Searching For The Roman Army In Scotland

Roman coins from around 138 BC. Pic courtesy of Shutterstock.

A team of archaeologists have just arrived in the north east of Scotland to search for traces of the Roman Army in Scotland and, in particular, Aberdeenshire, Angus and Perthshire.

Although several Roman forts are known to exist in the area, including the most northerly fort in the world at Stracathro near Brechin, the real extent of military activity in the area is not known.

Andrew Tibbs of the Department of Archaeology at Durham University is leading a team of experienced volunteers, who are using a variety of non-invasive techniques to investigate potential sites occupied by the Roman Army in Scotland which have lain undiscovered for almost 2,000 years.

‘Each fort was built at the entrance to the glens’

Andrew described the survey as exciting and likely to shed new information on a relatively unknown period of Scotland’s history. “We know that the Romans built a series of forts on the edge of the Highlands,” commented Andrew. “Each fort was built at the entrance to the glens leading into the depths of the Highlands but we don’t know why!

“Was it to stop the Highlanders heading south and invading the Roman Empire? Or did the Romans plan to launch their own invasion of the Highlands from these forts?” asked Andrew.

‘The oldest Roman frontier in the world’

“These forts form part of the oldest Roman frontier in the world, much older than Hadrian’s Wall, and, in its time, it was just as important.  There’s so much we don’t understand about the Romans in Scotland, including how far north they really went. We know they built a fort at Brechin but we also know that there were Roman soldiers up in Elgin.

“We think there’s much more to be discovered in this part of Scotland, and we’re ready to begin searching the glens for more evidence of the Romans.

“If we can identify new military sites in the north east of Scotland, we might be able to solve the mystery of why they built these forts on the edge of the Highlands.”

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The Gask Frontier

Any new sites discovered by the team from Durham University are likely to have once been part of the Gask Frontier, a protective line of forts and watchtowers which was built around AD70 and stretched from Dumbarton to Brechin.

The Romans in Scotland


  • In AD 79 Agricola, the Roman governor of Britannia, sent a fleet to survey Scotland’s coast. Four years later, southern Scotland had been conquered by the Roman Army.
  • The Caledonians of northern Scotland proved to be much more difficult to fight and the mighty 9th Legion was almost wiped out.
  • In AD87, Roman Soldiers were withdrawn from Caledonia so they could concentrate their efforts on fighting along the Danube.
  • In AD 122, the Roman Empire began building Hadrien’s Wall to keep the warrior tribes of the north at bay.