Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh skyline, with the Castle in the background

Edinburgh skyline, with the Castle in the background

1. The Melting Pot of Scotland

The first archaeological evidence of human activity in Edinburgh shows a settlement beginning around 900 BCE. At this time, the occupants of the region were ancient Celtic and British tribes. North of here were the Pics, who were in occasional unrest. The settlement was called Din Eydin in ancient British (an ancestral language of Welsh), and was centered around the ‘Castle Rock’, a high point upon which Edinburgh Castle was built. Din Eydin became a valuable military location because of its defensibility.[1]

The Romans arrived in the vicinity of Din Eydin at the end of the first century CE, though they were unsuccessful in conquering it. Around 122 CE, the Emperor Hadrian had Hadrian’s Wall built across the country south of Din Eydin from the Irish Sea to the North Sea around modern Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, leaving the fort city in the hands of the ‘barbarians’.[2] Twenty years later, Emperor Antoninus Pius built the Antonine Wall just north of Din Eydin from the Firth of Clyde to the North Sea above the city, putting the city into the territory of the Empire. Unlike Hadrian’s Wall, the Antonine Wall was nothing more than a ditch. Behind it, Roman forts were connected by roads that likely ran to Din Eydin as well. This line was soon abandoned in the 160s due to ‘barbarian’ unrest.[3]

In the early 7th century, the Romans learned of a ‘stronghold of Eidyn’ from the tribe known as the Gododdin. This was thought to be a fort built on Castle Rock, and may have been the beginning of Edinburgh Castle. Aroung 638, the Angles, an Anglo-Saxon Germanic tribe, captured the fort and renamed the city Edinburgh, as it has been called ever since.[4] The Angles’ language would later be known as Old English, and is considered to be the first version of the English language.[5]

In the 1130’s, King David I expanded the Castle and city to the coast. From here, it became the jewel of the Scottish peoples, despite raids from the Norse Vikings and the English of the south. During the reign of King James VI of Scotland, the king ascended the throne of England to become James I of England, uniting the countries of Scotland and England under one rule and creating Great Britain.[6] Today, though Scotland enjoys its own parliament and partial sovereignty, it still remains part of the United Kingdom.

2. Getting There

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh is a port city, but it is on the Island of Great Britain on the North Sea side, making direct travel difficult. In ancient times, it would take a little over a month to reach Edinburgh from Rome.

Seven days out of Roma on the open seas would take you to Narbo in modern France. Then five days on the road would get you to Tolosa. From there, you would take a river boat for four days to Burdigala, and a three day coastal boat to Civitas Namnetum. After that, you would leave France on a sea ship to Deva, England ten days away. A day’s ride on a coastal boat will take you to the edge of the Roman Empire at Lugdualium. From here, it would take about nine days travel over rough frontier county side to reach Edinburgh, if you reached it at all.[7] That final stretch would be the most dangerous, though the entire journey would start getting cheaper and cheaper as you went because you would be riding service and military ships.

3. So Why Edinburgh?

Edinburgh had been the jewel of Scotland for over a thousand years. During its rocky start, you would mostly go for mere exploration, to see the frontier and the unconquered lands and peoples. However, once the Angles took over, Edinburgh became a cultural hub, so one would go there for trade, diplomacy, civilization, and other such social reasons. Today, Edinburgh is a popular (and expensive) tourist attraction, but it’s worth the trip just to see the mysterious and historic Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle

4. The Ether

Before the Angles took over, Edinburgh was a military fort city and a provincial agricultural and fishing town. It served as headquarters to Celtic Tribes and a resting place for fishers and farmers between a days’ hard labor. After David I, the city blossomed into a political center, serving as headquarters of revolutions and revolts through the modern era. To this day, Edinburgh is a pillar of the movement toward Scottish Independence from England, holding the hearts and spirits of the Scottish people as they strive for an independent way of life.

5. Sources

[1] Edinburgh History. “Timeline of Edinburgh’s History.” Accessed April 28, 2013. http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/info/695/council_information_performance_and_statistics/873/key_facts_and_figures/6

[2] Education Scotland. “Hadrian’s Wall.” Accessed April 28, 2013. http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/scotlandshistory/caledonianspictsromans/hadrianswall/index.asp

[3] Historic Scotland. “Antonine Wall.” Accessed April 28, 2013. http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/antoninewall

[4] “Edinburgh Castle.” Last Modified 2010. Accessed April 28, 2013. http://www.edinburgh-history.co.uk/edinburgh-castle-history.html

[5] Merriam-Webster Dictionary. “What are the Origins of the English Language.” Last modified 2013. Accessed April 28, 2013. http://www.merriam-webster.com/help/faq/history.htm

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