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When the Romans tried to conquer Moray

By Alistair Whitfield

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THE Romans might have been the greatest military machine the world has ever seen but they never had things easy in Moray.

Auchinhove near Keith, which is the most northerly known Roman camp to have yet been discovered, features strongly in a new book titled 'Beyond the Empire: A Guide to the Roman Remains in Scotland'.

Autor and archaeologist Andrew Tibbs said: "The Romans were in Britain for almost 400 years, and in that time kept trying to invade Scotland, sometimes they made it as far as the Highlands, and other times they didn’t get further than the Borders.

"As a result, we’ve got the remains of so many Roman monuments such as the Antonine Wall, a worthy successor to Hadrian’s Wall, or there’s Mons Graupius, a lost battlefield in the northeast where a Roman force defeated thousands of Caledonians.

"Scotland may have been depicted as a bleak and desolate land full of wildlings living beyond the Wall in Game of Thrones, but the reality is that Scotland was a land which successive Roman Emperors wanted to tame and control, but none of them succeeded."

Despite its failure to subjugate the Caledonian tribes, the Roman empire's influence was still felt throughout what is now Scotland, with archaeologists constantly finding tantalising glimpses.

The site of the Roman Camp at Auchinhove near Keith.
The site of the Roman Camp at Auchinhove near Keith.

Also included within the pages of the book are a lost Roman inscription marking the edge of the Roman Empire at Nigg on the Black Isle, and a missing fort on the shores of Loch Ness.

The Roman marching camp at Auchinhove was rediscovered in 1949 after the area was photographed from the air.

It lies in a series of arable fields to the south of the A95 road from Banff to Keith.

Its presence has been used by some to argue for nearby Knock Hill (just over five miles away to the north-east) as the site of the Battle of Mons Graupius in AD83.

Before the battle the leader of the Caledonian tribesmen has gone down in history as having made a famous speech in which he condemned the Romans.

Calgacus, as he was known, was supposed to have said: "To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire. They make a wilderness and call it peace."

The book is available to order online at Amazon. Negotiations are ongoing to stock it in local bookstores.

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