Forty years after the Emperor Claudius conquered southern Britain in 43 CE, the Roman governor Gnaeus Julius Agricola led a force of 20,000 troops northwards into the country known by the Romans as Caledonia, subduing local tribes, laying roads and building fortifications as they went. As recorded by Agricola’s son-in-law and biographer, Tacitus, in the first written chronicle of Scotland’s past, the success of this initial campaign culminated in the deaths of up to 10,000 Caledonians at the battle of Mons Graupius, in modern-day Aberdeenshire. Calgacus, the Caledonians’ leader – and the earliest Scot whose name has achieved posterity - is described as making an impassioned speech to his assembled warriors, culminating in the famously bitter denunciation of his enemy, 'Solitudimum faciunt pacem appellant' ('They make a desert and call it peace').
Despite such defeats, and the construction of mighty fortifications like those at Inchtuthil, near Dunkeld, the naval base at Cramond, the Antonine Wall and of course Hadrian’s Wall, built between 122 and 128 CE, the Romans’ control north of the Forth-Clyde line remained far from complete throughout their 300-year occupation. Contact with the natives was dominated by intermittent military episodes and skirmishes, and the overall impact of Roman civilisation was far less than elsewhere in Britain.