The Celts tinder Rome

So, for around ten or twenty years towards the end of the first century AD and perhaps twenty-five years in the second, southern Scotland formed part of an empire, stretching south to Egypt, west to Portugal, and east to Mesopotamia (82). Within this enormous area certain groups of people had considerable mobility; for example, at the upper end of the scale, governors and lesser officials were posted tar from their places of origin, and. at the lower end. auxiliary troops were expected to serve wherever their units were needed. Exposure, however brief, to cultural influences, political systems and material goods from the Roman Empire surely cannot have failed to make some impact upon the ideologies and lifestyles of the indigenous peoples of Scotland, at least in the south.

Yet the first impact of Rome was a military one, and, before assessing the legacy of Rome for the development of indigenous societies, we must first consider the repercussions of the initial clash.

The army on the march

We should not underestimate the disruption to the farmlands of lowland Scotland wrought by the passage of the Roman army which, during Agricolas campaigns, comprised some 25—30,000 men (89).Vast quantities of food, and other provisions such as firewood, would have been required to keep the army on the march and foraging off the land was common. In late summer this might mean harvesting growing crops from the surrounding fields, while in the early part of the campaigning season enemy settlements would have been raided for their stores of grain and other produce. Stock would have been at especially serious risk for communities along the way.

It is highly probable, for example, that the campaign leading up to the battle of Mons Graupius would have seen the farms of Strathmore utterly devastated as the invading army passed along the valley, emptying the souterrains of their stored grain and pillaging the crops from the fields. Huge areas of arable and pasture land were commandeered for the erection of marching camps, up to 65 hectares (162 acres) in extent, some of which have been identified through aerial photography among the cropmarks of native settlements. The Agricolan fort at Cardean, in Angus, for example, seems to have been built on land deliberately cleared of indigenous settlement, judging from the quantities of Iron Age pottery strewn around the site.

Famine, disease and depopulation would have followed for those areas directly affected by the passage of arms, areas like Tayside, the central belt, and the south-west; while even areas much further afield would have suffered, as those who would normally have been tending and harvesting crops were drawn from the land to fight. Doubtless the winter following Mons Graupius claimed many more victims than the battle itself.

89 Vie few contemporaneous depictions of the Scottish tribesmen inevitably present a rather biased picture of the encounter between Roman and native. V lis carving from the Bridgeness distance slab, found at the east end of the Antonine 11 all, shows a typical celebration of the Roman victory.

Forts and frontiers

The Roman occupation brought with it major changes to the physical and political landscape of southern Scotland. Both in the Flavian period, beginning with Agricola, and under Antoninus Pius, integrated networks of forts, fortlets and watch-towers were set up to consolidate Rome's territorial gains (90). Complex road systems, complete with fords and bridges, carved the country up, enabling what must have seemed the miraculously swift appearance of military detachments wherever and whenever trouble arose. The Antonine frontier itself would have been a major imposition on the landscape of southern Scotland (85 and 86). It demarcated the edge of the empire, and to cross it required the payment of dues, the surrender of weapons and adherence to specified times and points of access. Such restrictions on free movement would probably also have pertained in Flavian times, along the chain of timber towers and fortlets flanking the road along the Gask Ridge west of Perth.

It would be easy to exaggerate the impact of Roman military works. After all, indigenous communities had been modifying their environment quite drastically for thousands of years: the Cleaven Dyke in Perthshire, for example, built some 3000 years


Mem l-'i EC 11 AVaKRWVr!!!!!> ill before the Roman invasion, cuts a swathe across the countryside for a distance of more than 2km (well over 1 mile); while the creation of lowland field systems and the upland forest clearances of the last few centuries BC were 110 less impressive cooperative projects that completely transformed the pre-existing landscape. Nonetheless, the scale and integration of Roman works was something quite new; almost inevitably it would have changed radically perceptions of what constituted social and political power for the indigenous communities of southern Scotland.

Social and economic life

While the imposition of frontiers and forts is relatively easy to demonstrate archaeologically, other impacts of the Roman occupation are less immediately obvious. During the periods of occupation the Roman army in Scotland was about 15,000 strong, and the taxes levied to support this number of economically unproductive individuals must have been a significant imposition on communities already disrupted by invasion. The Scottish tribes, lacking coinage, presumably paid their taxes in kind, most probably in grain or stock. However, other forms of payment, such as furs and hides, provision of labour or recruits for the auxiliary units of the Roman army, may have been equally acceptable. How such economic burdens would have affected traditional exchanges of labour, goods and patronage between social classes is unknown, but some disruption to indigenous institutions surely would have been inevitable in the circumstances.

