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31 August 2016

At www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-south-scotland-37194266 … evidence of an assault on a Scottish hill fort by the Romans has been found – at Burnswark. The fort, or ditched enclosure on top of a hill, overlooks the Solway Firth and is visible for miles around. There was a certain amount of bling involved with hill forts as they were designed to be seen and to show off, and although they were probably used at times of friction as a place of refuge it is unclear if they were designed as forts rather than somewhere that people exchanged and bartered goods and services and performed annual ceremonies. Burnswark on the other hand has the tell tale signs of assault – massive amounts of Roman lead shot has been found. It is also thought there were no survivors.

Once again historians have turned up a connection between Roman Britain and the Levant. We know that Hadrian campaigned in both regions and was responsible for some important defensive structures. One of his generals, Lollius Urbicus, made a name for himself in the Jewish war of Hadrian where he is credited with attacking defensive positions on hills and high places in the southern Levant. With the suitable experience he was employed against the fortified positions of the Scots and he was successful enough for the Romans to relocate the border at what is known as the Antonine Wall across the top of the central lowland valley. It was short lived, in the grand scheme of things, and the people of Scotland continued to be a thorn in the side of Roman Britain. The Romans scored several decisive victories at different points in time but the Highlands presented a challenge they never really put enough manpower or financial clout into, possibly because it was not prime farming land and did not have the resources to exploit (such as metals). However, the eastern side of Scotland has always been a prime farming area (and still remains so) which tends to suggest this kind of argument is not the full story. 

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