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The History of Glasgow
Chapter II - The Roman Period and After


UNAFFECTED alike by Julius Caesar's invasion of Britain and by the conquests accomplished during the reign of the Emperor Claudius, about a hundred years later, the northern parts of the island were for a long time protected by their inaccessibility, and it was not till the seventy-ninth year of the Christian era that the Roman legions entered territory north of the Solway. In the summer of the previous year Julius Agricola arrived to take on hand the government of Britain, and his plans for the subjugation of the northern tribes were so successfully carried through that in the course of his third summer campaign he had proceeded from Annandale to the strath of the River Clyde, through Lanarkshire and Stirlingshire, and into the vale of Strathern. The country thus acquired was secured by the formation of roads and the erection of forts, and in the year 81, Agricola, entering upon a work of special importance to the Glasgow district, constructed a line of fortifications along the narrow neck of land between the Firths of Forth and Clyde. Beyond this barrier operations against the northern tribes were conducted for the ensuing ,five years, and were successfully terminated in the great battle of "Mons Graupius," fought in the year 86. But the territory thus temporarily added to the Roman province remained in that position for so short a time that the effect on the inhabitants was probably of little account. Agricola

was speedily recalled from the scene of his military triumphs, and after his departure and on till the visit of the Emperor Hadrian, about the year 122, we have little knowledge of what happened in Britain, but the fact that the rampart then constructed between the Solway Firth and the River Tyne was fixed as the limit of the Roman province indicates that the former subjugation of the northern tribes had secured no permanent advantage.

One result of the movements of the Roman soldiers and sailors during Agricola's campaigns has been of lasting interest, inasmuch as their observations and reports supplied the bulk of the information obtained by the geographer, Ptolemy, regarding the number and position of the Caledonian tribes, their names, the situation of their towns, and the leading geographical features of the country. From Ptolemy's maps and descriptions it is learned that the modern Strathclyde was included in the great nation of the Damnonii, which extended as far north as the River Tay. South of the Firths of Forth and Clyde the Damnonii possessed the territories now forming the counties of Ayr, Lanark and Renfrew, and north of these estuaries the counties of Stirling and Dumbarton with adjoining districts. In the southern of these two groups were three towns: Colania, near the source of the Clyde; Coria, supposed to be near Carstairs, where are numerous Roman remains; [One of the marches of the burgh of Lanark's lands in this quarter was called Watling Street in a charter dated 10th February, 1632 (Lanark Records, P. 324).] and the third Vandogara or Vanduara, at one time claimed for Paisley, but now believed to have been situated at Loudon Hill in Ayrshire. Coria was on the main Roman highway which passed from the south into Clydesdale, and, besides the westward branch road breaking off from that point into Ayrshire, it is not improbable that the main line was there joined by an eastward branch leading to and from Tweeddale and passing the large camp at Lyne, [In the excavations made here by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in igoi (Proceedings, vol. 35, PP. 154-86) two coins were found, one of Titus, A.D. 7, and the other of Trajan, A.D. 104-10. ] a view which is supported by the fact that in later times this was the line of highway from Glasgow to towns in the Tweed valley.

Recurring to the main road down the Clyde valley, it is shown on the map in Chalmers' Caledonia as divided into two sections a few miles below Carstairs, a northern branch going off in the direction of Falkirk, while the western portion goes on to Kilpatrick, taking Glasgow in its way. For the offshoot shown near the River Calder and leading to the supposed "Vanduara" or Paisley, it is now considered there was not sufficient authority. But with regard to the western and northern roads, one leading to the west end and the other to the east end of the Antonine `'Nall, the map may be accepted as sufficiently correct.

