Scota appears in the Irish chronicle Book of Leinster (containing a redaction of the Lebor Gabála Érenn). According to Irish Folklore and Mythology, the battle of Sliabh Mish was fought in this glen above the town of Tralee, where the Celtic Milesians defeated the Tuatha Dé Danann but Scotia, the Queen of the Milesians died in battle while pregnant as she attempted to jump a bank on horseback. The area is now known as Scotia’s Glen and her grave is reputed to be under a huge ancient stone inscribed with Egyptian hieroglyphs. She was said to be a Pharaoh’s daughter and had come to Ireland to avenge the death of her husband, the King of the Milesians who had been wounded in a previous ambush in south Kerry. It is also said that Scotland was named after Queen Scotia.
The book ‘Kingdom of the Ark’ by Lorraine Evans reveals numerous archaeological connections between Egypt and Ireland. Evans argues the remains of an ancient boat in Yorkshire, a type found in the Mediterranean was over 3000 years old from around 1400 to 1350 BC. She tells the story of Scota, the Egyptian princess and daughter of a pharaoh who fled from Egypt with her husband Gaythelos with a large following of people and settling in Scotland. From here they were forced to leave and landed in Ireland, where they formed the Scotti, and their kings became the high kings of Ireland. In later centuries, they returned to Scotland, defeating the Picts, and giving Scotland its name.
In A Folk Register, A History of Ireland in Verse, contemporary historian Patrick J. Twohig moves the legend to about 400 BC but still writes:
The day of poets and iron men
Had dawned, and with a clang…
Long had they coursed, the sons of Mil
From Scythia’s Black Sea shore,
Goidels (Gaels) who journeyed to fulfill
Their destiny of yore…
What emerges from all this is the faint possibility that an Egyptian princess met a Scythian warrior, and became his bride, centuries after the date given in the ancient table. And, since Egypt did fall to invaders in the mid-fourth century BC, it is possible some Egyptians did flee to Spain and – finally – got to Ireland at about that time.
Scotia’s links with reality are, admittedly, quite tenuous. Yet down there in the glen, the legend somehow complements the history and the great stone seems stronger than the ‘facts’ as the Finglas trips by bubbling – almost winking – in the sun.
Photo: Signpost on by-road, Queen Scotia’s Grave Walk, Scotia’s Glen, Tralee, Co Kerry