by Stuart McHardy

Gliog an seo gus an aiste seo leughadh sa Ghàidhlig
Click here tae read this airticle in Scots

Unfortunately due to circumstances beyond our control the Gaelic version of this article has been delayed.  It will be published as soon as it becomes available.  We apologise for the inconvenience.

Julius Caesar’s famous saying Veni, Vidi, Vici “I came, I saw, I conquered” is very well known, but it is about England.  Up here things were altogether different.  Not that you would know that given the attention paid by historians and archaeologists to the Romans in Scotland.

Take the Museum of Scotland as an example – in the Early People’s gallery the vast majority of the Roman material is presented as a cohesive whole, while the various Pictish atrefacts are scattered throughout.  Intentionally or not this gives the impression that the Romans are of major importance and the Picts some kind of secondary add-on.

Till very recently there were more digs at Roman sites in Scotland than all other periods together.  Partially this is because the Roman sites are so obvious in the landscape.  At Braco for instance there are the remains of a Roman fort that was perhaps used a handful of times on various campaigns.  The massive earthen walls are still obvious almost two millennia after they were raised by the Roman legions. It is quite possible that such complexes were only used for a few days or weeks at a time.

There is nothing indigenous from the period that is so obvious.  This is just one of dozens of forts, marching camps and signal stations that were erected, not to forget the Antonine wall.  All of this does prove that the Romans did come to Scotland on several occasions.  However hard they tried though, Agricola, Severus and other Roman generals never managed to subdue the native tribes.

A further aspect of such sites is that archaeologists know what they are looking for, as they have lots of comparative information from similar English and Continental sites.  We lack information on the society, economy and life-styles of our own ancestors form the same period, and not simply because they didn’t build on a similar scale.  

Basically the situation is that over a long period far too much of our limited archaeological resources have been devoted to Roman sites in Scotland. And what does all this effort tell us?  Effectively that the Romans, came, saw and left.

This concentration on Roman remains is a problem in understanding our own history.  That problem is that the Romans are not that important in Scottish terms but given the centrality of Rome to the very idea of the British Empire they have developed an inordinate hold on academic thinking.  

England on the other hand was part of the Roman Empire for four centuries.  The people in England were were urbanised, organised tax-paying citizens to a great extent while here, well what do we actually know of the Romans in Scotland?

There has been a great deal written over the years about client kingdoms north of Hadrian’s Wall while some have talked of a sphere of Roman influence ‘between the walls’.  The most recent archaeology informs us that the Antonine Wall was begun in the early 140s, perhaps completed by 146, was abandoned before 155, re-occupied and finally abandoned by 167. So over a twenty-five year period the wall was abandoned at least twice, meaning a maximum concerted occupation of no more than fifteen years, if that.  We should also remember that its construction was of timber and turf as opposed to the stone of Hadrian’s Wall between the Solway Forth and the Tyne.  Fifteen years is not a great deal of time to subdue an armed population.

Certainly in Scotland we have villas at both ends of the Antonine Wall but these could very well have been supplied by sea.  Looking at the map it seems obvious that the Roman sites, apart form the Antonine wall itself, are lines of forts and marching caps etc. which suggest they were part of military campaigns not sites of occupation and control.

A great deal has been made of the hoard of Roman silver found on Traprain Law in east Lothian, some going so far as to claim this as evidence of  the local people, the Votadini – later known as the Gododdin – were clients of the Romans.  There has been more Roman silver and other artefacts including coinage found in Bavaria than in Scotland – well beyond the limits of a the Roman Empire.  Such materials may have been the result of trade with the Romans but are just as likely to be loot from raiding. However the British view of history has always needed to try and make Scotland’s history look as much like England’s as possible, that process being to convince us that many of our ancestors were under Roman control.

In 217 Dio Cassio wrote that the Romans held the land south of the wall that ‘divided the island in half’ and generations of historians have tried to convince themselves that this refers to the Antonine wall.  This is impossible.  That wall had been abandoned fifty years earlier and someone as well connected as Dio Cassio, with access to official records, would certainly have known that.

