THE ROMAN ROOM OF THE HUNTERIAN MUSEUM. Part 3. – INSCRIBED STONES (continued)., J. MacDonald, pp.316-326.

“(3) A West Kilpatrick Stone. – This is one of the stones that formed the nucleus of the collection in the Old College Library, having been presented to the University by William Hamilton of Orbiston in 1695. Sibbald as an engraving of it in his Historical Inquiries, but does not refer to it in the text. Our first printed notice of the slab occurs in the second edition of Gibson’s Camden (1722), where it is said to have been “found opposite to Ereskine, upon the river Clyde”; in other words in the neighbourhood of the Chapel Hill, West or Old Kilpatrick. Gordon, omitting to note this, includes it among the stones to which no exact locality can be assigned, as we saw he does with the Dunottar Stone. It measures 2 feet 8 inches by 1 foot 7 1/2 inch.

The inscription fills nearly the whole of one side of the surface and is enclosed within simple mouldings without any border. It runs thus:- 

Roman Room 1

Here we have two letters that are not in either of the inscriptions formerly explained – P   *   F. Gordon, Horsley, Stuart, and others read them as contractions of perfecit. This, however, is very improbable. Dr. McCaul (Romano-British Inscriptions, p. 95) defends, I think successfully, the opinion that they stand for pia, fidelis, used as epithets of the Sixth Legion additional to Victrix. Mille is represented by ∞. Various explanations have been given of this peculiar mark; but Dr. Hübner is very likely right in regarding it as a graphic alteration of the Greek letter 𝜙, which was used as the numeral for a thousand by the Chalcidian colonists of Southern Italy. We may now expand, reading in full thus:- Imp(eratore) C(aesare) T(ito) Ælio Hadriano Antonino Aug(usto) P(atre) P(atriae) Vex(illatio) leg(ionis) Sextae Vic(tricis) p(iae) f(idelis) opus valli p(assus or pedes) M M M M C X L I (fecit). From this we learn that in the reign of (or, if Imperatori, &c. is read, in honour of) the Emperor Antoninus Pius, Father of his Country, a Vexillation of the Sixth Legion (called) the Victorious, the Loyal and the Faithful, executed 4141 feet of the work of the Vallum.

Dr. Hübner in his expansion gives Imperatore; and I am strongly inclined to believe he is right. It is evident that this and other stones of the class found along the Antonine Wall were set up to record that a certain portion of the work had been executed by the body of troops mentioned in the particular tablet. In this respect they differ from honorary inscriptions proper with which they have hitherto been associated, and which are inscribed on statues raised to perpetuate the memory of an individual, or commemorate the munificence of the builder or restorer of some edifice. Dr. Hübner’s pedes seems also preferable to the passus of our older writers, inasmuch as by adopting it one of the difficulties caused by the figures on the tablets may be so far met. A Roman mile consisted, as is well known, of a thousand paces, each of which measured five (Roman) feet. But the number of paces on existing stones, even without allowing averages for those on which the number has not been filled in, would, if added together and turned into miles, extend the wall far beyond its real length. Fett read instead of paces keeps it within due limits, and besides allows for tablets undiscovered or destroyed. Horsley, after having found by actual measurement that the whole length of the wall was thirty-nine (Roman) miles and seven hundred and seventeen paces, went into calculations, on the basis of the tablets known in his day, which showed that the work performed by the legions and detachments of legions engaged on it amounted to thirty-nine (Roman) miles and seven hundred and twenty-six paces – a very remarkable coincidence certainly, which, however, was soon found to be valueless by the discovery of additional legionary stones. That this might happen and that others might still be lying under ground, Horsley had omitted to take into account.

Yet another pont remains to be noted. “This inscription,” remarks Horsley, “is very curious upon account of the express mention of opus valli towards the end of it.” Only one other stone has been found on which these words occur, which, it may be remarked, have probably more significance in connection with the history of the structure than has as yet been attached to them. Dr. McCaul is of the opinion that but for the contracted form in which, according to usage, such inscriptions were cut on the stones, the words in question would have been expressed on all the Antonine tablets when the extent of work done was specified.

