Romans paid Scots protection money

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The Independent Online

The discovery of a substantial silver treasure in northern Scotland suggests Rome may have resorted to bribery and financial sweeteners as well as force in its ultimately unsuccessful efforts to subdue the Caledonian tribes.

The discovery of a substantial silver treasure in northern Scotland suggests Rome may have resorted to bribery and financial sweeteners as well as force in its ultimately unsuccessful efforts to subdue the Caledonian tribes.

Excavations at Birnie, near Elgin, 130 miles north of Edinburgh, unearthed 300 coins worth £20,000 in modem terms. They date from the beginning of the 3rd century AD, the time of a Roman attempt to pacify Scotland.

It is known from literary sources that the governor of Britain spent "a large sum" to "buy peace" from one of the tribes of southern Scotland. Now the Birnie discovery and an analysis of past finds suggests Rome paid a lot of money to the tribes of northern Scotland as well.

Re-analysis by the National Museums of Scotland of coin hoard evidence has shown four main areas where payments were apparently made - southern Scotland (south of Edinburgh), Fife and Dundee, the Aberdeen area, and the southern shore of the Moray Firth.

The discovery shows Rome was politically active in the far north of Scotland, something up till now not fully appreciated. Most payments seem to have been of some 200-400 silver coins and many appear to have been used by their Scottish recipients as offerings to appease native gods.

This was probably the case with the Birnie hoard, as the available evidence suggests it had been deliberately buried as part of the ritual decommissioning of some sort of structure within a settlement. The coins were buried in a pot in a hole that had been occupied by a timber upright or pole.

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