Rough Castle

Antonine Wall Fort

The remains of this fort and accompanying lengths of the Antonine barrier lie a short distance along a very bumpy track and a short walk from the terminal car-park, where the impressive western defences with prominent central causeway of this small fort greet the visitor across the iron-impregnated waters of the Burn which here pierces the curtain-wall. This is, in my judgement, the most impressive site on the entire Antonine Wall, despite the fact that no remains are visible either within or without the enclosure or its eastern annexe.

Excavated in 1902/3, 1920 and 1957-61, this is one of the smallest forts on the Antonine Wall, measuring internally about 223 ft square (68 m²) with ramparts of turf enclosing an internal occupation area of almost 1¼ acres (0.46 ha). A large annexe over twice the area of the fort itself lies to the east. The Rough Castle fort was one of several – including Castlecary and Balmuildy – which show signs of devastation during the middle of the second century.

RIB2145 - Dedication to Emperor Antoninus Pius

For the Emperor Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, father of his country, the Sixth Cohort of Nervians built this Headquarters Building.
[...]ESARI TITO
[...] HADRIANO
[... ]NINO AVG
[...] P P COH VI
[...]VIORVM PRI
[...]PIA FECIT
For principia as a building distinct from praetorium see Birley, Cumb. Westm. AAST 2nd Ser. 30 (1930) 200, RIB 1912.

There are only two inscriptions on stone recorded in the R.I.B. for Rough Castle, and both mention a single auxiliary regiment. Cohors Sextae Nerviorum, the Sixth Cohort of Nervians, who were a five-hundred strong infantry unit recruited from the Nervii tribe of central Belgica. They were evidently responsible for the building of regimental headquarters or principia in the centre of the fort (vide supra), but the defensive ramparts, towers and gate-houses were very-likely built by a contingent of legionary soldiers, perhaps from the Twentieth (vide infra).

RIB2144 - Altar dedicated to Victory

To Victory the Sixth Cohort of Nervians, under the acting command of Flavius Betto, centurion of the Twentieth Legion Valeria Victrix, gladly, willingly, and deservedly fulfilled its vow.
VICTORIAE
COH VI NER
VIORVM C C
FL BETTO 𐆛 LEG
XX V V
V S L L M
The absence of a after c · c · is most easily explained by assuming an omission. For the formula c · c · a see RIB 1876. Werle, Zeitschr. f. dt. Wortforsch. 12 (1910) Beiheft s.v. regards Betto as a Germanic name or as Celtic for Vetto R.P.W.

The Dateable Pottery Evidence

Antonine occupation is confirmed by the stamps of five potters; Cinnamus Form 37, Doeccus Form 15/31, Peculiaris Form 18/31, Suobnus Form 18/31 and Tasgillus Form 33. Of particular interest, however, is a piece of Form 18/31 samian stamped by the potter Secundinus which has been dated as Hadrianic or early-Antonine period. The most likely explanation is simply a treasured piece of old samian which became broken and lost during the Antonine occupation.

The Numismatic Evidence

Only two coins have been recovered from the site, a denarius of Mark Antony found with 2nd-century pottery just north of the fort and a sestertius of Trajan found in a spoil heap during the 1903 excavations.

References for Rough Castle

The Roman Wall in Scotland by Sir George MacDonald (Oxford, 2nd Ed. 1934) pp.217-238; The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965); The Roman Occupations of Scotland by B.R. Hartley in Britannia iii (1972) pp.1-55; Britannia xiv (1983) p.288; A Survey of the Coin Finds from the Antonine Wall by Richard Abdy in Britannia xxxiii (2002) pp.189-217.The Roman Wall in Scotland by Sir George MacDonald (Oxford, 2nd Ed. 1934) pp.217-238; The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965); The Roman Occupations of Scotland by B.R. Hartley in Britannia iii (1972) pp.1-55; Britannia xiv (1983) p.288; A Survey of the Coin Finds from the Antonine Wall by Richard Abdy in Britannia xxxiii (2002) pp.189-217. The Roman Wall in Scotland by Sir George MacDonald (Oxford, 2nd Ed. 1934) pp.217-238; The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965); The Roman Occupations of Scotland by B.R. Hartley in Britannia iii (1972) pp.1-55; Britannia xiv (1983) p.288; A Survey of the Coin Finds from the Antonine Wall by Richard Abdy in Britannia xxxiii (2002) pp.189-217.The Roman Wall in Scotland by Sir George MacDonald (Oxford, 2nd Ed. 1934) pp.217-238; The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965); The Roman Occupations of Scotland by B.R. Hartley in Britannia iii (1972) pp.1-55; Britannia xiv (1983) p.288; A Survey of the Coin Finds from the Antonine Wall by Richard Abdy in Britannia xxxiii (2002) pp.189-217.

Map References for Rough Castle

NGRef: NS8479 OSMap: LR65

Roman Roads near Rough Castle

Antonine Wall: E (1.25) to Watling Lodge (Central) Antonine Wall: W (1.75) to Seabegs (Central)