Balmuildy (Medio) Roman Fort

Antonine Wall Fort

The fort at Balmuildy was excavated in 1912-14 and is one of several – including Castlecary and Rough Castle – which show signs of devastation during the middle of the second century. The defences measure about 440 ft. from north-to south by 400 ft. east-west (c.134 x 122 m) enclosing an occupation area of almost exactly 4 acres (c.1.6 ha), with battlements made of stone, not the usual turf or clay. The gateways on the north and south are placed centrally in their sides and those in the east and west are displaced slightly to the north. There are two bath-houses at Balmuildy, one inside the north-east corner of the fort running alongside the eastern rampart and another outside the south-east corner within the eastern annexe.

Balmuildy (Fig. 9) is a squarish oblong fort of nearly 3¼ acres, attached to the Antonine Wall. It has three ditches on the south and west, two on the east, where there is an annexe ; a berm of 20 to 30 feet ; and a composite rampart consisting of a stone revetment 7½ feet thick at the base and an earth bank, perhaps 20 feet wide. At the north-east and north-west corners expansions 4 to 5 feet wide have been added to the stone revetment, evidently platforms for artillery ; at the free southern corners were ordinary stone corner towers. The four gates were single, about 12 feet wide, with guard-chambers. In the middle was a range of stone buildings : headquarters, two granaries, commandant’s house ; and to north and south were wooden barracks, thought to have been designed for a cohors quingenaria peditata. A bath-building was crowded up close inside the eastern rampart ; there was another in the annexe.” (Collingwood, p.47)

There is a marked change in direction of the Antonine Rampart Wall at Balmuildy, where, after overlooking the River Kelvin from the south for some distance to the east, the Wall here crossed the stream just to the north-west of the fort and continued north-westward for almost a mile before turning west once more. The nearby temporary marching camp at Buchley (NS5872) lies to the north-east of the Balmuildy fort, in the angle thus formed by the Wall to north of the defences.

RIB 2192 - Honorific Building Inscription of the Second Legion

For the Emperor Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, father of his country, the Second Legion Augusta built this under Quintus Lollius Urbicus, emperor’s propraetorian legate.

[...]P C [  ...  ...]
[...]O [...] II
[...   ...]LLIO
[...] PR

No commentary. Addenda from RIB+add. (1995): Keppie’s new drawing (Scotland, 396 Fig. 7) positions the five surviving fragments.

The Pottery and Coinage Evidence

Sixteen coins have been found within the Balmuildy fort, ranging from a denarius of Vitellius found in the principia west wing, to a radiate of Decius from the Milan mint and dated 249-51AD. Other Roman coins include 5 issues of Hadrian, 4 of Antoninus Pius, 2 each of Domitian and Trajan, also another much-worn and corroded denarius, possibly of Mark Antony, found on the floor of the aedes in the principia.

A total of 23 identifiable potters stamps have been recovered from the Balmuildy fort, all dated to the Antonine period. The first-century bronze coins along with possible ‘pre-Hadrianic’ pottery may point to a foundation date for the Balmuildy fort sometime during the campaigns of Agricola .

The Roman Military Garrison

RIB 2191 - Honorific Building Inscription of the Second Legion

For the Emperor Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, father of his country, the Second Legion Augusta built this under Quintus Lollius Urbicus, emperor’s propraetorian legate.

[...] P LEG II AV[  ...]

Urbicus was governor from about 139 to about 143 (Birley in Askew Coinage 81).

There are six inscriptions on stone recorded in the R.I.B. for Balmuildy, four dedicatory building inscriptions and two altarstones. The four building inscriptions are important as they may be used to firmly attribute the fort and the rampart wall to the emperor Antoninus Pius, two of them naming his governor in the province, Quintus Lollius Urbicus. The first to be discovered was an Antonine distance slab from the rampart wall found broken in two in 1694 near Summerston Farm, about ¼-mile north-west of the fort (RIB 2193). In 1698 the bottom-left part of a slab was found built into a Balmuildy byre, the text of which could be easily restored (RIB 2191); it is possible that it once came from one of the fort gateways. In 1803 another tablet broken in two was found on East Millichen Farm, ½ mile north-west of the fort (RIB 2194), and once stood beside #2193 on the rampart wall. Finally, in 1912, five fragments of a dedication slab were found before the north gateway of the fort (RIB 2192) the text of which closely resembled that of #2191 and is again easily restored. All of these stones are kept in the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow, apart from #2194 which is in the Glasgow City Art Gallery. The texts of all these inscriptions are given and translated on this page.

