Author 'moves' ancient battlefield

IT WAS supposed to be the battle "at the ends of the earth" that saw the Romans finally conquer all Britain - putting an end to years of resistance by the fierce Caledonians.

And over the last 30 years the battle of Mons Graupius has been widely believed to have taken place in northern Scotland, near the hill of Bennachie in Aberdeenshire.

However, a new book by Edinburgh University historian Dr James Fraser will claim the key battle happened much further south ... on the Gask Ridge not far from Perth.

And while this may suggest the Romans did not completely conquer the tribes of northern Britain, Dr Fraser argues that they did not want to and instead would have made allies with native leaders to boost their control of the region and ensure Roman territory was not attacked.

In the book The Roman Conquest of Scotland: The Battle of Mons Graupius AD 84, due out this summer, Dr Fraser said: "It’s probably the most famous pre-Bannockburn battle, but a central question has been where Mons Graupius took place.

"The place that has been preferred since the late 1970s has been Bennachie in Aberdeenshire. That was really chosen out of the blue in the 1970s.

He said the choice of the Bennachie site was based on some "slightly untidy thinking".

"Because Mons Graupius is seen as a battle which the Romans thought had resulted in the conquest of northern Britain - the way it was described by Tacitus is "at the ends of the earth" - the idea is that you follow the line of camps and put the battle at the end of the line, but this doesn’t actually have to be the case," Dr Fraser said.

"The sources make it fairly clear the Roman army was ranging all over northern Scotland and north-eastern Scotland. Any of these camps could have been built before the battle or after the battle."

"I have chosen a site that has fallen out of favour as a result of archaeological pressure. It moves the battle further south to central Scotland, on the Gask Ridge near Perth."

The Romans tended to build a fortified camp every time they stopped for the night when in hostile territory. Different surveyors had different styles, and it is possible to identify armies by the design of the camps.

The camps leading up to the Gask Ridge used a style of gate that has been linked to the Roman army which was led by Agricola, Tacitus’ father-in-law. The camp at Bennachie does not use this style of gate and is also much bigger.

Dr Fraser said it could actually have been made by the army of Emperor Septimus Severus which was in northern Scotland at the end of the second century AD and in the early third century.

"Severus needed really massive camps, far too big for an army of the size of Agricola’s," he said.


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