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  • Drust I › Who Was
  • Draco's Law Code › Ancient History
  • Magic in Ancient Greece › Antique Origins

Ancient civilizations › Historical places, and their characters

Drust I › Who Was

Definition and Origins

by Joshua J. Mark
published on 19 December 2014
Pictish Warrior with Drinking Horn (Kim Traynor)
Drust I (also known as Drest I, Drest son of Irb, and Drest son of Erb) was an early king of the Picts known as "The King of One Hundred Battles" that he seems to have been victorious in. His reign is given as 406-451 CE, 413-451 CE, 424-451 CE, 432-451 CE, or 424-453 CE,and his lifespan as 407-478 CE, depending on which of the primary sources one accepts. The Picts themselves left no written records of their history, only cut stones, or stones in situ, carved with images, and so their story, even their king's list, was written by the Romans and, later, by Scottish and English historians. It was under Drust I's reign that Christianity was first introduced to the Picts by St. Ninian (360-432 CE) who first arrived in the region in 397 CE (though this is contested). It has also been recorded that it was in the nineteenth year of Drust I's reign that St. Patrick left Scotland for Ireland, which was in 432 CE, arguing for a date of 413 CE as the start of his reign, and 451 CE as the date of his death. This is most probably the correct date Drust I's rule but it is by no means certain.
The authors of the early chronicles were primarily interested in dating the success of Christian missionary work in Northern Britain, not with Pictish history, and their works mention Drust I only as a means of establishing when which missionary was at work in which region. The historian Stuart McHardy has noted that one must be careful in accepting ancient sources on Pictish history without question because none of these histories were written by the people themselves and, usually, these sources cite the Picts as a means to further their own narrative ends. He writes, "As we have no contemporary literary Pictish records we are constantly forced to deal with material that has to be treated carefully. The truism that history is written by the winners might be better expressed as history is re-written by the winners" (118). However Drust I might have welcomed, or resisted, the Christian missionaries to the Picts is unknown, and the evidence of later conflicts between Picts trying to maintain their traditional beliefs and Christian missionaries sheds no light on the period of Drust I's reign.

DRUST I APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN THE FIRST PICTISH KING TO EXPAND HIS KINGDOM OVER ALL NORTHERN BRITAIN RATHER THAN BEING CONTENT TO RULE OVER TRIBAL LANDS.

THE ROLE OF THE CHIEF & RISE OF KINGSHIP

The Picts lived in small communities made up of families belonging to a single clan (known as a "kin"), which was presided over by a tribal chief. These clans were known as Caerini, Cornavii, Lugi, Smertae, Decantae, Carnonacae, Caledonii, Selgovae and Votadini (McHardy, 31). These clans often raided each other for cattle, but banded together when threatened by a common enemy and elected a single chief to lead the coalition. The kin (which comes from the Gaelic word for "children") would continue to follow and protect their chief but that chief would obey the warrior all had agreed upon as group leader.Regarding the role of the chief, the historians Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry write:
The head of the kin was a very powerful man. He was looked upon as father of everyone in the kin, even though he might only be a distant cousin to most. He commanded their loyalty: he had proprietary rights over their land, their cattle; their possessions were in a sense his. His quarrels involved them and they had to take part in them, even to the point of laying down their lives (33).
The role of the chief, and how the Picts would set aside their tribal differences in times of external threat, is first illustrated through the Roman writer Tacitus' account of the Battle of Mons Graupius in 83 CE between the Roman forces under Agricola and the Picts united under the Caledonian chief Calgacus. In 79/80 CE Agricola invaded Scotland and pressed on to a line between the rivers Clyde and Forth by 82 CE. After establishing fortifications, he then invaded the land of the Picts in 83 CE and was met by Calgacus in battle at Mons Graupius.
Tacitus recorded the battle and, in so doing, was the first to give a written account of Scottish history. It is from Tacitus' account of this battle, and Calgacus' famous speech to his men, that the phrase, "They make a solitude and call it peace" comes.Tacitus does not call Calgacus a king nor a chief but writes, "One of the many leaders, named Calgacus, a man of outstanding valour and nobility, summoned the masses who were already thirsting for battle and addressed them." McHardy notes that Calgacus "appears to have held his role on account of his skill rather than any supposed particular birthright or aristocratic position. This again is echoed in later clan society where each clan had its own captain who led them into battle" (McHardy, 28). The chief of the clan, and the tribal system, changed owing to the influence of Christianity among the Picts and the rise of the Anglican Kingdom of Northumbria which was governed by a monarchy.
Christianity changed the Pictish system of government by replacing the Pict's matrilineal system of succession (in which leadership descended from the mother's side) with a patrilineal system, in which the eldest son succeeded his father. This seems to have occurred when the Pict's devotion to a Mother Goddess was replaced by the patriarchal male God of Christianity. The Angles of Northumbria's influence in the Picts, as far as the tribal chief being replaced by a monarch, had to do with their repeated incursions into Pictish lands which necessitated strong central leadership in the form of a king of all the tribes reigning consistently instead of the old system of many tribal chiefs who banded together under one leader when necessary. Although it is unclear why the Picts felt the need for a central government, it is thought that they may have attributed the Northumbrians' effectiveness in conquest to their kings and so sought to protect their lands by mirroring the Angle's form of government (though this is hardly certain). The first king of the Picts was Gede, though no years are given for his reign but, by the time of Drust I, the kingship seems to have become an accepted position among the Picts as it is mentioned by ancient chroniclers without comment or explanation.

