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What do you make of the myth that Scots came from Scythia - e.g. in the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath:

They journeyed from Greater Scythia by way of the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Pillars of Hercules, and dwelt for a long course of time in Spain among the most savage tribes, but nowhere could they be subdued by any race, however barbarous.

Now I'm not say there is much chance of historicity of this myth - but I've been puzzled as to why anyone would pick on Scythia as a place to come from?


The way I see it, there are two factors for the origin myths:

The misidentification of various people. Practically every barbarian horde descending from euro-asian steppe into europe was called scythian as if it was one and the same. That was the case for huns, avars, magyars and others.

The desire to be associated with martial might/success. The desire to claim primacy (and therefore rights) over some territory. History is rife with such myths of origin.

I think there might be more merit to it than previously thought, but not just for the Scots, much more broadly to the earlier Celtic progenitors of a few later more distinct groups. For example, I don't remember the tribes name, but I recently learned one of the southeasterly Germanic tribes who claimed to be the oldest of the Germanic tribes also said they came from Scythia!

I tend to think of the Yamna and Corded Ware a lot when considering this question.

While it used to be more controversial, this has also been why the reduction of cost of genetic sequencing has been showing more and more scientifically viable analysis of these types of questions because DNA is much easier to follow! So the Scythians are really just a much younger version of some common ancestors, with haplogroup R1a being one of the more dominant ones.

In short, I think overfocusing on the younger "Scythian hypothesis" is too specific and prone to error, but there are lots of great insights to be had in following the genetic maps that have been exploding the knowledge set of proto-indo-european archaeology since about 2010.

> why anyone would pick on Scythia as a place to come from?

still a bit of a thing today


I wanted to answer to arethuza but you just provided a reference to the essence of what I was going to say: "The [...] Indo-Europeans, a nomadic culture of the Pontic-Caspian steppe, expanded in several waves during the 3rd millennium BC. Their expansion coincided with the taming of the horse." Basically, using horses as an overpowering advantage over others, the people living in the space that was later inhabited by Scytians spread all over, including westward. Not much room for "picking a place to come from", as I understand it.

I think that was a poor choice of phrase by me - what I meant was, how did the Scots (who definitely have historical roots in Ireland) get this idea from?

NB Scots in the sense of Dál Riata Scots, who eventually became the most powerful grouping in what became Scotland in the 9th century.


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