Scota is the name of a woman who featured in the medieval foundation myth of Ireland and Scotland and who, if she lived at all, lived some time in the centuries around 1400BC. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
There are several variations on the basic story, but according to the early Irish chronicle Lebor Gabála Érenn or "The Book of the Taking of Ireland", Scota was the daughter of an Egyptian Pharaoh named Cingris. She married Niul, son of Fenius Farsaid, a Babylonian. They had a son, Goídel Glas, who gave his name to the race he founded, the Gaels. He also created the Gaelic language by combining the best features of the 72 languages then in existence.
The modern Scottish version of the story dates back to John of Fordun's five volume Chronica Gentis Scotorum, published in about 1360. This first complete history of Scotland drew heavily on myth and legend in its early volumes, and Fordun seems to have rationalised several versions of the story of Scota found in Irish mythology into something that sounded right to him. According to Fordun, it was Goídel Glas (who he calls Gaythelos) who married a Pharaoh's daughter called Scota. Goídel Glas and Scota were subsequently exiled from Egypt (accounts differ as the the reason). After wandering for many years they eventually settled in the north-west corner of what is now called Spain, near the modern city of A Coruña.
Having settled in Spain, they had a son, Míl Espáine. Here things get a little complicated because by some accounts Míl Espáine married another woman called Scota who, coincidentally, was also the daughter of an Egyptian Pharaoh. This suggests that, depending on the source you believe, Scota was either the wife, the mother, or the grandmother of Míl Espáine. In some ways it doesn't actually matter, because the key purpose of this creation myth was to tie the regal authority of the Kings of Ireland (and, subsequently, Scotland) back to a source of power that would never be questioned. An Egyptian Pharaoh served the purpose admirably, whatever the details of the actual chain of relationships.
The story continues that Scota and Míl Espáine had a number of children. Two of their sons, Eber Finn and Érimón, later launched the "Milesian" invasion of Ireland (named after the "sons of Mil"), and after defeating the resident Tuatha Dé Danann or "peoples of the goddess Danu", divided the island of Ireland between them. Over time, some of the residents of the island came to call themselves Scoti, after Scota, as did the residents of Dalriada in western Scotland, who, under Kenneth I, went on to form what is now Scotland. As a final twist, among the possessions carried from Egypt by Scota was a 152kg sandstone block which had been used as a pillow by Jacob when he had the dream reported in Genesis about Jacob's Ladder. This became Scotland's Stone of Scone or Stone of Destiny.