Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Mons Graupius by Duncan B Campbell

Wednesday write up! 

I've just finished yet another of my non-fiction books on Roman Scotland. This one - MONS GRAUPIUS AD 83 by Duncan B Campbell - is from the Osprey Published Series on Campaigns/ Battles and I bought it mainly because I like the illustrations done by Sean O Brogain. 

This is my review on amazon and Goodreads: 

This is one of many books I’ve recently been reading on Roman Scotland. Although I learned very little new in it, it was easy to cover quickly. The graphic material is well presented and is fairly varied- using archaeology where appropriate along with evidence from manuscript copies of the writing of Tacitus. Sean O Brogain’s illustrations are a wonderful addition. 

Duncan Campbell, I believe, would be fairly convincing to a new reader of the subject but less so for those who already have some background of the northern campaigns of General Agricola. Where there is some conjecture among experts over the site of Mons Graupius (if indeed a battle did take place), Duncan Campbell is quite categorical about the site being Bennachie. He is also fairly categorical over the dates of the Agricolan campaigns acknowledging that he is following the suppositions laid down by K. St. Joseph which many now believe may not match up with recent archaeological evidence. Some amateurs, like I am, when new to the study, can easily be confused over such details from book to book. I do, however, believe that if a battle, Mons Graupius, did occur then Bennachie is a very strong contender. Until someone can give me more evidence for why the Durno marching camp has such large proportions, then it seems to me that Durno and Bennachie provide a suitable gathering place not only for the northern Celtic/ Briton tribes but also for the Roman armies, including those from fleet support. 

Until more archaeological confirmation is available, the subject of Mons Graupius will remain very conjectural. 

The most important comments for me in the book are those that mention that that all is supposition until proper investigations are done at the possible sites for Mons Graupius. Though the Durno marching camp, the largest so far found in Scotland, was identified in the 1970s I don't believe any field surveys have ever been done (none I can find so far in my researching). I would love to hear the results if that camp area, and perhaps the foothills of Bennachie, are properly surveyed using LIDAR. Could evidence be uncovered then of massed graves of the fallen -Romans to the Durno side and Caledons on the foothills - even though no metal of note is likely to be found as it would have been removed by the survivors?

N.B. Although my 4th impression is dated 2015 the Archaeolink History Park is still highlighted in the book as worth a visit, being near Bennachie. Sadly, it closed many years ago and this info is now misleading.

So what's coming next in my non-fiction reading? Rome's First Frontier The Flavian Occupation of Northern Scotland by D.J. Wooliscroft and B. Hoffmann. What I'm sure of before I even begin the book is that I won't be reading this new one so quickly as the one reviewed above. 


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