The Tactical Encampment

Temporary Marching Camps

When the Roman army was busy conquering the ancient world it lived out-of-doors in large, temporary encampments which were occupied for only a short period while local resistance was quashed before the army moved off again to a new location where, after a day's steady march, another marching camp would be erected. There is evidence for over 200 such temporary camps in Scotland alone.

The 'Stracathro Connection'

The identification of a complete series of Agricolan marching camps in Scotland was made possible by the discovery at Dalswinton in Nithsdale of a complex of overlapping encampments. Here, two superimposed forts, both of which have been firmly dated to the Flavian period, lie wholly within the larger of two temporary marching camps, one of the so-called '63-acre' series, which overlies a smaller camp having most distinctive gateways. This arrangement makes it certain that the large camp predates both of the forts, and as the defences of the larger camp overlie those of the smaller, this camp must be even earlier in date. The distinctive styling of the gateways in the smaller camp at Dalswinton were first observed in the defences of another camp at Stracathro by Dr. J.K. St. Joseph in 1955 and have since been identified at other sites in Scotland. On the strength of the evidence from Dalswinton it is reasonable to assume that these 'Stracathro-type' camps may all be dated to the early-Flavian period, thus to the campaigns of our 'most eminent of men', Gn. Julius Agricola.

Stracathro-type Camps

These camps are characterised by four gateways with distinctive defences, Dalswinton being firmly dated to the Flavian period (see above). They stretch from the Dalswinton camp in Dumfriesshire to the camp at Auchinhove in Grampian.

Dalswinton southonly partly known
Castledykes north-westc.40 acres; subdivided
Menteith23½ acres
Dalginross25 acres
Stracathro39 acres
Ythan Wells27+ acres
Auchinhove27+ acres

Other Types of Temporary Camps in Scotland

Of course, Agricola was not the only Roman to lead a campaigning army into the wilds of Caledonia, other expeditions were conducted, mostly in lowland Scotland during the Antonine period, although the punitive campaigns of Severus and his sons Caracalla and Geta in the late-2nd and early-3rd centuries almost retraced the steps of Agricola into Angus, Kincardine, Aberdeen and Banff, all in the Grampian region. Several series of temporary camps have been identified in Scotland:

'30-Acre' Camps

Each of these camps has four gateways with titulum outwork defences. They mostly occur along the south-eastern edge of the highlands from Dunblane in Central to Finavon in Tayside, with a lone example at Bonnytown in Fife and others suspected at Bellie on the northern Grampian coast and at Inveresk on the Firth of Forth. Dr. David J. Breeze assigns all these camps to the Agricolan campaigns, on what basis I am not certain.

Dunblane #132¾ acres
Ardoch #2 (West)33½ acres
Dornock23¾ acres
Bonnytown35 acres?
Cardean>33¼ acres
Finavon33½ acres
Bellie?24¾ acres
Antonine Wall Labour Camps

These small camps of around four or five acres all lie in close proximity to the Antonine Wall. They most likely housed the working parties engaged in the Wall's construction during the mid-2nd century.

Muirhouses>4¼ acres
Inveravon? acres
Kinglass Parkc.5¾ acres
Polmontc.4¾ acres
Milnquarterc.5½ acres
Tollparkc.5¼ acres
'63-Acre' Camps

These camps all possess six gates defended by external tituli; the camp at Ardoch overlies an Antonine signal-station and therefore must belong to a later set of campaigns, probably Severan. These camps mostly occur on the edge of the highland zone in the eastern parts of Central, Tayside and Grampian, with only three examples occurring in lowland Scotland.

Kirkpatrick?c.63¼ acres
Castlecraig #1?60 acres?
Eskbank #1?63 acres?
Ardoch west?
Broomhill, Forteviot?
Carpow70 acres?
Longforgan63 acres?
Kirkbuddoc.60 acres
Kinnell62¾ acres
Battledykes, Keithockc.64¼ acres
Marcus64½ acres
Lunanheadc.63 acres
Eassie63 acres?
Campmuir, Lintrosec.53¼ acres?
Scone63 acres?
Innerpeffray west67½ acres
Auchermuchty59½ acres
'120-Acre' Camps

These large camps, again, have six gateways with external tituli defences. They occur in an arc stretching along the edge of the Highlands from Ardoch in Tayside to Muiryfold near the north Grampian coast.

Ardoch eastc.96 acres
Innerpeffray eastc.100 acres
Grassy Wallsc.103 acres
Cardean>122 acres
Battledykes, Oathlawc.134 acres
Balmakewan120 acres?
Kair House>92 acres
Raedykesc.110 acres
Normandykes>106^frac12; acres
Kintorec.110 acres
Ythan Wells111 acres
Muiryfold>101 acres?
'165-Acre' Camps

These very large camps also have six gates defended by external tituli and mark the passage of almost the entire Roman army of Britain through the lowlands of Scotland, probably during the Severan campaigns.

Newstead #3>151 acres
St. Leonards164¾ acres
Channelkirk #1>129 acres
Pathhead #3c.137¾ acres
Inveresk #1c.120 acres?
Groups of Marching Camps in Scotland

Also of interest are the following groups of camps, which possibly relate to successive campaigns of Severus and his son Caracalla.

Ardoch 120-acre and 63-acre camps overlap
Innerpeffray 120 and 63-acre camp lie side-by-side
Scone 120 and 63 acre camp side-by-side
Cardean 120-acre camp 3 miles from 63 acre camp Eassie
Oathlaw 120-acre camp 3¼ miles from 63-acre camp Marcus
Balmakewan 120-acre camp 3¼ miles from 63-acre camp Keithock
Other Marching Camps in Scotland

It should be noted that the Scottish camps categorized above are mostly due to the work of Prof. J.K. St. Joseph in the 1960's and 1970's, and they represent only a fraction of the total number of sites, many of which vary widely both in size and layout and may only be dated on an individual basis.

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