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Beyond the Wall

The Antonine Wall was not the first structure to be built in Scotland by the Romans, though it was by far the most impressive.

The Wall was part of the military landscape of forts, watchtowers and roads which the Romans had been constructing in Scotland since their first invasion in the AD 70s.

A string of at least four forts was built in a line from the Forth to the Tay in the AD 80s: at Camelon, Ardoch, Strageath and Bertha, just upstream from Perth. Between these forts, connected by a military road lay a series of watchtowers along an outcrop known as the Gask Ridge. A large military base was established but never completed at Inchtuthil near Dunkeld as the headquarters for military operations. Running roughly parallel, to the west, other forts were constructed at the mouths of valleys, sometimes known today as the ‘glen-blocker’ forts. 

Along with all the forts constructed during his seven-year campaign, Agricola’s army also left behind dozens of temporary marching camps, now identifiable through earthwork remains or as crop-marks. This loose frontier may have been to protect Roman territories to its south from marauding tribes of ‘Caledonii’, or it may have been intended to defend Agricola’s supply routes during his campaigns. 

To the west, east and south of the Wall lay other bases: Lurg Moor and Outerwards overlooked the Clyde estuary to the west; to the east lay the forts at Cramond and Inveresk; further south lay the major base at Newsteads, on the Tweed. 

Despite the survival of some forts along the Forth-Clyde valley, when it came to choosing a course for the Wall sixty years later no expense was spared. A completely new route was surveyed and, in most cases, a brand new chain of forts was built.