The wall just referred to, placed on the line of Agricola's forts between the Forth and Clyde, was constructed about the year 142, by which time the frontier of the Roman province had again been advanced thus far beyond the limits established by Hadrian, but though the area within the wall, amid many harassing interruptions, was at one time believed to remain as part of the province till the Romans finally left the island in 410, it seems to be fairly well established that, early in the reign of the Emperor Commodus (180-92), the Romans finally abandoned the whole country north of the Cheviots and Solway. One of the most serious invasions which the retained province had to endure was organized by Picts from the north and Scots from the west, in 360, and in the course of the next eight years part of the district south of Hadrian's Wall seems to have been in possession of the invaders, but in 369 they were expelled by the eminent Roman commander, Theodosius, who renewed the stations along the wall, and effectively protected the province against further interference for the time.

[For an account of the Antonine Wall, see full Report on the subject by the Glasgow Archaeological Society, issued in 1899. Reference may also be made to Stuart's Caledonia Romana (1845) with its excellent illustrations.

The results of the more recent investigations are fully described in Curie's- Roman Frontier Post and its People (1911) and Macdonald's Roman Wall in Scotland (1911).]

In consequence of the Roman occupation of the country being of so short duration, the influence of their civilization on the inhabitants of the district where Glasgow is now situated was probably slight, but we have really no definite knowledge of their condition at that time. So far as physical appearances go, there is little existing evidence of Clydesdale having passed through such an experience. Isolated portions of the wall, not far from the city, can, however, still be pointed out, and inscribed stones taken from the original earthworks are preserved; [There is now preserved in the Hunterian Museum at the University a fine collection of inscribed stones and other Roman remains, illustrative of the nature of the Roman occupation in this part of the country. See Dr. James Macdonald's Tituli Hunteriani: An Account of the Roman Stones in the Hunterian Museum (1897) : also Dr. George Macdonald's Roman Wall in Scotland (iii).

In Glasgow; Past and Present, published in 1856, p. 663, John Buchanan. says: "Coins of the Romans have been found in the vicinity of the Cathedral, especially those of the warlike Hadrian, and of Crispina, wife of Commodus, the degenerate son of Marcus Aurelius, some of which are in my possession."

The edition of Past and Present referred to throughout the present volume is that of 1851-6. In David Robertson's edition of 1884 the-contents are made readily accessible by its complete Index.] some of the thoroughfares of the city seem to be identified with the line of the Roman highway, and coins and other Roman relics have been discovered. In 1876 a Roman bowl of Samian ware was unearthed on the Green, [MacGeorge's Old Glasgow, pp. 249, 253; Catalogue of Glasgow Exhibition, 1901, No. 200; Scottish History and Life (1902), p. 33, from which work the' illustration here given is reproduced.] and in the course of some digging operations, carried out in 1867 at Yorkhill, near the east bank of the River Kelvin, opposite to Partick, some Roman coins, fragments of broken vessels and a small quantity of wheat were found. One of the coins bore the image of the Emperor Trajan, who reigned A.D. 98-117. [Catalogues of Glasgow Exhibitions (1888), Nos. 85-92; (1901), Nos. 203-10; also Taylor's Partich (1902), pp. 2, 3.]

It is generally believed that at least as early as the second century the Christian religion had made its way into Britain under Roman auspices, and that a Christian church had been established within the province, but it is not till the closing years of the Roman occupation that we have specific information regarding the spread of the faith in the northern districts. Towards the end of the fourth century Ninian, a native of Britain, was trained at Rome in the doctrine and discipline of the Western Church, and, having been ordained a bishop, was sent on an evangelizing mission to the western parts of his own country. On his way thither he visited the famous St. Martin at Tours, in Gaul, and having obtained masons who accompanied him to Whithorn, he there, about the year 397, built that church of white stone, which is best known by its Latin name of Candida Casa. From his headquarters thus established Ninian went on a mission to the people whom Bede, writing two centuries later, designates the Southern Picts, and as a result of his efforts they abandoned their idolatrous worship and received the true faith. It has been maintained, on grounds which need not be repeated here, that Ninian's missionary labours extended over the whole eastern seaboard of Scotland, but it is sufficient for present purposes to point out that in any case Glasgow lay in the route which he would be likely to take both in going and -returning, [Skene's Celtic Scotland, ii. pp. z, 2 ; St. Ninian, pp. 1-15; S. Ninian by Archibald B. Scott (1916).] and whether in pursuit of his mission, or resting from his labours, it is probable that he took the opportunity of making there a sojourn of some duration. Indeed, so much