However when it comes to the Romans our Britishist academics have always bent over backwards to believe otherwise.  The great Roman victory by Agricola at Mons Graupius around the year 80 is central to the story we have been given.  The problem is we only have Tacitus’ version of this supposed battle and he was Agricola’s son-in-law!  There is no corroborative evidence of any kind, and after this ‘victory’ the Roman legions returned south.

From the year 120 onwards Hadrian’s Wall was constantly occupied till the Romans left Britain around 406.  Why? I suggest it was because that was the limit of Roman rule and despite the demands of Britishist history there is no evidence that tells us different.  This story however will go on, for a while.


# Gaavster 2011-08-28 01:43
There may be more truth than meets the eye in the old adage that they built the wall to ‘keep us in’ then
# J Wil 2011-08-28 09:01
What annoys me is that there are many references and documentaries about Hadrian’s wall but few about The Antonine wall. So many thanks for this article.

I had the chance to work on a dig on the latter and found out from the archaeologists that there are many interesting features about it, not least that it had a rock base with many turfs piled on top. There were defensive pits along the wall which would have had wooden spikes embedded. It is know what cohorts built some sections of the wall and estimates have been made of the height of the wall and the width of ground needed to get enough turf to build it.

I got a bit annoyed at an English archaeologist lecturer many years ago telling a Scottish audience in Stirling, with great relish, that if the Romans had really wanted to conquer Scotland then they would have had no trouble in doing so. Perhaps he was unhappy that the English had capitulated, had been tamed by the Romans and thereafter penned in like sheep by Hadrian.
# Steafan34 2011-08-28 09:48
To refer to either Scotland or England as Scotland or England during the Roman occupation is a misnomer anyway. Neither country existed. The “English” people of that period were romanised Celts, speaking a P-Celtic language (related to Welsh, Cornish and Breton). In Scotland too, the Picts are believed to be a P-Celtic language speaking people.
# Fungus 2011-08-28 10:53
Quoting J Wil:
Perhaps he was unhappy that the English had capitulated, had been tamed by the Romans and thereafter penned in like sheep by Hadrian.

What English? England didn’t exist at that time just a disparate set of Celtic tribes.
# J Wil 2011-08-28 22:11
Perhaps he was unhappy that the English had capitulated, had been tamed by the Romans and thereafter penned in like sheep by Hadrian

Whether it was factually correct or not it seemed very clear that it was the message he wanted to convey to an audience of non-experts.
# Lianachan 2011-08-28 22:25
Also, it’s the convention for it to be acceptable for modern place and people names to be used for geographical convenience. There was no England or Scotland in those days, but it’s fine to refer to “Roman England” or “Roman Scotland” without inviting debate about when the Angles arrived, or who the Scots were 🙂
# Holebender 2011-08-28 10:00
Julius Caesar’s famous saying Veni, Vidi, Vici “I came, I saw, I conquered” is very well known, but it is about England.

Actually, it was about Gaul.
# wee folding bike 2011-08-28 11:08
And even then only those led by Vercingetorix.

There was one village of indomitable Gauls who were never conquered by the Romans.
# doctor_zaius 2011-08-28 11:17
I remember reading about them as a child 😀
# pictishbeastie 2011-08-28 13:50
Brilliant Stuart,keep it up! Slainte! Iain
# Lianachan 2011-08-28 14:12
Rome may not have conquered all of modern Scotland, but that does not make them historically unimportant. Most of southern Scotland was fully occupied for a while, long enough to reach the important psychological watershed of a generation being born, living their lives and dying if not directly under Roman rule then certainly in close proximity to Roman forces – with all of the societal and cultural consequences thereof. To assume that areas outwith direct Roman influence were unaffected by the presence of Rome flies in the face of archaeological evidence. I recommend interested parties read up on The Roman Gask Project.