The proximity of the empire would also have opened up a lucrative market for the slave trade. Although slavery probably already existed among the indigenous communities, the commercial aspects of the Roman slave trade may have encouraged an upsurge in raiding and warfare in the frontier zone, further destabilizing societies already weakened during the invasion.

Religion, too, would have been affected to some degree.The pan-tribal Druids of southern Britain and Gaul had lost their political influence; any organized priesthood in the frontier lands would have been a potential focus for resistance and thus an obvious target for suppression.

The impact of Rome, however, would have varied greatly across Scotland. While the Roman army would have prevented outbreaks of internecine warfare in the occupied areas, creating some stability, the southern tribes do not appear to have been assimilated into Roman provincial life to the same degree as their neighbours south of Hadrian's Wall.

Civilian settlements did develop around some of the larger forts in Scotland, notably Newstead, near Melrose, Inveresk, near Musselburgh, and Carriden, near Bo'ness. These satellite settlements or vici (singular vicus) seem to have served as local centres for craft production, industrial manufacture and trade and can perhaps be seen as proto-urban centres. Whether these settlements grew organically around the existing forts, or whether they were deliberately emplaced by the Roman military to serve the needs of the garrison, remains unclear. The known examples may be little more than glorified versions of the annexes attached to many other Roman forts, in which a range of ancillary functions was carried out. We also cannot tell whether they were populated exclusively by incomers or hangers-on, attached to the Roman garrison, or whether they included opportunistic members of the indigenous community.

Whatever their composition and origins, it does not seem that the rici had much influence on the surrounding rural communities, since Roman material of the first two centuries AD is scarce on native settlements, particularly in comparison with the superficially comparable situation on the broadly contemporary German frontier. The failure of any of the vici to survive beyond the Roman withdrawal seems also to suggest that they had little relevance to the indigenous people. It seems unlikely that much actual trade was carried out between the garrisons and their hosts. Rather, it appears that the demands of the Roman army would have stifled economic production, destabilized social relations and humbled traditional leaders.

By contrast, in the ungarrisoned area of East Lothian (the fort and vicus of Inveresk lay on its westernmost extreme), the Votadim may have been allowed rather more leeway to maintain their way of life and social institutions, and indeed any tribute

90 The Roman fort at Ardoclt (the defences actually relate to three successive forts occupying the same site). The upstanding features shown here form part of an extensive complex which includes a large annexe, numerous temporary camps, a road and a watch-tower. Crown copyright: RCA H.MS.

Celtic Scotland

91 Edin's Hall in Berunckshire is one of the best prescnvd of the lowland broclis. The broch itsel f is surrounded by a substantial enclosure containing numerous stone-walled roundhouses. Crown copyright: RCAHMS.

exacted by the Roman army may have been regarded as a price worth paying for the suppression of their troublesome neighbours. Whether we regard Traprain Law as a tribal capital or religious sanctuary, the rich array of Roman goods found there distinguishes it from other native sites, and shows that it continued to thrive throughout the first two centuries Al). Similarly, as we saw in Chapter 5. the souterrain-builders north of the frontier may have increased their economic production to engage in trade with the Roman army.

While Traprain Law is explicable in terms of its location in the heartland of the ungarrisoned East Lothian, the apparently similar site at Eildon Hill North in Roxburghshire is less easily understood. This hilltop settlement, which had apparently been abandoned since the Later Bronze Age (see chapter 4), was re-occupied during the first and second centuries AD, apparently at a time when the valley below was occupied by the Newstead Roman fort and vicus. Indeed, for a time at least, the hilltop itself was crowned by a Roman tower. It seems inconceivable that the Roman army would have tolerated a fortified settlement so close to the fort, so we must presumably invoke some other explanation for the occurrence of hut platforms and Roman goods on the hilltop. Perhaps the hill was a religious site in the Roman period, or perhaps the occupation was confined to the periods when the Roman army had withdrawn further south. Without further excavation and much more precise dating, however, the site remains anomalous.

One other site which may have had a special status is Edinburgh's Castle Rock, although the medieval and later castle has obliterated most traces of earlier settlement.

91 Edin's Hall in Berunckshire is one of the best prescnvd of the lowland broclis. The broch itsel f is surrounded by a substantial enclosure containing numerous stone-walled roundhouses. Crown copyright: RCAHMS.

Recent excavations on the rock have yielded higher densities of fine Roman pottery of the first and second centuries AD than have been found on any other native site apart from Traprain. A few centuries later, after the abandonment of Traprain Law, the Castle Rock was seemingly to emerge as the fortified capital of the kingdom of Gododdin, the post-Roman descendants of the Votadini.