THE REIGN OF DRUST I

Very little is known of Drust I's reign. He is mentioned in a number of ancient histories including The Chronicle of the Ancient Picts which is a work of Pictish history by an unknown author set down sometime in the reign of Kenneth II of Scotland (971-995 CE). Regarding Drust I's mention in the Chronicles, the 19th century CE historian Thomas Innes writes: "The old records of St. Andrews have it in these words: 'Drust or Durst, fil. Urb or Irb, 100 an. vixit, and 100 bella peregit' meaning 'Drust son of Irb lived 100 years and fought 100 battles'" (90). Innes concludes that Drust I's reign began in 406 CE and ended in 451 CE based upon information from sources which he does not provide. He then writes:
By this calculation it appears that it was during the reign of this Drust (Durst) that the gospel was first preached to the Picts by St. Ninian, in the beginning of the fifth century, and afterwards by St. Palladius and St. Patrick to the Scots and Irish, betwixt AD 430 and 440. And here ends the first part of the abstract of the Pictish Chronicles, which contains the account of the succession of their kings in the times of ignorance preceding their conversion to Christianity, when, it is like, they first received the use of letters (90).
Aside from his simply being part of the Christian narrative of the conversion of the Picts, Drust I seems to have been a formidable military leader and effective king of his people. Writing in 1794 CE, the historian John Pinkerton, in his work An Enquiry Into the History of Scotland Preceeding the Reign of Malcolm III or the Year 1056, notes that Drust was well known for the battles he fought and his devotion to the freedom of his people. The "100 Battles" mentioned by Innes, and others, seem to have been offensive engagements to keep southern tribes from the lands of the Picts; aggressive campaigns to either hold or expand Pictish territory in the face of encroachments by Angles, Britons, and Scots. Pinkerton mentions the Romans in his narrative and seems to be following the same source as Innes did in his later 1879 CE work regarding the approximate length of Drust I's reign. It is Pinkerton who sets the beginning of Drust I's rule at 413 CE based upon the year St. Patrick left Scotland for Ireland (432 CE in the 19th year of Drust I's reign). As the Romans left Britain in 410 CE, and had long before abandoned their attempts to conquer the northern lands of the Picts, it seems unlikely that King Drust I of the Picts would have had any engagements with the legions of Rome. As with most of Drust I's life, however, this is as certain as the dates of his reign.
Drawing on the ancient Chronicles and Annals, Pinkerton writes:
The Pictish monarchy, anciently confined to the Hebud Isles [the Hebrides], was by degrees extended over the northwest of Pictland, or present Scotland; and Drust, who begins this series, seems to have employed some of his battles in spreading it all over Pictland. For in the next century we find Bede mentions Brudi II as king of all the Picts without any hint that the title was new. The reign of Drust is remarkable, and illustrious, in many respects; from Christianity being established among the Southern Picts in, or just before, his time; from the rude praise, that he fought a hundred battles; from the frequent incursions of the Picts, and their seizing on Valencia, when the Romans left the island. Hence the epithet of `Great' seems his due; and is often given with less cause...The Pictish Chronicle says it was in the xix [19th] year of Drust's reign, that St. Patrick went to Ireland.Usher [another historian] shows that it was in 432, that event happened; which forms a fixed epoch for the commencement of this reign [413]. Drust is said to have fought an hundred battles, that is, a great number; many of them perhaps to establish his authority over the Southern Picts and many, no doubt, against the Britons and Romans, the latter of whom left the island (295).
