A Comparative Study Of The Historiography Of The Battle Of Mons Graupius
By Lynsay A Shepherd
(Advanced Higher History Dissertation, 2005)
Introduction: If we are to believe all that the Roman writer Cornelius Tacitus writes in his text “Agricola”, the Battle of Mons Graupius was supposed to have been a massive set-piece battle fought in the hills of Scotland. It was the culmination of a campaign led by the governor of Britain, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, in a bid to control Scotland and to rule over the barbarians of the North.
There is only this one source from near the time the battle is alleged to have been fought, written by Tacitus, the son-in-law of the governor. There are many difficulties with using “Agricola” as a reliable source, issues which will be discussed later, but essentially there are areas in the text which do not quite add-up.
Over the years, the location of the battle has baffled historians and archaeologists alike. Many texts have been written on the subject though as yet no-one has succeeded in pinpointing the location of the battle. Experts today, such as David Wooliscroft, aren’t even sure if the battle happened on quite the scale Tacitus says it did. A few of the sites that are most commonly identified in a variety of books are Durno-Bennachie, Raedykes and Pass of Grange, though none have been conclusively argued. The quest to find the site remains one of history’s toughest mysteries and it is not only the location of the battlefield that puzzles the experts. My dissertation will compare a range of views from historians and archaeologists on various aspects of the much debated battle of Mons Graupius – including reasons as to why the battle was fought, the derivation of the name and ideas about the date, location and scale of the battle.