyrsean migration to northern Britain where they appear as the Smertae in Ptolemy;

From the Lemannonis bay as far as the Varar estuary are the Caledoni, and above these is the Caledonian forest, from which toward the east are the Decantae, and next to these the Lugi extending to the Cornavi boundary, and above the Lugi are the Smertae; below Caledonia are the Vacomagi

There is a Càrn Smeart in Sutherland to this day, an ancient burial mound on the ridge between the rivers Carron and Oykel.  It may also be relevant that the Smertae’s neighbours, the Lugi, shared a name with the Lugii, a large tribal confederation mentioned by Roman authors living in ca. 100 BC–300 AD in the Polish regions of today.

Britain.north.peoples.Ptolemy

To conclude this post let us look at Pliny’s description of the Sarmations, as in, ‘from this point all the races in general are Scythian, though various sections have occupied the lands adjacent to the coast, in one place the Getae, called by the Romans Dacians, at another the Sarmatae.’ Here we have the Getae, of course, who would be the Pictish kingdom of Cat, & thus Caithness…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>