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Scota (left) with Goidel Glas voyaging from Egypt, as depicted in a 15th-century manuscript of the Scotichronicon of Walter Bower; in this version Scota and Goidel Glas (Latinized as Gaythelos) are wife and husband. Scota & Gaedel Glas.jpg
Scota (left) with Goídel Glas voyaging from Egypt, as depicted in a 15th-century manuscript of the Scotichronicon of Walter Bower; in this version Scota and Goídel Glas (Latinized as Gaythelos) are wife and husband.
"Queen Scota unfurls the sacred banner", illustration from an 1867 book of Irish history 02 Queen Scota Unfurls the Sacred Banner.jpg
"Queen Scota unfurls the sacred banner", illustration from an 1867 book of Irish history

Scota and Scotia are the names given to the mythological daughters of two different Egyptian pharaohs in Irish mythology, Scottish mythology and pseudohistory. [1] Though legends vary, all agree that a Scota was the ancestor of the Gaels, who traced their ancestry to Irish invaders, called Scotti, who settled in Argyll and Caledonia, regions which later came to be known as Scotland after their founder.

Ancient Egypt ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa

Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes. The history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.

Irish mythology

The mythology of pre-Christian Ireland did not entirely survive the conversion to Christianity. However, much of it was preserved in medieval Irish literature, though it was shorn of its religious meanings. This literature represents the most extensive and best preserved of all the branches of Celtic mythology. Although many of the manuscripts have not survived and much more material was probably never committed to writing, there is enough remaining to enable the identification of distinct, if overlapping, cycles: the Mythological Cycle, the Ulster Cycle, the Fenian Cycle and the Historical Cycle. There are also a number of extant mythological texts that do not fit into any of the cycles. Additionally, there are a large number of recorded folk tales that, while not strictly mythological, feature personages from one or more of these four cycles.

Scottish mythology mythologies of Scotland

Scottish mythology is the collection of myths that have emerged throughout the history of Scotland, sometimes being elaborated upon by successive generations, and at other times being rejected and replaced by other explanatory narratives.


Early sources

Edward J. Cowan traced the first mention of Scota in literature to the 12th century. [2] Scota appears in the Irish chronicle Book of Leinster (containing a redaction of the Lebor Gabála Érenn ). [3] However, a text found in the 11th-century Historia Brittonum contains an earlier reference to Scota. [4] 12th-century sources state that Scota was the daughter of an Egyptian pharaoh, a contemporary of Moses, who married Geytholos (Goídel Glas), the founder of the Scots and Gaels after being exiled from Egypt. [5] The earliest Scottish sources claim Geytholos was a king of Greece, Neolus or Heolaus, while the Lebor Gabála Érenn describes him as a Scythian. Other manuscripts of the Lebor Gabála Érenn contain a variant legend where Mil Espaine appears as Scota's husband, and connects him to ancient Iberia. [6]

Edward J. Cowan FRSE born in 1944 in Edinburgh is a Scottish historian. Now Emeritus Professor, formerly Professor of Scottish History at the University of Glasgow and Director of the university’s Dumfries Campus, he previously taught at the Universities of Edinburgh and Guelph, Ontario. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, He has also been a Visiting Professor in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA.

<i>Book of Leinster</i> manuscript in Irish

The Book of Leinster, is a medieval Irish manuscript compiled ca. 1160 and now kept in Trinity College, Dublin, under the shelfmark MS H 2.18. It was formerly known as the Lebor na Nuachongbála "Book of Nuachongbáil", a monastic site known today as Oughaval.

Redaction is a form of editing in which multiple source texts are combined (redacted) and altered slightly to make a single document. Often this is a method of collecting a series of writings on a similar theme and creating a definitive and coherent work.

A variant myth in the Lebor Gabála Érenn states that there was another Scota. She was the daughter of an Egyptian pharaoh named Cingris, a name found only in Irish legend. She married Niul, son of Fenius Farsaid. Niul was a Babylonian who traveled to Scythia after the collapse of the Tower of Babel. He was a scholar of languages and was invited by the Pharaoh to Egypt to take Scota's hand in marriage. Scota and Nuil had a son, Goídel Glas, the eponymous ancestor of the Gaels, who created the Gaelic language by combining the best features of the 72 languages then in existence.

Scota and the Stone of Scone

Baldred Bisset is credited with being the first to connect the Stone of Scone with the Scota foundation legends in his 1301 work Processus, putting forward an argument that Scotland, not Ireland, was where the original Scota homeland lay. [7]

Baldred Bisset was a medieval Scottish lawyer.

