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Local History of Falkirk
Antonine Wall

Remains of the Antonine Wall
Antonine WallIt may not be out of place to give here some account of the wall of Antonine. The wall or rampart extended from Carriden on the Forth, two miles west from Blackness, and about the same distance east from Bo'ness, to West Kilpatrick on the Clyde. The date, which may be depended on, assigned to the building of the wall is between 138 and 140 A.D. Taking the length of this wall from Kilpatrick on the Clyde to Caeridden or Carriden on the Forth, its extent would be 39,726 Roman paces, which exactly agrees with the modern measurement of 36 English miles and 620 yards. This rampart, which was of earth, and rested on a stone foundation, was upwards of twenty feet high and four and twenty feet thick. Along the whole extent of the wall there was a vast ditch or prútentura on the outward or north side, which was generally twenty feet deep and forty feet wide, and which, there is reason to believe, might be filled with water when occasion required.

This ditch and rampart were strengthened at both ends, and throughout its whole extent, by about twenty forts, three being at each extremity, and the remainder placed between at the distance of about two English miles from one another; and it is highly probable that these stations were designedly placed on the previous fortifications of Agricola. The following, going from east to west, are the names and sites of some of the stations which have been identified:- Rough Castle, Castlecary, Westerwood, Bunhill, Auchindinny, Kirkintilloch, Bemulie, East Kilpatrick, Castlehill, Duntocher, West Kilpatrick. It will be seen that to a certain extent they are on the line of Edinburgh and Glasgow railway, and throughout nearly its whole length that of the Forth and Clyde canal. Its necessary appendage, a military road, ran behind the rampart from end to end, for the use of the troops and for keeping up the usual communications between the station or forts.

From inscriptions on some of the foundation stones, which have been dug up, it appears that the Sixth legion, with detachments from the sixth and twentieth legions and some auxili aries, executed these vast military works, equally creditable to their skill and perseverance. Dunglas near the western extremity, and Blackness near the eastern extremity of the rampart, afforded the Romans commodious harbours for their shipping, as also did Crammond, about five miles west from Edinburgh. This wall is called in the popular language of the country Grime's or Graham's Dyke. In 1868 a large oblong slab, in first-rate preservation, was dug up at Bo'ness, in the parish of Kinneil (Bede's Peanfahel, "the head of the wall"), containing an inscription as distinct as it was on the day when it came from a Roman chisel. The remarkable stone is now in the Scottish Antiquarian Museum.

We have no distinct mention of the Caledonians again until the reign of Commodus, when, about the year 183, these troublesome barbarians appear to have broken through the northern wall, slain the general in command of the Roman forces, and pillaged the lowland country beyond. They were, however, driven back by Ulpius Marcellus, who succeeded by prudent management in maintaining peace for a number of years. In the beginning of the reign of Severus, however, the Caledonians again broke out, but were kept in check by Virius Lupus, who appears to have bribed rather than beaten the barbarians into conformity.

The Antiquarian rediscovery of the Antonine Wall
By Lawrence Keppie (pdf)

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