WHEN Agricola invaded North Britain in the year eighty-one of the Christian era, it appears to have been possessed by twenty-one tribes of aboriginal Britons, having little or no political connexion with one another, although evidently the same people in origin, speaking the same language, and following the same customs. The topographical position of these Caledonian tribes or clans at the epoch in question, may be thus stated:
First, The Ottadini or Otadeni, occupied the south-east boundary of North Britain, extending along the whole line of coast from the southern Tyne to the Frith of Forth, and including the half of Northumberland, the eastern part of Roxburghshire, the whole of Berwickshire and of East Lothian. They had two towns, both south of the Tweed, called Curia,1 supposed to have been situated in Roxburghshire, and Bremenium, understood to be Rochester on Reedwater in Northumberland. The latter was the chief town. Antiquaries conclude that this tribe derives its name from the river Tyne, which formed their boundary on the south, because the name in British denotes the people living beyond or out from the Tyne.
Second, The Gadeni inhabited the interior country on the west of the Ottadini including the western part of Northumberland; a small part of Cumberland, lying to the north of Irthing river; the western part of Roxburghshire, the whole of Selkirk, Tweeddale; a considerable part of Mid-Lothian, and nearly all West Lothian. Their possessions thus extended from the Tyne on the south, to the Frith of Forth on the north; and Curia on the Gore water was their capital. Conjecture derives the name of this tribe from the groves with which their country abounded.
Third, The Selgovæ inhabited Annandale, Nithsdale, and Eskdale in Dumfries-shire; and the eastern part of Galloway to the river Deva,or Dee, their western boundary. To the south they were bounded by the Solway Frith, or Ituna Æstuarium. Ptolemy mentions their having four towns in their territories, namely, Carbantorìgum, supposed to be Kircudbright; Uxellum, believed to be Castle Over; Corda, the site of which cannot be fixed; and Trimontium said to have lain near the Eildon Hills. The name Selgovæ is supposed to be descriptive of the country inhabited by this tribe, which was much divided by water.
Fourth, The Novantæ possessed the middle and western parts of Galloway from the Dee on the east, to the Irish sea on the west; on the south they were bounded by the Solway Frith and the Irish sea, and on the north by the chain of hills which separates Galloway from Carrick. They had two towns, the principal, Leucopibia or Candida Casa, on the site of the present Whithorn, and Rerigonium now Stranraer, on the bank of the Rerigonius Sinus, now Loch Ryan. The name of this tribe is said to have arisen from the nature of their country, which abounded with streams.
Fifth, The Damnii, the most important of the southern tribes, inhabited the whole extent of country from the ridge of hills between Galloway and Ayrshire on the south, to the river Ern on the north. They possessed all Strathclyde, the shires of Ayr, Renfrew, and Stirling, and a small part of the shires of Dumbarton and Perth. According to Ptolemy the Damnii had six towns, namely, Vanduaria, at Paisley; Colania supposed to be Lanark; Coria, at Carstairs in Eastern Clydesdale; Alauna on the river Allan, believed to be Kier near Stirling; Lindum near Ardoch; and Victoria, at Dealginross on the Ruchil water.
Sixth, The Horestii inhabited the country between the Bodotria or Forth, on the south, and the Tarvus or Tay on the north, comprehending the shires of Clackmannan, Kinross and Fife, with the eastern part of Strathern, and the country westward of the Tay as far as the river Brann.
Seventh, The Venricones possessed the territory between the Tay on the south, and the Carron on the north, comprehending Gowrie, Strathmore, Stormont, and Strathardle in Perthshire; with the whole of Angus, and the larger part of Kincardineshire. Their chief town was Orrea on the Tay. This and the last mentioned tribe were afterwards named Vecturiones by the Romans.
Eighth, The Taixali inhabited the northern part of the Mearns, and the whole of Aberdeenshire, as far as the Doveran. The promontory of Kinnaird’s head, the Taixalorum promontorium of the Romans, was included in this district. Devana, on the northern side of the Dee, six miles above its influx into the sea, was their principal town, which stood on the site of Normandykes of the present day.
Ninth, The Vacomagi inhabited the country on the southern side of the Moray Frith from the Doveran on the east, to the Ness on the west, comprehending the shires of Banff, Elgin, Nairn, the eastern part of Inverness, and Braemar in Aberdeenshire. Their towns were the Ptoroton of Richard, the Alata Castra of Ptolemy, at the month of the Varar, where the present Burghead runs into the Moray Frith; Tuessis on the eastern bank of the spey; and Tamea and Banatia in the interior country.
Tenth, The Albani, afterwards called Damnii-Albani, on their subjection to the Damnii, possessed the interior districts between the lower ridge of the Grampians which skirts the southern side of the loch and river Tay, on the south, and the chain of mountains which forms the southern limit of Inverness-shire on the north. These districts comprehended Braidalbane, Athole, a small part of Lochaber, with Appin and Glenorchy in Upper Lorn. The Albani were so called because they possessed a high and mountainous country.
Eleventh, The Attacotti inhabited the whole country from Loch Fyne on the west to the eastward of the river Leven and Loch-Lomond, comprehending the whole of Cowal in Argyleshire, and the greater part of Dumbartonshire. The British word Eithacoeti, which signifies men dwelling along the extremity of the wood, appears to indicate the derivation of the name of this tribe.
Twelfth, The Caledonii proper inhabited the whole of the interior country from the ridge of mountains which separates Inverness and Perth, on the south, to the range of hills which forms the forest of Balnagowan in Ross on the north; comprehending all the middle parts of Inverness and of Ross. This territory formed a considerable part of the extensile forest which in early ages, spread over the interior and western parts of the country, on the northern side of the Forth and Clyde, and to which the British colonists, according to Chalmers, gave the descriptive appellation of Celyddon, signifying literally the coverts, and generally denoting a woody region. It was on this account that the large tribe in question were called Celyddoni, a name afterwards latinized into the more classical appellation of Caledonii. The descriptive name, Celyddon, restricted originally to the territory described, was afterwards extended to the whole country on the northern side of the Forth and Clyde, under the latinized appellation of Caledonia.
Thirteenth, The Cantæ possessed the east of Ross-shire from the æstuary of Varar or the Moray Frith on the south to the Abona, or Dornoch Frith on the north; having Loxa or Cromarty Frith which indented their country in the centre, and a ridge of hills, Uxellum montes, on the west. This ridge, of which Ben-Wyvis, one of the highest mountains in Great Britain, is the prominent summit, gradually declines towards the north-east, and terminates in a promontory, called Pen Uxellum, the Tarbetness of modern times. The term Cantæ, the name of this tribe, is derived from Caint, a British word meaning an open country, which the district in question certainly was, when compared with the mountainous interior and the western districts.
Fourteenth, The Logi possessed the south-eastern coast of Sutherland, extending from the Abona, or Dornoch Frith, on the south-west, to the river Ila on the east. This river is supposed to be the Helmsdale river of the Scandinavian intruders, called by the Celtic inhabitants Avon-Uile, or Avon-Iligh, the floody water. It is conjectured that this tribe derived its name from the British word Lygi, which is applicable to a people living on the shore.
Fifteenth, The Carnabii inhabited the south, the east, and north-east of Caithness from the Ila river; comprehending the three great promontories of Virubium or Noss-Head, Virvedrum, or Duncansby-Head, and Tarvedrum or the Orcas promontorium, the Dunnet-Head of the present times. The Carnabii of Caithness, like those of Cornwall, derived their appellation from their residence on remarkable promontories.
Sixteenth, The Catini, a small tribe, inhabited the north-western comer of Caithness, and the eastern half of Strathnaver in Sutherland-shire; having the river Naver, the Navari fluvius of Ptolemy, for their western boundary. Various conjectures are hazarded as to the derivation of the name of this tribe. Chalmers thinks that it is taken from the name of the British weapon called the Cat or Catai, with which they fought; but Sir Robert Gordon supposes it to be derived from the Catti of Germany, who are said to have settled in Caithness at an early period. Others again say that the tribe derived its name from Cattey, an appellation given to the country which they possessed on account of its being infested with a prodigious number of cats. But be that as it may, the Gaelic people of Caithness and Sunderland are, according to Chalmers, ambitious even at this day, of deriving their distant origin from those Catini, or Catai of British times.
Seventeenth, The Mertœ occupied the interior of Sutherland; and this is all that we know of them.
Eighteenth, The Carnonacœ inhabited the northern and western coast of Sutherland, and a small part of the western shore of Ross, from the Naver on the east, round to the Volsas bay, on the south-west. A river called Straba falls into the sea in this district on the west of the Naver, and the headland at the turn is named Ebudium promontorium.
Nineteenth, The Creones inhabited the western coast of Ross from Volsas-sinus on the north to the Itys or Lochduich on the south. They are said to have derived their name from their fierceness, Crewon or Creuonwys signifying in British, “men of blood.”
Twentieth, The Cerones inhabited the whole western coast of Inverness, and the countries of Ardnamurchan, Morvern, Sunart, and Ardgowar in Argyleshire, having the Itys or Lochduich on the north, and the Longus or Linne-Loch on the south.
Twenty-first, The Epidii inhabited the south-west of Argyleshire from Linne-Loch on the north, to the Frith of Clyde and the Irish sea on the south, including Cantyre, the point of which was called the Epidian promontory, now named the Mull of Cantyre; and they were bounded on the east by the country of the Albani, and the Lelanonius Sinus or the Lochfine of the present day. The name of this tribe is derived from the British Ebyd, a peninsula, as they chiefly inhabited the promontory of Cantyre.
Such, according to the most authentic accounts that can be obtained, were the names and topographical positions of the twenty-one tribes which at the time of the Roman invasion occupied the whole of North Britain; a country at that time without agriculture, studded with bogs and covered with woods almost in the state in which it had been formed by nature.
