Most history books take Tacitus writings at face value and portray Calach/Calgacus/Galgacus as a savage figure who, at the battle of Mons Graupius, succumbed to the might of the Roman military machine.
Any modern-day Scots who have taken the time to read about this particular piece of Scottish history have laboured under the delusion that from the beginnings of time, we were a defeated people. The casualty count of 10,000 to 360 sends shivers down the backs of such scots who remember the crushing defeats at the hands of the English at Flodden and Culloden, not to mention the more recent Wembley, Hampden, Twickenham and Murrayfield.
When I mention Calach or Agricola or Tacitus or the Romans to Scots today, they are mostly unaware of any Roman invasion at all. I have heard some say "Yeah, but the Romans didn't invade ALL of Scotland though, did they?" Almost as if they were imagining some part of remote Sutherland or Caithness where two or three Picts cowered in the heather until the Romans got sick and tired of looking for them.
They don't know the truth, if such a thing exists.
Calach was probably not Scotland's first hero, but he was the first to be remembered and recorded in any form. He, or his colleagues, had the prescence of mind to recognise the Roman threat for what it was, and the strength of character to unite the tribes against them. It was Calach who united the tribes of Scotland, who gave the Scots their first glimpse of nationalism. After Mons Graupius, whether or not he personally led the tribes who harried the Romans all the way back to England is irrelevant.
The fact is that they did it!
Forgetting ancient grudges, old feuds and petty rivalries, our ancestors united themselves and did what very few have done in history; successfully beat back the might of the Roman Empire!
It is the spirit of this newly united people which should be remembered and celebrated. We should not labour on the depressing battle statistics, but raise a glass to our brave forefathers who left their own lands in the north, and chased the Romans southwards.
At a time when few heroes are remembered... Boudicca, Caractacus , Spartacus, the Judeans at Masada; who were all beaten or enslaved by the powerful Roman Empire, we should celebrate the achievements of our own hero; Calach.
The life and times of Scotland's first hero was not remembered to the present day by his own people; at the time he lived his people had no written language and thus did not read or write. Even the complicated rituals of the druids were passed and learned orally. The small part of Calach's life which we glimpse through the writings of Tacitus is seen through the writings and diaries of his enemies.
In Scotland, in those dim and distant days, after fighting the Romans for years, tales of Calach's deeds would have been told for generations, perhaps inspiring the uprisings which forced the Romans to build Hadrians Wall thirty years later.
Perhaps the stories of Calach were legend enough to have lasted hundreds of years, being handed down from father to son, sang by travelling bards, taken to the far limits of the country.
When the Roman Empire collapsed in 400AD and the rampaging Picts eventually swept over Hadrians wall perhaps the name "Calach" was shouted by someone.
Someone who remembered Scotland's first hero.
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