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6-10-2015, 10:31


When the Romans returned home, then eagerly there emerged. . . the foul hordes of Scots and Piets, like dark throngs of worms that wriggle out of fissures in the rock when the sun is high and the weather grows warm. They were somewhat different in their customs but they were in perfect agreement in their greed for bloodshed: and they were readier to cover their villainous faces with hair than their private parts with clothes.

Gildas, On the Ruin of Britain {c. 540)

Unconquered though it was, northern Britain was not immune to the influence of the Roman Empire. The abandonment of the Antonine Wall in 163 marked the end of Roman attempts to control the British tribes between Hadrian’s Wall and the Forth-Clyde isthmus by imposing direct rule. Henceforward, these tribes were supervised by Roman agents and kept sweet with gifts of treasure. A particularly favoured tribe was the Votadini, whose stronghold at Traprain Law in Lothian has yielded a large hoard of both complete and hacked-up Roman silver vessels. The Celtic warrior elite needed to acquire prestige display objects to maintain its status. Such gifts by the Romans took away much of the incentive to raid. Traprain Law was originally an Iron Age hillfort, but in the Roman period it grew into a small town. Large quantities of Roman artefacts, from coins, glass and pottery, to weapons. Jewellery and manicure sets, show that its leading inhabitants led a superficially Romanised lifestyle. This informal empire survived until 367 when the Britons bribed the Roman agents to look the other way while they joined the Saxons in plundering the British province.