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Pictes (Picti) : désignation datant du IIIè siècle par les Romains des populations celtiques du nord du Mur d'Hadrien, restées dans le domaine barbare; 

Apparition du nom PICTE

- selon M.N Bouillet : "  (Les Pictes) ... commencent à paraître dans l'histoire au IIè siècle, et deviennent célèbres à partir de Septime sévère. On dérive ordinairement leur nom de pictii (peints), comme s'il signifiait tatoués. Il est plus probable qu'il vient du mot gaélique pictioch, voleurs, que durent donner à leurs voisins indomptés du nord les Bretons soumis à l'empire. Au IIIè siècle, toute la Bretagne barbare fut partagée entre les Pictes, et les Scots, dont une tribu, les Duns, avaient le S.O de l'Ecosse actuelle. Ces deux peuples, au reste, étaient de même race et parlaient un dialecte gaélique. Les Pictes et les Scots se réunirent souvent pour envahir le pays au sud, soit sous les Romains, soit après l'abandon de la Bretagne par Honorius. Sans cesse en guerre, soit avec les Scots, soit entre eux, les Pictes finirent par décliner. Kenneth II, roi des Scots au IVè siècle, les extermina à la bataille de Stirling ety réunit les deux couronnes. Dès lors, leur nom disparut". 

- selon Rivet & Smith : " The Picti are first (but see below) mentioned by two of the Panegyrici Latini : VIII(V), II,4 (A.D 297-98), and VI(VII), 7,2 (A.D 310). Ammianus Marcellinus mentions them in connection with events respectively of A.D 360 (XX,I,1), 365 (XXVI,4,5), and 368 (XXVII,8,4), on the third occasion writing an important note ont the fact that they were divided inti two nations (Dicalydones, Verturiones). There are then several references in Claudian, in the Chronica Gallica of A.D 452, in Apollinaris Sidonius, and others. All sources write the name as Picti, with the exception of Ammianus, who at XXVI,4,5, calls them Pecti (but Picti in his ether two mentions)".

Un Picte, selon l'imagerie romantique

Extrait de : Mystères Celtes

John Sharkey, 1975,

Thames & Hudson, 1975

Éditions du Seuil, 1975



- M.N Bouillet : Dictionnaire Universel d'Histoire et de Géographie, 1863.

- ALF. Rivet & C. Smith, The Place-Names of Roman Britain, p 438-439-440.

Situation (de l'Écosse) à la fin de la présence romaine.

"Les Pictes, dont l'origine exacte reste encore un peu floue, règnent sur le Nord et le Nord-Est. Ils parlent une langue celte et leur éloignement géographique relatif a permis à leur culture de se développer librement, loin des influences étrangères. Leur civilisation est solide; leur art, très développé. Leur système de succession est le matriarcat : la couronne passe par les femmes".

Texte et carte ci-contre extraits de : Histoire de l'Écosse, par J-Claude Crapoulet; collection Que Sais-je ? N° 1487. pages 16 et 17

PICTS : The people who lived in Northern Britain in roman times and in the traditional Arthurian period. They were raiding in Britain about the time of the Roman withdraval and Vortigern is thought to have invited the Saxons to oppose them. According to Geoffrey (of Monmouth), they opposed Arthur who might have wiped them out had not their clergy interceded. Boede avers that Guinevere died as their captive.

A to the racial identity of the Picts, there were possibly Celtic and called Priteni in their own language, hence the name of Britain. The Irish called them Cruthin and applied this name also to people of the same race in Ireland. Picti, i.e, 'painted folk', was the name given them by the Romans. Althought they probably preceded the Britons in Britain, the Venerable Bède says they arrived after them and came from Scyhia which lies in present-day Ukraine in the southern USSR. Geoffrey asserts that the migration took place under King Sodric who suffered defeat at the hand of the British king, Marius, who bestowed Caithness on them. Mael Mura of Othain, a medieval Irish poet, maintains they came from Thrace.

Whatever their origins, the kings of the principal Northern Pict kingdom in Arthur's time were said to have been Galem I (AD 495), Drust III and Drust IV (AD 510-25), after which Drust III ruled alone), Gartnait III (AD 530) and Cailtram (AD 537); however this list should be treated with caution. The Southern Picts were divided into four states - Athol, Circinn, Fife and Fortrenn".

Extrait de The Illustrated Guide of Arthurian Legends, par Ronan Coghlan, 1993

The Picts.

  " Half e dozen different peoples inhabited norther Britain in and before the fifth and sixth centuries. They are easily confused with one another, because Roman and Irish writers used the same word with different meaning. Earlier Roman writers regarded them all as British, because they lived in the island of Britain. Late Roman writers distinguished the British, who lived south the Antonine Wall, between theestuaries of the Clyde and the Forth, from the barbarians beyond. They described the barbarians as they saw them, as the Picti, the 'painted people', because theyr tattooed their bodies, but they had no distinct word for the distant peoples of the north and west, whom they rarely saw.

