Roman Military Campaigns – The First Flavian Period ( AD85 -c.90)

The First Flavian Period ( AD85-c.90)

Once an invading Roman army had secured an area and moved on, the general would often leave behind a small garrison, usually of auxiliaries, housed in semi-permanent structures built of turf and timber, in order to police the recently-subdued natives and also to secure the retreat of the army should it become necessary. Occasionally these would be augmented by the construction of a larger legionary camp or fortress to provide strategic reinforcements, perhaps also by a system of signal-stations or watch-towers to provide communication between these permanent fortifications. There is ample evidence that Agricola instigated the construction of many such fortifications in the wake of his army, also that he planned to complete the conquest of Scotland aided by the construction of several large forts situated at the mouths of the glens leading into the Central Highland Massif. These “Glen” forts would be used as “springboards” to launch his army into the heart of the Highlands, and would be provided with support from the rear by the building of a new legionary fortress at Inchtuthil on the Tay. Although it is possible that these permanent installations were initially laid-out during the tenure of Agricola it is very likely that the forts were actually completed by his successor to the post, Sallustius Lucullus, a governor who was also to fall foul of Domitian, but, unlike Agricola, was recalled to Rome and put to death, no doubt in some grisly manner, as was the modus operandi of this deranged and megalomaniacal emperor.

Inchtuthil and the Glen Forts

It is likely that work started on the Inchtuthil fortress no earlier than 85AD, the year after Agricola left Britain. This legionary base was abandoned uncompleted perhaps in the winter of 85/86, certainly by the summer of 86 when the removal from Britain of Legio II Adiutrix for use in Domitian’s Dacian wars forced the Twentieth Legion to be withdrawn from Scotland to maintain the garrison at Chester, recently vacated by the Second.

At the same time as the Inchtuthil legionary base was being built, a number of forts were also constructed at the mouth of each glen leading into the Caledonian highlands, to the south-east of Inchtuthil at: Barochan on the Clyde, Drumquhassle at the SE corner of Loch Lomond, Malling at Menteith, Bochastle at Callander, Dalginross at Comrie and Fendoch at the mouth of the Sma’ Glen, also to the north-east at: Ardoch, Strageath, Bertha, Cargill, Cardean and Stracathro. There may also have been another fort situated in the anomalously large gap between the latter two forts.

Ardoch may have been garrisoned by an auxiliary unit and a legionary cohort, and excavations at Fendoch and Cardean have demonstrated that both forts were evacuated after only a short occupation period. A number of bronze asses of 86AD have been uncovered at a number of military sites in Scotland; Inchtuthil, Camelon, Strageath, Stracathro, Crawford, Newstead, Cramond, Castledykes and Barochan. The finding of these coins, all in almost unworn condition, proves that all of these sites were garrisoned in that year or shortly afterwards. It is almost certain, given the stong garrisons in the glen forts that the Romans intended these camps to act as a springboard into the Caledonian highlands along the lines of the Glens. These plans were halted by the advent of war in Dacia.

“The abandonment of Inchtuthil was almost certainly accompanied by the withdrawal of the garrisons of the glen forts.” (Breeze, p.61)

Dispositions During the First Flavian period (85-ADc.90)

Name N.G.Ref. Description
ALATA CASTRA (Inchtuthil, Tayside) NO1239 Legionary Fortress Legio XX Valeria.
CORSTOPITVM (Corbridge, Northumberland) NY9864 Large Fort.
TRIMONTIVM (Newstead, Borders) NT5734 Large Fort.
Castledykes, Strathclyde NS9244 Large Fort.
Dalswinton, Dumfries & Galloway NX9384 Large Fort.
CAMELON (Camelon, Central) NS8680 Large Fort.
ALAVNA (Ardoch, Tayside) NN8309 Large Fort [Glen Fort]
Cardean, Tayside NO2846 Large Fort [Glen Fort]
Stracathro, Tayside NO6165 Large Fort [Glen Fort]
Bertha, Tayside NO0926 Large Fort of uncertain occupation period [Glen Fort?]
Broomholm, Dumfries & Galloway NY3781 Medium Fort in Lowland Scotland.
BREMENIVM (High Rochester, Northumberland) NY8398 Medium Fort in Lowland Scotland.
Oakwood, Borders NT4224 Medium Fort in Lowland Scotland.
Milton, Dumfries & Galloway NT0901 Medium Fort in Lowland Scotland.
Easter Happrew, Borders NT1940 Medium Fort in Lowland Scotland.
Loudoun Hill, Strathclyde NS6037 Medium Fort in Lowland Scotland.
Elginhaugh, Lothian NT3267 Medium Fort in Lowland Scotland.
Barochan, Strathclyde NS4169 Medium Fort on the Forth of Clyde [Glen Fort]
Drumquhassle, Central NS4887 Medium Fort at SE end of Loch Lomond [Glen Fort]
Menteith, Central NN5600 Medium Fort at mouth of Glen Ard [Glen Fort]
Bochastle, Central NN6107 Medium Fort at mouths of Strath Gartney and Strathyre [Glen Fort]
Dalginross, Tayside NN7721 Medium Fort at mouths of Glen Artney, Glen Earn and Glen Lednock [Glen Fort]
Fendoch, Tayside NN9128 Medium Fort at mouth of the Sma’ Glen [Glen Fort]
Strageath, Tayside NN8918 Medium Fort at W end of Gask Ridge [Glen Fort]
Cargill, Tayside NO1637 Medium Fort just S of confluence of Rivers Isla and Tay [Glen Fort]
Glenlochar, Dumfries & Galloway NX7364 Medium Fort of uncertain occupation period.
Ward Law, Dumfries & Galloway NY0266 Medium Fort? Fortlet (Lantonside) and Camp? of uncertain occupation period.
BLATOBVLGIVM (Birrens, Dumfries & Galloway) NY2175 Small Fort in southern Scotland.
ALAVNA (Learchild, Northumberland) NU1011 Small Fort; the northernmost Roman fort in England.
Cappuck, Borders NT6921 Small Fort in south-east Scotland.
Mollins, Strathclyde NS7171 Small Fort between the Forth and the Clyde.
Chew Green, Northumberland NT7808 Fortlet/Station on the England/Scotland border.
Gatehouse of Fleet, Dumfries & Galloway NX5957 Fortlet/Station in south-west Scotland.
Castle Greg, Lothian ? Fortlet/Station.
Kaims Castle, Tayside NN8612 Fortlet on the Gask Ridge.
  • Large Forts – encampments in excess of 7 acres (2.8ha).
  • Medium-Sized Forts – camps between 3½ to 6½ acres (1.4 – 2.4 ha).
  • Small Forts – camps around 1 acre (0.4ha).
  • Fortlets and Stations – smaller camps with no administrative buildings.

The Gask Ridge

The Gask Ridge Looking East from the station at Muir O’Fauld.

References for Roman Military Campaigns – The First Flavian Period ( AD85-c.90)

The Roman Invasion of Britain by Graham Webster (Batsford, London, 1980); Rome Against Caratacus by Graham Webster (Batsford, London, 1981); Britons and the Roman Army by Grace Simpson (Gregg, London, 1964); Historical Map and Guide: Roman Britain by the OS (3rd Edition, 1956; 4th Ed., 1990; 5th Ed., 2001);