This is a disappointing article.
# pictishbeastie 2011-08-28 21:35
What I think Stuart is trying,very successfully IMHO,to get across is that we have been bombarded with Roman history and archaeology at the expense of the history and archaeology of the indigenous peoples of what is modern Scotland whether we call them Picts,Caledonia  ns,Scots,Strath  clyde Britons,Gododdi  n or whatever! “The Roman Gask Project” you refer to actually proves that the Romans were in this part of the world for a very short period and had a very limited impact on the indigenous population and culture!
# Lianachan 2011-08-28 21:55
We’ve been bombarded with the history of the Romans in general, and in England – absolutely yes. Anything about “Roman Britain” will invariably stop at Hadrian’s Wall, incorrectly saying it was built to keep out hoardes of blue painted savages. However, I don’t think enough is said about the actual Roman influence in Scotland, and it’s a subject that fascinates me. What the work of the Roman Gask Project is proving is that much that is assumed (ie, claimed by Tacitus) about the Romans in Scotland is not quite right, and that they were here earlier (and for longer) than had previously been thought. The archaeology of the interaction between Roman and native Pict/Caledonian is very interesting and surprising. I think your argument about us being subjected to Roman stuff at the expense of Pictish stuff is perfectly valid and true, but is part of the general problem of the lack of teaching Scottish history. It’s time the true history of the Romans in Scotland was better known.

Book recommendation:…/…
# Barontorc 2011-08-28 20:15
Come, come Lianachan, it may not disappoint many people , like me, to get this background info on the period. Feel free, to top it up, or contest by your own input.
# Lianachan 2011-08-28 21:29
It’s good to see this sort of article in here, don’t get me wrong, and I’m all for anything that raises historical awareness – but this one just has too many mistakes. “I came, I saw, I conquered” is not about England (or Gaul, for that matter), it was said by Ceasar about a short war in Turkey. That’s the first sentence of the article, factually incorrect. Surely you must expect better than that.
# clootie 2011-08-30 09:07
Well my history must be out!

I thought the Romans had key bases all over Scotland’s coast supplied by their fleet. I read years ago about a major base near Inverness.I suspect all the major rivers had a Roman fortification.
I also thought a major battle had been fought near Inverurie (Benachie)
# Lianachan 2011-08-30 09:26
There are many marching camps up the east, and along the Moray coast, and there are potential Roman forts at Cawdor, Beauly, on the Moray coast and Pormahomack. These are hotly disputed, and are can’t be definitely identified as Roman (especially Portmahomack, where no specific site at all has been found). The most northerly key base was at Inchtuthil, although there are more northerly forts. Currently, there are no definite Roman sites known in the Highlands. The fleet did participate in the various campaigns, and under Agricola (reported by Tacitus) they famously sailed around the entire Scottish coast (and may have popped in to Orkney). Normal practice would have been for them to have made camp ashore every night, and I think it would be interesting if somebody could try to find any remains of those camps. There was some interaction between north coast natives and Rome (Roman finds in brochs, etc) and it’s reasonable to assume that at least some of that was the result of direct contact with the fleet – as well, of course, as part of trading links with parts of Scotland under more direct Roman influence. Personally, I think a detailed survey of Strathspey should find some marching camps.
