Monday, April 16, 2012

Roman in the gloamin'

A great deal of patriotic pride has been associated with the idea that Scotland was never conquered by the Romans. At the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th, there was a profound and fundamental shift in thinking across Europe in terms of how countries imagined their relationship with the Roman Empire. As new political ideas about authoritarianism and liberty were discussed, some writers and thinkers sought to identify their country’s national spirit with the indigenous peoples conquered by Rome. Rediscovering resistance to Rome went hand in hand with the nationalisms that swept across Europe in the 19th century. Scotland – despite its more recent incorporation into the United Kingdom – was no different, and a great deal of patriotic pride was associated with the idea that Scotland was never subdued to the might of Rome.

According to Rebecca H. Jones in "Roman Camps in Scotland", the idea of the “unconquered Scotland” is a myth. The idea of an intermittent pillage is debunked. She has shown that Scotland has more traces of camps – temporary or semi-temporary stopping places for the legions – than any other part of Europe. Rome’s presence north of Hadrian’s Wall was more persistent and more imposing than the idea of the sole hold-out in Europe might suggest. The decline of Rome’s significance in Scotland was more to do with apathy and poverty than with Braveheart-like sending them home again to think again. As the Empire fragmented and over-extended, successive Emperors thought to control the heart around the Mediterranean rather than bother with a province which gave little to the imperial coffers and cost a lot to keep going

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