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The Brigantes were a Celtic tribe who in pre-Roman times controlled the largest section of Northern England and a significant part of the Midlandsmarker. Their kingdom was known as Brigantia, and it was centred in what was later known as Yorkshiremarker. The Brigantes were the only Celtic tribe to have a presence in both England and Irelandmarker, in the latter of which they could be found around Wexfordmarker, Kilkennymarker and Waterfordmarker.

Within England, the territory which the Brigantes inhabited was bordered by that of four other Celtic tribes: the Carvetii (to whom they may have been related) in the North-West, the Parisii to the East and, to the South, the Corieltauvi and the Cornovii.


The name Brigantes (Βρίγαντες) is cognate to that of the goddess Brigantia. The name is from a root meaning "high, elevated", and it is unclear whether settlements called Brigantium were so named as "high ones" in a metaphorical sense of nobility, or literally as "highlanders", referring to the Pennines, or inhabitants of physically elevated fortifications. (IEW, s.v. "bhereg'h-").

There are several ancient settlements named Brigantium around Europe: there was also a tribe called the Brigantes from what is modern day Betanzosmarker, Spainmarker falling within an area referred to as Celtic Gallaecia. Similarly the Brigantii from the Alps is another example, from settlements bearing the name Brigantium now known as Bregenzmarker and Briançonmarker.

The Old Italian word brigante, whence english and french brigand, occurs in medieval Latin in the 14th century n the forms brigancii, brigantii, brigantini, brigantes (OED). The exact connection of the Italian term to the Celtic ethnonym is opaque. The Italian noun appears to derive from a verb brigare "to brawl, brabble", but the Latin forms show at least a secondary association with the Celtic tribe; during Roman times, the Brigantes were known as the most militant tribe in Britain.


The origins of the Brigantes are obscure, however at least the leaders are thought to have been related to Continental European tribes, either the Brigantes of Celtic Gallaecia or the Brigantii of the Alps. Once a confederation of smaller Iron Age tribes in Britain which had become one large one, the largest in all of Great Britainmarker, smaller septs or pagi within Brigantia included; Gabrantovices of coastal North Yorkshire, Setantii in coastal Lancashiremarker, the Lopocares and Textoverdi far north near where Hadrian's Wallmarker would be built and the Carvetii of Cumbriamarker who would actually gain autonomy by the time of the Roman conquest of Britain of 43 AD.

In 47, the governor of Britain, Publius Ostorius Scapula, was forced to abandon his campaign against the Deceangli of North Wales because of "disaffection" among the Brigantes. A few of those who had taken up arms were killed and the rest were pardoned. In 51, the defeated resistance leader Caratacus sought sanctuary with the Brigantian queen, Cartimandua, but she showed her loyalty to the Romans by handing him over in chains.. She and her husband Venutius are described as loyal and "defended by Roman arms", but they later divorced, Venutius taking up arms first against his ex-wife, then her Roman protectors. During the governorship of Aulus Didius Gallus (52-57) he gathered an army and invaded her kingdom. The Romans sent troops to defend Cartimandua and Venutius's rebellion was defeated after fierce fighting. After the divorce, Cartimandua married Venutius's armour-bearer, Vellocatus, and raised him to the kingship. Venutius staged another rebellion in 69, taking advantage of Roman instability in the Year of four emperors. This time the Romans were only able to send auxiliaries, who succeeded in evacuating Cartimandua but left Venutius in possession of the kingdom.

After the accession of Vespasian, Quintus Petillius Cerialis was appointed governor of Britain and the conquest of the Brigantes was begun. It seems to have taken many decades to complete. Gnaeus Julius Agricola (governor 78-84) appears to have engaged in warfare in Brigantian territory. The Roman poet Juvenal, writing in the early 2nd century, depicts a Roman father urging his son to win glory by destroying the forts of the Brigantes. It is possible that one of the purposes of Hadrian's Wallmarker (begun in 122) was to keep the Brigantes from making discourse with the tribes in what is now the lowlands of Scotlandmarker on the other side. The emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) is said by Pausanias to have defeated them after they began an unprovoked war against Roman allies, perhaps as part of the campaign that led to the building of the Antonine Wallmarker (142-144).

Tacitus, in a speech put into the mouth of the Caledonian leader Calgacus, refers to the Brigantes, "under a woman's leadership", almost defeating the Romans. This appears to be a reference to Boudica of the Iceni, attributed to the Brigantes in error. The Brigantes are attested in Irelandmarker as well as Britain in Ptolemy's 2nd century Geographia.


Ptolemy named nine principal poleis or towns belonging to the Brigantes, these were;
Latin name Modern name County
Epiacum Whitley Castlemarker Northumberlandmarker
Vinovium Binchestermarker County Durham
Caturactonium Catterickmarker North Yorkshire
Calatum Burrow, Lonsdalemarker Lancashiremarker
Isurium Brigantummarker Aldboroughmarker North Yorkshire
Rigodunummarker Castleshawmarker Greater Manchestermarker
Olicanamarker Elslackmarker North Yorkshire
Eboracummarker City of Yorkmarker Yorkmarker
Cambodunum Slackmarker West Yorkshire

Other settlements known in Brigantian territory include:


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