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The Battle of Mons Graupius


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The last broch I visited was Baile Mhargaite, and not long before that Castle Spynie, and for these last few weeks my mind has been absorbed with the Inverness area perhaps being the southern border of Pictland. Since my visit to Baile Mhargaite I've also been preoccupied with the Picts possibly being a seafaring people. Then last week I learned from a friend in Australia that the Picts had constructed a settlement and a harbour at Burghead. Then I learned that the largest Pictish fort yet uncovered is at Burghead. Archealogists from Aberdeen University have recently been excavating this PIctish settlement and have offered this as a detailed representation of what they have so far pieced together.


Then I remembered that Warren MacLeod's brilliant analysis of The Agricola included compelling evidence pointing to Forres as the site of the battle of Mons Graupius, and as Burghead is only a few miles from Forres, I was overwhelmed with a clarity that stunned me. Here is Burghead in relation to Forres.

Reproduced by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of HMSO. © Crown Copyright. All rights reserved.

Piecing everything together from the last 15 years while spending time with the Picts and their brochs, this is how I see things currently. Agricola was marching along the Moray coast towards Inverness from Aberdeen. If Inverness fell, the Romans would have taken Scotland. The Picts would have known the Romans were marching from Aberdeen and would have chosen the site for their last stand against them, which I believe is somewhere very close to Forres as indicated by Warren MacLeod.

The settlement at Burghead therefore, would have been needed to cater for the tens of thousands of Picts prepared for war sailing into the harbour from Orkney, Shetland, Skye and the other islands in the Hebrides, as well as the west, north and east coasts. When the Romans marched on Forres, the Picts were dug in on the high ground and were ready for them. This was their Alamo, their last stand. If they fell, Scotland would have been taken by the Romans. Their lives, the lives of their wives and children, and their very way of life would have weighed heavily on them as they faced the Romans across the battlefield. It must have been a ferocious fight with no quarter given on either side.

According to Tacitus the Roman historian, the battle of Mons Graupius was a decisive Roman victory in which the Caledonii army was destroyed and scattered. According to Tacitus, over 10,000 Caledonii were killed in battle for the loss of only 360 Romans. That's what Tacitus claims. Let's look at the facts. After the battle of Mons Graupius, Agricola built no fortresses to consolidate his gains, but instead retreated quickly to his established forts south of Aberdeen. That same year, Agricola was recalled to Rome and was poisoned by the Emperor. Two to six years later, the Romans retreated further south to their fortresses along the Clyde/ Forth isthmus. Not long after that the Romans retreated out of Scotland and cowered behind Hadrian's wall. In 367 AD, the Picts with the help of the Irish invaded England and together they pushed the Romans back from their last defensive positions at Hadrian's wall. Not long after that, the Romans left Britain. The facts speak clearly for themselves. The Picts resoundingly trounced the Romans at the battle of Mons Graupius, and all the evidence points to the area around Burghead as the site of the battle.

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On the drive yesterday while visiting the fort and wandering around the site, I had a few more thoughts regarding Mons Graupius. For example, I doubt this would have been a static fight fought in one place. With tens of thousands of Picts attacking one of the largest Roman forces ever seen, I would surmise it was fought over a huge area. As the Romans were overpowered, they would have begun to retreat back towards Aberdeen and the Picts would have chased them. The battle may have begun near Forres or Burghead, but it may have lasted all day and victory not achieved until somewhere around Elgin.

Knowing the PIcts as I do there would also have been a huge monument erected to commemorate the battle. Are there any unique huge Pictish stones or landmarks around the Elgin, Burghead, Hopeman and Forres areas? What about burial cairns? The Picts would have bured the dead.

What about the site of the old Duffus Castle? What was it originally built on? The entire hill itself looks too round to be natural. Could the original castle have been built on the site of a huge Pictish monument? Look at the site's proximity to Burghead.

Come on, let's find the site of Mons Graupius, it isn't far away! Fuck the Romans.




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Thanks for that. Kat is exceptionally perceptive. Intelligent and perceptive as well as gorgeous. Hmmmm, perhaps I should keep a look out for ladies with flat tyres to help. Mind you, being autistic I wouldn't have a clue what to do with one.

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