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The Romans conquered Britain around 2,000 years ago. While Julius Caesar first stepped foot in Britain in 54 BC, it would be another 100 years before the conquest began. The first place the Roman Empire’s soldiers are believed to have landed is at Pegwell Bay in Thanet, Kent.
From this point onwards they would force their way north, staying for 400 years.
While England is famed for its numerous Roman structures like Hadrian’s Wall and Vindolanda, Scotland has its fair share of Roman buildings.
The Empire called Scotland “Caledonia”, the Latin name that researchers believe is from a Celtic source.
Here, workers built one of the Empire’s largest and most intricate sites, Ardoch Fort.
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Ardoch Fort: The fort is one of a number of Roman sites in Scotland
Its initial construction, in the first century AD, came when the Romans were intent on conquering the entirety of Scotland, a plan they later abandoned.
Ardoch’s “fascinating” nature was explored during History Hit’s documentary, ‘Fortress Britain: Ardoch Roman Fort’.
Tristan Hughes, the show’s presenter and researcher, explained that the fort was layered with the work of Roman soldiers who lived years apart, having been built and reconstructed in two separate dynasties.
Talking through the Flavian Dynasty section of the fort, a period ruled by Emperor Vespaian and later his two sons, Titus and Domitian, Mr Hughes said: “The remains of the Flavian Fort can be seen as very extensive, the far reaches of the ditches visible to this day.
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Roman layers: Two separate dynasties built and repurposed the fort
“Ardoch is a fascinating site because it doesn’t just have the remains of a Flavian Fort, lose run, as the aerial photography shows, the fort has shrunk a little because that is a later Antonine Fort; Antonine meaning the period in the mid to late 2nd century AD.”
The Romans would later return to the fort after the Antonine Wall had been built.
It was here that they extended the fort, repurposing it to cater for the Empire’s new ambitions.
Historian Rebecca Jones, speaking during the documentary, explained: “It had a different function at that point.
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Rebecca Jones: The historian said the fort ‘had a different function’ post-Antonine Wall
Antonine Wall: The defensive ditch and rampart of the Antonine Wall
“In the First Century it was a fort where they were planning on conquering the whole of Scotland, that was very much in their mindset, whereas in the Second Century, the line had been drawn across central Scotland between the Firth and the Clyde islands.
“And so it’s an outpost fort to the north, controlling that area north of the Wall.”
Some researchers argue that there was a third fort constructed in the area, although this is hotly debated.
When the Severan campaigns – under Emperor Severus – came along in the Third Century the Roman soldiers didn’t occupy the fort but instead occupied the nearby camps.
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They were not in the region for very long, on a temporary mission to quell disturbances in northern Caledonia, and so used the camps as a base to launch attacks.
Existing forts like Ardoch were left unused in later life.
It is worth noting that the Roman Empire was huge, spanning Scotland to Syria, and at one point parts of Iran.
Maintaining and controlling such a vast area proved difficult, especially with a tense domestic political situation at the Empire’s heart, Rome.
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Roman presence gradually began to decline from 370 AD.
Each outpost left at staggered times, believed to be returning to Rome to defend the city as it was under attack.
It’s also been suggested that the Empire could no longer defend itself against external threats posed by Germanic tribes expanding into Western Europe.
After the Romans left, Britain fell into chaos as native tribes and foreign invaders battled it out for power.
Anglos, Saxons and Franks soon spread throughout the country.