Exploring Scotland’s Link With Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece has been a source of great fascination for centuries. Scotland’s connection to the ancient civilisation is visible in Scotland’s ancient name, “Caledonia”, which may have come from Caledon, an ancient city-state in Ancient Greece which experienced migrations to the place that we now call Scotland.

History supports Caledon as the name given to Scotland by the Romans, which could have something to do with the Greek settlers living in the country at the time. Scotland’s tenuous connection to Ancient Greece may still be up in the air but, if you want to know more about the ancient civilisation, there are plenty of places to do so:

National Museums Scotland is probably your first port of call for more information about the Ancient Greeks (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/10/29/the-myth-of-whiteness-in-classical-sculpture) and their possible links to Scotland. The museum holds around 3,000 permanent artefacts which relate to ancient Greece, and you’ll find a collection of vases which depict stories of gods and brave warriors. The shape of the vases is just as important as their images, with different vases being used for an array of events. There were special vases for drinking ceremonies as well as religious events.


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These gods continue to be a talking point in popular culture despite their age and continue to inspire television shows and gaming. BBC Television ran Atlantis, based on the gods and mythology, and even Paddy Power casino now has its own slot game based on the ancient civilisation called God of Storms, from their Age of Gods series. It offers players the chance to beat the storm god (https://casino.paddypower.com/game/age-of-the-gods-god-of-storms-cptn)and includes a range of jackpot and bonus features.

The National Museum of Scotland actually includes vases, which depict stories of the gods as well as other important events, a lot of which revolved around drinking. There are also a collection of vases by an artist known as the Edinburgh Painter (https://blog.nms.ac.uk/2017/01/26/edinburgh-athens-and-troy-the-work-of-an-ancient-painter/). The Edinburgh Painter wasn’t actually active in Edinburgh as the name might suggest, but was likely to have been active in Athens around 500BC.

The discovery was made in Eritrea and is now housed in the National Museum in Edinburgh. Because the name of the artist is unknown, the Edinburgh Painter was given a ‘name vase’ which is a term used in archaeology to describe work identified to be made by the same artist when their name remains unknown. This is most commonly used with ancient Greek work and South Italian work, where painters did not sign their vases.


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The case for Scotland’s link to ancient Greece may displease some Scots, as it has recently been reported that Scottish tartan may have actually first been weaved by the ancient Greeks, and it has long been known that a haggis-type dish was eaten before Scotland was any more than a rugged isle.

Researchers working at the University of Edinburgh continue to explore Scotland’s links with Ancient Greece, as it appears that there are many more than was first expected. A walk around the classics department at the National Museum is a great place to start uncovering the links for yourself and learn more about Scotland’s connection to other ancient civilisations.

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