With movies like Centurion having come and gone and the Eagle playing now, with Agricola’s campaign resonably well known, I thought I’d bring up Rome’s forgotten intervention in Scotland, the largest and most important, as the emperor went. Why it’s forgotten has always been a mystery to me.
Following in the footsteps of Caesar, Claudius and Agricola, Roman Emperor Septimus
Severus and his son Caracalla led and invasion of Britain in 208, hoping for glory and to unite the island under Roman rule.
After putting down a rebellion in the North of England he crossed Hadrian’s Wall and entered Scotland. Leading 40,000 troops, the largest force in Britain since Claudius and at one point building a 170 acre marching fort, the largest anywhere in the world. However learning from Mons Grapius the Scots refused him battle instead inflicted a withering guerilla war on him. Severus fought his way through the guerillas to reach foot of the Highlands still without managing to tempt a battle or find a major settlement to attack.
In the Highlands things got worse as the guerilla war ended the Severus marched across the Highlands being completely ignored and barely seeing a soul. A year after crossing the wall he reached Aberdeen, still without fighting a battle. Realising his campaign had failed, and a Roman emperor that loses a war is a dead emperor Severus starting looking for a way out. Severus marched back out of Scotland and took refuge in York plotting revenge, intending to send his son Caracalla on a face saving second invasion. However sensing his weakness the north of the Britain went into revolt again and shortly after Severus fell ill and died with his utter failure haunting him.
A while back someone asked me, why didn’t the Romans conquer Scotland. Perhaps it’s because they couldn’t. There was just no infrastructure to attack. Also was it a mistake by Severus to take an army so overwhelmingly more powerful than the locals and hope to tempt them into battle. Agricola took an half the size and the Scots felt confident to disasterously attack that one.
A little snap I took on my travels. Mix history with your meal. I wonder if the chicken’s kosher?
Seems European civilisation began near the Isle of Wight.