Drust I, then, appears to have been the first Pictish king to expand his kingdom over all of Northern Britain in contrast to earlier chiefs, and then kings, who seem to have been content to rule over their tribal lands. It should be noted, however, that there is no reliable information on the kings who preceded Drust I. The artist and historian of the Picts, Ronald W. Henderson, of Perth, Scotland, notes that, "We have no information [on the kings before Drust I] apart from their names and supposed lengths of reign...other writers have made various suggestions as to their meanings but mostly without much sign of success. the names are just too obscure" (22). Drust I is then the first king who was notable enough to have been written about.
Henderson dates Drust I's birth date to 407 CE, "when the Romans were leaving Britain" and characterizes him as a man who "probably became a legend in his own lifetime...A true leader, he took control during the ensuing disruption [of the Roman evacuation] and united all the Southern Picts under his banner, (which probably depicted a wild boar), and is thought to have set up safe harbours to protect his coastline from invasion by the Britons" (22). Henderson goes on to state:
What is believed to be his fort, known as Trusty's (ie Drust's) Hill, lies at Anwoth near Gatehouse of Fleet in Galloway in Southwestern Scotland. The ruins of this fort still exist, along with Pictish symbols comprising a double disc and `Z' rod, a sea serpent, a geometric symbol which it has been suggested looks like a dagger, and what appears to be an insect's head, all carved on an outcrop of rock near the fort's entrance (22).
Further evidence of Drust I's reign, according to Henderson, is the fresh water spring Katie Thirsty Well south of Abnernethy, Scotland. Henderson points out that the well is not called "Katie's Thirst Well" nor is it "Katie Thirsty's Well" but Katie Thirsty Well and argues that the origin of the name comes from St. Katherine of Alexandria (who was martyred) attached to a corruption of Drust's name, `Trusty' (as with `Trusty's Hill') to become `Thirsty'. Henderson therefore rejects the better known story of the origin of the name that a maid named Katie Thirsty regularly used the well to fetch water for her mistress, Lady Miller, for an illegal still she had. The probability that Henderson is correct in his claim is strengthened by the known correlation between the names `Drust', `Drustan' and `Trust', `Trustan', and `Tristran'/`Tristram'. As Trusty's Hill is identified with Drust I, so may the well be which originally could have been called either Katherine's Well or Drust's Well before the names combined into Katie and Drust's Well to finally become Katie Thirsty Well.
That Drust I was an important figure in Pictish history is recognized by the number of times his name appears in later chronicles as the "King of One Hundred Battles" and, as noted, for his success in expanding the territory of the Picts.Unfortunately, the ancient historians who were not just using Drust's reign as a marker for Christian missionary efforts, either wrote in the belief that Drust I was famous enough to require no elaboration on his reign or such documentation has been lost.Drust I's death date, according to Henderson, is 478 CE, much later than that usually given (as is the birth date of 407 CE) and this discrepancy epitomizes the difficulty in making any definite assertions about the reign of King Drust I other than that he was known for the length of his life and his numerous military victories.
Although, as noted, he is almost always cited as the king under whom Christianity came to the Picts, it is also claimed that this event happened before, or after, his reign. After Drust I died, rule passed to Tholarg son of Anile and then to Nechtan Morbet son of Irb (most likely Drust I's younger brother), and Nechtan is also credited as the king who welcomed the Christian missionaries. Nechtan's reign, c. 485 CE, is too late, however, for St. Ninian's missionary work and too early for St. Columba's.While there were certainly Christians at work evangelizing the populace between Ninian and Columba, these two are the best known and most often cited in conjunction with other events in order to record their successes. It is therefore probable - though not certain - that it was Ninian's efforts under Drust I which first brought Christianity to the Picts. However that may be, Drust I of the Picts has long been recognized as an important military and political figure of 5th century CE Scotland, even if the particulars of his victories and accomplishments have now been lost to time.