Stone of Scone oblong block of red sandstone

The Stone of Scone —also known as the Stone of Destiny, and often referred to in England as The Coronation Stone—is an oblong block of red sandstone that has been used for centuries in the coronation of the monarchs of Scotland, and later the monarchs of England and those of the United Kingdom. Historically, the artefact was kept at the now-ruined Scone Abbey in Scone, near Perth, Scotland. It is also known as Jacob's Pillow Stone and the Tanist Stone, and in Scottish Gaelic, clach-na-cinneamhain. Its size is approximately 660 mm (26 in) by 425 mm (16.7 in) by 267 mm (10.5 in) and its weight is approximately 152 kg (335 lb). A roughly incised cross is on one surface, and an iron ring at each end aids with transport. The Stone of Scone was last used in 1953 for the coronation of Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Bisset wanted to legitimize a Scottish (as opposed to English) accession to the throne when Alexander III of Scotland died in 1286. At his coronation in 1249, Alexander himself heard his royal genealogy recited generations back to Scota. Bisset attempted to legitimize a Scottish accession by highlighting Scota's importance as the transporter of the Stone of Scone from Egypt during the exodus of Moses to Scotland. In 1296, the Stone was captured by Edward I of England and taken to Westminster Abbey. In 1323, Robert the Bruce used Bisset's legend connecting Scota to the Stone in an attempt to return it to Scone Abbey in Scotland. [8]

Alexander III of Scotland King of Scots 1249-1286

Alexander III was King of Scots from 1249 until his death in 1286.

Egypt Country spanning North Africa and Southwest Asia

Egypt, officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia by a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt is a Mediterranean country bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea to the east, Sudan to the south, and Libya to the west. Across the Gulf of Aqaba lies Jordan, across the Red Sea lies Saudi Arabia, and across the Mediterranean lie Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, although none share a land border with Egypt.

Moses person, mentioned in the Torah (Pentateuch) and in the Quran, who led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt to Canaan

Moses was a prophet according to the teachings of the Abrahamic religions; however, scholarly consensus sees Moses as a legendary figure and not a historical person.

The 15th-century English chronicler John Hardyng later attempted to debunk Bisset's claims. [9]

John Hardyng (1378–1465), English chronicler, was born in the north.

Later sources

Andrew of Wyntoun's Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland and John of Fordun's Chronica Gentis Scotorum (1385) are sources of the Scota legends, alongside Thomas Grey's Scalacronica (1362). Hector Boece's 16th-century Historia Gentis Scotorum ("History of the Scottish People") also mentions the Scota foundation myth.

Andrew Wyntoun, known as Andrew of Wyntoun, was a Scottish poet, a canon and prior of Loch Leven on St Serf's Inch and, later, a canon of St. Andrews.

John of Fordun was a Scottish chronicler. It is generally stated that he was born at Fordoun, Mearns. It is certain that he was a secular priest, and that he composed his history in the latter part of the 14th century; and it is probable that he was a chaplain in St Machar's Cathedral of Aberdeen.

The Chronica Gentis Scotorum or Chronicles of the Scottish People was the first substantial work of Scottish history. It was written by John of Fordun, a priest of the diocese of St. Andrews and chaplain of the church of Aberdeen. Before his death, he had finished the first five books down to the reign of David I (1124-53) and had arranged his remaining materials, the last of which was dated 1385.

Walter Bower's 15th-century Scotichronicon included the first illustrations of the legends.

Grave of Scota

Signpost on by-road, south of Tralee Scotias Signpost for Wikip.jpg
Signpost on by-road, south of Tralee

The grave of Scota (or Scotia's Grave) allegedly lies in a valley south of Tralee Town, Co. Kerry, Ireland. The area is known as Glenn Scoithin, "Vale of the Little Flower", but is more popularly referred to as Foley's Glen (Foley's Glen). A trail from the road leads along a stream to a clearing where a circle of large stones marks the grave site, as indicated by a County Council signpost.


See also

Related Research Articles

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Scotia is a Latin placename derived from Scoti, a Latin name for the Gaels, first attested in the late 3rd century. ). From the 9th century, its meaning gradually shifted, so that it came to mean only the part of Britain lying north of the Firth of Forth: the Kingdom of Alba or Scotland. By the later Middle Ages it had become the fixed Latin term for what in English is called Scotland. The Romans referred to Ireland as "Scotia" around 500 A.D.

In Irish origin legends, Míl Espáine or Míl Espáne is the mythical ancestor of the final inhabitants of Ireland, the "sons of Míl" or Milesians, who represent the vast majority of the Irish Gaels. His father was Bile, son of Breogan.

Milesians (Irish)

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<i>Lebor Gabála Érenn</i> collection of poems and prose compiled in the 11th century, purporting to be a history of Ireland from the creation of the world to the Middle Ages, but in fact based on Christian and Irish mythology; describes Irish settlement by 6 groups of people

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  1. Lennon, Joseph (2008). Irish Orientalism: A Literary and Intellectual History. Syracuse University Press. p. 5-57. ISBN   9780815631644 . Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  2. Myth and Identity in Early Medieval Scotland, EJ Cowan, Scottish Historical Review lxiii, No. 176 (Oct. 1984) pp.111–35.
  3. "Lebor Gabála Érenn".
  4. The Irish identity of the kingdom of the Scots in the 12th and 13th centuries, Dauvit Broun, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 1999, p. 78.
  5. W. Matthews, "The Egyptians in Scotland: the Political History of a Myth", Viator 1 (1970), pp.289–306.
  6. A dictionary of Celtic mythology, James MacKillop, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 330.
  7. The Irish identity of the kingdom of the Scots in the 12th and 13th centuries, Dauvit Broun, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 1999, p. 120.
  8. Reading the medieval in early modern England, Gordon McMullan, David Matthews, Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 109.
  9. Glastonbury Abbey and the Arthurian tradition, James P. Carley, Boydell & Brewer, 2001, p. 275 ff.