is implied by the statement in Joceline's Life of S. Kentigern that it was Ninian who had consecrated the cemetery where Fergus was laid, procedure likely to be entered into only by one who had more attachment to the place than could be expected of an occasional visitor. [According to Dempster, who cites authorities in his Ecclesiastical History of Scotland, edition 1829, vol. ii. p. 502, St. Ninian had an exceptional place in the ritual of Glasgow Cathedral.]

Another apostle of the Christian faith, the son of a magistrate in a provincial town, comes into notice just about the time that Ninian finished his course. By his own account Patrick's birthplace was "the village of Bannavem of Tabernia," a district not identified, though it is likely to have been on the south-west border of Scotland, seeing it was exposed to the incursions of the Scots. The honour of being Patrick's birthplace has been claimed for Old Kilpatrick, a village situated about eleven miles west of Glasgow and five miles east of Dumbarton, and also for Dumbarton itself, the ancient Alcluyd, but any information we have on the subject is too vague for more than mere conjecture.

['The writer of the Old Statistical Account of the Parish of Old Kilpatrick says: "there are many circumstances favouring this tradition," such as there being an ancient stone in the churchyard bearing a figure supposed to represent St. Patrick; and in the River Clyde, opposite to the church, there was a large stone or rock, visible at low water, called St. Patrick's Stone.

The chapel of Dumbarton Castle is mentioned in 1271. It was dedicated to St. Patrick; and on 23rd March, 1390-1, King Robert III., referring to grants to the chapel, by previous sovereigns, of eight merks yearly furth of the burgh ferms of Dumbarton, added two merks yearly from the same source, the latter gift being for the weal of the souls of himself and of Annabella, his consort (Origines Parochiales, vol. i. p. 24; Reg. Mag. Sig. i. No. 802). One of the burgh fairs sanctioned by royal charter dated 13th December, 16og, was held on St. Patrick's Day (17th March) and continued for four days (Reg. Mag. Sig. vii. No. 190).]

Patrick dwelt at "Bannavem" till his sixteenth year, when he was taken captive and brought to Ireland with many others. Employed in tending sheep, he remained six years in slavery, and then effected his escape in a ship which was crossing to his own country. After living with his parents in the Roman province for a few years, he returned to Ireland as a missionary, and preached the gospel to the people for the next fifteen or twenty years, at the expiry of which time he was consecrated a bishop. Patrick's episcopate was crowned with success and seems to have lasted till the latter half of the fifth century. In his own writings we are told that through his ministry clerics had been ordained for the people, and that " those who never had the knowledge of God and had hitherto only worshipped unclean idols have lately become the people of the Lord."

A mass of legendary lore has gathered round the names of Ninian and Patrick and the evangelistic work carried on by them and their disciples, but into the speculations thereby raised it is unnecessary to enter here. It is enough for the present purpose to have called attention to such accounts as seem to be historical regarding the work of these two famous men, seeing Glasgow, or at least its vicinity, can reasonably claim some connection with each.

For a century and a half after the withdrawal of the Romans we have scarcely any contemporary information as to what was happening in this country, but about the end of the sixth century, when our knowledge becomes less obscure, four separate nations are found in possession. The Picts, divided into northern and southern sections, still maintained their hold in the parts north of the Forth, except perhaps where they had been displaced by the Scots from Ireland, who were then established in Dalriada and the western isles. Anglian or Saxon settlers occupied the east coast from the Forth to the Tweed and beyond ; and the remaining people consisted of the Britons, who possessed what was left of the old Roman province, including Strathclyde, with its chief seat at Alcluyd or Dumbarton, and with territory extending as far south as the River Derwent in Cumberland.


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