Further Study

This virtual field trip has provided an introduction to a few of Scotland’s many outstanding Roman remains. Its aim is to provide a springboard for further investigation, through SCRAN, other web sites, reading, and visits to museums and the monuments themselves. Such investigations can be fulfilling in their own right, providing intellectual challenge and historical insight. For some, perhaps, they may lead utimately to careers as archaeologists through further study and practical experience.

In spite of all the information we possess, both from archaeological finds and from the writings of classical authors, we remain remarkably ignorant about this important period in Scotland’s history. Although archaeology can tell us a great deal about the design and layout of Roman forts, how the soldiers were equipped, the way they campaigned, and what life on the frontier was like, the wider historical picture is still far from clear.

Even the broad framework we accept as being the ‘truth’ is fragile, and often based on tenuous evidence. Long-accepted interpretations may be challenged as new evidence is found or existing evidence looked at in new ways. The ancient written sources, precious though they are, can mislead us. For example, Agricola’s biographer Tacitus was his subject’s son-in-law, and so the account may well be biased. Recent archaeological discoveries suggest that at the very least Tacitus was a master of what we would now call ‘spin’, making claims about his hero which may not always have been justified.

With such difficulties to contend with, historians of Roman Scotland seldom come up with the ‘right’ answers to the many questions they want to ask. The most they can do is suggest interpretations which best fit the evidence available. As new discoveries are made previous interpretations must be re-examined to see whether the new evidence supports, augments, modifies, or even disproves them. Through this continuing process we strive to come ever closer to the ‘truth’, although we know we can never reach it entirely.

Anyone who studies this subject, or any other historical topic, becomes part of the process. History is no more, and no less, than informed contemporary perceptions of the past. Because there are no absolute answers it is up to individuals to identify and weigh up the evidence, discuss and debate it with their peers, and come to their own conclusions. The following suggestions will help launch you on investigative journeys of this kind, but as you progress try to identify and address your own questions. Who knows where they may lead?


  • Why did the Roman army occupy some parts of Scotland and not others? Which tribes may have friendly and which hostile?
  • Did Rome manipulate local political situations to achieve its objectives, perhaps playing one tribe against another?
  • Did the Roman occupations of Scotland ‘succeed’ or ‘fail’?
  • What were Roman frontiers for? Did they work?
  • What impact did the Roman incursions have on Scotland’s indigenous peoples, and how might this have influenced subsequent historical processes?
  • Why did literacy give the Romans an advantage over the non-literate native population? In what ways did they exploit this advantage?
  • Would the Roman army stationed on the frontiers of Britain have needed supplies of food and other essentials to be sent to them from bases in the south?
  • Why was religion so important to the Roman army? How might Roman soldiers have regarded native gods?

Back to top




Site Map

Web Resources

Start again