Inchtuthil Roman Fortress

Legionary Fort

The Inchtuthil fortress is located near the River Tay and covers around 50 acres (20 hectares) – a fairly standard size – and was probably built sometime after the battle of Mons Graupius to help police the newly-subjugated Caledonian tribes. The battle is narrated in Tacitus’ Agricola (chapters xxix-xxxvii), and was fought in 84AD. The fortress was abandoned before it was completed following the withdrawal of the Second Legion Adiutrix from Britain in 86AD, which was to leave the south of the province severely at threat. Although no building inscriptions or any other epigraphic evidence has been recovered from the site of the fortress, it is assumed to have been built by the Twentieth Legion, who were removed back to England to man recently abandoned fortress of the IInd at Chester.

Defences consisted of a turf rampart 13 ft. (c.4 m) thick, revetted at the front by a stone wall 5 ft. (c.1.5 m) thick, fronted by a berm of 16 ft. (c.4.9 m) and a ditch 20 ft. wide and 6½ ft. deep (c.6 x 2 m) with a counterscarp bank formed from the ditch upcast, 22 ft. wide and surviving to a height of 3½ ft. (c.6.7 x 1.1 m). The ditch upcast, of loose gravel and sand, was laid upon a foundation of three or four courses of turf and had probably been surmounted by obstacles such as cervuli. These were tree branches stuck fast into the ground to impede enemy soldiers; the name is an allusion to the antlers of deer, in Latin cervus.

The Dateable Pottery Evidence

A considerable amound of dateable pottery was recovered during excavations at Inchtuthil. The stamps of seven potters have been recorded; there are four of Logirnus, three of Iullinus, two each of both Secundus and Patricius, and single examples of Censor, Frontinus and Pontheius. The decorated wares comprised of nineteen of Form 37, sixteen Form 27 and two of Form 30. Much of the pottery recovered had contemorary examples in the Pompeii hoard and can therefore be dated c.75-90AD.

Marching Camps and Stone Quarries

There are three temporary marching camps in close proximity to the fortress at Inchtuthil (NO1239), and another a couple of miles to the north at Steeds Stalls (NO1142). There is no doubt that at least one or two of the nearer camps would have been used to house the work-force involved in the building of the fortress, whereas the further camp may have been placed to provide a protective enclosure for the workers in the nearby stone quarries on the Hill of Gourdie (NO1042).

The derivation of the modern name is complicated, but seems stem from the Anglicisation of the Gaelic word inis meaning ‘riverside/water meadow’, here compounded with the Anglicisation of tulach ‘hillock, knoll’ together with the fully-English word meaning the same thing. A loose translation of the modern name Inchtuthil, would be ‘the hillock in the river-meadow’.

Thought be some to be the site of the Roman place named Alata Castra.

References for Inchtuthil

  • Air Reconnaissance of North Britain by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xli (1951) pp.63/4;
  • Roman Britain in 1952 in J.R.S. xliii (1953) p.104;
  • Roman Britain in 1953 in J.R.S. xliv (1954) pp.84;
  • Roman Britain in 1954 in J.R.S. xlv (1955) pp.122/3;
  • Roman Britain in 1955 in J.R.S. xlvi (1956) p.122;
  • Roman Britain in 1956 in J.R.S. xlvii (1957) p.98;
  • Air Reconnaissance in Britain, 1955-7 by J.K. St. Joseph in J.R.S. xlviii (1958) p.???;
  • Roman Britain in 1957 in J.R.S. xlviii (1958) p.132; Roman Brit
Sites near Inchtuthil Roman Fortress