The Minor Northern Tribes
To clarify what is meant by 'minor' in the above heading, this
section contains details of those tribes located by the Geographer
Ptolemy in northern Britain, but were listed without any towns or
settlements in a single passage quoted below:
"Next to the Damnoni, but more toward the east near the Epidium Promontorium are the Epidi and next to these the Cerones; then the Carnonacae, and the Caereni but more toward the east; and in the extreme east dwell the Cornavi; from the Lemannonis Sinus as far as the Varar Aestuarium are the Caledoni, and above these is the Caledoni Silva, from which toward the east are the Decantae, and next to these the Lugi extending to the Cornavi boundary, and above the Lugi are the Smertae."
From this short passage we may deduce these tribes' positions in
relation to each other, and their approximate territorial boundaries may
be worked out with reference to a map of northern Britain, helped by
other passages in Ptolemy's work. We must remember, however, that
Ptolemy has somehow rotated Scotland 90° to the east, so that 'east' is
actually north, and when Ptolemy says that a tribe is 'above' or 'below'
another he actually means west and east respectively.
It should be noted that separate pages are maintained for both the Epidii and Caledoni tribes, primarily because the geographer Ptolemy recorded additional details about their tribal territories.
Knapdale and southern Argyll, probably the Isles of Arran and Bute to
the east, possibly also the islands of Islay and Jura to the north-west,
all of which lie in the modern region of Northern Strathclyde.
- Southern Ross, including Morvern, Ardmurchan,
Sunart, Ardgour, Moidart, Arisaig and Morar, possibly also Knoydart and
Och. It is possible that the Isle of Mull also was inhabited by this
- Inhabited the coastal region of Wester
Ross on the Scottish Mainland, from the Kyle of Lochalsh in the south to
Loch Broom in the north; it is possible that this tribe also inhabited
the Isle of Skye, Scitis Insula, to the south-west.
- Inhabited the extreme north-western coast of
mainland Britain in the Highland Region of Scotland, from Enard Bay in
Northern Ross to Cape Wrath in Sutherland. Their territories included
the mountain ranges of Ben More Assynt, Foinaven and Ben Hope. It is
possible that Strath Naver marked the border between this tribe and the Cornavi to the east, the River Naver is recorded in Ptolemy as the Navarus Fluvius (or Nabarus).
- Lived in the extreme north-eastern corner of
the Scottish Highlands inhabiting Caithness and north-eastern
Sutherland. Ptolemy names three promontories along the Cornavian
coastline: Tarvedrum Sive Orcas Prom., Virvedrum Prom. and Verubium Prom.,
which are respectively, Dunnett Head north-east of Thurso, Duncansby
Head east of John o'Groats and Noss Head north-east of Wick.
tribe inhabited the inland parts of central Scotland to the east of the
Great Glen Fault, encompassing the north Central Region, west Tayside,
south-west Grampian and south-east Highland Region.
- Inhabited the lands to the west of the Great
Glen Fault in the Highland Region of Scotland, comprising Northern
Inverness and Easter Ross. Tarbert Ness, which marks the northernmost
extent of the tribe, was known as Ripa Alta during Roman times, and the Beauly Firth just north-west of modern Inverness was known as the Varar Aestuarium.
- Inhabited the coastal regions of south-east
Sutherland and southern Caithness in the Scottish Highland Region. One
of the tribe's rivers is named in Ptolemy, the River Helmsdale, which
empties into the Moray Firth south of the modern town of Helmsdale, was
known as the Ila Fluvius to the Romans.
- Inhabited the inland parts of the western
Scottish Highlands, comprising central and northern Ross and
south-western Sutherland, between Ben Mor Coignach on the west coast
overlooking The Minch and the Dornoch Firth on the east coast
overlooking the Moray Firth.