Have you ever heard of Calgacus?
The Caledonian chieftain, immortalised by Roman historian and politician Tacitus, is the first Scotsman to ever be recorded in history.
He is said to have led the Caledonian Confederacy who fought the Roman army at the Battle of Mons Graupius in AD 83 or 84.
In Agricola, Tacitus describes Calgacus as “the most distinguished for birth and valour among the chieftains”.
Forced into battle
The valiant chieftain was noted by the Roman historian for his impassioned speech urging his fellow soldiers to fight with all their might.
“They make a desert and call it ‘peace'”Calgacus, AD 83/84
The Caledonii were among the last British tribe to remain unconquered, but after many years of avoiding the fight, they were forced to join battle when the Romans marched on the main granaries of the tribe.
They had no choice but to fight or starve over the next winter.
In the moments leading up to battle, Calgacus addressed his men:
“You have not tasted servitude. There is no land beyond us and even the sea is no safe refuge when we are threatened by the Roman fleet… It is no use trying to escape their arrogance by submission or good behaviour.
“Neither East nor West can sate their appetite. They are the only people on earth to covet wealth and poverty with equal craving. They plunder, they butcher, they ravish, and call it by the lying name of ’empire’.”
What happened to Calgacus?
Impassioned he may have been, but the chieftain’s efforts remained mostly unsuccessful – the Caledonians lost 10,000 men, while the Romans suffered a loss of a little over 300.
Following this final battle, it was proclaimed that Agricola had finally subdued all the tribes of Britain.
It is widely debated amongst historians if Calgacus was real or fictitious, as there are no other records of his existence besides Tacitus’s account.
Regardless, the chieftain lives on in the pages of Agricola, two manuscripts of which sit in the Library of the Vatican and one at the Chapter Library of the Cathedral at Toledo in Spain.
Scotland is full of awe-inspiring people and STV News wants to hear who your favourite amazing Scots from history. Send the team a message on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, or email at STV.News@stv.tv
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