Scotland: Rome’s Final Frontier

There wasn’t a Roman invasion of “Scotland.”

The Scoti began raiding what is now Scotland from northern Ireland during the late Roman Empire and carved out the kingdom of Dál Riata in the Early Middle Ages much like the Angles and Saxons overran post-Roman Britain. The Scoti and the Saxons both launched a coordinated assault on Roman Britain in the Great Barbarian Conspiracy of 367.

Originally, there were just British tribes in what is now England, Scotland and Wales until the Romans arrived in the 1st century and conquered southern Britain. Even after the Romans pulled out of Britain in 410 AD, it wouldn’t be until the 9th and 10th centuries that we begin to see the emergence of England, Scotland and Wales. The Picts began to emerge in the late Roman Empire and dominated the heartland of what is now Scotland until the arrival of the Vikings. Wales was created as the Anglo-Saxons pushed the Romano-Britons back into western Britain during the Early Middle Ages. Scotland and Wales evolved into the unified kingdoms that we recognize today over the course of the High Middle Ages and Late Middle Ages.

Now that we have that out of the way, the Romans invaded northern Britain on three occasions. They pushed all the way into what is now northern Scotland under the Roman general Agricola before falling back and building Hadrian’s Wall a few decades later in the 2nd century. Also in the 2nd century, the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius had the Antonine Wall built further north about twenty years later between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde. It was abandoned only eight years later and the Romans again fell back to Hadrian’s Wall before advancing again and reestablishing the Antonine Wall in the early 3rd century under Septimius Severus. Once again, the Antonine Wall was abandoned and the Romans fell back to Hadrian’s Wall only a few years later. After the third surge into what is now lowland Scotland, the Romans bribed the Picts north of Hadrian’s Wall until the collapse of the Roman Empire in Britain in the 5th century.

For three centuries, the Britons north and south of Hadrian’s Wall were separated by Roman civilization. The Romano-Britons became civilized Christians who were plugged into the economy and trade networks of the Mediterranean world. They were assimilated into Latin culture and came to think of themselves as Roman citizens. Meanwhile, the Britons north of Hadrian’s Wall continued to live as pagans without cities and came to be seen as barbarians by Britons like Gildas after the fall of the Roman Empire. The Saxons were invited to post-Roman Britain to repel invasion by the Picts and Scots and later conquered what is now England.

What did the ancient Caledonians think about the Romans?

This speech by the Caledonian chieftan Calgacus is recorded by the Roman historian Tactius in his biography Agricola. The Roman general Agricola was his father-in-law who had campaigned in Scotland. It could be wholly his invention but it likely had some basis in truth:

“Whenever I consider the origin of this war and the necessities of our position, I have a sure confidence that this day, and this union of yours, will be the beginning of freedom to the whole of Britain. To all of us slavery is a thing unknown; there are no lands beyond us, and even the sea is not safe, menaced as we are by a Roman fleet. And thus in war and battle, in which the brave find glory, even the coward will find safety. Former contests, in which, with varying fortune, the Romans were resisted, still left in us a last hope of succour, inasmuch as being the most renowned nation of Britain, dwelling in the very heart of the country, and out of sight of the shores of the conquered, we could keep even our eyes unpolluted by the contagion of slavery. To us who dwell on the uttermost confines of the earth and of freedom, this remote sanctuary of Britain’s glory has up to this time been a defence. Now, however, the furthest limits of Britain are thrown open, and the unknown always passes for the marvellous. But there are no tribes beyond us, nothing indeed but waves and rocks, and the yet more terrible Romans, from whose oppression escape is vainly sought by obedience and submission. Robbers of the world, having by their universal plunder exhausted the land, they rifle the deep. If the enemy be rich, they are rapacious; if he be poor, they lust for dominion; neither the east nor the west has been able to satisfy them. Alone among men they covet with equal eagerness poverty and riches. To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a solitude and call it peace (ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant).

