Caledoni Celtic Tribe

The Caledoni or Caledones were an iron-age tribe tribe inhabited the inland parts of central Scotland to the east of the Great Glen Fault, encompassing the north Central Region, west Tayside, south-west Grampian and south-east Highland Region.

The Realm of the Caledoni according to Ptolemy

“… from the Lemannonis Sinus¹ as far as the Varar Aestuarium² are the Caledoni, and above these³ is the Caledonian forest, …”. Above quote from the Geographia of Ptolemy (II.ii)

  1. The Lemannonis Sinus may possibly be equated with Loch Fyne, or more likely the Firth of Lorn, the latter being situated at the southern end of the Great Glen Fault.
  2. The Varar Aestuarium is thought to be the Moray Firth, north of Inverness, at the northern end of the Great Glen Fault.
  3. Ptolemy actually means ‘to the west’.

According to clues given by the geographer Ptolemy the entire tribal territories are characterised by mountains, the Monadhliath in the north-west, the Cairngorms in the north-east and the Grampians, including Ben Nevis, in the south. The tribe was bordered on the east by neighbouring tribes occupying the relatively rich coastal lands, the Taexali on the north-east coast, the Vacomagi to the east and the Venicones to the south-east. The Damnoni of southern Strathclyde held territories to the south, across the Clota Aestuarium (Firth of Clyde), and the Epidii situated on the Mull of Kintyre were separated from the Caledoni by their remote location.

The Civitas Caledonorum

The Caledoni were never brought under direct Roman rule, therefore we may safely assume that a Romanised tribal centre, a Civitas Caledonorum, did not exist. Ptolemy mentions no tribal centres at all, although that is not to say that none were present.

Roman Military Sites in Caledoni Tribal Territory

Although it is possible that the Romans conducted some exploration of the Caledonian tribal territories, no marching camps have been discovered in testament to their passing through the area, all Roman Military operations being confined to a narrow strip along the north-east coast of Scotland through the lands of neighbouring tribes. Given this absence of archaeology, we may conclude that the lands of the Caledoni lay completely outside the Roman military’s sphere of operations in Britain.

Legionary Fortress at Inchtuthil

It is almost certain that the Roman Legionary Fortress at Inchtuthil was built as a prelude to major campaigns directed against the Caledoni tribe, but it is very likely that this military establishment was sited within the disputed territory between the Venicones and the Vacomagi tribes, not in the lands of the Caledoni themselves.

The Glen-Blocking Forts

It is fairly certain that the so-called ‘Glen-Blocking Forts’ were constructed as a defense against incursions along the valleys leading from the Caledonian interior. These forts are all located along the border between the Caledoni and the Venicones to the south-west of the Inchtuthil fortress, probably just within the territories of the latter tribe; listed from south to north, they are:

The Roman military may have had plans for further ‘Glen Blocking Forts’ to the north-east of Inchtuthil, between the Caledoni and the Vacomagi, but none have been found.

Agricola and Calgacus

… Calgacus is the only northern british tribal leader known by name to the Romans. …