RIB 2193 - Distance Slab of the Second Legion

For the Emperor Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, father of his country, the Second Legion Augusta (built this) for a distance of 3,666½ paces.


Wrongly assigned to Castlehill by Gordon. See RIB 2194 for a tablet marking an adjoining sector. 6.  s(emis): F. Neue (Formenlehre i 869) shows that the undeclined form is well attested and more frequent than the declined. See also RIB 2186, 2194, 2196 R.P.W.

RIB 2194 - Distance slab of the Sixth Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis

For the Emperor Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, father of his country, a detachment of the Sixth Legion Victrix Pia Fidelis (built this) for a distance of 3,666½ paces.


For s(emis) see n. to RIB 2193.

Classical References for Medio

The Ravenna Cosmography lists MEDIONEMETON as the sixth of seven forts along the Forth-Clyde “neck” with SUBDOBIADON being the seventh. Independently we are told there are seven forts on the Antonine wall which would mean SUBDOBIADON was Old Kilpatrick. Old Kilpatrick is also likely Nemthur, the birthplace of Saint Patrick. But SUBDOBIADON is neither a good linguistic fit to Old Kilpatrick nor Nemthur. However, if assume a copy error combined two place names on the Ravenna Cosmography to give MEDIO-NEMETON, the seventh fort is then NEMETON which is a good match to Nemthur or Old Kilpatrick. The next on the list is SUBDOBIADON which is a good fit to Dumbarton and the previous is MEDIO which fits the previous big fort with evidence for late occupation at Bal-muildy. Even individually these are good, but a run of three good matches is very unlikely by pure chance. This indicates these are very likely the correct locations. For more see article on: Nemthur.

Welsh Gaelic Old English Other
MW: ymeun (middle)
medi (to reap)
OI: medón (middle) mǽd, mǽdwe (meadow)
medu (mead)
midde (middle)
Lat: MEDIUS (middle), Scots Mead (meadow)

In many languages there is a similar word meaning “middle”. So it is tempting to believe this was the name. However what is it the middle of? One tempting proposal is that it was the middle of a wall section but the available distance slabs do not suggest this is correct. It therefore seems most likely it was derived from Germanic or Welsh for “Meadow”. Uniquely for the large forts along the wall, Balmuildy is the only fort situated on a river amongst arable farmland, so it is the only site that would fit this description. It therefore seems most likely the name simply meant “meadow”.

Religion at Roman Balmuildy

There are two altarstones from Balmuildy; an altar with a damaged capital dedicated to the goddess Fortune found in 1913 within the bath-house in the NE corner of the fort (RIB 2189), and another to Mars of which only four fragments survive, found in 1914 in the south-east annexe along with with broken statues of Mars & Victory (RIB 2190). Both stones now reside in the Hunterian Museum.

RIB 2189 - Altar dedicated to Fortuna

To the goddess Fortune Caecilius Nepos, the tribune, (set this up).


No commentary.

RIB 2190 - Altar dedicated to Mars

To the holy god Mars ..

[...]RTI S[...]

No commentary.

References for Medio

  • The Archaeology of Roman Britain by R.G. Collingwood (Methuen, London, 1930);
  • The Roman Wall in Scotland by Sir George MacDonald (Oxford, 2nd Ed. 1934) pp.312-324;
  • 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;
  • Chronology of the Ancient World by E.J. Bickerman (Thames & Hudson, London, 1980);
  • Chronicle of the Roman Emperors by Chris Scarre (Thames & Hudson, London, 1995);
  • A Survey of the Coin Finds from the Antonine Wall by Richard Abdy in Britannia xxxiii (2002) pp.189-217;

Roman Roads near Medio

Antonine Wall: E (1) to Wilderness Plantation (Strathclyde) Antonine Wall: W (2.5) to Svmmerston (Strathclyde) Probable Road: SE (13) to Bothwellhavgh (Strathclyde)

Sites near Balmuildy (Medio) Roman Fort