(4) The Lollius Urbicus Stone. – Of this slab only a fragment remains. The part of the Wall near which it was discovered is uncertain. Sir R. Sibbald, who may fairly claim the merit of being the first Scottish epigraphist, gives an engraving as well as a short account of it in his Historical Inquiries. Along with it he has engraved a portion of another stone found, according to Bishop Gibson, in the same place as the one just described, and certainly presented to the University by the same donor, Hamilton of Orbiston. In his descriptive remarks Sibbald has unconsciously mixed up the two. He writes – “The most remarkable inscription we have is that kept in Glasgow Library. I have given the copper cut of so much of it as is entire, by which it appeareth that Lollius Urbicus, who was for a considerable time in this country the legate of the emperor Antoninus Pius, raised most of the Wall betwixt the Firth of Forth and Dumbarton. This stone was found near Kilpatrick and given by Orbiston to the Bibliotheque of Glasgow, anno 1695… The figure of Victory and of two rose flowers upon the side shew this was done (I.e., the stone was set up) for some victory obtained.” Of this description only the first two sentences apply to the Lollius Urbicus Stone; the last two belong to the other.

Gordon does not say where the stone was believed to have been discovered. Horsley, followed by Professor Anderson, is divided between Cadder and the fort of Bemulie, localities, however, that are not far apart. “It is said,” writes the latter, “to have been found near Calder or at the fort of Bemulie, and to have lain long neglected in a farmer’s house, though the most valuable of them all, because it enables us to ascertain the builder of the Wall” (Anderson MS.). Nothing more definite than this is likely to be known on the subject. As to the donor of the stone there can be no doubt. The Monumenta Plate informs us that it was presented to the University by “Lord Charles Maitland, brother to the Earl of Lauderdale.” The name of each individual donor would seem to have been originally affixed to all the Wall stones handed over to the Old College; for in a minute of the Arts Faculty dated October 10th, 1774, there is a record of the gift of several by Sir Laurence Dundas through Professor Anderson, who “is appointed to deposit the above antiquities in the same press with those formerly received from the proprietors of the canal between the Forth and Clyde, with an inscription bearing the donor’s name and the place where they were found.” From this we may infer that the valuable scraps of information on the Monumenta Plates have been derived from this source and may be regarded as authentic. But while the name of the donor of the Lollius Urbicus Stone is thus known, there is no record of the date at which it came into the possession of the University authorities. On October 23rd, 1693, “Mr. Charles Maitland, son to the Earl of Lauderdale,” presented a Latin folio to the library, and it is not improbable that the stone may have been gifted at the same time. If so, it formed in all probability the beginning of the whole collection.

“There is,” writes Gordon, “another inscription in this University, which is not of a large size,… and not at all ornamented. Yet it is the most invaluable jewel of antiquity that was found in this island of Britain since the time of the Romans… If we were to comment on this stone, as the subject would well admit of, a whole treatise might very well be written on this head; and if the inscriptions found on Hadrian and Severus’ Walls in England had given as great light, by whom they were originally built, it would have saved a great deal of trouble and contention among writers.” We may smile at this enthusiastic outburst, but it is not without some justification. Before the stone was discovered the statement of Julius Capitolinus, that Urbicus, the legate of Antoninus Pius, raised a wall somewhere in Britain, stood unsupported; it was now fully confirmed. On the other hand, owing to the want of sufficiently clear and explicit information in the Roman historians, on which the inscribed stones found along the Southern Wall throw but little light, a certain amount of doubt existed and still exists as to who raised the barrier or barriers there. It was thought at one time that the question had been settled by Hodgson and Bruce, but the “trouble and contention” seem about to break out anew.

The part of the inscription remaining on the fragment is as follows:-

Roman Room 2

This, we are told by Gordon, is “unanimously read – Posuit legio Secunda Augusta Quinto Lollio Urbico Legato Augusti Pro Praetore. The Second Legion Augusta set up this stone in honour of Quintus Lollius Urbicus, the Legate and Propraetor of the Emperor.” There can be no doubt this expansion is altogether wrong, as Horsley saw. Yet it has been adopted by Stuart and Sir Daniel Wilson. The objections to it lie on the very surface. Had P been intended to stand for Posuit, its place would have been at the end, not the beginning of the inscription; and had the stone been set up in honour of the Propraetor, his name would have almost to a certainty preceded that of the legion. Besides, the expansion treats the inscription as if it was complete, which it evidently is not. The most cursory inspection shews that a considerable portion is awanting. What is left measures 1 foot 7 inches by 10 inches. 