# lochside 2011-08-30 13:18
Long overdue article. The fact is that English historians in the past decade or so have been desperate to downplay the resistance north of Hadrian’s wall during the Roman Occupation of what is now known as England (winkae for short). How many documentaries have the BBC and the History channel tried to assert that Hadrian decided to draw a boundary around the Empire..a macro form of housekeeping! The chief archaeologist at the large Northumbrian excavation on the Wall (name forgotten) actually stated that it was basically a custom post! In all these programmes Antonine’s wall is glossed over as irrelevant, despite the fact it was based across the narrowest part of the Island of Britain, and therefore the best place to have a defensive wall. The evidence points to determined and persistent fightback by the ‘Britons’ of the North. However, this is in the current political climate an uneasy fact for our English cousins. Despite the fact ‘winkae’ didn’t exist they obviously feel their nationhood threatened that our part of the Island never capitulated. Therefore, we get constant re-runs of Boadicea’s British brave failed rebellion. To sum up: instead of the age-old racist slur of woad wearing Picts uncivilised by Roman culture penned behind Hadrian’s wall, we the present day Scots are characterised as unimportant barbarians, not worth conquering,whil  st those in ‘winkae’ fought back, but eventually saw the light and became true sophisticated Brito-Romans, fit and proper for their destiny of a brave new world role of cruel Imperial rule/sorry civilising influence to the rest of the world.
# Achnababan 2011-08-30 13:49
Excellently put lochside! I once sat through a Brit academic lecture saying the Romans withdrew essentially as a result of a cost-beneft analysis of their occupation here – too much blood and expense for relatively little reward. In his words – they had more important problems elsewhere. While this may or may not be true, the case remains the peoples of what we now call Scotland beat the Romans – if not directly in full scale battle that suited Roman military strength at least by increasing the costs of occupation by I guess by detemrined resistance! (Just like the Vietnamese beat the Americans). Surely it is time to celebrate and be thankful when the wee guys gie the big guys a bloody nose. Hang on a minute – using this line of reasoning I wish we had not discovered North Sea Oil – otherwise we might have thrown off the British yoke a few decades ago!
# Lianachan 2011-08-30 14:16
The normal Roman method of occupation was to impress the local elite with Roman civilisation and culture. They often more or less left the existing organisation intact, but with a Roman feel to it. This allowed them to occupy large areas with surprisingly few troops. In the Scotland of the time, society was not structured in such a way as to allow for that to work. Substantial numbers of troops would have needed to have been left all over Scotland, and there just weren’t that many available. The “too much blood for relatively little reward” thing that is often said is an overly simplistic, and derogatory to my mind, way of putting that. The Romans did occupy southern Scotland for a while, and did embark on regular campaigns further north. These mostly were about raising the profile of the general in question, and for obtaining plunder/glory, rather than attempts to actually expand the boundries of empire.
# cokynutjoe 2011-08-30 14:00
These islands were never a walkover for Rome, the walls were obviously hugely expensive and not built for nothing.
No attempt made to conquer Ireland despite her gold etc’, why?
# Lianachan 2011-08-30 14:24
The walls weren’t built in isolation, as a defensive line to keep people out – they were part of a sophisticated system, supported by well linked and organised installations miles out on either side. It’s overly simplistic to consider them as a boundary or border.

