Scota, in Irish mythology, Scottish mythology and pseudohistory, is the name given to two different mythological daughters of two different Egyptian pharaohs. The Gaels traced their ancestry to the Irish invaders of Argyll and Caledonia, which became known as Scotland — allegedly named after Scoti, the name the Romans gave to the Irish raiders.
History of the Scota legends
Edward J. Cowan traced the first appearance of Scota in the literature to 12th century. Scota appears in the Irish chronicle Book of Leinster (containing a redaction of the Lebor Gabála Érenn). However, a recension found in an 11th-century manuscript Historia Brittonum containing an earlier reference to Scota. The 12th-century sources state that Scota was the daughter of an Egyptian pharaoh, a contemporary of Moses, who married Geytholos (Goídel Glas), and became the eponymous founder of the Scots and Gaels after being exiled from Egypt. The earliest Scottish sources claim Geytholos was a "certain king of the countries of Greece, Neolus or Heolaus, by name," while the Lebor Gabála Érenn Leinster redaction in contrast describes him as a Scythian. Other manuscripts of the Lebor Gabála Érenn contain a variant legend of Scota's husband not as Goídel Glas, but instead Mil Espaine, and connect him to ancient Iberia.
Another variant myth in the redactions of the Lebor Gabála Érenn states that there was another Scota, who was the daughter of an Egyptian pharaoh named Cingris, a name found only in Irish legend. She married Niul, son of Fenius Farsaid. Niul was a Babylonian who traveled to Scythia after the collapse of the Tower of Babel. He was a scholar of languages and was invited by the pharaoh to Egypt to be given Scota's hand in marriage. They had a son, Goídel Glas, the eponymous ancestor of the Gaels, who created the Gaelic language by combining the best features of the 72 languages then in existence (see also Geoffrey Keating). Though these legends vary, all agree that Scota was the eponymous founder of the Scots and that she also gave her name to Scotland.
Scota and the Stone of Scone
Baldred Bisset is first credited to have fused the Stone of Scone with the Scota foundation legends in his Processus (1301), putting forward an argument that it was Scotland and not Ireland that was the original Scota homeland.
Bisset was keen to legitimize a Scottish (as opposed to English) accession to the throne when Alexander III of Scotland died in 1286. At his coronation in 1249, Alexander himself heard his royal genealogy recited back generations to Scota. Bisset, therefore, attempted to legitimize a Scottish accession by making Scota significant, as having transported the Stone of Scone from Egypt during the exodus of Moses to Scotland. In 1296, the Stone itself was captured by Edward I and taken to Westminster Abbey. In 1323, Robert the Bruce used Bisset's same legend connecting Scota to the stone in an attempt to get the stone back to Scotland's Scone Abbey.
The 15th-century English chronicler John Hardyng later attempted to debunk Bisset's claims.
Andrew of Wyntoun's Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland and John of Fordun's Chronica Gentis Scotorum (1385) are considered major sources on the Scota legends, alongside Thomas Grey's Scalacronica (1362). Walter Bower's 15th-century Scotichronicon included the first pictures of the legends. Hector Boece's 16th-century Historia Gentis Scotorum ("History of the Scottish People") also mentions Scota and the foundation myth.
Grave of Scota
The grave of Scota (or Scotia's Grave) allegedly lies in a valley south of Tralee Town, Co. Kerry, Ireland. The area is known as Glenn Scoithin, "Vale of the little flower." But is more popularly known as Foley's Glen. A trail from the road leads along a stream to a clearing where a circle of large stones marks the grave site, as indicated by a County Council road signpost.
- Lebor Gabála Érenn
- Geoffrey Keating, Forus Feasa ar Éirinn
- Seumas MacManus, The Story of the Irish Race (February 1970 The Devin-Adair Company New York)
- Seumas MacManus, The Story of the Irish Race (1990 edition printed by Wings Books)
- Michael O'Clery, Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland (1616–1636 Donegal)
- Benedict Fitzpatrick's (1901–1963) "Ireland and the Foundations of Europe"
- Myth and Identity in Early Medieval Scotland, EJ Cowan, Scottish Historical Review lxiii, No. 176 (Oct. 1984) pp.111–35.
- "Lebor Gabála Érenn".
- The Irish identity of the kingdom of the Scots in the 12th and 13th centuries, Dauvit Broun, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 1999, p. 78.
- W. Matthews, "The Egyptians in Scotland: the Political History of a Myth", Viator 1 (1970), pp.289–306.
- A dictionary of Celtic mythology, James MacKillop, Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 330.
- The daughter of the pharaoh (Scota) is named "Nectanebus" (a name meant to identify either Nectanebo I or Nectanebo II), and in another variant myth it was the sons of Mil and Scota that settled in Ireland.
- The Irish identity of the kingdom of the Scots in the 12th and 13th centuries, Dauvit Broun, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, 1999, p. 120.
- Reading the medieval in early modern England, Gordon McMullan, David Matthews, Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 109.
- Glastonbury Abbey and the Arthurian tradition, James P. Carley, Boydell & Brewer, 2001, p. 275 ff.