The Romans

One of Rome’s greatest generals Agricola was in command and who led the invasion of our part of Scotland. Ptolemy, the Egyptian geographer tells that the Emperor Vespasian appointed Agricola to this post, and that his service lasted here from 78 A.D. to 87 A.D.

It was he who thwarted and frustrated in his attempts to subdue the wild highlanders commenced the building of a wall. This “wall” Grahams dyke 40 feet wide right across Scotland.

There seems to be divided opinions why this wall was called Grahams “Dyke some proud Scots would have us believe it to be named after a famous Highland Chief who at one time had breached the barrier, but perhaps the immensity and apparently supernatural character of the structure so overawed the natives that they called it Grimes (the devil’s dyke) However it would seem it is most likely a corruption of the Gaelic words “grym” meaning strength and “doig” a rampart.

The dyke was a rampart not what we would understand as a wall, it was constructed of turf or earth with stone and clay rather like a railway embankment.

To protect it from destruction by rain it was fortified with wooden breastworks or stone flags according to which was easily obtained at any part of the structure.

Elaborate fortresses were built at two-mile intervals and their remains to this day are clearly visible three of them at Hardgate, Bearsden, and Hillfoot. Part of this wall passes through Drumchapel. Sadly it is barely discernable although its line can be seen in a field close to Monymusk Place. It is also might be of some interest to mention the roman bath house in Bearsden, these remains can be seen quite clearly and give good account of how civilized the Roman conquerors were.

The Old Kilpatrick Fortress built in around 142 A.D., was a particularly strong station as it was built at the end of the Wall, it garrisoned 2,500 men, and of these 500 were cavalry. (Council houses now stand on the site) However an excellent model showing the layout can be seen in Kelvingrove. Models of the fortress at Balmuildy (about 160 A.D.) Cadder (about 170 A.D. are also shown they show great size and careful planning involved in their construction. In the short distance between Old Kilpatrick and Kirkintilloch there were ten forts. Names like Castlehill and Duntocher (dun = a fort) remind us of the Roman occupation some 1800 years ago. Distance slabs were inserted into the wall at intervals of 36661/2 paces and these to, the actual slabs carved by Roman hands, are on view at the museum A Roman pace consists of two steps. The wall was named after Agricola’s Successor, Antonine for it was he who fortified and strengthened the rampart although in actual fact it was Urbicus, Who in 143 A.D. completed the project. He had a deep ditch dug on the North side of the wall and a solidly built, paved road” the Military Way” constructed behind it. By means of this road he could easily switch garrisons from any part of the defences where danger posed. However these elaborate proceedings did not come up to the expectations of the builders. Although the wall was twice completely rebuilt by Antonine in 155 A.D. and by Marcus Aurilius in 185 A.D. during the reign of Emperor Commodus. The explanation was simple. The Caledonii or “men of the forests”, strategically placed on the hills, had constructed a string of observation posts overlooking the line of the wall and from 83 A.D. were able to attack whenever the time appeared propitious. Fighting went on intermittently and this was so costly in human life that the invaders, the once proud 2nd, 6th and 20th legions were glad to withdraw from Scotland. However from time to time they launched sporadic but punitive expeditions as far north as Ardoch, Callander and even the Moray Firth.

Most of the Roman crack troops were withdrawn to the continent in 383 A.D. leaving the policing of the country to a few garrisons manned mainly by Romans but filled out by locally recruited “barbarians”. It is important that we understand that our district of Drumchapel and our neighbours are the farthest reaches of the Roman conquest in the North West. Recent excavation near the site of the new flank road into Drumchapel uncovered pottery and other utensils pre dating roman times.


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