Draco's Law Code › Ancient History

Definition and Origins

by Antonios Loizides
published on 12 June 2015
Athens Acropolis ()
Draco was an aristocrat who in 7th century BCE Athens was handed the task of composing a new body of laws. We have no particular clues concerning his life and general biography and the only certainty is that, as an aristocrat and an educated man, he was in the right place at the right time in order to take his opportunity and legislate. During the infancy of the Athenian legal system Draco composed the city 's first written law code with the aim of reducing arbitrary decisions of punishment and blood feuds between parties. Ultimately, though, the laws aided and legitimized the political power of the aristocracy and allowed them to consolidate their control of the land and poor. Famously harsh, the laws were ultimately replaced by Solon in 594 BCE.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Αfter the creation of city- states (πόλις - κράτος, polis - kratos) in Greece, around the 8th Century BCE, sovereigns in major cities like Athens started losing power. The king, in order to maintain power and safety in his city started sharing the land with various noblemen, that in the first place, had been members of his council of war. Later, these noblemen created the hoplitephalanx (οπλιτική φάλαγγα, oplitiki falagga). The phalanx was not only a military group of men but gradually shaped into a political body and eventually gained power from the King. Thus, an aristocracy was born. In Athens, the aristocrats controlled the land and they had most of the privileges, the political rights, and, of course, the money in the polis. The law was held by them and was only written for their own purposes and from their own perspective. Most Athenians had to live in relative poverty and under this regime simple workmen and farmers had no choice but to be ruled by the aristocrats. Gradually the Athenians found themselves in a city where very few held political power, money, land and, most importantly, control of the (unwritten) law.

DRACO'S LAWS WERE KNOWN FOR THEIR CRUELTY AND THEIR BIAS TOWARDS THE RICH LANDOWNERS AS OPPOSED TO THOSE WHO FOUND THEMSELVES OWING MONEY.

Justice has not always been dispensed by judges operating under a written or common law equally applicable to all. In early Athens, justice was not a matter of applying a written standard to any situation or dispute. There were no explicitly written sentencing guides or judicial precedents on which to call. Rather, the victims themselves were responsible for exacting retribution or compensation for any crime. If the victim was dead, the family was left to take revenge or seek compensation.These blood feuds could last for generations as families sought to avenge a loss, rarely admitting fault and always seeking absolution. (Salowey & Northen Magill).

THE BEGINNING OF A LEGAL SYSTEM

As time wore on, groups of citizens came together to consider how to prevent transgressions or punish criminals from other areas and thus avoid protracted wars based on blood feuds. Popular assemblies were called for this purpose in instances where the action affected the community as a whole. Over the years, leaders within the aristocracy of Athens began issuing their rulings. This system was not without its problems, as these “chiefs” were often the recipients of bribes.
In addition, according to Aristotle, borrowing in ancient Athens was allowed and as a warranty, or as a security deposit, it was “allowed that one can borrow from another with a warranty his property and his personal freedom”. ( The Athenian Constitution, 1306b 22-25, 1307a 7). So, the basic problem was not only who had the land or the political power but that a lot of small land owners gradually got into debt and started losing their land, ending up servants to the rich. The major problem was that no laws for the above were written down and the poor were not able to stand in a court where only aristocrats were judging and no written law was there to protect them.
Around 632 BCE, an aristocrat and former winner at the Olympic games, called Kylon (Κύλων), tried to overcome the aristocratic party that ruled Athens and become a sole tyrant. Kylon, actually, was trying to use the Athenian's will for a change: that is a change against the aristocrats that held the land and the political power in Athens at that particular time. The attempt to make himself tyrant, in the end, did not succeed and his followers were slaughtered by the aristocrats and Kylon fled to his father-in-law, Theageni (Θεαγένη), the Tyrant of Megara (Mέγαρα). If we look a bit more deeply into the affair, Kylon was really trying to grab the momentum of the poor people (mostly farmers and small land owners) that had lost their land to the wealthy landlords mostly due to debts and the fact that no law was ever written in Athens by that time and thus, the land was held by few aristocrats and justice was nowhere to be found.
If we sum up the two above facts, the Kylon rebellion and the farmers/small land owners reaction to all this, we come to the conclusion that laws had at last had to be written. Indeed, the aristocrats summoned Draco (Δράκων) to write down the First Law Code of Athens. This happened in 621/620 BCE. The actual text of the laws was preserved only by Aristotle in his book The Athenian Constitution.

