Did the Romans conquer Scotland?
Home learning focus
Find out how and why the Romans came to Scotland.
This lesson includes:
three videos about the Romans in Scotland
two activities to build knowledge and understanding
By the end of the first century AD, Rome had most of southern Britain under its control.
However, it was a different story in Scotland - this was a much wilder place, still controlled by fierce warrior tribes who refused to bow to the Roman Empire.
The Romans wanted Scotland because:
- Scotland had valuable natural resources, like lead, silver and gold
- the Romans could get rich by charging taxes to the people they conquered and forcing them to become slaves
- the Romans came for ‘the glory of Rome’ and wanted to conquer new lands and make their empire even bigger and better
The Scottish tribes weren't about to give up their lands without a fight.
Who was living in Scotland?
In Roman times, there was no such country as Scotland - the region was called ‘Caledonia’ by the Romans, and the people were known as the ‘Caledonians’.
Caledonia was made up of groups of people or tribes and while some tribes were happy to get on peacefully with the Romans, others fought back.
In the summer of AD84, some Caledonian tribes joined forces and made a stand against an invading Roman army.
The two sides fought at a place called Mons Graupius (the Grampian Mountains).
The Romans were led by the Roman general Julius Agricola and the Caledonians were led by a fierce chief named Calgacus.
The Caledonians had 30,000 warriors, about twice as many as the Romans, but the Romans were better organised and defeated the Caledonians.
Even though Calgacus and his army fled, the Caledonians returned many times to raid the Roman frontier.
Why did the Romans build walls?
The Romans built walls to protect themselves from the unfriendly northern tribes.
Their attacks were costing the Romans time and money, so in AD122 the Emperor Hadrian ordered his soldiers to build a wall between Roman Britain and Caledonia.
The Romans also built forts and stationed soldiers along the wall to keep watch and fend off any attacks.
In AD140, the Romans added another wall further north between the River Clyde and the River Forth, called the Antonine Wall after the Emperor Antoninus, but it was often attacked by the Caledonian tribes.
In AD160 the Romans abandoned this wall and made Hadrian’s Wall the border.
What happened to the Romans in Scotland?
The Romans never really settled in the north as their main concern was to protect Roman Britain from attack.
In the 3rd century AD, there was more fighting along Hadrian's Wall and Emperor Septimius Severus had to come to Britain to fight the invading tribes.
This was the last major Roman campaign in Scotland and although his soldiers won many battles, he got sick and died at York in AD211.
Attacks increased in the 4th century and the Roman army finally left Britain entirely in AD410.
Barbarian tribes were attacking the city of Rome and the Emperor Honorius decided that the Roman legions in Britain were needed elsewhere.
There are lots of fun ways to show your historical knowledge of the Romans and Caledonia, online and offline.
Here are a few you could try.
Create a comic strip showing the story of how the Romans invaded Scotland.
You can use the template provided, and you will only need a pen or pencil and some paper.
Test your knowledge by taking this quiz about the Romans and Caledonia.
There's more to learn
Have a look at these other resources from around the BBC and the web.