While pro-Roman tribes such as the Votadini may have prospered, and while their more ambivalent neighbours may have stagnated under the oppressive presence of the Roman garrison, the tribes to the north of the Antonine Wall, beyond the permanently garrisoned zone, may have faced a rather different set of conditions. Frontier areas, like Stirlingshire, Perthshire and Angus, had been hit hard by Roman military operations from Agricola onwards, and would have been subsequently harried and subdued by border patrols. It is these areas, unshackled by the enforced passivity of the garrisoned tribes, but lacking the economic stability enjoyed by Rome's allies, that are most likely to have seen the breakdown of traditional tribal institutions and the emergence of more fluid and anarchic social conditions. These conditions may also have extended further north: the pollen record for Aberdeenshire, for example, shows that the earlier agricultural regime came virtually to a halt during the first century AD and was not to recover for several centuries.

Strife 011 the northern frontier was endemic, judging from numerous, albeit vague, written references to wars and military actions throughout the second century AD. However, the military exchanges between Rome and the local tribes went in both directions, particularly in the period after the construction of the Antonine Wall. Cassius Dio records a mass incursion from the north across the Roman frontier about AD 180. Around twenty years later, in stark contrast to the usual image of the Roman empire exacting tribute from its conquered subjects, Rome was forced to buy off one of the northern tribes, a people known as the Maeatae, to prevent further attacks and to obtain the release of prisoners. The Maeatae had not appeared in Ptolemy's list, and may have represented a new amalgamation of tribes in the troubled frontier zone. Place-names such as Dumyat and Myot Hill, in Stirlingshire, seem to place this group in the area just north of the Antonine Wall.

Another group frequently mentioned at this time are the Caledonians. Ptolemy's list of tribes, based 011 sources from the end of the first century AD, records the Caldones as a single tribe (58), seemingly occupying the Highland massif. However, the name was also apparently used in a looser sense, for example by Tacitus, to denote the lands and people north of the Forth or Tay. So, while by the latter part of the second century AD the Caledonians had become a major military force in the north, it is unclear whether they were a particularly dominant tribe, a new confederacy or whether the term was simply applied to any northern troublemakers.

It was in such troubled frontier areas that an apparently alien settlement form seems to have been adopted: the lowland brochs (91). Unlike their more numerous northern counterparts, lowland brochs do not appear to have a local ancestry much before the first century ADThe handful of excavated sites have produced Roman pottery of first-and second-century AD date, as well as fragments of Roman glass and metalwork.

Indeed, in terms of access to Roman material, the lowland brochs seem to have been among the richest settlements in southern Scotland, implying that the broch-dwellers were an important part of the native elite. Appearing as they do, however, in areas like Angus and Perthshire, where undefended open settlements had formerly sprawled across the lowlands, these grim, isolated structures seem redolent of a return to more stressful times and a more fragmented society. The broch at Hurly Hawkin and the stone-built'duns'on Turin Hill re-occupy the sites of long-abandoned Angus hillforts.

Some scholars have seen these lowland brochs as the homes of opportunistic northern incomers, exploiting the power vacuum created by the defeat of the local tribes at Mons Graupius to stake their own land claims. It is not entirely clear, however, that lowland brochs and duns were a direct product of the Roman invasion.The brochs of Buchlyvie and Leckie in Stirlingshire, and Torwoodlee in Selkirkshire, for example, appear to overlie the remains of former timber roundhouses, suggesting that the settlements, if not the broch form, had at least some local pedigree. Indeed, it has been suggested that rather than representing the homes of incomers, lowland brochs represent simply the adoption of an exotic fashion, intended to display the status and prestige of the southern landed classes.

It seems unrealistic, however, to discount the importance of the wider political picture. Lowland brochs were probably built by local groups, since there is nothing else in the archaeological record to suggest an influx of bloodthirsty northerners. Yet the change in settlement pattern that they represent seems to reflect, to some degree, the breakdown in the pre-Roman economic patterns over much of lowland Scotland.That the excavated examples suggest that most of these brochs were abandoned and deliberately dismantled before the end of the second century AD only serves to reinforce the wider picture of instability and social change that pervades this period.

Whatever their origins, lowland brochs seem to indicate some cultural influence from the far north during the heyday of Orcadian broch villages like Gurness, and the finest broch towers, like Mousa. These northern lands, far beyond the reach of routine military surveillance and frontier policing, may have been substantially unaffected by the Roman occupation of the south, at least after their brief encounter with Agricola s navy following Mons Graupius.

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