AGRICOLA AND STRATHEARN

AGRICOLA AND STRATHEARN

By the time Agricola had reached the Forth - Clyde isthmus, he had completed three seasons of operations in Britain and as a result Roman occupied territory had been advanced all the way from North Wales. The permanence of the Roman Walls came after this. Hadrian’s Wall was not started until 122 AD whilst Antonines was later at 142 AD. Agricola based his frontier on marching forts and camps.

Agricola’s initial Governorship should  have been for a three year period . In fact it extended to six years much of which was  spent campaigning in the north beyond the Forth /Clyde isthmus. After he defeated Calgacus at Mons Graupius ( see below )  , he set about establishing his defences. It was however his successor built the forts north of the Forth. There are two main groups of forts north of the Forth. The outer line hugs the edge of the Highlands, the forts usually being placed within the very mouths of the glens. The forts stretch north -east from Drumquhassle at the south east corner of Loch Lomond through Malling at Menteith , Bochastle at Callander, Dalginross at Comrie and Fendoch at the mouth of the Sma Glen to the legionary fort at Inchtuthil ( 2 miles west of Meikleour ). The inner line lies in the centre of the valleys of Strathearn and Strathmore, following the line  taken by the Roman road leading north from Camelon ( near Falkirk). The forts on the line  follow an interesting pattern of alternating sizes. the smaller are some 1.5 to 1.8 hectares ( 3.75 acres/ 4.5 acres) whilst the larger ones cover 3 hectares or 7.5 acres.  Forts like Strageath were garrisoned by in excess of 1 regiment. The frontier from Ardoch ( modern Braco ) to Bertha ( Inveralmond ) is  commonly referred  to as the Gask Ridge and has  been archaeologically investigated  over the last decade in substantial detail .

PERIOD OF OCCUPATION

None of these forts north of the Forth were occupied for long. They were probably built around 79/ 80 AD and abandoned by 90 AD. This has been determined by pottery evidence, coins etc found at these sites. It is conceivable that bearing in mind the short period of existence the full chain of forts was never actually completed. As noted above the forts north of the forth were built after Agricola had completed his terms as Governor of Britain as such. Excavation at Strageath have discovered Roman coins known as asses. These are dated for the period 86 AD.  The probable abandonment of these forts is as a result of the Romans withdrawing their Legion from Britain thus leaving them short on active troops .

MONS GRAUPIUS AND THE GASK RIDGE



The Battle  of Mons Graupius  mentioned above  is a somewhat controversial issue . For  many many years , historical  opinion was that it was fought on the slopes of Bennachie in Aberdeenshire . Current opinion has  now indicated that the battle , if  it was fought at all was  more likely to have been here in Strathearn near Dunning . Calgacus the leader of the amalgamated Celtic  tribes may indeed  have been fictional ! Why the  doubt ? The existing historical evidence was written  by the Roman poet Tacitus . In a very  political World that was Rome it is  significant to point out that Tacitus was in fact Agricola’s  son in law ! Tacitus gives a reputed account  of what Calcagus had said  to his  troops  prior  to battle .Strange that  he, a Roman , was on hand  to report this bellicose address in hostile terrain and in a foreign tongue ! Form your own opinion ! The size of the Roman Army of occupation  was quite  substantial . Up to 50 000 men would  have been  based in what is modern Strathearn . They would  have  required  a  substantial back up  for food and essentials . Quite a ready  made market  for  our  war mongering Celts !  Recent investigations would indicate that this was indeed a mutually beneficial period  of  occupation and not what we have  been led  to believe in the writings currently available !

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