“Nature has willed that every man’s children and kindred should be his dearest objects. Yet these are torn from us by conscriptions to be slaves elsewhere. Our wives and our sisters, even though they may escape violation from the enemy, are dishonoured under the names of friendship and hospitality. Our goods and fortunes they collect for their tribute, our harvests for their granaries. Our very hands and bodies, under the lash and in the midst of insult, are worn down by the toil of clearing forests and morasses. Creatures born to slavery are sold once and for all, and are, moreover, fed by their masters; but Britain is daily purchasing, is daily feeding, her own enslaved people. And as in a household the last comer among the slaves is always the butt of his companions, so we in a world long used to slavery, as the newest and most contemptible, are marked out for destruction. We have neither fruitful plains, nor mines, nor harbours, for the working of which we may be spared. Valour, too, and high spirit in subjects, are offensive to rulers; besides, remoteness and seclusion, while they give safety, provoke suspicion. Since then you cannot hope for quarter, take courage, I beseech you, whether it be safety or renown that you hold most precious. Under a woman’s leadership the Brigantes were able to burn a colony, to storm a camp, and had not success ended in supineness, might have thrown off the yoke. Let us, then, a fresh and unconquered people, never likely to abuse our freedom, show forthwith at the very first onset what heroes Caledonia has in reserve.

“Do you suppose that the Romans will be as brave in war as they are licentious in peace? To our strifes and discords they owe their fame, and they turn the errors of an enemy to the renown of their own army, an army which, composed as it is of every variety of nations, is held together by success and will be broken up by disaster. These Gauls and Germans, and, I blush to say, these Britons, who, though they lend their lives to support a stranger’s rule, have been its enemies longer than its subjects, you cannot imagine to be bound by fidelity and affection. Fear and terror there certainly are, feeble bonds of attachment; remove them, and those who have ceased to fear will begin to hate. All the incentives to victory are on our side. The Romans have no wives to kindle their courage; no parents to taunt them with flight, man have either no country or one far away. Few in number, dismayed by their ignorance, looking around upon a sky, a sea, and forests which are all unfamiliar to them; hemmed in, as it were, and enmeshed, the Gods have delivered them into our hands. Be not frightened by the idle display, by the glitter of gold and of silver, which can neither protect nor wound. In the very ranks of the enemy we shall find our own forces. Britons will acknowledge their own cause; Gauls will remember past freedom; the other Germans will abandon them, as but lately did the Usipii. Behind them there is nothing to dread. The forts are ungarrisoned; the colonies in the hands of aged men; what with disloyal subjects and oppressive rulers, the towns are ill-affected and rife with discord. On the one side you have a general and an army; on the other, tribute, the mines, and all the other penalties of an enslaved people. Whether you endure these for ever, or instantly avenge them, this field is to decide. Think, therefore, as you advance to battle, at once of your ancestors and of your posterity.”

About the Author

Hunter Wallace
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent

4 Comments on "Scotland: Rome’s Final Frontier"

  1. I find this historical series on the British Isles very interesting. I wonder, Hunter, if you will write some articles on Ireland? Keep the great content coming man.

  2. Captain John Charity Spring MA | January 15, 2020 at 10:11 pm | Reply

    “They made a desolation and called it peace.”

    I’ve never seen the solitude version of that Calgacus quote. I bet everyone was happy to see the back of Rome when the disasters struck and the success dried up.

    • John Bonaccorsi, Philadelphia | January 16, 2020 at 4:29 am | Reply

      I wonder what a Latin scholar could say about that choice–of “solitude”–as the translation of “solitudinem.” Google Translate gives “desert” for “solitudinem” and vice versa.

  3. Christianity might have civilized the European hordes but if Europeans are to fight back from being genocided then some significant return to barbarism is in due order. The question is: how much of that potential still remains in the gene pool after the World Wars and the social engineering which has occurred up to the present?

    By barbarism, I mean, a significant amount of people are going to have to sacrifice their lives for the future survival of their people.

    The revolution is not going to come from the top down emergence of a new elite while Jewish capital continues to control both sides of the Atlantic.

    Lower class Pakis raped 19,000 White British girls because the Gay British elite was scared of being politically incorrect and causing racial tensions.

    That’s a bottom up revolution through barbarism and now Pakis are moving up the hierarchy because the homosexual, pedophilic, and emasculated British elite are completely demoralized, deracinated, corrupt, and frightened.

    The White British just need a better leader than Zio-shill Tommy Robinson and to support the complete eradication of the monarchy so no symbol remains of their past to keep them quiet and subdued while the brown horde continues to menace.

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