Chair: Barbara Hillers
Joint liability for offences features in various legal texts concerning interterritorial disputes in early medieval Ireland. These texts often differ in their treatment of joint liability; some distinguish between and proscribe different penalties for simple onlookers at the scene, accessories to an offence, and active participants, while others do not. Joint liability generally affected how fines were levied for such group offences, while the method of fine distribution reveals much about the enforcing figures involved in levying the fines. Since the precise mechanisms of enforcement are still not well understood, I intend to illuminate how these aspects in Cáin Adomnáin, Cáin Domnaig, rith na cānann, texts concerning cairde, and other texts on interterritorial law illustrate the kinds of cross-border activities envisioned therein, either by those transgressing law or those enforcing it. This will contribute to a greater understanding of the legal administration and interactions within and between kingdoms and overkingdoms. Moreover, this approach may reveal clues to differences in time or place in the methods of interterritorial dispute settlement.
This paper will set out some of the issues, evidence and debates which relate to kingship and the political history of Ireland and Scotland in the first millennium A.D., placing this in a European context. It will explore the question of why a large kingdom of the Picts (and later Alba) developed in Scotland, but not in Ireland, and whether these countries, which were never occupied fully by the Romans, were thereby fundamentally different in how kingship evolved compared to areas which had been Imperial Roman provinces. It will consider the idea of ‘state formation’ and how scholars have judged these Celtic societies in relation to their European counterparts.
It will introduce Aberdeen University’s interdisciplinary ‘Comparative Kingship: the early medieval Kingdoms of Northern Britain and Ireland’ Project, which utilises archaeological, environmental and textual approaches to understand power centres and their hinterlands in Scotland and Ireland. This project studies particular case studies and sites in Ireland and Scotland: the province of Munster (especially Cashel), Dál Riata in western Scotland and County Antrim in Northern Ireland (in particular Dunseverick), and Pictland in Scotland (studying Burghead and Rhynie), focussing on power centres and their hinterlands, to build up a picture of the landscape of governance and change over the first millennium A.D.
As the project’s research is on-going, the paper will not provide answers to many questions, but will highlight areas of society that might have been significant for the development of power structures, and how we might re-think and re-examine this subject.
Celtic Europe shares more that demonyms and theonyms. Insights from institutional ethnoarchaeology provide a new understanding of common political institutions that were likely derived from panceltic centres for druidic learning. Such centres brought together the noble younger sons from all Celtic tribes of Europe ('ad hos magnus adulescentium numerus disciplinae, causa concurrit […]' [Caesar BG VI, 13, 10]), were characterized by their excellence in teaching and teachers ('Disciplina in Britania reperta atque inde in Galliam translata esse existimatur' [BG VI, 13, 6]) and multidisciplinary, including public and private law. Common learning centres are the basis for the existence of a Celtic Common Law that regulated key aspects of Celtic polities such as the consecration and enthronement of new kings in the 'stone altar of the tribe' (Crougin Toudadigo; Trebo Pala; Toudo Pala) and the circumambulatio the inauguration ceremony of the king around the territorial borderlands of the tribe. The power of Druids to consecrate kings, but also to interdict, excommunicate, or deprive them of their kingdoms, was part of a ritual oversight that also symbolized, in conspectu populi, the mystical union between the king and the tribe. The continuity of such practices after the advent of Christianity and the fragmentation of Celtic Europe allow for a reconstruction the basic elements of a Celtic Common Law, as suggested by Mac Cana (2011), Pena Granha (2004) and others.