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The Battle of Mons Graupius

Contributed by David Verne

In late summer, Agricola and his legions have set up camp at Mons Graupius, a hill in northern Scotland. After years of trying to get the Caledonians to face them in open battle, they have finally succeeded by seizing the grain storages just after harvest. Facing possible starvation over winter, 30,000 Caledonian warriors have gathered under the chief Calgacus to throw the Romans out. The Romans were outnumbered with only 17,000 men, and the Caledonians held the high ground. Agricola deployed his foreign auxiliaries as his main line with his cavalry on the wings, while holding his legionaries in reserve.

The Caledonians opened the battle with a chariot charge, but were driven off by Roman skirmishers and cavalry. The chariots were pulled by two horses and as soon as one was killed, its corpse prevented the chariot from moving. Although the Caledonians held the high ground, the Roman infantry charged uphill, while their cavalry made a flanking attack. The battle soon turned into a rout as the lightly armored Caldedonians fled into the nearby woods. There were a reported 10,000 Caledonian dead and captured with only 360 Roman casualties, although these numbers are disputed. This was the most northern battle Rome ever fought and the last against war chariots. After this battle, the entire island of Britain was under Roman control, but it would not stay that way. [1]

My Take by David Verne
Agricola was recalled to Rome and given a Triumph; after which he retired from public life. It isn't known whether Domitian did this out of jealousy or if it was a reward for 10 years of hard service in the north. A fleet sailed around the tip of Scotland to confirm that Britain was an island, and after that Rome withdrew from Scotland. Eventually the Emperor Hadrian will build a wall across the island dividing it in two. The Romans decided that it would be best to leave the Scottish tribes alone to fight their mortal enemies, other Scottish tribes.

See Also


  1. Dando-Collins, Stephen (2010). Legions of Rome. St. Martin's Press. 

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