We have enumerated the whole of the North British tribes in order to make our narrative the more intelligible; but our researches and details, except where the subject shall render reference to all of them necessary, shall be confined to the thirteen last mentioned, inhabiting the tract of country known by the name of the Highlands of Scotland. This celebrated territory is separated from the lowlands of Scotland by the Grampians, a long chain of mountains running diagonally across the kingdom, from the north of the river Don in Aberdeenshire, and terminating beyond Ardmore in Dumbartonshire. The range in question, which consists of rocks of primitive formation, appears at a distance to be uninterrupted; but it is broken by straths and glens. The principal straths are on the rivers Leven, Ern, Tay, and Dee; but besides these there are many glens and vallies called Passes, which, till a very late period, were almost impassable. The chief of these Passes are Bealmacha upon Loch-Lomond; Aberfoyle and Leny in Monteith; the Pass of Glenalmond above Crieff; the entrance into Athole at Dunkeld; and those formed by the rivers Ardle, Islay, and South and North Esk. Immediately within the external boundary of the chain there are also many strong and defensible passes, as Killikrankie, the entrances into Glenlyon, Glenlochy, Glenogle, &c. The principal mountains of the range are Benlomond, Benlawers, and Shichallain. This line of demarcation between the Highlands and Lowlands has kept the inhabitants of these two divisions of Scotland so distinct “that for seven centuries,” as General Stewart observes, “Birnam Hill at the entrance into Athole, has formed the boundary between the Lowlands and Highlands, and between the Saxon and Gaelic languages. On the southern and eastern sides of the hill, breeches are worn, and the Scotch lowland dialect spoken, with as broad an accent as in Mid-Lothian. On the northern and western sides are found the Gaelic, the kilt and the plaid, with all the peculiarities of the Highland character. The Gaelic is universal, as the common dialect in use among the people on the Highland side of the boundary. This applies to the whole range of the Grampians; as, for example, at General Campbell of Monzie’s gate, nothing but Scotch is spoken, while at less than a mile distant on the hill to the northward, we meet with Gaelic.”
The space which the thirteen last mentioned tribes occupied within the mountains comprehended, as we have seen, part of the counties of Dumbarton, Stirling, Perth, Angus, Aberdeen, Banff and Moray, and the whole counties of Argyle, Bute, Inverness, Nairn, Ross, Cromarty, Sutherland and Caithness, and the Hebrides. This boundary may be defined by a line commencing at Ardmore in Dumbartonshire, running along the southern verge of the Grampians to Aberdeenshire, and from thence through Banff and Elgin to the sea shore, cutting off the lowland portions in these three districts. This line then skirts the shores of the Moray Frith till it reaches the north-eastern point of Caithness at the eastern opening of the Pentland Frith; then proceeds along the southern side of that Frith sweeping round St. Kilda so as to include the whole cluster of islands to the east and south as far as Arran; and then stretching to the Mull of Cantyre it re-enters the mainland and ends at Ardmore in Dumbartonshire.
The maritime outline of this boundary, particularly on the north and west, is remarkably bold and rocky, and the mainland is deeply indented by bays and arms of the sea. The interior of the country within the Grampian range is grand and picturesque. Lofty mountains whose summits are seldom to be distinguished from the mists or clouds which envelope them, steep and tremendous precipices, and glens watered by mountain streams or diversified by winding lakes, and occasional sprinklings of beautiful woods, impress the mind of the traveller with just ideas of the sublime and beautiful as displayed by the hand of nature in that romantic and poetical region. But no where is the wild and magnificent scenery of the Highlands seen to greater advantage than from the summits of Benlomond, Benlawers and the other elevated points of the Grampians. These mountains like the rest are often either covered with clouds or skirted with mists. Of a bleak and barren aspect, and furrowed by channels deep and rocky, their summits present scarcely any appearances of vegetation, but a thin covering of stunted heath, the residence only of birds of prey or of the white hare and ptarmigan, is to be found a little lower down. Below this inhospitable region the mountain deer and moor-fowl have fixed their abode among more luxuriant heath, interspersed with nourishing pasture on which feed numerous flocks of sheep. The romantic glens at the base of these mountains are well peopled, and contain a vast number of flocks and herds which form the staple wealth of the country.
Although the people of Caledonia were certainly in a higher state of civilisation than that described by Dio and afterwards by Herodian, it must be admitted that they knew little of the arts of social life and had advanced but few stages beyond the savage state. Their division into tribes or clans engendered a spirit of reciprocal hostility which prevented any political union or amalgamation of their common interests; and it was only when a foreign foe threatened their existence that a sense of danger forced them to unite for a time under the military authority of a Pendragon or chief elected by common consent. Their subjugation therefore by the Romans under Agricola, as far as that victorious commander pushed his conquests, is not to be wondered at. The disunion of the British tribes as favouring the Roman arms is indeed acknowledged by Tacitus. “There was one thing,” says that historian, “which gave us an advantage over these powerful nations, that they never consulted together for the advantage of the whole. It was rare that even two or three of them united against the common enemy.” A people so unhappily circumstanced could neither appreciate the blessings of peace nor have any desire to enjoy them. Hence they carried on a predatory system of warfare, congenial to their rude state of existence, which retarded their advancement in civilisation. Their whole means of subsistence consisted in the milk and flesh of their flocks and the produce of the chace. The piscatory treasures with which the rivers and waters of Caledonia abound appear to have been but little known to them; a thing not to be wondered at when it is considered that the druidical superstition proscribed the use of fish. Their dislike to this species of food continued long after the system of the Druids had disappeared; and they did not abandon this prejudice till the light of Christianity was diffused among them. They lived in a state almost approaching to nudity; but whether from necessity or from choice cannot be satisfactorily determined. Dio indeed represents the Caledonians as being naked, but Herodian speaks of them as wearing a partial covering. Their towns, which were very few, consisted of huts covered with turf or skins, and built without order or regularity or any distinction of streets. For better security they were erected in the centre of some wood or morass, the avenues leading to which were defended with ramparts of earth and felled trees. The following is the description of a British Town as given by Cæsar: ”What the Britons call a town is a tract of woody country, surrounded by a vallum and ditch, for the security of themselves and cattle against the incursions of an enemy; for, when they have inclosed a very large circuit with felled trees, they build within it houses for themselves, and hovels for their cattle.”2 Notwithstanding the scantiness of their covering, which left their bodies exposed to the rigours of a cold and variable climate, the Caledonians were a remarkably hardy race, capable of enduring fatigue, cold, and hunger to an extent which their descendants of the present day could not encounter without the risk of life. They were decidedly a warlike people, and are said to have been addicted, like the heroes of more ancient times, to robbery. The weapons of their warfare consisted of small spears, long broadswords, and hand daggers; and they defended their bodies in combat by a small target or shield, – all much of the same form and construction as those afterwards used by their posterity in more modem times. The use of cavalry appears not to have been so well understood among the Caledonians as among the more southern tribes; but in battle they often made use of cars, or chariots, which were drawn by horses of a small, swift, and spirited description; and it is conjectured that, like those used by the southern Britons, they had iron scythes projecting from the axle. It is impossible to say what form of government obtained among these warlike tribes. When history is silent historians should either maintain a cautious reserve or be sparing in their conjectures; but analogy may supply materials for well grounded speculations, and it may therefore be asserted, without any great stretch of imagination, that, like most of the other uncivilised tribes we read of in history, the Northern Britons or Caledonians, were under the government of a leader or chief to whom they yielded a certain degree of obedience. Dio indeed insinuates that the governments of these tribes were democratic; but he should have been aware that it is only when bodies of men assume, in an advanced stage of civilization, a compact and united form that democracy can prevail; and the state of barbarism in which he says the inhabitants of North Britain existed at the period in question seems to exclude such a supposition. The conjecture of Chalmers that, like the American tribes, they were governed under the aristocratic sway of the old men rather than the coercion of legal authority, is more probable than that of Dio and approximates more to the opinion we have ventured to express.
It is remarked by Plutarch that in his time it would have been easier to have found cities without walls, houses, kings, laws, coins, schools and theatres than without temples and sacrifices. The observation is just; for all the migratory tribes which spread themselves over the globe after the dispersion of the human race carried along with them some recollections of religion. Accordingly the aboriginal inhabitants of Northern Britain brought from the east a system of religion, modified and altered no doubt by circumstances in its course through different countries. The prevailing opinion is that Druidism was the religion followed by all the Celtic colonies; and in proof of this, reference has been made to a variety of druidical monuments abounding in all parts of Britain and particularly in the north. An author, Mr. Pinkerton, whose asperity, to use the words of Dr. Jamieson, “has greatly enfeebled his argument,” has attacked this position under the shields of Cæsar and Tacitus; but although his reasoning is powerful and ingenious he appears to have failed in establishing that these monuments are of Gothic origin. As Druidism then may be considered as the first religious profession of the ancient Caledonians some account of it, as forming a part of their antiquities, may naturally be expected in this place.
That Druidism may have been corrupted by innovation, and may have appeared in different shapes at various periods and in different countries, is a supposition that admits of no doubt; but there are not sufficient data in history to enable the antiquary to trace the various shades of dissimilarity which characterised the system in its gradual advancement from the east through Europe. The obscurity in which this system is enveloped is owing to a principle of the Druids which forbade them to commit any part of their theology to writing. As they had to trust entirely for every thing to memory, the science of mnemonics was cultivated by the youth bred to the Druidical profession, in an extraordinary degree, and many of them spent twenty years in storing their minds with the knowledge necessary for one of their order. Diogenes Laertius divides the tenets of the Druids into four heads. The first was, to worship God; the second, to abstain from evil; the third, to exert courage, and the fourth, to believe in the immortality of the soul, for enforcing these virtues. If such were the early tenets of the Druids, they must have sadly degenerated in the course of time; for they are quite incompatible with the gross and revolting practices related of them by more modem writers.
Among the objects of druidical veneration the oak was particularly distinguished; for the Druids imagined that there was a supernatural virtue in the wood, in the leaves, in the fruit, and above all in the missletoe. Hence the oak woods were the first places of their devotion; and the offices of their religion were there performed without any covering but the broad canopy of heaven; for it was a peculiar principle of the Druids that no temple or covered building should be erected for public worship. The part appropriated for worship was inclosed in a circle, within which was placed a pillar of stone set up under an oak and sacrifices were offered thereon. The groves, within which the mysteries of the druidical superstition were celebrated, were also appropriated for the instruction of the people and the education of youth, which was under the sole superintendence of the priests. The pillars which mark the sites of these places of worship are still to be seen; and so great is the superstitious veneration paid by the country people to those sacred stones, as they are considered, that few persons have ventured to remove them, even in cases where their removal would be advantageous to the cultivator of the soil.3
Some writers pretend to have discovered in the system of Druidism three distinct orders of priests; the Druids or chief priests, the Yates, and the Bards, who severally performed different functions. The Bards of course sung in heroic verse the brave actions of those of their tribe who had made themselves famous by their warlike exploits; the Vates continually studied and explained the laws and the productions of nature; and the Druids directed the education of youth, officiated in the affairs of religion, and presided in the administration of justice. The latter were exempted from serving in war, and from the payment of taxes. The duties above enumerated would seem to imply that the Druids were the only order of priests; and although the Bards and Vates might eventually rise to the high and honourable dignity of Druids the propriety of writing them down as priests of the second and third order seems very questionable. Besides the immunities beforementioned enjoyed by the Druids, they also possessed both civil and criminal jurisdiction: they decided all controversies among states as well as among private persons; and whoever refused to submit to their awards was exposed to the most severe penalties. The sentence of excommunication was pronounced against him; he was forbidden access to the sacrifices or public worship; he was debarred all intercourse with his fellow-citizens, even in the common affairs of life; his company was universally shunned as profane and dangerous; he was refused the protection of law; and death itself became an acceptible relief from the misery and infamy to which he was exposed.4 “Thus,” according to Hume, “the bands of government, which were naturally loose among that rude and turbulent people, were happily corroborated by the terrors of their superstition.”
