Caledonia

AttestedCalidonia or Caledonia as an area, and Caledonii or Καλεδονιοι as a tribe, were mentioned by many classical authors, listed by Rivet & Smith pp289-291.  See also about Dicaledones.

Where:  Scotland, especially north of the Antonine Wall.  The words of Ptolemy 2,3,13 about his Καλεδονιοι are usually interpreted as placing them in the vicinity of the Great Glen, but Hind (1983) argued (fairly convincingly) that they actually lived in the productive farmlands east and south of there, towards modern Perth and Aberdeen.

Name originCaledonia is usually explained as derived from a Celtic form ancestral to Welsh caled, Irish calad, etc ‘hard’, which descended from PIE *kal- ‘hard’, and is suggested to refer simply to mountains.  Other PIE roots (*kal- ‘beautiful’, *kal- ‘cup’, and *kel- ‘hill’, etc) have not been properly considered as alternative explanations, but the best may be *gal- ‘to call’ leading to Greek καλεω ‘to summon’.  A -dones ending appeared on various ancient tribal names (Redones, Essedones, Macedonians, Myrmidons, etc), often first attested in Greek.

Notes:  The process of calling the clans to arms, as described by Sir Walter Scott or put into practice during Bonny Prince Charles' rebellion, was very ancient among northern peoples, notably in Scandinavia, and survived into the Ku Klux Klan in American.  See under the Silures for other ancient tribes possibly named for similar reasons.  Tacitus' Calgacus may have been a sort of herald who travelled around to summon a huge number of warriors to assemble for the battle of mons Graupius rather than a great fighter himself.  Classical authors' mentions of a Caledonian forest were picked up by early Welsh poets and thoroughly confused by later historians and pseudo-historians.

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Last edited 6 June 2020     To main Menu