The Roman Invasion of...Ayrshire!

The first invasion of Ayrshire that history has some record of was the Roman invasion of 81 and 82 A.D., led by the Roman general Agricola.

In 79 A.D., the Romans has pushed into the South of Scotland and established a camp at Dalwinston in the valley of the Nith. In 80 A.D. they pushed into the East of Scotland and established a camp at Woodhead in Lothian. From these bases, it seems, they then launched a pincer attack in 81 A.D. against the Damnonii, a tribe that is mentioned by Ptolemy as occupying the Clyde valley and Ayrshire.

The point at which the pincers are thought to close is in the vicinity of Loudon Hill, which has been identified with Vanduara, one of the five 'towns' of the Damnonii mentioned by Ptolemy. If so, this could suggest that Loudon Hill was a sacred centre of the Damnonii. If the tribe had such a sacred centre, there could be no finer location than Loudon Hill, a striking geographical feature positioned between the Clyde Valley and Ayrshire, the two centres of population of the Damnonii.

The campaign of 81 A.D. seems to have led to the subjugation of the Damnonii, although perhaps not entirely, as the next year Argicola apparently sailed across the firth of Clyde to invade Argyll, then occupied by a tribe called the Epidii, who may have been supporting the Damnonii in some way or giving refuge to Damnonii who refused to surrender to the Romans. Most of these details are supposition and inference, but with some pieces of evidence drawn from Ptolemy and Tacitus's account of the campaigns of Agricola, which mentions the campaigns touching on Ayrshire as follows:
"XXIII. The fourth summer (81 A.D.) was taken up in securing his hold upon the territory he had overrun, and he discovered a good boundary line in Britain itself, if the valour of our armies and the honour of Rome could allow such a thing. For the Firths of Forth and Clyde, tidal waters running far back inland from either sea, are divided by a narrow isthmus only, across which forts were now planted. All the country to the south of the line was securely held, and the hostile tribes were pushed beyond it into what was practically another island.

XXIV. In the fifth year (82 A.D.) of his expeditions Agricola crossed over the Clyde, his ship leading the way ; here he fell in with tribes previously unknown, and subdued them in a series of successful encounters, and he strongly garrisoned that part of Britain which faces Ireland. This was not done as a precaution but with an eye to future conquest, on the theory that Ireland, lying between Britain and Spain and easily accessible from the sea of Gaul, constitutes a valuable link between tho
se provinces which form the backbone of the empire."

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