Ireland – there were Romans in Ireland, and there are indications that plans were made for a massive invasion. Rome sheltered an exiled Irish prince, and were hoping to use him in a combined invasion/get him in power kind of operation. There is a school of thought that Ireland was actually invaded by Rome, too, although there’s little (if any) archaeological evidence for it.
# Mad Jock McMad 2011-08-30 14:33
That is why they now think the ‘super barracks’ at Chester were built as a staging post for an invasion of Ireland.

One reason for the postponement is thought to have been the Roman Civil War in around 70 AD when four generals all fought to take the Imperial Crown – eventually Tiberius saw off all comers. With trouble in Palestine and incursions into the Rhine borderlands by Goths Tiberius sought to stabilise the current boundaries of the Roman Empire where they were.

As for Hadrian’s Wall some of the tablet’s from Vindolanda indicate the main purpose was for custom and excise collection and control of immigration. More of a metaphorical full stop to Roman expansion and a statement not to mess with Rome.
# Lianachan 2011-08-30 14:42
Re Ireland and Tiberius, yup, indeed. Chester may have being getting developed to take over as a captiol, too.

Re Hadrian’s Wall as a customs collection/immigration point – yup, plus also to break up and control communications between the various tribes in the area. One thing it most definitely was not was a big wall to keep blue painted savages out of lovely Rome. The Roman empire didn’t even like to pretend it had any limits, after all 🙂
# Aikenheed 2011-08-30 16:53
The wall also served a defensive function – acting as a tripwire giving notice of an incursion and providing a defensive line to the rear to hold raiding bands once the larger garrisons further south were activated and moved north – a sort of hammer and anvil effect. This would be a more flexible response to holding a long line rather than trying to man the complete length and facilitated by the road network which was developed with the wall
# Lianachan 2011-08-30 17:09
To a certain extent, but the outlying installations to the north of the wall also would have had a part to play.
# lochside 2011-08-30 17:09
Sorry, but a lot of you are buying into’The Romans had too many fish to fry, to bother about a few painted fuds running about in the north’ school of English Archaeology and History revisionism. Hadrian’s wall was a defensive structure which took up the bulk of Roman endeavour in these islands during its construction. The aim: to protect and maintain the rest of Britain from the pesky unbeatable tribes of the North..the Romans tried to hold Antonine’s wall (which shows evidence of being burned and destroyed in places) and the lands beyond Hadrian’s. Incidentally, there are many signs of Hadrian’s wall being subjected to fire and attack. So take pride in our collective (even by adoption) ancestors’struggle against imperialism instead of buying into the ‘Pictish primitives’ p*sh disseminated by Anglocentric Romano-Brit wits!
# Lianachan 2011-08-30 17:17
I most certainly am not “buying into the ‘Pictish primitives’ p*sh disseminated by Anglocentric Romano-Brit wits”, or anything of the kind, as I would have thought was quite clear. The simple fact of the matter is that the history of the Romans in Scotland is longer, and generally more peaceful, than you might expect. That takes nothing away from our ancestors, and I don’t allow my own pride in their achievements to muddy my objectivity about what the archaeological evidence shows of the period.
# Achnababan 2011-08-30 20:51
I am with you on this Lochside. The problem is, at gthe end of the day most archaeology is guess work overlain with our own world view shaped by the modern world. Lianchan talks with authority but its all guesswork really based on an interpretation of a few remians scattered arund which respresent only a tiny proprtion of what was there. Hadrians Wall was in my view defensive – its ludicrous to suggest it was primarily for customs and excise! Putting my cards on the tab le I belong to the School tof thought that considers the Romans to be destroyers not civilisers. Imperalists the world over – china, US, France and Britain tedn to be from another School
# Lianachan 2011-08-30 21:02
I am not trying to find evidence to fit a preconceived agenda, nor cherry picking. I take the evidence as I find it, and assess it in it’s own right, and in the context of other relevant evidence. That’s by far the best way to form views of the past, based on archaeology. In Scotland, given the lack of actual written accounts of the time, the archaeology is particularly important. To dismiss evidence because it doesn’t back up the preconceived notion held by an individual sounds very much more like something done by others here than by me. I am very pro-Scotland, pro-independence and immensely proud of our history and achievements – but that doesn’t mean I am prepared to paint a picture of iron age Scottish society that is at odds with the available evidence, simply to further glorify or toughen it up.

Oh, and I talk “with authority” because this is a subject I am very knowledgeable about, and hugely interested in. The Iron Age in the Highlands & Islands is my favourite subject.
# pictish dagger 2011-08-30 19:30
There is no doubt the Romans came to Scotland and occupied parts of it for a short time. There is no doubt they were sent packing (butter it up whatever way you like) but that is the truth.

Quoting Lianachan:
The normal Roman method of occupation was to impress the local elite with Roman civilisation and culture.

The Romans were absolute dictators who basically gave two options 1. Join us. 2. Defy us and we will slaughter you.(Romania being a fine example).
To say the Romans gave you their hand in friendship with no conditions is hogwash.
Bribery, murder and ethnic cleansing were more akin to Romes offer.

Quoting Lianachan:
The fleet did participate in the various campaigns, and under Tacitus they famously sailed around the entire Scottish coast (and may have popped in to Orkney).

Tacitus the Roman propaganda writer who possibly never set foot on Scottish soil in his entire life. Hearsay and void of fact.

Quoting Lianachan:
There was some interaction between north coast natives and Rome (Roman finds in brochs, etc) and it’s reasonable to assume that at least some of that was the result of direct contact with the fleet – as well, of course, as part of trading links with parts of Scotland under more direct Roman influence.

Finding a Roman item in a Broch tells you nothing about how it got there this is pure speculation and guess work. The Romans give no or very little description of the North of Scotland or any of the Islands. Considering they claimed to document everything that would suggest to me they were possibly not there at all. This is also leaving out an important fact that the Picts were a seafaring people.

Quoting Lianachan:
In the Scotland of the time, society was not structured in such a way as to allow for that to work

How could you possibly know this? More factless guess work. In taking on the might of the Romans and sending them packing I would think the Picts would certainly have needed to have social, military and economic structure and forms of communication between each area. Are you telling us that in England where Rome took over their Tribes had this structure but not us?

