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DetectingScotland.com - Metal Detecting in Scotland, UK » Forum » Articles Related to Metal Detecting » Metal Detecting Articles » Roman Scotland . . .

Author Topic: Roman Scotland . . .  (Read 3102 times)


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Roman Scotland . . .
« on: January 26, 2010, 11:34:53 AM »
In AD 79 Agricola, the Roman governor of Britannia, sent a fleet to survey Scotland's coast. As Agricola advanced, conquering southern Scotland by AD 83, the Caledonian tribes faced imminent invasion.

According to the Roman historian Tacitus, the Caledonians then "turned to armed resistance on a large scale", attacking Roman forts and skirmishing with their legions. In a surprise night-attack, the Caledonians very nearly wiped out the whole 9th legion until it was saved by Agricola's cavalry.

In the summer of AD 84 Agricola advanced into the Caledonians' stronghold in the north-east, hoping to force battle. Somewhere on this march, at a place called Mons Graupius (the Grampian mountains), the Caledonians confronted them.

Everything depended on this encounter. 30,000 Caledonians faced a Roman army about half that size, they also held the higher ground, but they lacked the organisation and military tactics of a Roman legion.

The Romans were tightly disciplined and relied on a short stabbing sword in combat. Their front line was made up of Germanic auxiliary troops from Holland and Belgium, with the Roman legionaries in the rear. Brutal hand to hand fighting must have followed. At one point the Caledonians, using their greater numbers, outflanked the Romans only to meet hidden Roman cavalry suddenly closing on them.

Any hopes of a Caledonian victory vanished. Tacitus claims that 10,000 Caledonians were slaughtered in the battle. Many fought valiantly to the end, more fled into the surrounding woods and hills, burning their houses, or, in fear of Roman reprisals, even killing their own wives and children.

The following day Tacitus tells us, "...an awful silence reigned on every hand; the hills were deserted, houses smoking in the distance, and our scouts did not meet a soul."

In the wake of defeat at the Battle of Mons Graupius, as winter drew in, the Caledonians must have considered themselves doomed, but then Roman politics intervened. The Emperor Domition ordered Agricola back to Rome. For Tacitus, Agricola's son-in-law, Scotland had been "let go", however Rome was facing a more pressing military crisis on the Rhine and Danube frontiers

In 122 AD Hadrian's Wall was built between the Solway and the Tyne, establishing a frontier for the Empire. Hadrian's successor as emperor, Antoninus Pius, pushed the frontier further north to the Forth/ Clyde isthmus and built his own wall, the Antonine Wall. This was built mainly for the prestige of expanding the Empire, but on his death it was abandoned in favour of Hadrian's Wall.

Faced with so formidable an opponent, the northern tribes united into the Pictish nation. The Picts' name first appears in 297 AD and comes from the Latin Picti, literally "painted people". By 306 AD the Emperor Constantius Chlorus was forced to subdue his northern frontier in the face of Pictish attacks on Hadrian's Wall. However, the tide was slowly turning against the Roman Empire.

As Rome weakened the Picts became bolder. In 360 AD they allied with the Gaels from Ireland and launched a concerted invasion across Hadrian's Wall. Julian, the last pagan Emperor of Rome, sent legions to deal with them but to little effect. Within four years they were raiding deep inside Britannia until they were finally repelled by Theodosius the Elder, father of the emperor of the same name who made Christianity the only official religion in the Empire in 367.

The Roman system of controlling of the tribes north of Hadrian's Wall broke down. Scouting was abandoned and forts like Newstead north of Hadrian's Wall were left deserted. Hadrian's Wall itself was eventually abandoned and in 411 AD the legions departed to deal with the barbarian crisis at the heart of the empire.

The Romano-Britons continued to appeal to Rome for help. Eventually they hired other barbarians, the Angles and Saxons, to assist in their defence against the Picts and other raiders. In one of the great ironies of history the Scottish tribal raids on the Romano-Britons helped to bring the peoples who created England to this island.


