Sunday, 2 June 2013

Sunday Surprise --How did it look 2000 years ago?

Happy Sunday to everyone!

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I wanted to post something today but wasn't sure of a topic since I'm a bit preoccupied with the last stages of my historical novel - a follow-on to The Beltane Choice. Presently, I'm tidying up parts of the ending where that dreaded (or maybe even dratted) Agricola marches the might of Rome up into what we now call Perthshire, Angus and Aberdeenshire- Scotland.

Agricola was definitely a man on a mission to conquer the whole of Britannia and force all the northern Celts under his thumb.The part I'm editing just now is just before the mega famous (...only if you're into history though) Battle of Mons Graupius.

People writing about Agricola's fantastic success at the Battle of Mons Graupius have tended to rely on scant and biased information written by Agricola's son-in-law Tacitus, and a few other ancient Roman historians. What I do agree on, along with other recent historians, is that a battle did take place somewhere in north-east Scotland which gave Agricola fantasticlly high accolade on his return to Rome. Without something major he would not have been awarded such high acclaim by the emperor of the time- Domitian.

What we know from aerial surveys, and ground excavations of the last fifty years, is that many Roman marching camps, small fortlets and larger forts were built during the period AD 80- 84, the time of Agricola's northern Britannia (Scotland) campaigns.

Agricola is said to have been at the forefront of some of the marches into new territory, into the lands of the Damnonii, Venicones and Taexali tribes. These tribal names, penned by Roman writers, are the best description we still have to use since the local Celtic tribes left no written legacy.
Looking west through the bridge supports, overlooking the current city of Perth


I've been trying to imagine what the landscape was like approximately two thousand years ago. The local Celtic tribes were mainly farmers. What has been recorded about Celtic farmers in other parts of Europe indicates smaller strip fields, manageable areas by those tending them.

A fairly sizeable Roman fort was built near Perth, a fort referred to as Bertha. Water was a needed commodity but the place chosen for the fort was also well before the River Tay (Tatha) widens out into the sea estuary.Why did Agricola choose the site? Although it was a cloudy day this photo might hold a little explanation. The bridge I was being driven over leads to a bank of hills.

A short steep climb will afford anyone a wonderful vista. Looking east will show the view to the open sea. Looking west shows the hills way in the distance. There would have been a lot to be seen on the flatlands around as well. Lookout/ signal posts, strategically placed on any of the hilltops nearby, would have allowed simple messages to be passed between the troops fairly easily.

I also wondered what the un-tended parts of the landscape were like. What kind of trees and bushes were around back then? What would the natural wildflowers and plants have been? Many questions are occurring and they're all difficult to answer.

The present day landscape shows how flat the area is with the hills to the west, to the lands of the Caledons. The road I was being driven on is the A90 parts of which were constructed on what in former times was named the Roman Road. The area the Roman Army travelled on would have been part of the territory of the Venicones.

Now it's down to my imagination...


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