In connection with this Antonine Stone, a slab which was discovered in 1852 at High Rochester (Bremenium) on the Northumberland Watling Street, some 20 miles north of the Southern Wall, and which is now in the Museum at Alnwick Castle, has a peculiar interest; for it bears an inscription that contains the name of Lollius Urbicus, and enables us, inasmuch as it is perfect, to complete our fragmentary one with some degree of confidence. The discovery of this slab was one of the results of an excavation carried on at the expense of the Duke of Northumberland in the above-mentioned year. “The inscription,” says Dr. Bruce, “is feebly cut, and the surface of the stone has slightly flaked off, but the letters can all be discerned.”1 It reads thus:- 

Roman Room 3a

Bruce expands as follows:- Imp(eratori) Caes(ari) T(ito) Ælio Had(riano) Antonino Aug(usti) proprae(tore) coh(ors) prima Lingonum e(quitata) f(ecit). This signifies that in honour of the Emperor Antoninus Pius, Father of his Country, the First Cohort of the Lingones with a supplementary body of horse, under Q. Lollius Urbicus, legate of the Emperor and propraetor, erected (this). The stone was likely set up on a gate of the fort or on some building, and in that case the name and titles of the Emperor might be in the dative.

Returning to the Antonine fragment we can now supply the missing portions with a fair approach to accuracy. Two lines, containing the names and titles of the Emperor are, as Horsley with his usual sagacity perceived, entirely gone; another P is wanting at the commencement of the third line, and there are blanks to be filled up at the end both of the fourth and of the fifth line. At first it must have read nearly as follows:-

Roman Room 3b

Expanding we have:- Imp(eratori) C(aesari) T(ito) Ælio Hadriano Antonino Aug(usto) P(atri) P(atriae) Leg(io) Secunda Aug(usta) sub Q(uinto) Lollio Urbico Leg(ato) Aug(usti) Pr(o) Pr(aetore) F(ecit), which intimates that, in honour of the Emperor Antoninus Pius, Father of his Country, the Second Legion (called) the August, under Q. Lollius Urbicus, legate of the Emperor and propraetor, erected (this).

Ere we pass from the High Rocherster Stone it deserves to be noted that the inscription, apart from its value otherwise, shews that before advancing into North Britain Lollius Urbicus had made the power of Rome felt among the Britons dwelling near the upper isthmus, and seems to leave room for the supposition that the somewhat indefinite notice of his achievements given by Capitolinus may include operations against them as well as the tribesmen of the north:- “He (i.e., Antoninus Pius) even subdued the Britons by his legate, Lollius Urbicus.” “We do not find,” remarks Dr. Bruce, “many traces of this Emperor upon the (Southern) Wall, but instances occur sufficiently numerous to shew that whilst the legate, Lollius Urbicus, was mainly occupied in erecting the barrier between the Forth and Clyde, he did not altogether neglect the more southern fortification.”2 His presence at High Rochester further indicates that he marched northwards by the Northumberland road and the Eastern Scottish Lowlands, and goes to uphold the opinion elsewhere advanced,3 that this was the route by which the Roman armies under Agricola, Urbicus, and Severus, if not also under their successors, entered Scotland, their most advanced military outpost in the west being apparently at or near Birrens.

Among the remaining eleven legionary stones of the first class now in the Museum there are several with peculiarities of their own that merit attention. But to give detailed notices of them all would extend these papers beyond due limits and perhaps weary the reader. It will be sufficient to point out very briefly their leading features.

(5) Another West Kilpatrick Stone. – The existence of this tablet was first recorded by Sir Robert Sibbald in “additional remarks on Scotland” communicated to Bishop Gibson for his first edition of Camden (1695), where it is said to have been “found upon the Roman Wall.” Gordon is altogether wrong4 in representing Sibbald as stating that it was “found at Ardoch” – a mistake into which Dr. Hübner, usually so accurate, has also fallen, misled probably by Gordon. According to Gordon, the stone “lay a long time at the Duke of Montrose’s house at Mugdock, whence it was carried to the College of Glasgow” – the gift of the noble owner of the castle. Stuart gives the Chapelhill, West Kilpatrick, as the locality where it was discovered. As a piece of sculpture it is highly wrought. What looks like the pediment of a temple is supported by two channelled pilasters. In the centre is Victory with a palm branch in one hand and a garland in the other. On the base is a boar, the emblem of the Twentieth Legion. The inscription, which is distributed over different parts of the face of the stone, bears that that legion executed 4411 feet (of the Vallum).

(6) Same Locality. – One of the earliest gifts to the collection. Only about two-thirds of the tablet remains, which seems, when complete, to have been almost a duplicate of the Chicago Stone. The inscription informs us that the Twentieth Legion executed a certain number of feet (of the vallum).

