Mons Graupius Identified

The Hunt for Ancient Scotland’s Great Clash of Arms – 83 AD


Roman troops as shown in the TV drama Rome.“……………which will you choose – to follow your leader into battle, or to submit to taxation, labour in the mines, and all the other tribulations of slavery? Whether you are to endure these for ever or take quick vengeance, this field must decide. On then into action; and as you go, think of those that went before you and of those that shall come after.”

“………..and there would be glory too, in dying - if die we must – here where the world and all created things come to an end”


War was a fundamental aspect of Roman culture, especially where its expansionist policies met with local resistance. This warfare often could be – to use the modern term – low intensity. Such an undercurrent of simmering resentment - with the risk of violence threatening - appears to have been much the norm for most of Rome’s involvement with the tribes of ancient Scotland.

A modern depiction of a barbarian taken from the movie 'Gladiator'.

At times however the historical record is punctuated by sporadic outbursts of open warfare in Scotland, violent and bloody, and of these the best known is the battle of Mons Graupius.

The lead extracts above are Tacitus’s “pre-battle speeches” at Mons Graupius, taken from his work; the Agricola. Although these speeches are almost certainly pieces of literary invention they reflect the issues and concerns (as Rome’s elite saw it) for the Caledonian tribesmen beset by an invading superpower, and following that the Roman rallying call for high adventure with its attendant glory in Scotland, then commonly considered to be at “the end” of the known world.


Historical Summary

The sources available to us

Factor 1. The Primary Source: Tacitus’s The Agricola.

Factor 2. The Archaeological Source; Marching Camps

Factor 3. Interpretation: A Practical Analysis

Factor 4. The name: Mons Graupius

The Contenders

The Contenders: a Conclusion

Mons Graupius - A Reconstruction


Addendum: What happened in 82 and 84 AD and where?

Map of Contenders Locations

Roman discipline as shown in the TV drama Rome.

NEXT PAGE: The Historical Summary

©2009 Roman Scotland. All Rights Reserved
First Published February 2009