Why didn't the Romans conquer Ireland or the rest of Scotland?

Aug 2013
560
Earth
#1
I can never rap my head around the fact that the Romans never conquered Ireland, perhaps they tried and failed I don't know but as far as I do know I don't think they even tried. Why? These people were not some powerful kingdom, they have beautiful land for agriculture. It would have probably been much easier to finish off conquering Scotland than building two giant walls. Those walls could have been used elsewhere, like the Rhine. If they had completed their conquests of these provinces Ireland would have been one of the safest places in the empires. Speaking of safe places, Spain and North Africa should have been wonderful places for production of trade goods and soldiers, how were the Western Emperors so incompetent to lose these advantages over a disorganized people such as the Goths and Vandals?

Someone please make sense of this for me.
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,630
#2
Rome was at the point where it really couldn't expand any more. All empires have limits, and Rome had reached hers. It was probably a little bit overstretched as it was.

I'm not sure how much that played into Roman thinking however. Certainly Hadrian at least seems to have wanted to keep the empire manageable, as he simply abandoned some of the territory Trajan had conquered and gave consideration to abandoning Dacia as well.

Ireland and Scotland were also distant, poor, wild, and undeveloped from the Roman perspective. That probably served to limit military adventurism. Neither would be a particularly rich conquest. History may have been a little different if either one had Dacia's wealth in gold.
 
Aug 2013
560
Earth
#3
Rome was at the point where it really couldn't expand any more. All empires have limits, and Rome had reached hers. It was probably a little bit overstretched as it was.

I'm not sure how much that played into Roman thinking however. Certainly Hadrian at least seems to have wanted to keep the empire manageable, as he simply abandoned some of the territory Trajan had conquered and gave consideration to abandoning Dacia as well.

Ireland and Scotland were also distant, poor, wild, and undeveloped from the Roman perspective. That probably served to limit military adventurism. Neither would be a particularly rich conquest. History may have been a little different if either one had Dacia's wealth in gold.
There are many more things to a land aside from how much gold it has, and if you're going to talk about the over-expansion policy, you should know that Rome was still trying to push into Mesopotamia at this time I think.
 

Scaeva

Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
5,630
#5
There are many more things to a land aside from how much gold it has, and if you're going to talk about the over-expansion policy, you should know that Rome was still trying to push into Mesopotamia at this time I think.
Trajan and Septimius Severus?

Mesopotamia was the cradle of civilization, and one of the most developed, and richest, regions of the world at the time. The regions now known as Ireland and Scotland were not.
 
Last edited:
Aug 2013
560
Earth
#6
Why would you want to?

They didn't like Britain wet cold etc Ireland and Northern Scotland?
If they had conquered those areas practically all of the western empire would have been secure, their only worries would have been the Eastern empire (if it separated) and the tribes across the Rhine. More people would have met more soldiers serving in the army in the future and it also would have meant not having to have a strong garrison there to protect the province from invaders as there would have been virtually none, they'd have to worry more about insurrections though. Then all they would really have to do is focus on the Rhine for the western half of the empire.

Trajan and Septimius Severus?

Mesopotamia was the cradle of civilization, and one of the most developed, and richest, regions of the world at the time. The regions now known as Ireland and Scotland were not.
And it also had one of the most powerful empires in the world looming over it, interest in those lands would lead to wars that would cost the lives of countless men and presumably women and children. Ireland and Scotland on the other hand did not, and if the Romans hadn't poured 5,000 men into Scotland and instead sent a smaller contingent the Picts might have been less ready to band together to fight the common enemy and would have of course been conquered much more easily if they were divided. Hernan Cortez is a model example of how to do this.
 
Last edited:
May 2011
13,980
Navan, Ireland
#7
What we today call Ireland and Scotland were right on the periphery of the Roman world and really of little interest.

Scotland was invaded and occupied but dropped? why because the Scots were simply 'too hard' ? well Scots might like to think that but in reality no one in Western Europe was so its more likely it simply wasn't worth the expense.

Ireland much the same.

Britain had a garrison of THREE legions ---civilised Iberian Peninsula had one -- that costs money what revenue comes in return?