(7) A Bemulie Stone. – Seen at Cadder by Crispinus Gericius. At the date of his visit it was built into the tower of the old mansion house, where it remained for a number of years. The weathered and worn condition of the surface is thus partly accounted for. The stone is almost destitute of ornament, merely bearing an inscription which records that the Second Legion executed 3666 1/2 feet (of the vallum).

(8) A Kirkintilloch Stone. – Raised by a Vexillation of the Sixth Legion, but the number of feet executed has not been filled in. It is a coarse gritty sandstone, and being of a hard texture the letters are well preserved. The inscription occupies a square space in the centre, enclosed in mouldings, and having the crescent-shaped ornament at each of the sides.

(9) A Duntocher Stone. – Found in 1812 on the farm of Broadfield, near Duntocher. This is the most elaborately ornamented of all the Wall stones. Two winged figures of victory, with Mars in full armour on their right and on their left a legionary soldier bearing a standard inscribed

Roman Room 4

support an oblong tablet filled with an inscription, which has the crescent-shaped ornament at each side. It is the work of the Sixth Legion, and commemorates their having executed 3240 feet of the work of the Vallum (opus valli). 

(10) Same Locality. – This stone is said by Gordon to have stood for a while “above the gate of Cochney House belonging to Mr. Hamilton of Barns,” by whom it was presented to Glasgow College. It is small in size but with abundance of ornament, and has the appearance of having been at first a legionary tablet, not of this but of the second class, the name of the Emperor Antoninus having been subsequently and somewhat awkwardly inserted at the top. The main part of the inscription is in the centre enclosed in a moulding of the twisted cord type. At each of the four corners there is a rose; and on each side is the usual conventional ornament. At the top and bottom respectively are the well-known emblems of the Second Legion, the Sea-goat and Pegasus. The tablet commemorates the execution of 3270 feet (of the Vallum) by that Legion.

(11) Same Locality (?). – The inscription on this stone, enclosed in a moulding of the twisted cord pattern, fills almost the whole of the surface, the upper side of which is slightly angular. Below in the centre is the figure of a boar. The number of feet (of the Vallum), executed by the Legion (the Twentieth) that raised the tablet, has not been filled in. 

(12) A Castlehill Stone. – The inscription fills a space in the centre of this now fractured stone. The rest of the surface at each side is crowded with figures. On the left at the top is Victory with a garland in her hand; in front of her a helmeted borseman brandishing a spear; beneath are two captives, with what has been said to be a standard or standards between them, whose attitudes suggest that they are submissively awaiting their doom from the spear that is upraised above them. On the right is seen an eagle standing on a Sea-goat; and beneath them a third captive sits near a standard. The inscription intimates that the Second Legion executed 4461 1/2 feet (of the Vallum).

(13) Same Locality. – Almost identical with (11), only that the upper side is quite parallel to the lower and a number appears in the last line of the inscription. A small portion has been broken off on the right.

(14) Same Locality (?). – The exact spot where this slab was found is somewhat uncertain, but it would seem to have been met with in the neighbourhood of the Castlehill Fort. It is a coarse-grained sandstone, the surface of which is somewhat weather worn. At each side is the crescent-shaped ornament with the ends terminating, not as often in birds’ heads, but in roses. By the inscription we learn that the Twentieth Legion had executed at some particular part 3666 1/2 feet (of the Vallum).

(15) A Castlecary Stone. – This is a slab of a somewhat gritty texture, the surface of which is considerably worn, so that the lettering is indistinct. It is of an oblong shape, the inscription occupying the greater part of the surface and recording, it would appear, the accomplishing of a certain piece of work by the First Cohort of the Tungrians. The mark ∞ referred to under (1) appears at the end of the last line; but Dr. Hübner declines to decide whether it denotes the strength of the cohort or the extent of the work it had executed.

Besides these stones there are two or three fragments of others, of which the largest is the end of what had evidently been a large and finely-sculptured legionary slab. It was found near Cambuslang within recent years. In an upper compartment there is what seems a sea-deity; in a lower, a naked captive in an attitude of despondency. Another fragment is a small portion of a tablet that appears to have been a repetition of the Chicago Stone. 


1 Lapidarium Septentrionale, p. 295.
2 Lapidarium Septentrionale, p. 194.
3 Proceedings Soc. of Antiq. of Scotland, vol. xxviii. pp. 19-26.
4 Itin. Sep. p. 51.

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