As connected in some degree with religion the modes of sepulture among the Pagan people of North Britain come next to be noticed. These have been various in different ages. The original practice of interring the bodies of the dead gradually gave way among the Pagan nations to that of burning the bodies, but the older practice was resumed wherever Christianity obtained a footing. The practice of burning the dead at the time we are treating of was common among the inhabitants of North Britain; but the process of inhumation was not always the same, being attended with more or less ceremony according to the rank of the deceased. Many of the sepulchral remains of our pagan ancestors are still to be seen, and have been distinguished by antiquaries under the appellations of Barrows, Cairns, Cistvaens and Urns.
Among the learned the Barrows and Cairns, when they are of a round shape and covered with green sward, are called tumuli and hillocks by the vulgar. These tumuli are circular heaps resembling a flat cone and many of them are oblong ridges resembling the hull of a ship with its keel upwards. The most of them are composed of stones, some of them of earth, many of them of a mixture of earth and stones, and a few of them of sand. There is a great distinction however between the Barrow and the Cairn; the first being composed solely of earth, and the last of stones. The cairns are more numerous than the bar- rows. Some of these cairns are very large, being upwards of 300 feet in circumference and from 30 to 40 feet in height, and the quantity of stones that has been dug from their bowels is almost incredible.
Many of these tumuli have been subjected from time to time to the prying eyes of antiquaries; and, as their researches are curious, a short notice of them may be interesting to the general reader. Within several tumuli which were opened in the isle of Skye there were discovered stone coffins with urns containing ashes and weapons. In a Barrow which was opened in the isle of Egg, there was found a large urn, containing human bones, and consisting of a large round stone, which had been hollowed, while its top was covered with a thin flag-stone. In a large oblong cairn, about a mile west from Ardoch, in Perthshire, there was found a stone coffin, containing a human skeleton seven feet long. On a moor between the parishes of Kintore and Kinellar in Aberdeenshire, there are several sepulchral cairns, wherein were found a stone chest, containing a ring of a substance, like veined marble, and large enough to take in three fingers; and near this stone chest was discovered an urn, containing human hair. A sepulchral cairn, in Bendochy Parish, in Perthshire, being opened, there were found in it some ashes, and human bones, which had undergone the action of fire; and lower down, in the same cairn, there were discovered two inverted urns, which were large enough to contain thigh and leg bones; and these urns were adorned with rude sculpture, but without inscriptions. In the Beauly Frith, which is on both sides very shallow, there are at a considerable distance within the flood mark, on the coast of Ross-shire several cairns, in one of which urns hare been found. From these facts it is evident that the sea has made great encroachments upon the flat shores of this Frith since the epoch of the cairns which are now so far within its dominion. One of these cairns on the south-east of Redcastle stands four hundred yards within the flood mark and is of considerable size. On the south side of the same Frith, at some distance from the mouth of the river Ness, a considerable space within the flood mark, there is a large cairn which is called Carn-aire, that is, the Cairn in the sea, and to the westward of this, in the same Frith, there are three other cairns at considerable distances from each other, the largest of which is a huge heap of stones, in the middle of the Frith, and is accessible, at low water, and appears to have been a sepulchral cairn from the urns which are found in it.
The Cistvaen, which, in the British language, signifies literally a stone chest, from Cist, a chest, and maen changing in composition to vaen a stone, was another mode of interment among the ancient inhabitants of our island. Sometimes the Cistvaen contained the urn within which were deposited the ashes of the deceased; yet it often contained the ashes and bones without an urn. But urns of different sizes and shapes hare been found without cistvaens; a circumstance which may be owing to the fashion of different ages and to the rank of the deceased.
The same observation may be made with respect to urns which have been found generally in tumuli, but often below the surface where there had been no hillock: they were usually composed of pottery, and sometimes of stone, and were of different shapes, and variously ornamented according to the taste of the times and the ability of the parties. Besides the varieties already noticed in the modes of sepulture in South and North Britain there were others not yet noticed. In both ends of the bland sepulchral tumuli have been found in close connexion with the Druidical Circles. At Achencorthie, the field of the circles, there are the remains of a Druidical temple which was composed of three concentric circles; and there has been dug up between the two outer circles, a cistvaen about three feet long and one foot and a half wide, wherein there was found an urn containing some ashes. At Barrach in the parish of New Deer, Aberdeenshire, a peasant digging for stones, in a Druidical temple, found, about eighteen inches below the surface, a flat stone lying horizontally; and, on raising it, he discovered an urn, full of human bones, some of which were quite fresh; but on being touched they crumbled into dust. This urn had no bottom but was placed on a flat stone, like that which covered its top; and about a yard from this excavation another urn was found, containing similar remains. These facts demonstrate an intimate connexion between Druidical remains and tumuli, and show that they must have been the handy-work of the same people.
As stone chests and clay urns containing ashes and bones have been frequently dug up about the ancient fortresses, a very close connexion is supposed to have existed between these strengths and the sepulchral tumuli. On the eastern side of the British fort at Inchtuthel, there are two sepulchral tumuli; and several have also been found on a moor in the parish of Monzie, contiguous to a British fortress: in one of these called Carn-Comb-hall, a stone coffin was discovered. It is conjectured that these were the burial places of the chiefs who commanded the Caledonian hill forts in early times.
When such pains were taken to keep alive the recollection of the inglorious dead, it is not to be imagined that the memories of those who fell in battle would be forgotten. Accordingly the fields of ancient conflict are still denoted by sepulchral cairns; and it is even conjectured that the battle at the Grampians has been perpetuated by sepulchral tumuli raised to the memory of the Caledonians who fell in defence of their country. “On the hill, above the moor of Ardoch (says Gordon Itin. Septen. p. 42) are two great heaps of stones, the one called Carn-wochel, the other Carnlee, the former is the greatest curiosity of this kind, that I ever met with; the quantity of great rough stones, lying above one another, almost surpasses belief, which made me have the curiosity to measure it; and I found the whole heap to be about one hundred and eighty-two feet in length, thirty in sloping height, and forty five in breadth at the bottom.” Some of these cairns which are still to be found in the parish of Libberton near Edinburgh, are known by the name of Cat-stanes or Battle-stanes. There are single stones also in many parts of North Britain still known by the appropriate name of Cat-stanes. The British Cad or the Scoto-Irish Cath, both of which words signify a battle, is the original derivation of this name.
The next objects of antiquarian notice arc the standing-stones, so traditionally denominated from their upright position. They are all to be found in their natural shape without any mark from the tool or chisel. Sometimes they appear single and as often in groups of two, three, four or more. These standing-stones are supposed to have no connexion with the Druidical remains, but are thought by some to have been erected in successive ages as memorials to perpetuate certain events which, as the stones are without inscriptions, they have not transmitted to posterity, although such events may be otherwise known in history. In Arran there are two large stone edifices which are quite rude, and several smaller ones; and there are also similar stones in Harris. These standing stones are numerous in Mull, some of which are very large, and are commonly called by the Scoto-Irish inhabitants Carra, a word signifying in their language a stone pillar. These stones in short are to be seen in every part of North Britain as well as in England, Wales, Cornwall and Ireland; but being without inscriptions they ”do not,” as Chalmers observes, “answer the end either of personal vanity or of national gratitude.”
After the aboriginal inhabitants of North Britain had become indigenous to the soil which the bounds set to their farther emigration to the north by the waters of the Atlantic would hasten sooner than in any other country over which the Celtic population spread, it became necessary for them to select strongholds for defending themselves from the attacks of foreign or domestic foes. Hence the origin of the hill-forts and other safeguards of the original people which existed in North Britain at the epoch of the Roman invasion. There were many of these in the south, the description of which do not fall within the design of this work; but the notice to be given of those in the north of Scotland will suffice for a general idea of the whole.
In the parish of Menmuir in Forfarshire, are two well known hill-forts called White Caterthun, standing to the south, and Brown Caterthun, to the northward. The name is derived from the British words, Cader, a fortress, a stronghold, and Dun, a hill. These are said to be decidedly reckoned amongst the most ancient Caledonian strongholds and to be coeval with what are called British forts. White Caterthun is of uncommon strength: it is of an oval form constructed of a stupendous dike of loose stones, the convexity of which, from the base within to that without is a hundred and twenty-two feet: and on the outside, a hollow, which is made by the disposition of the stones, surrounds the whole. Round the base is a deep ditch; and below, about a hundred yards, are vestiges of another trench that swept round the hill. The area within the stony hill is fiat; the length or the oval is four hundred and thirty-six feet, and the transverse diameter two hundred; near the east side, is the foundation of a rectangular building; and there are also the foundations of other erections, which are circular, and smaller, all which foundations had once their super-structures, the shelters of the possessors of the fort: while there is a hollow, now nearly filled with stones, which it is supposed was once the well of the fort. The other fortress, which is called Brown Caterthun, from the colour of the earth, that composes the ramparts is of a circular form, and consists of various concentric dikes.
A British fortress on Barra-hill in Aberdeenshire, similar to those described, deserves notice. It is built in an elliptical form; and the ramparts were partly composed of stones, having a large ditch that occupies the summit of the hill, which as it is about two hundred feet above the vale, overlooks the low ground between it and the mountain of Benachie. It was surrounded by three lines of circumvallation. Facing the west the hill rises very steeply; and the middle line is interrupted by rocks; while the only access to the fort is on the eastern side where the ascent is easy; and at this part the entry to the fort is perfectly obvious. This Caledonian hill-fort is now called by the tradition of the country, Cummin’s Camp, from the defeat which the Earl of Buchan there sustained, when attacked by the gallant Bruce. The name Barra is derived from Bar which, in the British language as well as in the Scoto-Irish, signifies a summit and from Ra, which in the latter denotes a fort, a strength.
