Caustantín of the Picts


Caustantín of the Picts

Caustantín, called Caustantín mac Fergusa (English: Constantine son of Fergus) (before 775–820) was king of the Picts (or of Fortriu), in modern Scotland, from 789 until 820. He was until the Victorian era sometimes counted as Constantine I of Scotland, with no basis in fact; the title is now given to Constantine, son of Kenneth MacAlpin. He is credited with having founded the church at Dunkeld which later received relics of St Columba from Iona.

It had been proposed that Caustantín and his brother Óengus were sons of Fergus mac Echdach, King of Dál Riata, [Bannerman, pp. 83–85; see also Broun, "Pictish Kings", p. 78, for some of the other proposals.] but this is no longer widely accepted. Instead, it is thought they were kin to the first king Óengus mac Fergusa, perhaps grandsons or grandnephews. This family may have originated in Circinn (presumed to correspond with the modern Mearns), and had with ties to the Eóganachta of Munster in Ireland. [Broun, "Pictish Kings", p. 82, table 67; Clancy, "Caustantín"; Woolf, "Onuist".]

Caustantín's reign falls in a period when Irish annals have relatively few notices of events in Scotland, possibly due to the failing of the annals believed to have been kept in Scotland at Iona and Applecross. [Broun, "Pictish Kings", p. 72.] Perhaps for that reason, there are only two reports which mention him. Other entries make it clear that the Vikings were active in Ireland and on the western coasts of Scotland in this time, which may also account for the lack of records. Iona was a target, and it may be that Abbot Noah of Kingarth, on the Isle of Bute, was killed by raiders. [Noah's death, probably by violence, is reported by the "Annals of Ulster", s.a. 789. Entries relating to Viking activity are found for 794–796, 798, 802, 806, &c.]

The first report, in 789, is the record of a battle in Pictland between Caustantín and Conall mac Taidg, in which Caustantín was victorious. Conall later reappears in Kintyre, where was killed in 807. ["Annals of Ulster", s.a. 788. The dating is not certain as a second notice, s.a. 789, says "The battle of Caustantín and Conall is written here in other books."] It is not known whether Caustantín was king before defeating Conall. The king lists give varying lengths for his reign, from 35 to 45 years, and are not to be relied upon without independent confirmation. ["ESSH", p. cxxvii; Broun, "Pictish Kings", pp.82–83 and note 29.] The second report is that of Caustantín's death in 820. ["Annals of Ulster", s.a. 819. The "Annals of Innisfallen", AI820.1, call Caustantín "King of Alba", but this is not considered to be significant.]

The Dupplin Cross was long assumed to commemorate Cináed mac Ailpín's final victory over the Picts, as indeed, was Sueno's Stone. Recent analysis has revealed a small part of an inscription on the Cross, in which Caustantín is named. Accordingly, it is supposed that this monument was commissioned by him, or as a memorial to him. He appears there as "Custantin filius Fircus [sa] ", a Latinisation derived from the Old Irish version of his name rather than the presumed Pictish form "Castantin filius Uurguist" found in the Poppleton Manuscript and similar Pictish king lists.

It has been proposed that the St Andrews Sarcophagus was made for Caustantín, but this is a minority view, as is the suggestion that the relics of Columba, perhaps including the Monymusk Reliquary, may have been translated from Iona to Dunkeld uring Caustantín's reign. [Broun, "Dunkeld", p. 105, note 40; ] The idea that Columba's relics may have come to Dunkeld in the time of Caustantín, rather than thirty years later in the time of Cináed mac Ailpín is based on an entry in the "Chronicon Scotorum" for 818. [CS 818 reads: "Diarmait, abbot of Ia, went to Scotland with the shrine of Colum Cille." However, a circuit with the relics of the Saint may have been a regular occurrence.]

That Caustantín established Dunkeld is stated by later chroniclers such as John of Fordun who are following some variants of the Pictish king lists or other materials now lost. Andrew of Wyntoun dates the foundation to 815, although he states that this was after the deaths of Charlemagne and Pope Leo III, which would date it to 816 or later. [Fordun, IV, xii; "ESSH", p.262.] It is suggested that Caustantín is commemorated by the "Martyrology of Tallaght", a product of one of the principal céli dé monasteries of the day. As a patron of the céli dé, and perhaps a collaborator of Abbot Diarmait of Iona, it is thought that Caustantín may have been a church reformer, in line with céli dé ideals. [Clancy, "Caustantín".] Caustantín appears also to have been a patron of the Northumbrian monasteries, as he is commemorated, along with his nephew Eogán, in the "Liber Vitae Dunelmensis", which contains a list of those for whom prayers were said, dating from around 840. [Forsyth, p. 25.]

Caustantín was succeeded by his brother Óengus. His son Drest was later king. Caustantín's son Domnall is believed to have been king of Dál Riata from around 811 until 835. Caustantín's reputation among the kings who followed him may, perhaps, be demonstrated by the use of his name on for three kings in the century and a half following his death when it is not attested as a kingly name in Scotland prior to his reign.

Notes

References

* Anderson, Alan Orr, "Early Sources of Scottish History A.D 500–1286", volume 1. Reprinted with corrections, Stamford: Paul Watkins, 1990. ISBN 1-871615-03-8
* Bannerman, John. "The Scottish Takeover of Pictland and the relics of Columba" in Dauvit Broun and Thomas Owen Clancy (eds.) "Spes Scotorum: Saint Columba, Iona and Scotland." Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1999 ISBN 0-567-08682-8
* Broun, Dauvit, "Dunkeld and the origins of Scottish Identity" in Dauvit Broun and Thomas Owen Clancy (eds), op. cit.
* Broun, Dauvit. "Pictish Kings 761-839: Integration with Dál Riata or Separate Development" in Sally Foster (ed.) "The St Andrews Sarcophagus: A Pictish masterpiece and its international connections." Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1998. ISBN 1-85182-414-6
* Clancy, Thomas Owen. "Caustantín son of Fergus (Uurgust)" in M. Lynch (ed.) "The Oxford Companion to Scottish History." Oxford & New York: Oxford UP, 2002. ISBN 0-19-211696-7
* John of Fordun, "Chronicle of the Scottish Nation", ed. William Forbes Skene, tr. Felix J.H. Skene, 2 vols. Reprinted, Lampeter: Llanerch Press, 1993. ISBN 1-897853-05-X
* Forsyth, Katherine, "Evidence of a lost Pictish source in the "Historia Regum Anglorum" of Symeon of Durham", in Simon Taylor (ed.) "Kings, clerics and chronicles in Scotland, 500-1297: essays in honour of Marjorie Ogilvie Anderson on the occasion of her ninetieth birthday." Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2000. ISBN 1-85182-516-9
* Foster, Sally M., "Picts, Gaels and Scots: Early Historic Scotland." London: Batsford, ISBN 0-7134-8874-3
* Smyth, Alfred P. "Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland AD 80-1000." Reprinted, Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 1998. ISBN 0-7486-0100-7

External links

* [http://celt.ucc.ie/index.html CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts] at University College Cork includes the "Annals of Ulster", "Tigernach", "the Four Masters" and "Innisfallen", the "Chronicon Scotorum", the "Lebor Bretnach" (which includes the "Duan Albanach"), Genealogies, and various Saints' Lives. Most are translated into English, or translations are in progress. The Martyrology of Tallaght is not presently available.
* [http://www.mimas.ac.uk/~zzalsaw2/pictish.html The Pictish Chronicle]


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