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Thread: The Battle of Mons Graupius: Where the Romans defeated the Caledonii

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    The Battle of Mons Graupius: Where the Romans defeated the Caledonii

    Mons Graupius, where the Romans defeated the Caledonii
    DIANE MACLEAN

    AD 83 or 84

    THE Roman occupation of Scotland was never as comprehensive as the occupation of England. Although they built forts and walls, indigenous tribes, especially in the north, were never very troubled by the might of Rome.

    The closest Rome came to total domination occurred in around AD83, when the Roman governor, Julius Agricola, was ordered by Emperor Titus to crush the Caledonii tribes.

    Agricola, governor from AD77 – 83 or 84, was accompanied on his campaign by his son-in-law, the Roman writer Tacitus. His written record constitutes the first record of a Scottish battle – albeit from a particularly Roman perspective.

    Agricola marched north from his Perthshire base at Inchtuthil whilst his fleet sailed before him to raid and harass the coast. In what was probably the autumn of AD83 Agricola came face-to-face with Calgacus – the leader of the Caledonii – at the Graupian Mountain. While the precise location is up for conjecture (more on that later), the scene was set for the battle of Mons Graupius.

    Agricola led his army of 8,000 English and Dutch auxiliaries and 3,000 cavalry. He kept his Roman legions away from the front line to keep them in reserve but also, as Tacitus wrote,

    ”the victory being more glorious if there was no cost in Roman blood.”

    Facing the Roman army, outnumbering them, and possessing the advantage of the high ground, were the combined might of 30,000 Caledonians. But Calgacus’s men lacked the organisation and military tactics of a Roman legion, and the tightly disciplined Roman army with their short-stabbing swords soon took the lead. Time and again the Caledonian army pushed forward, only to be bested by the superior hand-to-hand combat of the Romans. Tacitus’s eyewitness report gives an indication of the scale of the rout:

    The spectacle that followed was awe-inspiring and grim. Arms, bodies, severed limbs lay all around and the air reeked of blood.’

    The tribesmen fled to the wood where for a time their local knowledge allowed them to ambush their pursuers. But as night fell, exhausted and defeated they retreated, burning their homes, killing their wives and children as they fled, terrified, to the hills.

    As for the exact location of the battle, a book to be released this summer will suggest that it took place on the Gask Ridge near Perth. The camps leading up to the Gask Ridge used a style of gate that has been linked to the Roman army led by Agricola. The camp at Bennachie - one commonly accepted location of the battle at Graupian Mountain - does not use this style of gate and is also much bigger, according to author James Fraser, an expert on Scottish history.

    According to Tacitus, the Romans lost 360 men, the Caledonii 10,000. After the battle ended he wrote that: “A grim silence reigned on every hand, the hills were deserted … and our scouts found no-one to encounter them.”

    Whilst this rather exuberant description of total victory was sent to Rome, it should be remembered it may well have been an exaggeration. Such a decisive win would have served Agricola well back home, as his son-in-law would have known.

    Whether exaggerated or factual, the Romans did win the day, but failed to make capital out of their victory. Agricola was recalled to Rome where a growing threat from the German barbarians necessitated the withdrawal of troops from northern Scotland.

    By 211AD the Roman invasion of Scotland was all but over. After that the Romans stayed safely behind Hadrian’s Wall in England, and left the unruly natives to their own devices.

    Source
    -In kalte Schatten versunken... /Germaniens Volk erstarrt / Gefroren von Lügen / In denen die Welt verharrt-
    -Die alte Seele trauernd und verlassen / Verblassend in einer erklärbaren Welt / Schwebend in einem Dunst der Wehmut / Ein Schrei der nur unmerklich gellt-
    -Auch ich verspüre Demut / Vor dem alten Geiste der Ahnen / Wird es mir vergönnt sein / Gen Walhalla aufzufahren?-

    (Heimdalls Wacht, In kalte Schatten versunken, stanzas 4-6)

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    Graupian = Grampian ?

    I can't help wondering whether the Graupian Mountain might be part of the
    Grampian Highlands ? I have, of course no idea where Mons Graupius is.

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    "The tribesmen fled to the wood where for a time their local knowledge allowed them to ambush their pursuers. But as night fell, exhausted and defeated they retreated, burning their homes, killing their wives and children as they fled, terrified, to the hills."

    Is the writer claiming that the Caledonians killed their own wives and children? Something about that doesn't sound very factual to me. I understand the "scorched earth" tactic of burning all of the crops so that the invaders can't survive off of them... but killing their own families? What would the point be?

    The entire point of fighting the invaders was to prevent your family from being taken as slaves or being killed. Killing them defeats the purpose of defending them altogether. I don't think that the person who recorded that one was telling the truth entirely.

    I am willing to bet that the Romans had sent people around behind the Caledonian warriors into their village to murder the population while the rest were in the field fighting or that they were given orders to let none live and simply pretended the village had already been destroyed as to avoid any criticisms back in Rome.

    The Rape of the Sabine Women is a good example of the tricky tactics the Romans often used.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rap...e_Sabine_Women

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    Tha Rape of the Sabine Women

    Don't forget that what we have is a ROMAN account of this affair. The Sabines might well have told a very different version of the outcome.

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    I agree.

    The Romans kept an extensive record of history ... but it was a Roman record of history written in such a way that would uplift the morale of their own people.

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