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Re: Roman Scotland . . .
« Reply #1 on: February 23, 2010, 09:14:41 PM »
Very good read neil I have always tried to locate the battle site but everything i have read dosent give much of a clue i think it would take a life times work and still ou would not get any closer  :) :) :)


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Re: Roman Scotland . . .
« Reply #2 on: February 23, 2010, 09:26:12 PM »
Very interesting read  :)


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Re: Roman Scotland . . .
« Reply #3 on: February 24, 2010, 02:28:59 PM »
yup agree nice read , aye and one battle site to find  :P


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Re: Roman Scotland . . .
« Reply #4 on: February 24, 2010, 07:43:30 PM »
Good information Neil.I live three miles from the Newstead fort.Trimontium,needless to say,It's off limits for detecting.
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Re: Roman Scotland . . .
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2016, 09:49:52 PM »
Dusting this one off its an interesting read.


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Re: Roman Scotland . . .
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2016, 11:01:40 PM »
Great read, I really enjoyed that. Just watched an episode of making Britain (can't remember the name of it) and it was all about the Romans.  Moves onto the Dark Ages next episode.
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Re: Roman Scotland . . .
« Reply #7 on: January 08, 2016, 12:31:38 AM »
The Picts: A History by Tim Clarkson is another darned good read. It's in Kindle format too.
« Last Edit: January 08, 2016, 01:49:05 PM by Seagoon »


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Re: Roman Scotland . . .
« Reply #8 on: January 08, 2016, 09:36:33 AM »
Tacitus was like every other Roman scribe a writer of over-exaggerated 'lies' to make Rome look better.  Most historians know this so whatever he says should always be viewed with  large pinch of salt.

Mon Graupius is something i have looked into a lot, and something i have reseaced a fair bit.  My conclusions are below:

Over the centuries many leading experts in Roman history have alleged that the battle took place anywhere from Elgin in the north
to as far south as Fife. One thing we do know for sure is that the battle took place within an easy days march to a Roman camp
that over looked the then named German Sea (North Sea).

The path of marching camps up the east coast of Scotland allows us to potentially rule out many of them based on their locality
to the sea and allows us to focus on a few specifically.

We also know that the Caledonians raised up a hillside in tiers forming a “horse-shoe” shape. Conventional thoughts may be that
this shape would be best suited forming a convex (or inside out horse-shoe) formation to try and limit being flanked, however, my
proposition is that a concave (or regular horse-shoe) shape was adopted by the Caledonians because they occupied the higher
ground. Being flanked on higher ground by the enemy is less likely than being on a flat open plain.

The battlefield description also tells us that the Caledonians could see the Roman fleet harassing the locals from the sea. The field
itself was described as being a large open plain, relatively flat that allowed chariots to charge and manoeuver. Tacitus doesn’t
describe any notable water features or other obstacles that may have impeded any of the forces as they engaged.

The battle name itself has proven itself to be a challenge for many to agree on. Obviously with near 2000 years passing by the
name was left open to interpretation and change. The name Mons Graupius is obviously a Latin translation of the local ancient
name. Mons Graupius being directly translated today to mean ‘Humped Hill’. We all know of the ‘Humped Hill’ in Aberdeenshire
called Bennachie. Bennachie has been suggested by some as being the location but the distance from the sea, in my humble
opinion, is enough in itself to rule this out. The part that many don’t know is that the name ‘Grampain’ was first tongued in the
16th century, many centuries after the battle took place. Trying to directly connect the battle name with a location is impractical.

We need to look further back in time to names that still exist today that were in use close to that period in time.

The letter G in ‘Graupius’ would have most likely been pronounced as a ‘C’, so straight off the bat we are looking potentially for
‘Craupius’. The latinisation of ‘Craupius’ then allows us to remove the ‘ius’ and replace it with the most likely substitute, which
would be ‘ii’. This then gives us ‘Craupii’

Mons literally meaning ‘Hump’ and ‘Craupii’ can only be assumed to be either a name of a local tribe at the time or the name of a
specific place at that time. What we are potentially left with is either:

Hill of Craupii or Hill of the Craupii.