On the top of Barry-hill near Alyth in Perthshire which derives its name it is believed from the same etymology, there was a fort of very great strength. The summit of this hill has been levelled into an area of about one hundred and sixty-eight yards in circumference within the rampart. A vast ditch surrounded this fort. The approach to the fort was from the north-east, along the verge of a precipice; and the entrance was secured by a bulwark of stones, the remains of which still exist. Over the ditch, which was ten feet broad, and fourteen feet below the foundation of the wall, a narrow bridge was raised, about eighteen feet long and two feet broad; and this bridge was composed of stones, which had been laid together without much art, and vitrified on all sides, so that the whole mass was firmly cemented. This is the only part of the fortifications which appears to have been intentionally vitrified; for although among the ruins there are several pieces of vitrified stone, it must have been accidental, as these stones are inconsiderable. There seems to be no vestige of a well; but westward beyond the base of the mound and the precipice, there was a deep pond, which has been recently filled up. The tradition of the country, which is probably derived from the fiction of Boyce, relates that this vast strength of Barry-hill was the appropriate prison of Arthur’s queen, the well known Guenever, who had been taken prisoner by the Picts. About a quarter of a mile eastward, on the declivity of the hill, there are some remains of another oval fort, which was defended by a strong wall, and a deep ditch. The same tradition relates, with similar appearance of fiction, that there existed a subterraneous communication between these two British forts, on Barry-hill. Within the walls of both fortresses there appear to be the remains of some superstructure, probably the dwellings of those who defended them.
Many forts exist in every district of North Britain of a similar nature and of equal magnitude, several of which exhibit also the remains of the same kind of structures, within the area of each, for the shelter of their inhabitants. There is a fortress of this kind, which commands an extensive view of the lower parts of Braidalbane. On the summit of Dun-Evan in Nairnshire, there is also a similar fortress, consisting of two ramparts, which surround a level space of the same oblong form, with that of Craig-Phadric, though not quite so large. Within the area of Dun-Evan, there are the traces of a well, and the remains of a large mass of building, which once furnished shelter to the defenders of the fort. A similar fort exists in Glenelg in Inverness-shire: a stone rampart surrounds the top of the hill, and in the area there is the vestige of a circular building for the use of the ancient inhabitants.
On the east side of Lochness, stands the fortress of Dunhar-duil upon a very high hill of a circular, or rather conical shape the summit of which is only accessible, on the south-east by a narrow ridge, which connects the mount with a hilly chain, that runs up to Stratherric. On every other quarter the ascent is almost perpendicular; and a rapid river winds round the circumference of the base. The summit is surrounded by a very strong wall of dry stones, which was once of great height and thickness. The inclosed area is an oblong square of twenty-five yards long, and fifteen yards broad; it is level and clear of stones, and has on it the remains of a well. Upon a shoulder of the hill, about fifty feet below the summit, there is a druidical temple, consisting of a circle. of large stones, firmly fixed in the ground, with a double row of stones, extending from one side as an avenue, or entry to the circle.
From the situation of these hill-forts, as they are called, their relative positions to one another, and the accommodations attached to them, it has been inferred with great plausibility that they were rather constructed for the purpose of protecting the tribes from the attacks of one another, than with the design of defending themselves from an invading enemy. As a corroboration of this view it is observed, that these fortresses are placed upon eminences, in those parts of the country which in the early ages must have been the most habitable and furnished the greatest quantity of subsistence. They frequently appear in groups of three, four or more in the vicinity of each other; and they are so disposed, upon the tops of heights, that sometimes a considerable number may be seen at the same time, one of them being always much larger and stronger than the others, placed in the most commanding situation, and no doubt intended as the distinguished post of the chief.
Subterraneous retreats or caves were common to most early nations for the purpose of concealment in war. The Britons and their Caledonian descendants had also their hiding places. The excavations or retreats were of two sorts: first, Artificial structures formed under ground of rude stones without cement; and, secondly, Natural cares in rocks which have been rendered more commodious by art.
Of the first sort are the subterraneous apartments which have been discovered in Forfarshire, within the parish of Tealing. This building was composed of large flat stones without cement, consisting of two or three apartments not more than five feet wide, and covered with stones of the same kind; and there were found in this subterraneous building, some wood ashes, several fragments of large earthen vessels, and one of the ancient hand-mills called querns. In the same parish, there has been discovered a similar building, which the country people call in the Irish language a weem or cave: it is about four feet high, and four feet wide; and it is composed of large loose stones. There was found in it a broad earthen vessel and an instrument resembling an adze. Several hiding holes of a smaller size, and of a somewhat different construction, are to be seen in the Western Hebrides. Subterraneous structures have been also found on Kildrummie moor, in Aberdeenshire; in the district of Applecross in Ross-shire; and in Kildonan parish in Sutherland. A subterraneous building sixty feet long has been discovered on the estate of Raits in the parish of Alvie in Inverness-shire.
Of the second kind there are several in the parish of Applecross. On the coast of Skye, in the parish of Portree, there are some caves of very large extent, one of which is capacious enough to contain five hundred persons. In the isle of Arran there are also several large caves, which appear to have been places of retreat in ancient times. One of these at Drumaduin is noted, in the fond tradition of the country, at the lodging of Fin MacCoul the Fingal of Ossian, during his residence in Arran. This is called the King’s Cave, and is said to have been honoured with the presence of the illustrious Bruce who, along with his patriot companions, was obliged to resort to it as a place of temporary safety. There are other caves of great dimensions in this island, of which as well us of those in Skye many strange and fabulous stories are told.
Some of the warlike weapons of the ancient Caledonians have been already mentioned. Besides their spears, swords and daggers, they also used axes or hatchets and arrow heads. The hatchets which have been usually found are generally of flint, and are commonly called celts, a term which antiquaries have been unable to explain. An etymologist would derive the name from the British word celt literally signifying a flint stone. Some of these hatchets were formed of brass or other materials of a similar kind, as well as of flint. Arrow heads made of sharp-pointed flint have been found in various graves in North Britain, on the side of a hill in the parish of Benholm, Kincardineshire, where tradition says a battle was fought in ancient times, and also in the isle of Skye. These arrow heads of flint are known among the common people by the name of elf-shots from a superstitious notion that they were shot by elves or fairies at cattle. Hence the vulgar impute many of the disorders of their cattle to these elf-shots. When superstition finds out its own cause, of course it has always its remedy at hand; and accordingly the cure of the distressed animal may be effected either by the touch of the elf-shot or by making the animal drink of water in which the elf-shot had been dipped.
It thus appears that the ancient Caledonians were not deficient in the implements of war; their armouries being supplied with helmets, shields, and chariots, and with spears, daggers, swords, battle-axes and bows. The chiefs alone, however, used the helmet and chariot. These accoutrements have been mostly all found in the graves of the warriors, or have been seen, during recent times, on the Gaelic soldiers in fight.
Among such rude tribes as have been described, marine science must have been little attended to and but imperfectly understood. As the ancient Caledonians had no commerce of any kind and never attempted piratical excursions, the art of shipbuilding was unknown to them; at least no memorials hare been left to show that they were acquainted with it. They, however, constructed canoes consisting of a single tree, which they hollowed with fire in the manner of the American Indians; and they put these canoes in motion by means of a small paddle or oar in the same manner as the Indian savages do at this day. With these they crossed rivers and arms of the sea, and traversed lakes. Many of these canoes have been discovered both in South and North Britain embedded in lakes and marshes.
The most remarkable and the largest discovered in North Britain, was that found in the year 1726 near the influx of the Carron into the Forth, buried fifteen feet in the south bank of the Forth: it was thirty-six feet long, four feet broad in the middle, four feet four inches deep, four inches thick in the sides; and it was all of one piece of solid oak, sharp at the stem and broad at the stem. This canoe was finely polished, being quite smooth within and without. Not a single knot was observed the whole block, and the wood was of an extraordinary hardness.
The canoes were afterwards superseded at an early period by another marine vehicle called a currach. Cæsar describes the currachs of South Britain as being accommodated with keels and masts of the lightest wood while their hulls consisted of wicker covered over with leather. Lucan calls them little ships in which he says the Britons were wont to navigate the ocean. Solinus says that it was common to pass between Britain and Ireland in these little ships. It is stated by Adomnan in his life of St. Columba that St. Cormac sailed into the north sea in one of these currachs, and that he remained there fourteen days in perfect safety; but this vessel must have been very different from the currachs of Cæsar, as according to our author it had all the parts of a ship with sails and oars, and was capacious enough to contain passengers. Probably the currachs in which the Scoto-Irish made incursions into Britain during the age of Claudian were of the latter description.
The reader will now be able to form a general idea of the Caledonian Britons, and their most important antiquities and topographical positions, at the memorable era of Agricola’s invasion of North Britain, the inhabitants of which opposed him with a prowess and bravery which astonished the conquerors of the world and excited their wonder and admiration; but no bravery however great, circumstanced as the Caledonians then were, disunited by principle and habit, could withstand the military skill and experience of the Roman legions.
The interval between the first invasion of Britain by Julius Cæsar and the time when Agricola assumed the command of the Roman army in that country, embraces a period of one hundred and thirty-five years, during all which time the legions of imperial Rome had not been able to penetrate into North Britain. The complete conquest of the whole island had often occupied the thoughts of the Emperors and the able commanders to whom the government of South Britain was entrusted; but the bravery of the people, and a variety of obstacles hitherto insurmountable, thwarted their designs. It was reserved for Agricola to effect what the most skilful of his predecessors could not accomplish; and although he failed in bringing the whole of Caledonia under subjection to the Roman yoke, his victories and conquests have covered his name with glory as a warrior and a statesman. We are not to regard him as the ruthless invader carrying fire and sword into the bosom of a peaceable country, but rather as the mild and merciful conqueror bringing in his train the blessings of civilization and refinement to a rude and ungovernable people; nor should we forget that it is to him chiefly that we are indebted for the information which we now possess of the earliest period of our history.
