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Elusive Roman Fort Along Scotland’s Antonine Wall Found

Illustration of an ancient Roman fort. Historic Environment Scotland

Archaeologists have made a significant discovery in their ongoing quest to uncover the secrets of ancient Rome's presence in Britain. The remains of a 2nd-century Roman fort have been uncovered, shedding new light on the empire's unsuccessful attempt to expand its influence in the region. The fort, which was likely part of a larger network of military outposts, offers a tantalizing glimpse into the day-to-day life of Roman soldiers and their efforts to maintain control over a distant frontier.

Archaeologists have finally uncovered the hidden remains of a 2nd-century Roman fort, part of a broader unsuccessful attempt to extend Rome’s control throughout Britain, LiveScience reports.

The Long-Lost Fort Found in Western Scotland

Historic Environment Scotland (HES), a government agency, announced the discovery of a “lost” Roman fort, one of up to 41 defensive structures built along the Antonine Wall. This fortification, composed primarily of earthworks and wood, stretched for approximately 40 miles (65 kilometers) across Scotland’s narrowest point.

The construction of the wall was commissioned by Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius in A.D. 142. His intention was to surpass the famous Hadrian’s Wall, which his predecessor had built about 100 miles (160 km) to the south 20 years earlier. Unfortunately, local Indigenous resistance proved to be a significant obstacle, and the Romans had to abandon the Antonine Wall in A.D. 162, retreating back to Hadrian’s Wall.

Antoninus Pius: A Bureaucrat Seeking Victory

Historian and archaeologist John Reid suggest that with no military experience, Antoninus Pius sought a guaranteed win against the “exotic Caledonian people” to justify his rule. He explains that claiming a military victory was crucial for Roman emperors.

A Rare Find Near Glasgow

HES archaeologists discovered the fortlet’s buried remains next to a school on the northwestern outskirts of Glasgow. Despite earlier attempts to locate it, the fort had remained elusive since being mentioned by an antiquarian in 1707. The team used noninvasive gradiometry to detect the fort’s buried stone foundations.

The fort featured two small wooden buildings, a stone and turf rampart, and two wooden towers above gates on opposite sides. Approximately 12 soldiers would guard the fort for a week at a time, before being replaced by a new detachment from a larger Roman fort at Duntocher.

Roman Ambitions and the Abandonment of the Antonine Wall

The recently discovered fortlet supports the theory that Romans initially hoped to mimic Hadrian’s Wall but eventually opted for larger forts. Roman fortifications in the Tayside region indicate the empire’s plans to conquer all of Scotland. However, the Antonine Wall and other northern territories were abandoned after A.D. 162.

The exact reasons for the Romans’ withdrawal from the Antonine Wall remain unclear, but Reid suspects a combination of factors, including Antoninus Pius’s death in A.D. 161.

On another note, archeologists have also unearthed Roman forts in northern Arabia.

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