Friday, 11 April 2014

I is for Inchtuthil

I is for Inchtuthil

(psst- I'm over at Miriam Drori today as her 'J' which reminds me I need to catch up with my alphabet posts! 
...and I'm visiting David W. Wilkin being interviewed at

I could have said that ‘I’ is for inspiration and that would be appropriate, but ‘I’ also has to be for Inchtuthil.

Whilst I was researching the movement of Agricola’s Roman legions in Scotland, I was quite inspired by the information I found on the Roman fortress of Inchtuthil. When I read the archaeological details uncovered at the site I just knew my Roman tribune, Gaius Livanus Valerius, had to be instrumental in the operational aspects of this Roman supplies fortress.

Built to a different layout from the usual fort, Inchtuthil (Pinata Castra the fortress on the wing) was built as a services fort for the Northern campaigns of Agricola. Whether the date for its first construction was AD 83 or AD 84 was not crucial to me when I first read the details, what was important was its function. Most of the forts on the Gask Ridge were built to monitor Celtic activity around the glen openings, with smaller signal/ lookout stations also dotted along the fringes of the Grampian Mountains in Perthshire and Tayside. However, to ensure the effective movements of massive amounts of legionary and auxiliary forces in the most northerly reaches of Britannia, a supplies station also needed to be built. 

My map, created for After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks, shows Inchtuthil as Pinata Castra. It also shows Corstopitum, the supplies fortress on the borders between present day Scotland and England. My Roman tribune, Gaius, spends some time at both of these supplies bases.  

When first reading of Inchtuthil, I found it quite amusing since I regularly drive on the approximate route set down by Agricola almost two thousand years ago. The A 90 trunk road which goes north from Perth was built close to, or on top of, earlier roads, parts of which were laid over what was named the old Roman Road. I presently live north-west of Aberdeen and have relatives who live in the Central Belt of Scotland, hence my need to journey on the A 90. As I drive north and south, there are only a few service stations along the route, but for the long distance traveller they are a welcome stop for fuel, drinks and food.

It must have been similar for the soldiers of Gnaeus Julius Agricola, Governor of Britannia and commander of the armies. As he advanced further and further north, and made his mark in quelling the natives of Tayside and Aberdeenshire it must have taken quite some organisation. Feeding the troops and ensuring their kit was top notch required the movements of supplies since not all could be guaranteed from local sources as the legions progressed northwards.

I was sufficiently fascinated by the supplies issue that I built it into the plot for Book 3 of my Celtic Fervour Series, After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks. Instead of having a Roman tribune who was at the forefront of Agricola’s advancing army, as the typical conquering hero, I decided my tribune would be different. Since his task would be to ensure that all of those advance troops had the necessary tools, equipment and food, he would be at the rear of those forward troops. That gave me a little scope to have my Gaius Livanus Valerius feel just a little bit of antipathy towards Agricola. Gaius’ may be itching to be in that advancing column but he is the consummate professional, doing a wonderful job as a supplies officer for The Roman Empire.

Inchtuthil housed about 5,500 men. Built to a less used plan, not many of this type built across the whole Empire, the huge workshop area dominated all of the other buildings for barracks, and administration offices. Since it was a legionary fortress, there was a main hall and officer’s houses (some not quite completed). Evidence suggests there was also a hospital, so perhaps the locals were not as malleable as they might have wanted, although there would always have been minor ailments and disease which needed attention, regardless of hostile engagement with the Celtic enemy.

And the I for inspiration? I need a bit more of that to get on with book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series of Historical Romantic Adventures.  

After Whorl: Donning Double cloaks


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