Battle of Dunnichen


Battle of Dunnichen

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Dunnichen


caption=Pictish symbol stone depicting what is generally accepted to be the Battle.
partof=the Pictish-Northumbrian conflicts
date=May 20, 685
place=traditionally near Dunnichen; alternatively, near Dunachton, Invernessshire.
result=Pictish victory
combatant1=Picts
combatant2=Northumbrians
commander1=Bridei III
commander2=Ecgfrith
strength1=
strength2=
casualties1=
casualties2=

The Battle of Dunnichen or Battle of Nechtansmere (Scottish Gaelic: "Dúin Nechaín", Welsh: "Linn garan") was fought between the Picts and Northumbrians on May 20, 685 at Nechtansmere. The battle ended with a decisive Pictish victory which severely weakened Northumbria's power in northern Britain.

The Northumbrians had been gradually extending their territory to the north, their constituent kingdom of Bernicia having captured Edinburgh from the Gododdin around 638. For the next thirty years they established political dominance over the Kingdoms of Strathclyde and Dál Riata, as well as Pictish Fortriu.

King Ecgfrith of Northumbria invaded lands held by the Picts in 685, apparently to stop them from raiding to the south. They met in battle on May 20 near Dunnichen; the Picts pretended to retreat, drawing the Northumbrians into the swamp of Dunnichen. The Pictish King Bridei III killed Ecgfrith, destroyed his army and enslaved many of the survivors. After the battle, Northumbria's influence never again extended past the Firth of Forth.

Little is known about the actual battle; it was briefly described by the Venerable Bede in the 8th century, as well as in the Annals of Ulster and Tigernach. An 8th century Pictish carved symbol stone in Aberlemno churchyard about 4 miles north of Dunnichen is often cited as commemorating or showing scenes based on the battle.http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/scottishhistory/darkages/trails_darkages_picts2.shtml"] The carving shows the Northumbrian warriors wearing helmets with long nose guards, whilst the Picts are bare-headed. [cite book |last= Higham |first= N. J. |title= The Kingdom of Northumbria |publisher= Alan Sutton Publishing Limited |year= 1993|isbn= 0-86299-730-5 ]

Location

The Venerable Bede recorded the location of the battle as Nechtansmere. Scholars have generally located the site in Letham, Angus near Dunnichen. Recent research by Alex Woolf of St. Andrews University suggests another possible site to be Dunachton in Badenoch, on the western shore of Loch Insh. Alex Woolf, "Dun Nechtain, Fortriu and the Geography of the Picts" (forthcoming)]

Despite the relatively scant records of the battle, it is now fairly regarded by many scholars as decisive in establishing the contours of the peoples and kingdoms of early medieval northern Britain. As much as Bannockburn more than 600 years later, the Battle of Dunnichen served to maintain the independence of what would later be known as 'Scotland' from its much larger and stronger southern neighbours. Had the battle been lost, then the north of Britain might well have fallen much more fully under the political and military influence of the English, significantly reducing the likelihood of an independent Scotland surviving into the succeeding centuries.

References

External links

* [http://www.tartans.com/articles/battlenechtansmere.html tartans.com - Battle of Nechtansmere]
* [http://www.pictavia.org.uk/visitor/battle.htm pictavia.org.uk - Battle Of Dunnichen]
* [http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/13756 To view the possible location as it is now]
* [http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/770874 To view the monument]


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