It was in the year seventy-eight of the Christian era that Agricola took the command in Britain, but he did not enter North Britain till the year eighty-one, at which time he was forty-one years of age. The years seventy-nine and eighty were spent in subduing the tribes to the south of the Solway Frith hitherto unconquered, and in the year eighty-one Agricola entered on his fourth campaign by marching into North Britain along the shores of the Solway Frith and overrunning the mountainous region which extends from that estuary to the Friths of Clyde and Forth, the Glotta and Bodotria of Tacitus. He finished this campaign by raising a line of forts on the narrow isthmus between these Friths, so that as Tacitus observes “the enemies being removed as into another island” the country to the south might be regarded as a quiet province. But Agricola still having enemies in his rear in the persons of the Selgovæ and Novantes, who inhabited the south-western parts of North Britain, he resolved, before pushing his conquests farther to the north, to subdue these hostile tribes. The fifth campaign in eighty-two was undertaken with this view. “He therefore invaded,” says his historian, “that part of Britain which is opposite to Ireland,” being the whole extent of Galloway both by sea and land. A landing from the fleet which had been brought from the Isle of Wight, was effected within the loch near Brow at the Lochermouth which here forms a natural harbour; but the Locher moss, which was then a vast marsh and a wood impenetrable to every thing but Roman labour and skill, obstructed his march. Difficulties which would have been almost insuperable to any other commander vanished before the genius and perseverance of Agricola, who opened a passage through the whole of this wood and marsh by felling the trees which obstructed the progress of his army, and making a causeway of the trunks so cut down across the morass. He marched along the shore with part of his army, leaving the estuary of Locher and Caerlaverock on his left, and encamped against Uxellum the chief town of the Selgovæ. From this position he continued his march, and arrived at length at the Caerbantorigum of Ptolemy, the Drummore Castle of modern maps, one of the largest and strongest fortresses of the Selgovæ. The traces of Agricola’s route through the country of the Novantes which was not so well fortified as that of the Selgovæ cannot be so easily defined.
Having accomplished the subjugation of these two tribes, Agricola made preparations for his next campaign which he was to open beyond the Forth in the summer of eighty-three. He began by surveying the coasts and sounding the harbours, on the north side of the Forth by means of his fleet. As, according to Tacitus, the country beyond the Forth was the great object of Agricola; and as the latter appears to have been aware of the formidable resistance which had been prepared for him by the Caledonians, if he should attempt to cross the estuary, it is supposed with every appearance of probability, that he employed his fleet in transporting his army across the Forth from as convenient a station as he could select without being perceived by the enemy; and it is certain that the seamen were frequently mixed with the cavalry and infantry in the same camp after Agricola arrived among the Horestii. The offensive operations of the sixth campaign were commenced by the Caledonian Britons who, from the higher country, made a furious attack on the Transforthan fortifications, which so alarmed some of Agricola’s officers, who were afraid of being cut off from a retreat, that they advised their general to recross the Forth without delay; but Agricola resisted this advice and made preparations for the attack which he expected would soon be made upon his army. In pursuance of a plan which he had formed he disposed his army in three divisions. The position which his army occupied appears to have been near Carnock on the site of two farms appropriately known by the names of East Camp and West Camp where are still to be traced the remains of two military stations. From this position the Roman general pushed forward the ninth legion to Loch Ore about two miles southward from Loch Leven, with two ranges of hills in front, the Cleish range on their left, and Binnarty hill on their right. The camp here formed was situated on the north side of Loch Ore, less than half a mile south west from Loch Ore house in the parish of Ballingry in Fife. Its form was nearly square and its total circumference was about two thousand and twenty feet, and it was surrounded by three rows of ditches and as many ramparts of earth and stone. Another division of the army encamped it is said near Dunearn-hill, about a mile distant from Burntisland, near which hill are still to be seen the remains of a strength called Agricola’s Camp.
The Horestii having watched the proceedings of the Roman army made the necessary preparations for attack, and during the night delivered a furious assault on the Roman entrenchments at Loch Ore. They had acted with such caution that they were actually at the very camp before Agricola was aware of their movements; but with great presence of mind he despatched a body of his lightest troops to turn their flank and attack the assailants in the rear. After an obstinate engagement, maintained with varied success in the very gates of the camp, the Britons were at length repulsed by the superior skill of the Roman veterans. This battle was so far decisive, that Agricola did not find much difficulty afterwards in subduing the country of the Horestii, and having finished his campaign he passed the winter of eighty-three in Fife; being supplied with provisions from his fleet in the Forth, and keeping up a constant correspondence with his garrisons on his southern side.
After the defeat of the Horestii, the Caledonians began to perceive the danger of their situation from the near proximity of such a powerful enemy, and a sense of this danger impelled them to lay aside the feuds and jealousies which had divided and distracted their tribes, to consult together for their mutual safety and protection, and to combine their scattered strength into a united and energetic mass. The proud spirit of independence which had hitherto kept the Caledonian tribes apart, now made them coalesce in support of their liberties, which were threatened with utter annihilation. In this eventful crisis, they looked around them for a leader or chief under whom they might fight the battles of freedom, and save their country from the dangers which threatened it. A chief, named Galgacus by Tacitus, was pitched upon to act as generalissimo of the Caledonian army; and, from the praises bestowed upon him by that historian, this warrior appears to have well merited the distinction thus bestowed. Preparatory to the struggle they were about to engage in, they sent their wives and children into places of safety; and they ratified the confederacy which they had entered into against their common enemy, in solemn assemblies in which public sacrifices were offered up.
Having strengthened his army with some British auxiliaries from the south, Agricola marched through Fife in the summer of eighty-four, sending at the same time his fleet round the eastern coast, to support him in his operations, and to distract the attention of the Caledonians. The line of Agricola’s march, it is conjectured, was regulated by the course of the Devon; and he is supposed to have turned to the right from Glen-devon through the opening of the Ochil hills, along the course of the rivulet which forms Glen-eagles; leaving the braes of Ogilvie on his left, and passing between Blackford and Auchterarder towards the Grampian hills, which he saw at a distance before him as he debouched from the Ochils. By an easy march he reached the moor of Ardoch, from which he descried the Caledonian army, to the number of thirty thousand men, encamped on the declivity of the hill which begins to rise from the north-western border of the moor of Ardoch. Agricola took his station at the great camp which adjoins the fort Ardoch on the northward. From this camp Tacitus informs us, that Agricola drew out his army on the neighbouring moor, having a large ditch of considerable length in front. The Caledonians, after the necessary preparations for battle, descended from the position which they occupied on the declivity of the hill, and attacked the Roman with the most determined bravery. The battle was long and bloody, but night put an end to the combat; and the Caledonians seeing no of driving the enemy from his entrenchments resolved to retreat. Here again superior skill and science triumphed over rude valour. The short swords and large shields of the Romans, with the use of which were so familiar, gave them a decided advantage over the longer more inefficient weapons of the Caledonians; while the plan of keeping troops in reserve to relieve those who were fatigued or sorely pressed upon, always adopted in the Roman army, enabled the soldiers of Agricola to maintain the contest with undiminished vigour, tended greatly to weary out the breathless impetuosity of their less skilful assailants. Yet the Romans paid dearly for the advantage they obtained, their loss being more considerable than might have been expected in a conflict really so unequal. The number that fell on the side of the Caledonians is rated at ten thousand. It may be necessary to acquaint the reader, that the site of this famous battle is a subject of much controversy among antiquaries, and that the place above indicated has been selected as the one which from various circumstances, has most historical probabilities in its favour.
As Agricola from the check he had experienced, found it impossible either to advance or retain his position during the ensuing winter, he retraced his steps; and after taking hostages from the Horestii, he re-crossed the Forth and took up his winter quarters on the south of the Tyne and Solway. During his progress southward, he sent his fleet on a voyage of discovery to the north which, after exploring the whole coast from the Forth to the Hebrides and descrying the Ultima Thule, supposed to be either the Shetland islands or Foula, the most westerly of the group, or Iceland, returned ad portum Trutulensem, or Richborough, or Rickborough, before the approach of winter.
The Emperor Domitian now resolved to supersede Agricola in his command in North Britain; and he was accordingly recalled in the year eighty-five under the pretence of promoting him to the government of Syria, but in reality out of envy on account of the glory which he had obtained by the success of his arms. He died on the 23d August, ninety-three, some say, from poison, while others attribute his death to the effects of chagrin at the unfeeling treatment of Domitian. His countrymen lamented his death, and Tacitus, his son-in-law, preserved the memory of his actions and his worth in the history of his life.
During the remainder of Domitian’s reign and that of Adrian his successor, North Britain appears to have enjoyed tranquillity; an inference which may be fairly drawn from the silence of the Roman historians. Yet as Adrian in the year one hundred and twenty-one built a wall between the Solway and the Tyne, some writers have supposed that the Romans had been driven by the Caledonians out of North Britain, in the reign of that Emperor. But if such was the case how did Lollius Urbicus, the Roman general, about nineteen years after Adrian’s wall was erected, penetrate without opposition to Agricola’s forts between the Clyde and the Forth? May we not rather suppose that the wall of Adrian was built for the purpose of preventing incursions into the south by the tribes which inhabited the country between that wall and the Friths? But, be this as it may, little is known of the history of North Britain from the time of Agricola’s recal till the year one hundred and thirty-eight, when Antoninus Pius assumed the imperial purple. That good and sagacious emperor was distinguished by the care which he took in selecting the fittest officers for the government of the Roman provinces; and his choice, for that of Britain, fell on Lollius Urbicus, a man who united talents for peace with a genius in war.
After putting down a revolt of the Brigantes in South Britain in the year one hundred and thirty-nine, this able general marched northward the following year to the Friths, between which he built a wall of earth on the line of Agricola’s forts. He proceeded northward and is supposed to have carried his arms as far north as the Varar or Moray Frith, throwing the whole of the extensive country between Forth and Clyde and the Varar into the regular form of a Roman province. The numerous Roman stations found throughout the wide tract just mentioned, seem to corroborate this very probable conjecture. At this period the Emperor Antoninus, with that spirit of benevolence which formed a prominent trait in his character, extended the right of citizenship over the whole Roman empire; and thus all the inhabitants of North Britain who had resided along the east coast from the Tweed to the Moray Frith, might, like St. Paul, have claimed the privileges of Roman citizens. But it is not likely that the Caledonians availed themselves of those rights. Their native pride and independence, which could not brook the idea of acknowledging any subjection to a foreign power, induced them to pay little regard to privileges which, though granted with the most praise-worthy motives, always reminded them of the causes which led to them.
