Who invented bagpipes, the Irish or the Scottish?

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The original origin on the bagpipe seems to be neither Irish nor Scottish.  Around 400 BC Aristophones (an Athenian poet) commented that the pipers of Thebes (Thebes being the enemy of Athens) ‘blew pipes made of dogskin with chanters made of bone’.  This was not a fact about how the pipes were made, but rather it was an insult, who wants to put their mouth on something made of dogskin?

Unfortunately people of the Dark Ages were very poor at recording history and the result is that up until the 12th century we have little information on bagpipes in general.  What little information we do have from prior to the 12th century is from Irish stone carvings, which may lead people to believe that the Irish invented them.  If however you believe that the ancient Athenians and/or the people of Thebes used bagpipes then it would probably be they that invented them, or someone even earlier.  If that is true, it was probably the Romans that spread the use of the pipes north to the UK.

It was without a doubt the Scots that popularized the pipes though.  Even though the Irish have those stone carvings that date back to the 8th century, it was the Scots that used the pipes to march into battle, or at least they are the ones remember for that.   It is said that Robert the Bruce (yes that guy from Braveheart, not Mel Gibson the other guy) marched to the Battle of Bannockbum in 1314 with his troops playing the pipes.

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One Response to “Who invented bagpipes, the Irish or the Scottish?”
  1. mike says:

    considering that neither Ireland nor Scotland were Romanised it is highly unlikely that it was spread there by the Romans. It is more likely that the Atenians adopted the bagpipes from their interaction with the Celtic peoples. The Celts traded with the Greeks for millenia before Rome was born. Goods at that time included slaves and no doubt some would have had musical talent.

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