Scotlands History

Barbarian conspiracy

In AD 367 Roman Britain was attacked at the same time by the Picts, Gaels, Irish and Saxons. The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus called it ‘barbarica conspiratio’ – a ‘barbarian conspiracy’. 

It is impossible to say if the enemies of Rome planned their attacks together but for a year the Empire fought battles on all sides. The Alamanni, Sarmatians, Quadi, Austoriani and Goths attacked the Romans from Gaul to Africa and around the Danube.

During this period practically the whole Roman world heard the trumpet-call of war, as savage peoples stirred themselves and raided the frontiers nearest to them... the Picts, Saxons, Scots [Irish] and Attacotti were bringing continual misery upon Britain...

...a concerted attack by the barbarians had reduced the province of Britain to the verge of ruin.

Ammianus Marcellinus, Res Gestae Divi Augustae

The ‘Picts’ War’ saw devastating attacks on Hadrian’s Wall. Marcellinus tells us the Picts were ‘roving at large and causing great devastation’. The Romans had to send Theodosius the Elder and a group of Roman regiments to restore order. Theodosius restored the Roman cities and garrison towns, and reinforced the frontier.


  • An image of Roman soldiers coming under attack by fire in battle

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