A long way from Rome

New horizons always presented a particular challenge to the Romans - sooner or later they just had to find out for themselves what lay beyond.  

In 43AD the legions landed in southern England with serious thoughts of conquest on their minds. Julius Caesar had done some initial groundwork in 55BC but found himself called back across the channel to deal with more pressing matters in the shape of Vercingertorix and his Gauls.  

Three decades on, with England and Wales no longer a cause for concern, the Romans were marching across the Cheviots and Carter Bar (the present day border dividing England and Scotland) to find the Scottish Borders at their feet and land stretching north as far as the eye could see.  

For the next hundred years or so the Romans invested considerable time and effort in this, the most northerly part of their Empire. Their road from York, Dere Street, was driven north to reach the Firth of Forth by 81AD and stretches are still very much in evidence.  

The local tribes, the Votadini and the Selgovae were subdued, and the Romans under Agricola set about building a major supply base on the Tweed. It lay under the shadow of the Eildon Hills that was to gave it a name, Trimontium, ‘the place of the three hills'.  

The men of the Ninth ‘Hispania' and 20th Legions manned Trimontium at various times in its history and the sprawling extent of the camp from Newstead, east to well beyond the railway viaduct, is best shown by aerial photographs.  

These together with artifacts and a more detailed story of Trimontium, thought to have been abandoned in 180AD, can be found displayed at the Trimontium exhibition in Melrose.  

The exhibition is run by the Trimontium Trust and lists among its supporters, past and present, Rosemary Sutcliff and Lindsay Davis, both well known for their fictional books from Roman times. Sutcliff's wonderful  ‘Eagle of the Ninth' was one of several literary forays she made into Roman Scotland.  

Evidence of Roman connections at Trimontium was uncovered when a railway cutting for the Waverley line was dug out in 1846. Between 1905 and 1910 Trimontium's importance was assured when local amateur archeologist James Curle carried out excavations on behalf of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.  

It turned out to be the most important Roman military complex between Hadrian's Wall and the Antonine Wall guarding a crossing of the Tweed at Newstead. Excavations have revealed some of what was going on there, but much has still to be done. Helpful boards and viewing platforms have been erected at Trimontium and guided walks take place throughout the summer months.  

Step into history | Housesteads Roman Fort, Hadrian's Wall

Kelso Border Union Show
Grey Mare's Tail
Smailholm Tower
Scott's View
Melrose Abbey
The River Tweed