DRACO'S LAWS

Draco's laws were known for their cruelty and their bias towards the rich landowners as opposed to those who found themselves owing money. His series of drastic punishments (the origin of the term 'draconian') for a variety of crimes were not actually in force for long and certainly did not succeed in their aim. This rudimentary law-code of which we know only the provisions regarding homicide were written, according to tradition and myth in blood because of their perceived cruelty. Below are some examples quoted in The Athenian Contitution (translated by the author according to Inscriptiones Greacae 1 115):
…political rights (in Athens) can only belong to those that carry weapons. These rights are especially for lower rank lords whereas in order for someone to be elected as a general or head of cavalry (ίππαρχος, ipparxos) he should have a fortune of over 100 mnes and have a legitimate Athenian wife and children over 10 years old.
He who kills another Athenian, without a purpose or by accident should be banished from Athens for ever. If the killer apologizes to the family of the murdered man and the family accepts the apology, then the murderer may stay in Athens.
A relative of a murder victim, can hunt and take into custody the murderer and thus hand him to the authorities where he will be judged. If a relative kills the murderer he will not be allowed to enter the Athenian Forum («αγορά», agora ), or participate in competitions or set foot into sacred places...

THE END OF DRACO'S LAW CODE

Draco's law code was later regarded as intolerably harsh, especially in regards to punishing trivial crimes with death; it was probably unsatisfactory to contemporary rulers too, since Solon, who was the archon in 594 BCE, later repealed Draco's code and published new laws, retaining only Draco's homicide statutes. The cruelty behind the laws may have been the only a way to sustain power within the aristocratic party as well as preventing blood feuds that could last for generations. In addition, the aristocrats found a way to secure land by legitimately taking it from the poor according to written laws besides their real political power. Under Draco's law code the rulers were in power in accordance with the law and, as they saw it, justice.

Magic in Ancient Greece › Antique Origins

Ancient Civilizations

by Mark Cartwright
published on 26 July 2016
For the Greeks magic ( mageia or goeteia ) was a wide-ranging topic which involved spells and evil prayers ( epoidai ), curse tablets ( katadesmoi ), enhancing drugs and deadly poisons ( pharmaka ), amulets ( periapta ) and powerful love potions ( philtra ). The modern separation of magic, superstition, religion, science, and astrology was not so clear in the ancient world. This mysterious, all-encompassing art of magic was practised by both male and female specialised magicians who people sought out to help them with their daily lives and to overcome what they saw as obstacles to their happiness.
Practitioners of mageia, the magicians, the first of whom, to the Greeks at least, were the Magi ( magoi ) priests of Persia, were seen not only as wise holders of secrets but also as masters of such diverse fields as mathematics and chemistry.Associated with death, divination, and evil-doing magicians were, no doubt, feared, and their life on the fringes of the community meant that practitioners were often impoverished and reliant on handouts to survive.
Circe

Circe

MAGIC IN GREEK MYTHOLOGY

Magic appears in the mythology of ancient Greece and was associated with such figures as Hermes, Hecate (goddess of the moon and witchcraft), Orpheus, and Circe, the sorceress daughter of Helios who was expert in magical herbs and potions and who helped Odysseus summon the ghosts from Hades. Myths abound in tales of magic potions and curses. Just one example is Hercules, who died a horrible death after his wife Deianeira had taken the magic blood of the centaur Nessos and liberally spread it on the hero's cloak. On wearing it, Hercules was burned terribly and would later die of his wounds. Magic is also practised by many literary characters, perhaps most famously by Medea in Euripides ' tragedy play of the same name.

