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Caledonii. The people of the Scottish Highlands. For a people on the very fringes of the known world, the Caledonians make an appearance in the works of a surprising number of Roman writers including Lucan, Martial, Ptolemy, Dio Cassius, and several lesser authors. Xiphilinus tells us that they were actually a confederation of tribes rather than a single entity, and given the size and broken nature of their territory this is to be expected. Confederation is confirmed by Tacitus, who records that Calgacus, who addressed the Caledonians before the battle of Mons Graupius, was ‘one of many leaders’. If Dio Cassius is to be believed Calgacus would have been chosen for leadership for his boldness. Dio praised the ability of the Caledonians to endure cold, hunger, and hardship, and recorded that they lived on flocks, game, and fruit. Tacitus, whose father-in-law Agricola fought the Caledonians, described them as red-haired and large-limbed, but little else is known of them except that they maintained their independence of the Romans throughout the occupation. They fought against Agricola in the late 1st cent., against Septimius Severus in the early 3rd, and are recorded as one of Rome's most persistent enemies in the Verona List of ad 312–14.

Keith Branigan

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