We could look further into the name but then we may end up following a complicated path that really may not need to be walked

There is a camp that is situated within 3 miles of the ‘German Sea’ that potentially was large enough to house between 17,000 -
30,000 troops that lay next to a site that holds a name that echoes what happened there. Evidence has been discovered in days
gone by that suggests a battle did take place there and with a bit of further excavation by those with the expertise could uncover
more evidence, if not finally discover Scotland’s Greatest Ever Battle. The camp in question, !*?!, is in my humble opinion not actually
Roman, rather it is and was one of the largest native camps ever discovered. My reasoning for this is that nearby we find a significant
Druid Temple, possibly dating to the same era and a standing stone with possibly the oldest Ogham in Scotland. Looking at the
site, it is very irregular and doesn’t conform to standard Roman designs. The entrenchment at its SE edge, suggests that whomever
was occupied in there built the entrenchment as a way of slowing an advancing enemy from that direction. From the direction of
the Roman advancement into NE Scotland.

The area surrounding !*?! is awash with Bronze Age settlements. The name itself possibly denotes its importance. !*?!,
meaning Kings-!*?!. We need to look at the possibility that !*?! was never a Roman Camp but a camp they wanted
to control because of its distinct advantage over the often forgotten Camp 2 miles to the SE called !*?!. Unfortunately no
visible remain of this camp exist but when we review this location, although strategic, it remains open to attack from all angles
bar the East.

The site in ancient times was known as the ‘Moor of Death’. Its late-medieval name was ‘!*?!’ and today it’s called ‘!*?!’.

This site today is a vast wet area that is sided on all but one, forming a concave. The views from here are of the German Sea.

Directly adjacent to this is the Camp of !*?! (or !*?!) as it was known or more importantly Kings !*?!. The
camp itself also has a large defensive entrenchment straddling towards the Sea, clearly built in anticipation of a force attacking
from the land facing the Sea.

When we review those texts of old we also find that the land used to be occupied by a large expanse of forest known locally to
the good people of the parish of !*?! as ‘The Craiggie’. Tacitus also tells us that 20,000 Caledonians fled the battle into a
vast forest and were never found. The name ‘The Craiggie’ goes back to times verging on King David I of Scotland, around 1000AD.
Did it go further back? Was it ‘The Craupii’ the Roman interpretation of ‘The Craiggie’?

When we look at the area surrounding, it can be noted that there is a hill nearby that houses a significant number, approximately
140, Tumuli. The hill in question being !*?! Hill. ‘!*?!’ meaning ‘Fight’. We also find many other nearby hills, all
surrounding !*?! with Tumuli.

Significant Roman finds have been found in the vicinity in supplement. One of the largest hordes of Roman Coins in Scotland was
found nearby on !*?! Hill, possibly buried and left before the battle started, or afterwards. Chariot wheels, Bronze Age swords,
coins from ancient Roman Egypt (200BC), leather, armour and most importantly a vast stone slab that contained ash buried under
the surface. There are also accounts of many Roman Hastati (soldiers) being discovered in 1772.

Apologies i hove ommitted names and replaced them with !*?!'s
« Last Edit: January 08, 2016, 09:38:21 AM by jrmcleod »

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Re: Roman Scotland . . .
« Reply #9 on: January 08, 2016, 10:16:11 AM »
Great read thanks guys  :)
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Re: Roman Scotland . . .
« Reply #10 on: January 08, 2016, 01:21:38 PM »
Enjoyed reading this, their is a misconception that the romans never got anywhere in Scotland, but they lasted a couple of hundred years but mainly on the east coast, bottom line it was not a viable place for the army to be, they never found the resources they were looking for in enough quantity, if Scotland was anything like Kent or the south of England with the volume of arable land and other resources I believe it would have been a different story, they had their fair share of uprisings and battle against the local Breton tribes down their but Rome thought it was worth the bother,

Anyway what did the Romans ever do for us

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Re: Roman Scotland . . .
« Reply #11 on: January 08, 2016, 01:38:28 PM »

The Romans weren't much interested in arable land or other things of the like, they were after metals i.e. silver, gold, lead, tin etc.  Anything else was a bonus.

People often wrongly think the Romans gave us the chariot but in actual fact it was the Celts that gave the Romans the chariot.

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