Following their successful invasion of 43 AD and subsequent conquest of the south and east of Britain the Romans advanced north and west. In less than 40 years they had reached and subdued what we now know as northern England and Wales.
Before them lay the wilds of Caledonia and by 79 AD they were pushing northwards into southern Scotland. Advancing over the Cheviots, the distinctive outline of the three peaks of the Eildon stood out in the landscape and the Romans headed straight for them. Here, at the ‘place of the three hills’, or ‘Trimontium’ in Latin, they began to construct a fort to be used as a base for the conquest of the surrounding area.
This same site was to be used several times over the next hundred years or more, as the site was abandoned and reoccupied according to the ebb and flow of fortune, both military and political. It’s last occupation may have been by the emperor Septimius Severus as he marched north in 208/9 in a final effort to subdue the natives.
The Romans did not arrive into an empty landscape. Native Iron Age tribes occupied Scotland and the Romans had to deal with them, either through warfare, peaceful trading or by forming alliances. It Is almost certain that many and varied arrangements existed over time, the details of which we will never know.
The local tribespeople were small scale farmers living in family units in farmsteads scattered throughout the landscape. They may have come together for protection or for social/religious gatherings and trading within the mighty hill forts dotted over countryside.
One such, Eildon Hill North, sits above the fort of Trimontium but it is difficult to date the occupation of the hill forts and thus explain their relationship to the Roman occupation.
Trimontium is the biggest Roman complex in Scotland and it’s importance in the history and archaeology of this period cannot be overstated. It is a truly remarkable site and still has a great deal to teach us.