In AD 83-85, Agricola the British Governor (according to Tacitus), built a series of what we now call Marching Camps from Doune in Perthshire to Stracathro. The term "Marching Camps" is misleading in that although the Camps were within a days march from the adjacent camp they were built so that, as a whole, they were in fact the front line of the Roman Army facing the Caledonii in the Grampians, the enemy. Agricola had 3 Legions (about 16500 men) supported by perhaps 72 Auxiliary Regiments average strength 500 in that area. All were logistically and materially supported by the Roman Fleet (numbers unknown) who had of course, mastery of the sea.
In this area of Angus therefore, from say Kirkbuddo (arguable) in the North to the coast of the North Sea perhaps about a quarter of that number were stationed permanently. That is about 10000 fighting men. In addition you must include your support staff e.g. Farriers, Blacksmiths, Cooks, Tailors, Carpenters, Engineers, et al. Altogether a formidable conception but do remember the Romans were very organised and most competent.
From Kirkbuddo Camp to Holemill Farm (Map Ref. 483437) there is a track of Roman origin first noted by General William Roy on his 1750 map. In addition at Holemill farm there is a waterfall and pool of ancient origin (noted on the 1847 mapping).
From Holemill Farm to MR 500420 there is a straight road some 2 miles long which, when extended hypothetically, passes through Hynd Castle at MR 505416 and finishes precisely at Fallows Weir (MR 513408). From the weir the road progresses generally southwards through Guildyden (again hypothetically) ending at Greenlawhill which stands above what is now Barry Church.
It is my contention, knowing that such a body of men existed in situ, that there had to be obvious line of sight communication, coupled with close logistic support based on, or near, access roads.
So if we in any way accept the above as a possibility (and many scholars have) the then obvious points put by the hypothetical local Commander to his subordinates are as follows -
The answers to the above questions from my viewpoint are as follows -
So - Questions for the reader -
(a) You are tasked with creating Hynd Castle (the hill only). Given the base measurement diameter is approximately 150ft., and the then height above adjacent ground is 35ft (567ft above sea level), what materials and manpower would you require and how long would it take you to complete ?
(b) Given your answer resembles mine, what organised society in this area since AD 85 could have accomplished the task ?
One cannot of course state anything like the above with any authority - I do not intend to try. What I can do is interpret ancient writings and maps with viable conceptions for the present day reader. That the area around Monikie was important to Agricola is self-evident to the Military Mind. Also evident is the importance of the Tay Estuary and the coastline to Montrose and the North Esk at that time. Given the scenario, one therefore questions the likelihood of the Mons Graupius Battle (30,000 Caledonii killed for the loss of 349 Romans . . . -Tacitus) being in the Aberdeen hinterland. As there is some doubt about the battles whereabouts anyway, my money would be North of this area somewhere, given all the above and the data.
Questions regarding the above and indeed viable comments are welcome.
Author - JRM April 2001
References for this article -
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