Quoting Lianachan:
The walls weren’t built in isolation, as a defensive line to keep people out – they were part of a sophisticated system, supported by well linked and organised installations miles out on either side. It’s overly simplistic to consider them as a boundary or border.

It’s also completely stupid to say the first and main purpose was not for defence. This sophisticated system you refer to would be small villages/supplies, sentry posts, barracks all of which sprung up due to this wall, its maintenance and its defence.

Quoting Lianachan:
I most certainly am not “buying into the ‘Pictish primitives’ p*sh disseminated by Anglocentric Romano-Brit wits

Thanks for clearing that up you certainly had me fooled.
# Lianachan 2011-08-30 21:27
1) The Roman system for occupation was as I described. Seduce the local elite, and make them aspire to being Roman. Some former local elite types went on to hold quite high office in the empire. I never said that “the Romans gave you their hand in friendship with no conditions”, nor said they never deployed “bribery, murder and ethnic cleansing”.

2) Tacitus. I absolutely agree, and always treat him with suspicion. I only mentioned him because he is one of the (two) sources that mention the fleet sailing around Scotland. The other is Dio, by the way.

3) There are a multitude of place-names for the north of Scotland, and the hebrides, which date from pre-Roman times and were on Roman maps. Anyway, I said it’s “reasonable to assume” that there was some contact with the fleet – I never claimed any Roman stuff found in a broch was put there by a good natured Roman marine. The Picts were indeed a skilled seafaring people. I can’t recall ever saying otherwise.

4) Years of experience of the subject. Yes, the tribes started to cooperate (definitely militarily) to resist Rome. Again, I never said they didn’t, but the kind of society seen in England was missing in the north of Scotland. That doesn’t mean it was a poorer, simpler or worse society, by the way, and have no idea why anybody would assume it must have been. It may have existed to some extent in the southern parts that Rome did conquer for a while.

5) The forts in question often pre-date the wall. Don’t think of the wall in isolation, think of it as an important part of a system.

6) As I’ve said before, it is possible to be proud of Scottish achievements and history without having to twist or invent history. I go where the evidence leads me. It’s all good.
# Lianachan 2011-08-30 21:56
Link that may be of interest:…/…
# lochside 2011-08-31 12:51
Dear Lianachan,
I wouldn’t doubt your erudition or earnest sholarly endeavour in this field. But I repeat, the general body of English/British history is currently trying to write down or wipe out our (i.e Scotland’s) participation in Britain’s history, with in particular, the concept of the Roman occupation of ‘Britain’ i.e the whole Island, being portrayed as fact. When clearly the most determined successful resistance in the known world took place, by the tribes of the country that we now inhabit. Whether the Romans ‘interacted’ or not peacefully or otherwise is interesting but not salient to this misrepresentati  on by british academics. There are other examples too many to mention here, but try these: the disproportionat  e sacrifice of Scottish regiments during the First world war (147,000 killed out of a Uk total of 750,00); the cynical use of the Highland Division as a rearguard at St. Valery to allow the Dunkirk ‘miracle’ to happen..etc. etc.Don’t believe the hype!
# Islegard 2011-08-31 13:12
One of the biggest rewritting of history comes from the use of “Briton”. The Romans used this to describe the area of England and Wales while Scotland was Caledonia. Historians have now decided amongst themselves the Romans meant Briton to apply to Caledonia too the Romans just didn’t know that.
# Lianachan 2011-08-31 13:38
That’s one reason why there’s a part of me that thinks that “Roman Britain” documentaries are right to exclude Roman Scotland, as it was outwith the provence of Britannia. However, I suspect the producers tend to mean “Britain” as short-hand for all of the British Isles.
# Lianachan 2011-08-31 13:37
Yes, I agree entirely. Any TV documentaries that claim to be about “Roman Britain” will focus on the history of the Romans in England, with barely a mention of the situation in Scotland. It’s very annoying. However, my point is that there was a situation in Scotland – and, where it is discussed at all, it is grossly over-simplified. “They came, they saw, they left” for example. It can be quite hard to find out much about the real situation, and that’s what’s wrong here – the actual history of Scottish interaction with Rome should be taught, or made more accessible to the public. It’s part of the general problem to do with a lack of teaching of Scottish history. Once excavations along Gask are complete, I understand there are plans to open up some sites properly, and to have a wee museum kind of thing about Roman activity in the area. The two common attitudes “they didn’t want anything in Scotland”, and “we were too tough for them” are both wrong, and the situation isn’t going to improve until better coverage is given.