It may not be out of place here to give some account of the wall of Antoninus erected by Lollius Urbicus. Capitulinus, who flourished during the third century, is the first writer who notices this wall, and states that it was built in the reign of Antoninus Pius, but he gives no exact description of it. The wall or rampart extended from Caeridden on the Forth to Dunglas and perhaps to Alcluid on the Clyde. Taking the length of this wall from Old Kilpatrick, on the Clyde to Caeridden on the Forth, its extent would be thirty-nine thousand seven hundred and twenty-six Roman paces, which agree exactly with the modern measurement of thirty-six English miles, and six hundred and twenty yards. This rampart which was of earth, and rested on a stone foundation, was upwards of twenty feet high and four and twenty feet thick. Along the whole extent of the wall there was a vast ditch or prætentura on the outward or north side, which was generally twenty feet deep and forty feet wide, and which, there is reason to believe, might be filled with water when occasion required. This ditch and rampart were strengthened at both ends, and throughout its whole extent, by one and twenty forts, three being at each extremity, and the remainder placed between at the distance of 3554½ yards, or something more than two English miles from one another; and it has been clearly ascertained that these stations were designedly placed on the previous fortifications of Agricola. Its necessary appendage, a military road, ran behind the rampart from end to end, for the use of the troops and for keeping up the usual communication between the stations or forts. From inscriptions on some of the foundation stones, which have been dug up, it appears that the second legion, with detachments from the sixth and twentieth legions and some auxiliaries, executed these vast military works, equally creditable to their skill and perseverance. Dunglas near the western extremity, and Blackness near the eastern extremity of the rampart, afforded the Romans commodious harbours for their shipping, such as they enjoyed, while they remained in North Britain, at Cramond. This wall is called in the popular language of the country Grime’s Dyke, the etymology of which has confounded antiquarians and puzzled philologists. In British speech and in the Welsh language of the present day the word Grym signifies strength; but whether the appellation which the wall now receives is derived from such a root seems doubtful. Certain it is, that the absurd fiction of Fordun, Boyce and Buchanan, who derive the name from a supposititious person of the name of Grime and his Scots having broke through this wall, has long been exploded with many other fictions of the same authors.
At this epoch we may date the height of the Roman power in Britain. The Romans had now enlarged their territories to their greatest extent: they had conducted Iters almost to the extremities of North Britain, from the Solway and Tyne to the Forth and Clyde, and from thence to the Burgh-head of Moray: they had formed roads throughout that extent of country, and they had established stations in the most commanding places within the districts of Valentia and Vespasiana. As a notice of these works of art cannot fail to be interesting, they shall be here shortly described as they existed in the province of Vespasiana, extending from the wall of Antoninus to the Varar or the Moray Frith.
According to Richard of Cirencester, an Iter with its accompanying stations, traversed the whole extent of Vespasiana from the wall of Antoninus to the Varar or Moray Frith. The first stage extended twelve miles from the wall to Alauna, or the Allan water near its junction with the Forth. From thence it went forward along Strathallan, nine miles to the Lindum of Richard’s Itinerary, the well known station at Ardoch. From Lindum the Iter passed throughout a course of nine miles to the Victoria of the Itinerary, the proud monument of Agricola’s victory of the Grampians, the Dealginross of the Tourists, at the western extremity of Strathern. The Iter then took an easterly direction nine miles to Hierna the station on the Ern at Strageth and from thence to Orrea on the Tay, at the distance of fourteen itinerary miles. From Orrea the Iter went ad Tavum nineteen miles; and from thence ad Esicam twenty-three miles. Setting off from Orrea in an easterly direction, through the passage of the Seidlaw hills and along the Carse of Gowrie the Iter reached ad Tavum on the northern side of the estuary of the Tay, near Dundee. From this last station, proceeding in a north-east direction through the natural opening of the country, the Iter, at the distance of eleven miles, fell in with the well known Roman camp at Harefauld’s; and at the end of these twenty-three miles nearly, it reached the South Esk at Brechin the ad Esicam of Richard. In the course of this route, at the distance of two miles west from Dundee and half a mile north from Invergowrie, on the estuary of the Tay, there are the remains of a Roman camp, about two hundred yards square, fortified with a high rampart and a spacious ditch.
From the last mentioned station, the course of the itinerary proceeded in a north-east direction, and would have arrived at the end of five miles and three quarters, on the North Esk, the Tina of Richard. Passing the North Esk at the King’s ford, the Roman troops it is supposed, marched straight forward through the valley of Luther water, about eight and a half miles, to the station at Fordun, where the remains of two Roman camps are to be seen; and thence by Urie hill, where there is the well known camp of Raedikes, from which in a northerly direction, about six English miles, these troops would reach the river Dee at Peter-Culter, the Devana of Ptolemy and Richard. This last position is thirty-one miles from the South Esk, at Brechin; and the route corresponds with the devious track delineated on Richard’s useful map. Remains of extensive entrenchments of a rectangular form, at the termination of the itinerary distance on the north side of the Dee, west from the church of Mary-Culter, and south-west from the church of Peter-Culter, indicate the site of a Roman camp. These remains are popularly denominated, “the Norman Dikes.” This camp extended from the north-east to the west-south-west. The rampart and ditch, on the northern side are about three quarters of a mile long, and remain tolerably entire. From each end of this work, a rampart and ditch ran off at right angles, and formed the ends of a camp, a few hundred yards of which only remain: the whole of the southern side is destroyed. This camp is 938 yards long, and 543 yards broad; comprehending an area of eighty Scotch acres, being nearly of the same size as the camp of Raedikes, on the Ithan the next stage in the Iter. It has two gates in each side, like the camps of Battledikes and Harefaulds, and at Urie, and one gate in each of the ends, which appears to have been covered by a traverse in the Roman manner.
From the Dee at Peter-Culter, the Iter proceeded on the right of Achlea, Fiddy, and Kinmundy, and from thence in a north-north-west direction, it went through a plain district, till it reached the site of Kintore on the Don, and thence it followed, according to the Roman practice, the strath of the river to the head of the Don, where there is a ford, at the same place where the high road has always passed the same river to Inver-urie. The Romans then passed the Urie and pushed on in a north-north-west course, through a moorish district to the sources of the Ithan, the Ituna of Richard, where the camp of Glen mailen was placed an extended course of twenty six statute miles between these itinerary stations The camp at Glen-mailen as well as the camp at Urie, is called the Rae-Dikes, from the Gaelic Ra’ signifying a cleared spot, or fortress.
In proceeding from Glen-mailen, the Romans directed their course northward, and crossing the Doveran, at Achengoul, where there are still considerable remains of military works, they arrived, at the distance of thirteen statute miles, at the high ground on the north of Foggy-lone at the eastern base of the Knock-hill, the real Mons Grampius of Richard, being the first landmark seen by mariners as they approach the most easterly point of North Britain. The heights near Glen-mailen afford a distinct view of the whole course of the Moray Frith, and the intermediate country through which the Romans had to pass forward to their ultimate object, Ptoroton, or Kinnaird’s head and the whole of the north-east of Buchan may be seen from the high grounds on the north of Foggy-lone.
From the station at Knock-hill the itinerary proceeds ad Selinam of Richard, or to the rivulet Cullen, near the old tower of Deskford, at the distance of ten statute miles. This is evident from the circumstance of Roman coins having been found some years ago near the old bridge, a little below the tower of Deskford. Following the course of the rivulet to Inver-Cullen, and passing along the coast of the Moray Frith, the Roman armies arrived at the Roman post which is still to be seen on the high bank of the Spey, the Tuessis of Ptolemy and Richard, below the church of Bellie, a distance of nineteen statute miles. About half a mile north-east of the ruins of Bellie, on a bank overlooking the low fluviated ground of the river, are the remains of a Roman encampment. It is situated upon a flat surface, and forms nearly a rectangular parallelogram of 888 feet by 333; but the west side, and the greater part of the north end of the parallelogram are now wanting. It is singular that the ford on the Spey, by which the Romans were enabled to connect their stations in the north, during the second century, should have facilitated the passage of the Duke of Cumberland in April, 1746, when he pressed forward “in order to decide,” says Chalmers, “the fate of the Gaelic descendants of the ancient race.”
From their station on the eastern bank of the Spey, with the Moray Frith close to their right, they were only one day’s march from the Alatta-Castra of Ptolemy, the Ptoroton of Richard, the Burgh-head of modern geographers, at the mouth of the Estuary of Varar. The north and west sides of the promontory called Burgh-head are steep rocks washed by the sea, and which rises sixty feet above the level of the low water-mark; the area on the top of the head is 300 feet long on the east side, and 520 feet long on the west side: it is 260 feet broad, and contains rather more than two English acres. A strong rampart, twenty feet high, built with old planks, cased with stone and lime, appears to have surrounded it: the south and east sides are pretty entire; but the north and west sides are much demolished. On the east side of this height, and about forty five feet below the summit, there is an area 650 feet long, and 150 feet wide, containing upwards of three English acres. The space occupied by the ruins of the ramparts which have fallen down, is not included in this measurement. It appears to have been surrounded with a very strong rampart of stone which is now much demolished. On the south and land side of these fortified areas, two deep ditches are carried across the neck of this promontory; these ditches were, in 1792, when surveyed by Chapman, from sixteen to twenty feet deep, from twelve to sixteen feet wide at the bottom, and from forty to fifty feet wide at the top. The bottoms of the ditches were then 25 feet above the level of the sea at high water, and are considerably higher than the extensive tract of the flat ground on the land side. The ditches, ramparts, rocks, and waste ground, which surround the areas above described, contain upwards of five English acres.
As the Romans had other stations in the north besides those noticed, they did not always in returning to the south follow the course of the Iter just described. They had another Iter, the first station of which from the Burgh-head was the Varis of Richard, now Forres, a distance of eight statute miles. It is singular that the Gaelic name of Forres is Faris, which corresponds so exactly with Varis as to make it certain that Forres and the Varis of Richard are the same. Besides, when the streets of Forres were dug up in order to repair the pavement, there were discovered several Roman coins, and a Roman medallion in soft metal, which resembled a mixture of lead and tin. From Forres the Iter proceeds to the Spey at Cromdale, a distance of nineteen statute miles. Proceeding southward, along Strathaven by Loch-Bulg, to the junction of the Dee and Cluny, the Roman troops arrived at the commodious ford in that vicinity, a distance of twenty-eight statute miles from the Spey. Richard does not mention the names of the two next stations, the first of which is supposed to have been at the height which separates the waters that flow in opposite directions to the Dee and the Tay, and which consequently divides Aberdeenshire from Perthshire; and the next, it is conjectured, was at the confluence of the Shee with the Lornty water, the Iter taking its course along Glen-beg and Glen-shee. The whole extent of this route amounts to nearly forty statute miles. A variety of circumstances indicate the middle station to have been at Inchtuthel, which still exhibits a remarkable camp of Roman construction, on a height that forms the northern bank of the Tay. From the last mentioned station to Orrea the distance is nine itinerary miles, and the real and corresponding distance from Inchtuthel along the banks of the Tay to ancient Bertha is about ten miles. At his central station, which has always been a military position of great importance, the Iter joined the one already described, and proceeded southward by the former route to the wall of Antoninus.