MAGIC IN THE GREEK WORLD WAS NOT JUST PREVALENT IN THE REALM OF PRIVATE INDIVIDUALS, NEITHER WAS IT RESERVED FOR THE POOR & ILLITERATE.

WHO BELIEVED IN MAGIC?

Magic in the Greek world was not just prevalent in the realm of private individuals, neither was it reserved for the poor and illiterate. We know that official inscriptions were commissioned by city -states to protect their city from any possible disasters.There were also cases when, as at Teos in the 5th century BCE, the state delivered the death penalty to a man and his family found guilty of harmful magic ( pharmaka deleteria ). In another example, a 4th-century BCE woman by the name of Theoris received the death sentence for distributing bewitching drugs and incantations. Clearly, the authorities recognised magic as an activity capable of results and it was not simply the realm of weak-minded peasantry. Certainly, some intellectuals realised its potential for abuse, as in the case of Plato who wanted to punish those who sold spells and curse tablets. Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were another group who battled for the eradication of magic.

AMULETS

At the same time as official wariness of magic, many private individuals believed in the powers of magic, and farmers, with their dependency on the vagaries of weather, were particularly susceptible to the power of amulets. These would be worn around the wrists or neck, for example, as it was hoped wearing them might guarantee sufficient rainfall that season. Greek amulets may be divided into two broad types: talismans (which brought good luck) and phylacteries (which protected). They were made of wood, bone, stone, or more rarely, semi-precious gemstones. They could also be written on small pieces of papyrus or a metal sheet and carried in a pouch or small container, or merely consist of a small bag of mixed herbs. There were also particular shapes which were viewed as auspicious to carry around in miniature form: a phallus, eye, vulva, knots, Egyptian scarab, and a small hand making an obscene gesture. Some of these amulets are still widely used today in Greece (the evil eye) and southern Italy (the cornicello horn).
Greek Amulet Invoking Apollo

Greek Amulet Invoking Apollo

Amulets were worn, for example, to cure a physical ailment, as a contraception, to win a sporting competition, to attract a lover, to keep away robbers, ward off the evil eye, or to protect the wearer from any bad magic that might be directed their way. Often to make an amulet work one had to invoke the gods (especially Hecate) or make certain utterances such as nonsense or foreign words believed to have a magical power. Amulets were not limited to persons either, for walls, houses or even entire towns could have their own amulets to protect them from any negative occurrences.

CURSE TABLETS

Curses ( agos, ara, and euche ) were a means to maintain public order through the threat of magical punishment for behaviour detrimental to the community, especially crimes such as murder. They were also seen as a way to cause harm to one's enemies. A curse tablet most often took the form of a sheet of metal (especially lead) inscribed with the curse which was then rolled or folded, sometimes nailed shut and buried in the ground, tombs or wells. Pottery sherds, papyri, and pieces of limestone were similarly inscribed. A second form was as wax or clay figurines made to resemble the victim of the curse.These have their limbs bound or twisted and were sometimes stuck with nails or buried in a miniature lead coffin.
Greek Curse Figurine

Greek Curse Figurine

It is interesting to note that while magicians in mythology are often female the records of curse tablets and spells typically indicate a male user. Curse tablets were mostly used as a means to settle disputes in one's favour. The first record of them dates to the 6th century BCE and they cover such topics as business deals, relationship problems, legal disputes, cases of revenge, and even athletic and drama competitions. There are instances in Greek literature where entire families and dynasties are cursed, perhaps the most famous being Oedipus and his descendants.

MAGIC SPELLS

The Egyptians had long used spells (really better described as a list of instructions to follow) and incantations written on papyri and the Greeks continued the tradition. Surviving Greek papyri concerning magic date to the 4th and 3rd century BCE. They cover such instructions as how to get over physical ailments, improve one's sex life, exorcism, eliminate vermin from the home, as parts of initiation ceremonies, or even how to make your own amulet. Recipes and poisons frequently appear too, which often used rare herbs and exotic ingredients such as spices and incense from distant Asia.

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