Agree entirely about Scottish cannon fodder and Churchill’s sacrifice of the 51st.
# Islegard 2011-08-31 18:47
It’s not so much they talk about “Roman Britain” exclude Scotland and focus on Roman England. It’s the fact they are arrogantly claiming Scotland was part of Roman Britain. They try to write a false history that we were all part of Briton and that is how the Romans viewed us too. When in fact Briton was England and Wales and Scotland Caledonia. Even previous to this the Picts were a seperate entity to English tribes. We always were seperate.
# Lianachan 2011-08-31 19:32
I’m not convinced they do claim Scotland was part of Roman Britain, I don’t think they’re that interested one way or the other to be honest. Part of Scotland was under Roman control for a while, of course, which is quite ironic really.

There wasn’t really a “we” then, either – just a collection of tribes. Even then, there were differences between the tribes of Atlantic Scotland (the traditional broch regions) and other parts of the country – as can be seen both in archaeology, and indeed in the styles of the recorded tribe names. Rome did, at least, have the affect of causing a greater degree of cooperation between tribes – they had been becoming more insular since the end of the Bronze Age. That’s an example of the kind of thing I meant earlier, when I was talking about the Roman influence on areas outwith their control.
# pa_broon74 2011-08-31 13:16
As I recall.

The line they took when I was at school re. the roman occupation of britain (they used word, I do remember that) was that the Scot’s (no one mentioned picts) were just to savage and unruly and the land to rugged to be of use so they built Hadrian’s Wall to keep us in.

No mention of civilised structure, military organisation or of any battles between ‘Scots’ and Romans.

When you’re 8 years old, the idea of an unruly Scot’s nation repeling superior Roman forces by savagery alone appeals.

It’s interesting to hear these takes on what transpired during that period of time.
# Lianachan 2011-08-31 18:10
Broch and Romans news.…/…
# Mad Jock McMad 2011-08-31 19:44
There is ample evidence all across the Scottish borders of Roman incursion in the form of marching camps from outside Castle Douglas all the way Berwick.

It is well known that the Romans held a line from the Clyde to the Forth but to what extent any of the South of Scotland tribes were subdued is up in the air.

It is a pretty fair guess that the Romans were looking for precious metals, lead, tin and semi precious stones to exploit. The evidence points to them going as far as Gatehouse of Fleet looking for gold. There is evidence they used Kirkcudbright as a ‘dock’ to land men and stores in support of the marching camp at Castle Douglas.

They looked at using their navy and went as far as building a sophisticated port at Cramond with associated fort and baths complex but given the sea state, tidal streams from the Firth of Forth down to the Tyne it would have been a perilous sail for Roman seamen having to deal with beam seas and winds which would tend to drive them onto the lee shore.

I would suggest that there are a number of reasons the Roman’s drew back to Hadrian’s Wall but a big one would be economic. There was not a good enough return in ‘colonising’ Southern Scotland for the cost of the soldiers committed.

If the Romans were one thing they were hard headed about getting decent returns for their investment.
# Lianachan 2011-08-31 19:49
Not just a line from the Clyde to the Forth – they had a system of forts, and associated structures (watchtowers, fortlets, etc) stretching from the south tip of Loch Lomond to Montrose, and marching camps all over the south, up the east and along Moray. There are, as you say, a few likely naval sites too.

Decent site and map:…/…
# cokynutjoe 2011-09-02 08:36
Interesting article in yesterday’s Herald on the excavation of a Perthshire broch built on top of an earlier fort, plenty of Roman finds. Trinkets for the natives!
# Lianachan 2011-09-02 10:50
It’s the other way around actually, a Pictish fort built on top of an Iron Age broch, but yes – interesting. The Pictish stuff has effectively locked in the broch era (including Roman) stuff so this could end up being a hugely significant site. Good to find another southern broch, in any event.

I linked to the BBC article about it a couple of days ago.

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