The Romans have left many remarkable monuments of their power and greatness, of which the most prominent are their highways, which, commencing at the gates of Rome itself, traversed the whole extent of their mighty empire. These highways, by facilitating the communication between the capital and the most distant provinces, were of the utmost importance, in many respects, to the maintenance of the Roman authority in places remote from the seat of government. The whole of Britain was intersected by these roads, and one of them may be traced into the very interior of Vespasiana, where it afforded a passage to the Roman armies, kept up the communication between the stations, and thereby checked the Caledonian Clans. This road issued from the wall of Antoninus and passed through Camelon, the Roman port on the Carron, and pushing straight forward, according to the Roman custom, across the Carron, it pursued its course by Torwood house, Pleanmuir, Bannockburn, St. Ninians, and by the west side of the Castlehill of Stirling, to the Forth, on the south side of which, near Kildean, there are traces of its remains. It here passed the Forth and stretched forward to Alauna, which was situated on the river Allan, about a mile above its confluence with the Forth, and which, as it is twelve miles from the opening in the Roman wall, agrees with the distance in the Iter.
From thence the road went along Strathallan, and at the end of ten miles came to the Lindum of Richard’s Itinerary, the well known station at Ardoch. The road after passing on the east side of Ardoch, ascends the moor of Orchil to the post at Kemp’s Castle which it passes within a few yards on the east. The road from Kemp’s hill descends the moor to the station of Hierna at Strageth, from which it immediately crosses the river Ern. After the passage of the Ern the road turns to the right, and passes on the north side of Inverpeffery, in an easterly direction, and proceeds nearly in a straight line across the moor of Gask, and, continuing its course through the plantations of Gask, it passes the Roman camp on the right. At the distance of two miles farther on, where the plantations of Gask terminate, this great road passes another small post on the left. From this position the road proceeded forward in a north-east direction to the station at Orrea, which is situated on the west bank of the Tay at the present confluence of the Almond with that noble river.
Having crossed the Tay, by means of the wooden bridge, the Roman road proceeded up the east side of the river, and passed through the centre of the camp at Grassy-walls. From this position the remains of the road are distinctly visible for a mile up to Gellyhead, on the west of which it passed and went on by Innerbuist, to Nether-Collin, where it again becomes apparent, and continues distinct to the eye for two miles and a half, passing on to Drichmuir and Byres. From thence, the road stretched forward in a north-east direction, passing between Blairhead and Gilwell to Woodhead; and thence pushing on by Newbigging and Gallowhill on the right, it descends Leyston-moor; and passing that village it proceeds forward to the Roman camp at Cupar Angus, about eleven and a half miles from Orrea. The camp at Cupar appears to have been an equilateral quadrangle of four hundred yards, fortified by two strong ramparts and large ditches, which still remain on the east and south sides, and a part on the north side, but the west side has been obliterated by the plough. From Cupar the road took a north-east direction towards Reedie, in the parish of Airly. On the south of this hamlet the vestiges of the road again appear, and for more than half a mile the ancient road forms the modern way. The Roman road now points towards Kirriemuir, by which it appears to have passed in its course to the Roman camp at Battledikes. After traversing this camp, the road continued its course in an east-north-east direction for several miles along the valley on the south side of the river South-Esk, which it probably passed near the site of Black-mill, below Esk-mount. From this passage it went across the moor of Brechin, where vestiges of it appear pointing to Keithock; and at this place there are the remains of a Roman camp which are now known by the name of Wardikes. Beyond this camp on the north, the Roman road has been seldom or never seen. In the popular tradition this road is called the Lang Causeway, and is supposed to have extended northward through Perthshire and Forfarshire, and even through Kincardineshire to Stonehaven. About two miles north-east from the Roman station at Fordun, and between it and the well known camp at Urie, there are the traces, as it crosses a small hill, of an artificial road, which is popularly called the Picts’ Road.
It would appear that there are traces of Roman roads even farther north. Between the rivers Don and Urie in Aberdeenshire, on the eastern side of Bennachee, there exists an ancient road known in the country by the name of the Maiden Causeway, a name by which some of the Roman roads in the north of England are distinguished. This proceeds from Bennachee whereon there was a hill-fort, more than the distance of a mile into the woods of Pitodrie, when it disappears: it is paved with stones and is about fourteen feet wide. Still farther north, in the track of the Iter, as it crosses between the two stations of Varis and Tuessis, from Forres to the ford of Cromdale on the Spey, there has been long known a road of very ancient construction, leading along the course of the Iter for several miles through the hills, and pointing to Cromdale, where the Romans must have forded the Spey. Various traces of very ancient roads are still to be seen along the track of the Iter, between the distant station of Tuessis and Tamea, by Corgarf and through Braemar: the tradition of the people in Strathdee and Braemar, supports the idea that there are remains of Roman roads which traverse the country between the Don and the Dee. Certain it is, that there are obvious traces of ancient roads which cross the wild districts between Strathdon and Strathdee, though it is impossible to ascertain where or by whom such ancient roads were constructed, in such directions, throughout such a country.
After the Iters and the Roads, the Roman Stations to the north of Antoninus’ wall, come next to be noticed. The stations or forts along the course of the wall have been already described. The first we meet with is on the eastern base of Dunearn hill, about a mile from Burntisland, which was very distinctly marked in the days of Sibbald, who mentions it, and speaks of the prætorium as a square of a hundred yards diameter, called by the country people the Tournament, where many Roman medals have been found. This area was surrounded by a rampart of stones, and lower down in the face of the hill another wall encompassed the whole. On the north there was another fort on the summit of Bonie hill. There was also a Roman camp at Loch-Ore, supposed to be that in which the ninth legion of Agricola was attacked by the Horestii. Several Roman antiquities have been found in drains cut under this camp. Near Ardargie on the May water, at the defile of the Ochil hills was a small Roman post which served as a central communication between the stations on the Forth and in Strathern, the great scene of the Roman operations. The Romans had also a station at Hallyards, in the parish of Tulliebole.
Ardoch, on the east side of Knaigwater, the scene of many Roman operations, from the great battle between Galgacus and Agricola, till the final abdication of the Roman power, was a very important post. As this station was the principal inlet into the interior of Caledonia, the Romans were particularly anxious in fortifying so advantageous a position. The remains of camps of various sizes are still to be seen. The first and largest was erected by Agricola, in his campaign of eighty-four. The next in size is on the west of Agricola’s camp, and includes within its intrenchments part of the former. The third and last was constructed on the south side of the largest, and comprehends a part of it. These two last mentioned camps must have been successively formed after Agricola’s recall. A strong fort surrounded by five or six fosses and ramparts was erected on the south side of the last of these camps, opposite to the bridge over Knaigwater; its area was about 500 feet long, and 450 broad, being nearly of a square form.
The next station was the Hierna of Richard, about six miles north-east from Ardoch, on the south side of the river Ern. This station was placed on an eminence, and commanded the middle part of Strathern, lying between the Ochil hills on the south, and the river Almond on the north. On the moor of Gask, between the stations of Hierna and Orrea, there were two Roman posts designed probably to protect the Roman road from the incursions of the tribes on either side of that communication. But being situated at the confluence of the Almond with the Tay, Orrea was the most important station, as it commanded the eastern part of Strathern, the banks of the Tay, and the country between this river and the Siedlaw hills.
So much with regard to the principal stations which commanded the central country between the Forth and Tay; and so much for the posts south of the Grampian range, which seem to have served the double purpose of commanding the Low countries, between that range and the eastern sea, and of protecting the Lowlands from the incursions of the Northern Caledonians. But as these might be insufficient for the latter purpose, every pass of the Grampian hills had its fortress. We shall now point out the fortresses by which the passes of the Grampians were guarded throughout the extent of Perthshire.
The first of these on the south-east was placed on a tongue of land formed by the junction of the rivers Strath-gartney and Strath-ire, the two sources of the Teith. This station was near Bochastle, about fifteen miles west-south-west from Ardoch, where the remains of a camp may still be seen; and it guarded two important passes into the west country; the one leading up the valley of Strath-ire, near Braidalbane, and thence into Argyle; the other leading along the north side of Loch Venachor, Loch Achray, and Loch Katrine, through Strath-gartney, into Dumbartonshire. The next passage to the north from the western Highlands, through the Grampian range into Perthshire, is along the north side of Loch Ern into Strathern. This defile was guarded by a double camp at Dalgenross, near the confluence of the Ruchel with the Ern. These camps commanded the western districts of Strathern, and also guarded the passage along the Loch. This station is about eight miles north-west from Ardoch. Another important station was at East Findoch, at the south side of the Almond; it guarded the only practicable passage through the mountains northward, to an extent of thirty miles from east to west. The Roman camp here was placed on a high ground, defended by water on two sides, and by a morass with a steep bank on the other two sides. It was about one hundred and eighty paces long, and eighty broad, and was surrounded by a strong earthen wall, part of which still remains, and was near twelve feet thick. The trenches are still entire, and in some places six feet deep.
On the eastern side of Strathern, and between it and the Forth, are the remains of Roman posts; and at Ardargie a Roman camp was established with the design, it is supposed, of guarding the passage through the Ochil hills, by the valley of May water. Another camp at Gleneagles secured the passage of the same hills through Glendevon. With the design of guarding the narrow, but useful passage from the middle highlands, westward through Glenlyon to Argyle, the Romans fixed a post at Fortingal, about sixteen miles north-west from the station at East-Findoch. Another station was placed at Inchtuthel, upon an eminence on the north bank of the Tay, about fifteen miles from the camp at Findoch. In conjunction with another station, about four miles eastward upon the Haugh of Hallhole on the western side of the river Isla, the post at Inchtuthel commanded the whole of Stormont, and every road which could lead the Caledonians down from Athole and Glen-Shee into the countries below. Such are the posts which commanded the passes of the Grampians, throughout the whole extent of Perthshire.