  The Irish were better informed and used more exact words. They restricted the Latin word Picti to the nearer neighbours of Rome, who called themselves Albani, inhabitants of Alba or Albion, the oldest name of Britain; and in Irish called them Bristish, Cruithne. Their language, known only from the names of peoples and places, was akin to British and Gallic. Their ancestors had reached Britain long befor the Roman period, and their principal archeological relics are some thousands of forts, very numerous in their  territory, and also south of the Antonine Wall. A scatter of forts beyond their borders, many of them destroyed by fire, witness their failure to subdue the far north-west. They were simply the British peoples whom Rome never conquered, who therefore remained barbarian. 

  Their language preserved a few Gallic words that are not known to have survived the over Roman british. But it was never written. The scanty records of the Picts are set down in Latin or Irish, and form no more than a small subsection within the immense body of Irish documentation. The most informative of their texts is a King List, that survives in several versions. It begins with made-up names. 'Cruidne, Father of the Picts' is 'Briton' . transliterated into Irish, and his 'sons', Fib, Cat, Circin, Fortrenn, and others are the names of the districts, Fife, Caithness and the rest of Pictland. Real names begin in the Roman centuries, when one king, vaguely dated about the 3rd century, is given a neme that is attested in a Roman inscription of the early 3rd century. Real people begin early in the 5th century. The first king of whom anything but the name is reported is Drust, son of Erp, who 'reigned 100 years and fought 100 battles; in the 19th year of his reign St. Patrick came to Ireland'. The Irish date for Patrick places his accession in 414, and the Irish Annals also name him, putting his death at 458, after a reign of more credible lenght. The 'hundred battles', as in Isris usage, mean that he was regarded as a great warrior. These dates make him Vortigern's contemporary; and Gilds reports the audacious intention of the Picts to conquer and settle the rich lands of southern Britain in Vortigern's time. The name and the precise dates of Drust are not elsewhere confirmed; but in his time some Pictish leaders organised a large and daring espedition on an unprecedented scale. Had it succeeded, Britain might have become Pictland. It failed; but it was the enterprise of the Picts that  caused Vortigern's to enlist English aid, so that in time southern Britain became England. 

  The territories of the Picts are well defined. They were the people of the eastern coasts and glens, not of the north and west. Their place names are confined to the lands that their ancestors had fortified and held, between the Forth and the firths of Inverness; their archeology and their pictorial inscription are concentred in the same region. But they did not form a single political unit. Their own tradition names seven principal provinces, but these provinces are a late simplification, listing the regions over which the later kings of Albany claimed suzerainety, from the ninth century onward. First-century Roman loosely described the whole of the barbarian nort as Caledonia; but the Roman geographer Ptolemy recognised their dominant nation, the Caledones, as the people who dwelt by the Great Glen and Inverness, one among several named peoples. Later writers, fron the 3rd century to the 8th, distinguish between the norterners, whose xapital lay in or near Inverness, and the southern Maetae in Fortrenn, about Stirling, in Circinn, or Stratmore, and in Fife. hough the stronger rulers were able to command the obediance of both, the separate identies of north and south outlived the nam of Pict, and remained a powerful political force in the medieval kingdom of Scotland".

Extrait de : The Age of Arthur; vol. 2, p 186-187-188 : The Successor States, par John Morris. 1977.



Extrait de : The Age of Arthur; vol. 2, p 189 : The Successor States, par John Morris. 1977

* A.L.F Rivet & Colin Smith. p 438 et suiv.



The Picti are first (but see below) mentioned by two of the Panegyrici Latini : VIII (V), II, 4 (A.D. 297-98), and VI (VII), 7, 2 (A.D. 310). Ammianus Marcellinus mentions them in connection with events respectively of A.D. 360 (XX, I, I), 365 (XXVI, 4, 5) and 368 (XXVII 8, 4), on the third occasion writing an important note on the fact that they were divided into two nations (Dicalydones, Verturiones). There are then several references in Claudian, in the Chronica Gallica of A.D. 452, in Apollinaris Sidonius, and others. AU sources write the name as Picti, with the exception of Ammianus, who at XXVI, 4, 5 calls them Pecti (but Picti in his other two mentions).

It is possible that Ravenna's Pexa at I0753 (= R&C 193) is for Pecti or, even more interestingly, *Pectia 'Pictland'. The Cosmographer lists the name as that of an Antonine Wall fort, but we already know that this section contains several names that are nothing of the sort, including two that are probably tribal names misread from a map as though they were forts (Volitanio = Votadini, Credigone = Creones). Pexa could well come into this category; the original map-source could have carried *Pecti or *Pexti (for -ct-/-xt-, compare Tectoverdi, and see below), whose -e- would be important beside that recorded by Ammianus, or possibly *Pect(i)a or *Pext(i)a. Whether the tribal name or a régional name is in question, the record is (if accepted) of importance, because it would in effect be the earliest known to us; for the Cosmographer's map-source for N. Britain was, as argued on pp. 193—97, a Severan modernisation of the early military map.

