NGRef: NS8479
OSMap: LR65
Type: Antonine Wall Fort
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The Forts Western Defences
viewed from the Wall across the Burn
Roads
Antonine Wall: E (1.25) to Watling Lodge (Central)
Antonine Wall: W (1.75) to Seabegs (Central)

The remains of this fort and accompanying lengths of the Antonine barrier lie a short distance along a very bumpy track and a short walk from the terminal car-park, where the impressive western defences with prominent central causeway of this small fort greet the visitor across the iron-impregnated waters of the Burn which here pierces the curtain-wall. This is, in my judgement, the most impressive site on the entire Antonine Wall, despite the fact that no remains are visible either within or without the enclosure or its eastern annexe.

View West
The View from the Western Defences
looking back west across the Burn
  Entrance Causeway
The Western Entrance Causeway
looking south across the defences

Excavated in 1902/3, 1920 and 1957-61, this is one of the smallest forts on the Antonine Wall, measuring internally about 223 ft square (68 m²) with ramparts of turf enclosing an internal occupation area of almost 1¼ acres (0.46 ha). A large annexe over twice the area of the fort itself lies to the east. The Rough Castle fort was one of several - including Castlecary and Balmuildy - which show signs of devastation during the middle of the second century.

Cohors Sextae Nerviorum - The Sixth Cohort of Nervii

IMP CAESARI TITO AELIO HADRIANO ANTONINO AVG PIO P P COH VI NERVIORVM PRINCIPIA FECIT

"For Imperator Caesar Titus Aelius Hadrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, Father of his Country,¹ the Sixth Cohort of Nervians made this principia.²"

(RIB 2145; dedicatory inscription; dated: 138-61AD)

  1. The emperor Antoninus Pius, who instigated the building of the military barrier which was to bear his name. He ruled the Empire from 10th July 138AD, after the death of his adoptive father the emperor Hadrian, until his death of natural causes on 7th March 161. He was given the title Pater Patriae in 139.
  2. The principia was the regimental headquarters building in the geometric centre of the fort, which housed the commander's tribunal, the armoury, the military standards and regimental funds.

There are only two inscriptions on stone recorded in the R.I.B. for Rough Castle, and both mention a single auxiliary regiment. Cohors Sextae Nerviorum, the Sixth Cohort of Nervians, who were a five-hundred strong infantry unit recruited from the Nervii tribe of central Belgica. They were evidently responsible for the building of regimental headquarters or principia in the centre of the fort (vide supra), but the defensive ramparts, towers and gate-houses were very-likely built by a contingent of legionary soldiers, perhaps from the Twentieth (vide infra).

Altar to Victory by a Centurion of Cohors Sextae Nerviorum

VICTORIAE COH VI NERVIORVM C C FL BETTO > LEG XX V V V S L L M

"To Victoria,¹ the Sixth Cohort of Nervians commanded by Gaius Flavius Bettus, centurion of the Twentieth Legion Valiant and Victorious,² willingly, gladly and deservedly fulfill their vow."

(RIB 2144; altarstone)

  1. Victoria was the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess of victory in combat, Νικε, whose name in modern times has been ripped-off by the famous international sportswear manufacturer.
  2. Legio Vicesimae Valeria Victrix were stationed at Deva Victrix (Chester in Cheshire). It would seem that this legionary centurion, nominally a very skilled and experienced soldier, was seconded to this auxiliary regiment to act as its commander, perhaps only as a temporary measure.
Fort Interior
The Interior of the Fort
from the top of the western rampart
  The Wall
The Antonine Wall and Ditch
just west of the Rough Castle fort

The Dateable Pottery Evidence

Antonine occupation is confirmed by the stamps of five potters; Cinnamus Form 37, Doeccus Form 15/31, Peculiaris Form 18/31, Suobnus Form 18/31 and Tasgillus Form 33. Of particular interest, however, is a piece of Form 18/31 samian stamped by the potter Secundinus which has been dated as Hadrianic or early-Antonine period. The most likely explanation is simply a treasured piece of old samian which became broken and lost during the Antonine occupation.

The Numismatic Evidence

Only two coins have been recovered from the site, a denarius of Mark Antony found with 2nd-century pottery just north of the fort and a sestertius of Trajan found in a spoil heap during the 1903 excavations.

See: The Roman Wall in Scotland by Sir George MacDonald (Oxford, 2nd Ed. 1934) pp.217-238;
The Roman Inscriptions of Britain by R.G. Collingwood and R.P. Wright (Oxford 1965);
The Roman Occupations of Scotland by B.R. Hartley in Britannia iii (1972) pp.1-55;
Britannia xiv (1983) p.288;
A Survey of the Coin Finds from the Antonine Wall by Richard Abdy in Britannia xxxiii (2002) pp.189-217.