1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Caledonia

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Caledonia, the Roman name of North Britain, still used especially in poetry for Scotland. It occurs first in the poet Lucan (a.d. 64), and then often in Roman literature. There were (1) a district Caledonia, of which the southern border must have been on or near the isthmus between the Clyde and the Forth, (2) a Caledonian Forest (possibly in Perthshire), and (3) a tribe of Caledones or Calidones, named by the geographer Ptolemy as living within boundaries which are now unascertainable. The Romans first invaded Caledonia under Agricola (about a.d. 83). They then fortified the Forth and Clyde Isthmus with a line of forts, two of which, those at Camelon and Barhill, have been identified and excavated, penetrated into Perthshire, and fought the decisive battle of the war (according to Tacitus) on the slopes of Mons Graupius.[1] The site — quite as hotly contested among antiquaries as between Roman and Caledonian — may have been near the Roman encampment of Inchtuthill (in the policies of Delvine, 10 m. N. of Perth near the union of Tay and Isla), which is the most northerly of the ascertained Roman encampments in Scotland and seems to belong to the age of Agricola. Tacitus represents the result as a victory. The home government, whether averse to expensive conquests of barren hills, or afraid of a victorious general, abruptly recalled Agricola, and his northern conquests — all beyond the Tweed, if not all beyond Cheviot — were abandoned. The next advance followed more than fifty years later. About a.d. 140 the district up to the Firth of Forth was definitely annexed, and a rampart with forts along it, the Wall of Antoninus Pius, was drawn from sea to sea (see Britain: Roman; and Graham's Dyke). At the same time the Roman forts at Ardoch, north of Dunblane, Carpow near Abernethy, and perhaps one or two more, were occupied. But the conquest was stubbornly disputed, and after several risings, the land north of Cheviot seems to have been lost about a.d. 180–185. About a.d. 208 the emperor Septimius Severus carried out an extensive punitive expedition against the northern tribes, but while it is doubtful how far he penetrated, it is certain that after his death the Roman writ never again ran north of Cheviot. Rome is said, indeed, to have recovered the whole land up to the Wall of Pius in a.d. 368 and to have established there a province, Valentia. A province with that name was certainly organized somewhere. But its site and extent is quite uncertain and its duration was exceedingly brief. Throughout, Scotland remained substantially untouched by Roman influences, and its Celtic art, though perhaps influenced by Irish, remained free from Mediterranean infusion. Even in the south of Scotland, where Rome ruled for half a century (a.d. 142–180), the occupation was military and produced no civilizing effects. Of the actual condition of the land during the period of Roman rule in Britain, we have yet to learn the details by excavation. The curious carvings and ramparts, at Burghead on the coast of Elgin, and the underground stone houses locally called “wheems,” in which Roman fragments have been found, may represent the native forms of dwelling, &c., and some of the “Late Celtic” metal-work may belong to this age. But of the political divisions, the boundaries and capitals of the tribes, and the like, we know nothing. Ptolemy gives a list of tribe and place-names. But hardly one can be identified with any approach to certainty, except in the extreme south. Nor has any certainty been reached about the ethnological problems of the population, the Aryan or non-Aryan character of the Picts and the like. That the Caledonians, like the later Scots, sometimes sought their fortunes in the south, is proved by a curious tablet of about a.d. 220, found at Colchester, dedicated to an unknown equivalent of Mars, Medocius, by one “Lossio Veda, nepos [ = kin of] Vepogeni, Caledo.” The name Caledonia is said to survive in the second syllable of Dunkeld and in the mountain name Schiehallion (Sith-chaillinn).

Authorities. — Tacitus, Agricola; Hist. Augusta, Vita Severi; Dio lxxvi.; F. Haverfield, The Antonine Wall Report (Glasgow, 1899), pp. 154-168; J. Rhys, Celtic Britain (ed. 3). On Burghead, see H.W. Young, Proc. of Scottish Antiq. xxv., xxvii.; J. Macdonald, Trans. Glasgow Arch. Society. The Roman remains of Scotland are described in Rob. Stuart's Caled. Romana (Edinburgh, 1852), the volumes of the Scottish Antiq. Society, the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum, vol. vii., and elsewhere.

(F. J. H.)

  1. This, not Grampius, is the proper spelling, though Grampius was at one time commonly accepted and indeed gave rise to the modern name Grampian.