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Brython and Brythonic are terms which refer to indigenous, pre-Roman, Celtic speaking inhabitants of most of the island of Great Britain, and their cultures and languages, the Brythonic languages. These ethnic groups are also referred to as the British tribes, the ancient Britons, ethnic Britons, or simply Britons. These terms specifically refer to the culture of speakers of the P-Celtic branch of the Celtic languages as against speakers of Q-Celtic, who are usually referred to as Gaels or Goidelic Celts.

It is not known (and perhaps unknowable) whether the whole population of Great Britain was brythonic. A number of scholars argue that the unknown language of the Picts was P-Celtic, but by sub-Roman times the Picts were distinguished as a separate group, as were the Gaels of Dál Riata. The terms "Brython" and "Briton" are traditionally used to mean inhabitants of ancient Britain excluding the Picts, because other cultural features of the Picts, for example their sculpture, pottery and monumental remains, differ from those of the Brythons.


[edit] Etymology

The word Brython was borrowed from the Welsh language to differentiate between this purely ethno-linguistic meaning and the word Briton. It comes from the terms Bruthin or Priteni, which were used in classical times in geographer's texts incorporating fragments of the travel writings of the ancient Greek Pytheas around 320 BC which describe the peoples of the British isles, including Ireland, as the Πρεττανοι.[1][2] The term derived from "Celtic languages" and is likely to have reached Pytheas from the Gauls[2] who may have used it as their term for the inhabitants of the islands.[3] The Romans called the inhabitants of Gaul (modern France) Galli or Celtae. The latter term came from the Greek name Κελτοι for a central European people, and 17th century antiquarians who found language connections developed the idea of a race of Celts inhabiting the area, but this term was not used by the Greeks or Romans for the inhabitants of Britain or Ireland.[4] Priteni is the source of the Welsh language term Prydain, Britain, and has the same source as the Goidelic term Cruithne which referred to the early Brythonic speaking inhabitants of Ireland and, in Scottish Gaelic, to the Picts.

[edit] Language

The Brythonic languages which have survived to the present day are Welsh, Breton and Cornish. The Brythonic language was also the ancestor to the now extinct Cumbric language.

[edit] Territory

Britain, c. 500 CE.
Britain, c. 500 CE.

The extent of territory of the Brythons in pre-Roman times is unclear, but is generally taken to include the whole of the island of Great Britain except (possibly) for the territory of the Picts. The Pictish language is unknown and its study is based on very little information, mainly place and personal names. Probably a majority of those studying it favour it being a P Celtic (Brythonic) dialect, but other conjectures include a pre Celtic remnant language or a mixture of the two.[5]

The territory of the Picts was bounded on the south-east by the Votadini (later called the Gododdin), a Brythonic tribe whose territory included an area around Stirling and the lands south of the River Forth / Firth of Forth. To their west, the Brythonic Kingdom of Strathclyde extended as far north as Arrochar, then to the west of Loch Long the Epidii, who may have been Brythonic, inhabited Argyll and Kintyre.

The territory is generally taken to exclude the island of Ireland which is perceived as territory of the Gaels, though early inhabitants of Ireland known as the Cruithne were Brythonic speaking at this time.

By post-Roman times, the Picts were seen as a separate group, and the territory of the Epidii had become the Goidelic Celtic territory of Dál Riata. The English historian Bede claimed that by 642 Oswald, king of Northumbria, had "brought under his dominion all the nations and provinces of Britain, which are divided into four languages, to wit, those of the Britons, the Picts, the Scots and the English."

[edit] Famous Ancient Britons

[edit] References

  1. ^ Snyder, Christopher A. (2003). The Britons. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-22260-X. 
  2. ^ a b Foster (editor), R F; Donnchadh O Corrain, Professor of Irish History at University College Cork: Prehistoric and Early Christian Ireland (1 November 2001). The Oxford History of Ireland. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-280202-X. 
  3. ^ Encyclopedia of the Celts: Pretani
  4. ^ The earliest Celts in Europe | WalesPast
  5. ^ The Birth of Nations: SCOTLAND. Stephen.J.Murray. From Dot to Domesday: A History of Britain, from its creation by rising sea levels at the end of the last ice age, to the first great survey of its land and people, the Domesday Book.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links