The Western/Northern extremes of the archipelago of the west coast of Europe were not simply worth garrisoning, the more fertile Southern bits were (just).
 
Jan 2014
2,577
Westmorland
#8
I can never rap my head around the fact that the Romans never conquered Ireland, perhaps they tried and failed I don't know but as far as I do know I don't think they even tried
They never tried. According to Tacitus, Agricola (the Roman general who drove Roman power north in Britain in the first century AD) saw Ireland and decided that he could probably take and hold it with one legion. But they never bothered, probably for the same reasons as set out below in relation to northern Scotland.

It would have probably been much easier to finish off conquering Scotland than building two giant walls
It absolutely wouldn't have been, which is why they didn't do it. Some Scots like to make out that Rome never conquered them because they are such tough nuts, but that's nonsense. Agricola pushed all the way into northern Scotland and destroyed the locals at the unlocated battle of Mons Graupius. But northern Scotland presents geographical and logistical headaches for would-be invaders (and, indeed, for the Scottish crown). There is great deal of mountainous upland, few roads and frequently terrible weather. You would need a huge number of men to hold down the Highlands and there is virtually nothing there worth having in return. It made far more sense to have the limes further south, probably with the intervallate tribes of Lothian, Strathclyde and the southern uplands acting as a sort of buffer zone.

That the Romans felt pretty secure is demonstrated by the fact that it was not until the fourth century that the forts of the Hadrianic line were actually made properly defensible - projecting towers, narrow entrances et al.
how were the Western Emperors so incompetent to lose these advantages over a disorganized people such as the Goths and Vandals?
Simple. They kept falling out amongst themselves and increasingly used the barbarians as muscle. The barbarians eventually just got in via the back door.

Regards,

Peter
 
Nov 2010
7,666
Cornwall
#9
Agree with comments above like 'why?' and that there was no need. Why go further north?

If you look at it strategically - after the initial Claudian enthusiasm resources were not given to the Governor of Britain to enable him to expand or to maintain such expansion. He was given sufficient resources to maintain a status quo.

On the other hand - in my childhood they used to peddle that old line about the Romans 'never going past Exeter' - I think it partly came from Cornish Nationalist nonsense, trying to pretend this imaginary country held off the Romans.

Now of course they have found sevral villas and buried coins etc, showing that Cornwall was just as much a part of a leisurely Romano-British society as every other English county.
 
Aug 2013
560
Earth
#10
They never tried. According to Tacitus, Agricola (the Roman general who drove Roman power north in Britain in the first century AD) saw Ireland and decided that he could probably take and hold it with one legion. But they never bothered, probably for the same reasons as set out below in relation to northern Scotland.

It absolutely wouldn't have been, which is why they didn't do it. Some Scots like to make out that Rome never conquered them because they are such tough nuts, but that's nonsense. Agricola pushed all the way into northern Scotland and destroyed the locals at the unlocated battle of Mons Graupius. But northern Scotland presents geographical and logistical headaches for would-be invaders (and, indeed, for the Scottish crown). There is great deal of mountainous upland, few roads and frequently terrible weather. You would need a huge number of men to hold down the Highlands and there is virtually nothing there worth having in return. It made far more sense to have the limes further south, probably with the intervallate tribes of Lothian, Strathclyde and the southern uplands acting as a sort of buffer zone.

That the Romans felt pretty secure is demonstrated by the fact that it was not until the fourth century that the forts of the Hadrianic line were actually made properly defensible - projecting towers, narrow entrances et al.


Simple. They kept falling out amongst themselves and increasingly used the barbarians as muscle. The barbarians eventually just got in via the back door.

Regards,

Peter
Every country has its own unique qualities, the land is not without its boon, strategically speaking I would have found it better to not leave a front open.

As for natural resources, to say that these islands are without precious metals such as gold and silver hidden in the earth would be a grievous error. Then there's the pottery, the agriculture, the wool and so many other things that would make the subjugation of the entire islands so much more endearing. And then there's more people you can collect taxes from!
 

Similar History Discussions