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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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