A different line of posts became necessary to secure Angus and the Mearns. At Cupar Angus on the east side of the Isla about seven miles east from Inchtuthel stood a Roman Camp, of a square form of twenty acres within the ramparts. It appears to have been an equilateral quadrangle of four hundred yards, fortified with two strong ramparts and large ditches, which are still to be seen on the eastern and southern sides. This camp commanded the passage down Strathmore between the Siedlaw hills, on the south-east, and the Isla on the north-west. On Campmoor, little more than a mile south from Cupar Angus, appear the remains of another Roman fort. The great camp of Battledikes stood about eighteen miles north-east from Cupar Angus, being obviously placed there to guard the passage from the Highlands through Glen-esk, and Glen-Prosen. From the camp at Battledykes, about eleven and a half miles north-east was a Roman camp, the remains of which may still be traced near the mansion house of Keithock. This camp is known by the name of Wardikes. In the interior of Forfarshire about eight miles south-south-east from the camp of Battledikes and fourteen miles south-south-west from that of Wardikes stood a Roman camp now called Harefaulds. This camp commanded a large extent of Angus.
The country below the Siedlaw hills on the north side of the Estuary of Tay was guarded by a Roman camp near Invergourie, which had a communication on the north-east with the camp at Harefaulds. This camp which was about two hundred yards square, and fortified with a high rampart and a spacious ditch, stood about two miles west from Dundee. At Fordun, about twelve miles north-east from Wardikes, stood another Roman station. The site of this camp as near the mansion house of Fordun, and about a mile south-south-east of the church of Fordun. The Luther water, which is here only a rivulet, ran formerly through the west side of this camp; and on the east side of it, there are several springs. This camp is called by the country people the West Camp. From Fordun, north-east, eleven miles, and from the passage of the Dee at Mary-Culter, south, six miles, stood the great camp called Raedikes, upon the estate of Urie. This station commanded the narrow country, between the north-east and of the Grampian hills and the sea, as well as the angle of land lying between the Dee and the sea. From Fordun, about four and a half miles west-north-west there was a Roman post at Clattering bridge, now known by the name of the Green castle, which guarded the passage through the Grampian mountains, by the Cairn-o-mount into the valley of the Mearns. This post stood on a precipitous bank, on the north-east of the Clatteringburn: the area of the part within the ramparts, measures one hundred and thirty-seven feet nine inches, at the north-east end, and at the south-west, eighty-two feet six inches; the length is two hundred and sixty-two feet six inches. The ditch is thirty-seven feet six inches broad at the bottom, and the rampart which is wholly of earth, is in height, from the bottom of the ditch, fifty-one feet nine inches. The commanding station at Glenmailen, with its subsidiary posts, protected and secured the country from the Dee to the Moray Frith, comprehending the territories of the Taixali and the Vacomagi.
From the details which have been given of the Roman roads, and the different stations selected by the Romans, for securing and defending their conquests in the north, some idea may be formed of the skill with which the conquerors of the world, carried on their warlike operations, in the most distant countries; and of that prudent foresight by which they guarded against the many contingencies inseparable from a state of war, or insecure and dubious repose. It will be evident to those who are well acquainted with the different lines and stations, of the Roman posts before enumerated, that at the time we are treating of, it was not possible to select situations better fitted to answer the ends, which the Romans had in view, than those we have pointed out. It seems quite unnecessary and unprofitable to enter into any discussion of the historical controversy, as to whether these roads and stations were constructed in the same age, or in other words, whether the Roman remains in North Britain, are to be attributed altogether to Agricola. The fact is, there do not appear sufficient data in history to arrive at any certain conclusions. Yet it seems scarcely possible, as some antiquarians have maintained, that all these roads, and important stations could have been finished during the period of Agricola’s government in Britain. It seems probable, that many roads were made, and stations erected during the able administration of Lollius Urbicus.
Whether the Romans had grown weary of keeping up such an extended line of posts in North Britain, or found it impracticable any longer to retain them, or that they required to concentrate their strength in the south, they resolved to abandon their conquests to the north of Antoninus’ wall, and, accordingly in the year one hundred and seventy, they evacuated the whole of the country beyond that wall without molestation.
The Caledonians being thus relieved from the presence of their formidable foes, now prepared for offensive operations; but it was not until the year one hundred and eighty-five, during the misgovernment of Commodus, that their hostility began to alarm the Romans. Some of their tribes passed the wall that year and pillaged the country, but they were driven back by Ulpius Marcellus. A few years afterwards the Caledonians renewed the attack but were kept in check by Virius Lupus, with whom they entered into a treaty in the year two hundred. But this treaty was not of long continuance, for the Caledonians again took the field in two hundred and seven. These proceedings made Severus hasten from Rome to Britain in the following year; on hearing of whose arrival the tribes sent deputies to him to negotiate for peace, but the emperor, who was of a warlike disposition, and fond of military glory, declined to entertain any proposals.
After making the necessary preparations, Severus began his march in the year two hundred and nine to the north. He traversed the whole of North Britain from the wall of Antoninus to the very extremity of the island with an immense army. The Caledonians avoided coming to a general engagement with him, but kept up an incessant and harassing warfare on all sides. He, however, brought them to sue for peace; but the honours of this campaign were dearly earned, for fifty thousand of the Romans fell a prey to the attacks of the Caledonians, to fatigue, and the severity of the climate. The Caledonians soon disregarded the treaty which they had entered into with Severus, which conduct so irritated him that he gave orders to renew the war, and to spare neither age nor sex; but his son, Caracalla, to whom the execution of these orders was entrusted, was more intent in plotting against his father and brother than in executing the revengeful mandate of the dying emperor, whose demise took place at York on the 4th February, two hundred and eleven, in the sixty-sixth year of his age, and in the third year of his administration in Britain.
It was not consistent with the policy by which Caracalla was actuated, to continue a war with the Caledonians; for the scene of his ambition lay in Rome, to which he made hasty preparations to depart on the death of his father. He therefore entered into a treaty with the Caledonians by which he gave up the territories surrendered by them to his father, and abandoned the forts erected by him in their fastnesses. The whole country north of the wall of Antoninus appears in fact to have been given up to the undisputed possession of the Caledonians, and we hear of no more incursions by them till the reign of the emperor Constans, who came to Britain in the year three hundred and six, to repel the Caledonians and other Picts.5 Their incursions were repelled by the Roman legions under Constantias, and they remained quiet till about the year three hundred and forty-three when they again entered the territories of the provincial Britons; but they were compelled, it is said again to retreat by Constans.
Although these successive inroads had been always repelled by the superior power and discipline of the Romans, the Caledonians of the fourth century no longer considered them in the formidable light they had been viewed by their ancestors, and their genius for war improving every time they came in hostile contact with their enemies, they meditated the design of expelling the intruders altogether from the soil of North Britain. The wars which the Romans had to sustain against the Persians in the east, and against the Germans on the frontiers of Gaul favoured their plan; and having formed a treaty with the Scots they, in conjunction with their new allies, invaded the Roman territories and committed many depredations. Julian, who commanded the Roman army on the Rhine, despatched Lupicinus, an able military commander, to defend the province against the Scots and Picts, but he does not appear to have been very successful in opposing them.
As the Scots appear for the first time upon the stage, it will be necessary to give some account of them. The question which has been so keenly discussed between the antiquaries of Scotland and Ireland whether the Scots were indigenous Britons, or merely emigrants from Ireland, has long been set at rest, as it has been demonstrated beyond the possibility of doubt that they came originally from that island. But, on the other hand, it has been equally demonstrated that the Scots of Ireland, or the Scoticæ gentes of Porphyry, as a branch of the great Celtic family, passed over at a very early period from the shores of Britain into Ireland, and before the beginning of the fifth century, had given their name to the whole of that country. Their name, however, does not occur in the Roman annals till the year three hundred and sixty. All the authors of this age agree that Ireland was the proper country of the Scots, and that they invaded the Roman territories in North Britain about the last mentioned epoch. Ammianus, in the year three hundred and sixty-seven, mentions the Scots as an erratic or wandering people, who carried on a predatory system of warfare, and other contemporary authors speak of them as a transmarine people who came from Ireland, their native island. Of this fact there can be no doubt, and it is equally certain that Ireland was the ancient Scotica of the Romans. It was not till the year one thousand and twenty that the name of Scotia was given to North Britain.
The Picts or Caledonians and Scots being joined by another ally – the Attacots, a warlike clan which had settled on the shores of Dumbarton and Cowal, from the opposite coast of Ireland – made another attack on the Roman possessions in Britain in the year three hundred and sixty-four, on the accession of Valentinian. It required all the valour and skill of the celebrated Theodosius, who was sent to Britain in the year three hundred and sixty-seven, to repel this aggression and to repair the great ravages committed by the invaders. Having been successful in clearing the whole country between the walls, he made it the fifth province in Britain, to which Valentinian gave the name of Valentia in honour of Valens, whom he had associated with him in the empire. The successes of Theodosius insured a peaceful pause of nearly thirty years, but in three hundred and ninety-eight the Caledonians or Picts and Scots again renewed their attacks which they continued from time to time. At length in the year four hundred and forty-six, during the Consulate of Æstius, the Romans, unable any longer to keep their possessions in North Britain, intimated to the Provincials that they could give them no further assistance in resisting the Scots and Picts, abdicated the government, and left them to protect themselves
1 The names of the towns, and of the different tribes are taken from the maps of Ptolemy, and Richard of Cirencester, a monk of the fourteenth century.
2 Bello Gall. ii. c. 17.
3 The guildry of Perth, some years ago, proved, that they, at least, were superior to this amiable and, it may be, superstitious affection for the relics of the past. On their property of Craigmakerran stood a circle of stones familiarly known by the name of “Stannin Stanes,” as complete and perfect as when the dispensers of fire to the righteous assembled within its sacred inclosure; but they wanted stones to build some offices for one of their tenants; and, as these monoliths lay convenient to their hand, the corporation Goths had them blasted with gunpowder, and thus utterly destroyed one of the noblest monuments “of Britain’s elder time.”
4 The aquæ et ignis interdictio of the Roman law, and the letters of intercommuning anciently familiar to, but now, happily, unknown in the municipal jurisprudence of our native country were punishments evidently traceable to the Druidical times.
5 The first writer who mentions the Picts is Eumenius, the orator, who was a Professor at Autun, and who, in a panegyric pronounced by him in the year 297, and again in 308, alludes to the Caledones aliique Picti. From this it is evident that he considered the Caledonians and the Picts as the same people. Ammianus Marcellinus, speaking of them at the end of the fourth century, says, Lib. xxvii. ch. vii. “Eo tempore Picti in duas gentes divisi, Dicaledones et Vecturiones.” It is now admitted, even by these antiquaries who take the most opposite views on the origin of these people, that they were not distinct nations but the same people distinguished merely by their names.