DERIVATION. It is uncertain whether Picti is truly and solely Latin, or simply a convenient latinisation of an existing native name, presumably British. What is sure is that this pcople was always known as Picti 'painted ones' to the Romans. It is not known what the Picts called themselves at any time in their long history. Suggestions about a native Celtic word are recorded by Holder n. 993, citing *picto-s as 'soigneux, diligent' according to Ernault, and mentioning the cognate *Quicti, with several derivatives; and are made by Förster FT 119 on the basis of a plural *Pextas, older *Pixtas with vowel-affection causing i > e. If Forster is right, Ammianus's form Pecti (possibly with that of Ravenna) assumes great importance, and there is support for it in the fact that the peuple was known in Old Norse as Pettr, in Anglo-Saxon as Peohtas, in Old Scots as Pecht, and in Middle Welsh as Peith-wyr (Watson CPNS 67-68), all forms which demand original Pect-. However, Jackson in LHEB 576-77 is inclined to dismiss Ammianus's Pecti as merely erratic, a scribal confusion (he naturally did not take account of Ravenna's Pexa), and in his more recent discussion in Chapter VI, 'The Pictish Language', of F. T. Wamwright's (ed.) The Problem of the Picts (1956), he doubts more strongly whether there was a native word subsequently latinised, concluding 'The probability is that it [Picti] was always simply the Latin verbal adjective picti', with the interesting addition that 'It is not impossible that it was first used as a translation of Priteni ("people of the designs", i.e. tattoos).' One can support this in a small way by recalling that there are literary analogies for such naming of peoples in Latin, in texts likely to have been known to many educated Romans: Virgil has picti Agathyrsi (Aeneid IV. 146) and pictosque Gelonos (Georgics II. 115), both placed somewhere in the North.

On the i / e question, we do not necessarily have to think in terms solely of British speech. In spoken Latin, stressed f > e in most parts of the Empire by the third century, including Britain (as a good deal of epigraphic evidence shows), and in Gaul the related name Pictavi is recorded as Pectavi. Hence the Severan map of North Britain may well have given the name with e. Ammianus could have received from a British source a report on the events of A.D. 368 which mentioned Pecti in the spoken Latin of the day, and adopted it unquestioningly. The further implication is that other languages (Old Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Welsh, etc.), whose forms ail demand Pecti, received it in spoken or written (ecclesiastical ?) Latin in this form, adopting it from Latin and not from British. Since the name was not necessarily one which the Picts ever used among themselves or which others learned from them, this seems a tenable proposition.

Since, however, account mustbe taken of the Gaulish ethnie names Pictavi and Pictones (cf. Poitou, Poitiers), which must be related to Picti-Pecti and which have standard Celtic suffixes, there may after ail be a native Pictish word from which the Picts were named. The best recent studies of this are those of W. F. H. Nicolaisen in Studia Celtica, VII (1972), I-11, and in his book Scottish Place-names (London, 1976), 150—58. Nicolaisen does not think that Latin Picti is primary. He draws attention, as others have donc, to the abundance of pett- place-names in Pictish lands; and since Gaulish *pêtia was borrowed into Latin as pettia in the sense 'pièce of land' (in fact pettia > Romance pièce, pièce), it is certain that such was also the meaning of *pett- in Pictish. The matter is very important for discussion of the whole question of the linguistic affinities of the Picts with P-Celtic, and of their boundaries. It is not altogether easy to see how the sense could enter into an ethnic name, and Nicolaisen does not affirm it, but the people could be simply ' those of whom pett- is typical, those who call their lands pett-'. If this is right, clearly Latin Picti is secondary, a sort of Latin folk-etymology (perhaps aided by Virgilian echoes) ; moreover, e is primary and i secondary.

IDENTIFICATION. A collection of peoples in northern Scotland, as perceived by Roman writers from the third century onwards. For their origins, extent and culture see especially F. T. Wainwright (ed.), The Problem of the Picts (Edinburgh, 1956) and C. Thomas, 'The Animal Art of the Scottish Iron Age and its Origins', Arch. J., CXVIII(1961), 14-64, and 'The Interpretation of the Pictish Symbols', ibid., cxx (1963), 31-97.

Bibliographie; Sources

- John Morris : The Age of Arthur; vol. 2, p 189 : The Successor State. 1977

* A.L.F Rivet & Colin Smith : The Place-Names of Roman Britain. B.T Batsford Ltd. Lodon. 1979-1892

- Ronan Coghland : The Illustrated Guide of Arthurian Legends, 1993

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