Trimontium is a frequently-appearing Roman cohort fortress at the Eildon Hills in the territory of Valentia, modern Newstead in the Scottish Borders. It was a post on Dere Street, the Roman highway from Londinium to the Firth of Forth. The location is better-known in literature as the scene of the Queen of Elfland's abduction of Thomas the Rhymer in the Child Ballad.



  • 79-83 CE (The Eagle of the Ninth) – Constructed during the Caledonian campaigns by the 20th Legion.
  • 100 CE (EOTN) – Abandoned.
  • 128 CE (EOTN) – Used as a camp by Guern of the 9th Legion, investigated by Marcus and Esca.
  • 142 CE (Outpost Fortress) – Rebuilt by Lollius Urbicus along with the Antonine Wall.
  • 150 CE (Outpost Fortress) – L. Calpurnius III commands the 7th Dacian Troop.
  • Late 150s CE (A Circlet of Oak Leaves) – Staging ground for Sixth Victrix's suppression of a revolt.
  • 208-211 CE – Antonine Wall reoccupied by Septimius Severus.
  • 342 CE (Frontier Wolf) – Long-abandoned, presumably since 211.
  • C. 488-492 CE (Sword at Sunset) – Captured from Picts and occupied by Artos's Company in Valentian campaign.
  • 600 CE (The Shining Company) – Part of the Gododdin territory north of the raiding range of Bernicia.

128 CE – The Eagle of the NinthEdit

Trimontium, here called "Trinomontium", features as a ruin in chapter 12, "The Whistler in the Dawn", where Marcus and Esca encounter Guern the Roman deserter. The place is known to the local tribes as the Place of Three Hills, but not visited by them.

"Turn south they did, and a few nights later they encamped in the old fort which Agricola had raised at Trinomontium, the Place of the Three Hills.

"Thirty years ago, when Valentia was a Roman province in more than name, before Agricola's work had all been undone by meddling from the Senate, Trinomontium [sic] had been a busy fort. A double Cohort had drilled in the wide forum and slept in the barrack rows; there had been many horses in the stables, cavalry manoeuvres on the gentle southern slope below the ramparts, with the riders crested with tossing yellow plumes, the usual baths and wine-shops and the turf bothies of the women's quarters; and over all, the crested sentries marching to and fro. But now the wild had flowed in again; grass covered the cobbles of the streets, the timber roofs had fallen in, and the red sandstone walls stood gaunt and empty to the sky. The wells were choked with the debris of thirty autumns, and an elder-tree had taken root in one corner of the roofless shrine where once had stood the Cohort's Standard and its gods, and had thrust a jagged gap in the wall to make room for itself. In all that desolation the only living creature that Marcus and Esca found as they wandered through it in the heavy stillness of the summer evening was a lizard basking on a fallen block of stone, which darted off like a whip-lash at their approach. Looking down at the stone, Marcus saw roughly carved on it the charging boar of the Twentieth Legion. Somehow the sight of it brought the desolation home to him very sharply."

150 CE – Outpost FortressEdit

The restored fortress is the setting for this short story from The Capricorn Bracelet. As well as the Dacian cavalry, the fort is apparently manned by the Sixth Victrix, whose Legate arrives from their headquarters at Eburacum.

  • "The fort itself follows much the same pattern from end to end of the Empire, too–the same four gates, and two straight streets, with the Praetorium, the official buildings and officers' quarters, where they cross each other in the middle. The same lines of workshops and store-sheds, armouries and barrack rows, and the horse lines if it's a cavalry fort.
  • "Trimontium is a double fort, infantry and cavalry: a regular legionary cohort, and the Dacians."
  • "That evening I went down to the Four Pigeons just outside the main gate of the fort...the Cavalry mostly tended to gather at the Four Pigeons, while the Legionaries did their drinking and cock-fighting at the Golden Gladiator."
  • "All the town, as well as the fort, turned out to watch, that afternoon, thronging the sloping turf banks of the parade-ground that Three Headed Hill looks down on."
  • "out through the Dexter Gate and on to the parade ground, dividing, troop by troop, left and right as we went, until the whole Cohort was drawn up in two long lines facing each other across the width of the open space."

Circa late 150s CE – A Circlet of Oak LeavesEdit

This short story takes place during the use of the Antonine Wall (142-160s or 208-211 CE), probably during a period of unrest in the late 150s. At this time the fort is manned by legionaries of the Sixth Victrix and Dacian, Tungrian, and Asturian cavalry.

  • " "It was just the same, that time the Picts broke through the Northern Wall – the time the Legate was killed. Six or seven wings of cavalry, the 6th had with them, when they went up to deal with that lot of blue painted devils" "
  • "He remembered the great outpost fort of Trimontum [sic] on the skirts of its three-peaked hill...He remembered the news of unrest filtering down from the north at the end of a long dry summer, the smoke signals feathering the sky; the Dacian Wings under those slim scarlet serpent pennants riding out to join the 6th Legion on its forced march northward."
  • "They had been back in Trimontum [sic] leaving the north quiet behind them, a good while by then, and Aracos was going south next day with a returning supply train....Felix had hunted him out, where he had gone down the river glen to make a last small sacrifice at the Altar to Fortune which one of the garrison had put up long ago....There had been a long silence, broken only by the voice of the little stream that flowed out from under the shrine" [compare Sword at Sunset]

342 CE – Frontier WolfEdit

Trimontium is the next, long-abandoned post on the Roman road south of the main setting of Castellum, a rejected route on the march south.

  • (4) "the outgoing Commander with his little escort topped the first lift of the moors and disappeared from view on the long road that led by the hearth-cold ruins of Trimontium, by the headquarters at Bremenium and Habitancum and the Wall."
  • (6) "He had crossed it the day of his first coming to the fort, by the ridge of higher ground that carried the inland road from Trimontium."
  • (11) "head south, leaving a good trail behind you, down as though to join the Trimontium road."
  • "How if we keep to the east bank of the river, and pick up the causeway road to Trimontium?"
  • "From here, then, it is simple, we go thus – and thus, to meet with the decoy force somewhere here, west of Trimontium, from where it is only two days' march to Bremenium"
  • (13) "Several times that day they saw the smoke of burning steadings on the skyline; and all day long, whenever the hills opened eastward, Trimontium rose against the sky, its three peaks from that angle almost hidden behind each other, and scarcely seemed to move."
  • (16) "Alexios's gaze followed the road that led on and on, out of sight and still on, through forts that were dead now, empty to the wolf and the raven. Habitancum and Bremenium, Trimontium that had died a long time ago; Castellum. The road and the hills. . .They had been the wilderness of desolation waiting for him, then. Now they were the hills of his lost wilderness among which he would not go again."

Circa 488-492 CE – Sword at SunsetEdit

Trimontium is the headquarters of Artos's Company during the Valentian campaign, chapters 12 "Trimontium" to 22 "The Last of the North".

  • (12) "I returned to Trimontium, trying to remember exactly how the merchant had described to me the run of the Tweed. "Here the Tweed Valley narrows into a gorge, running so. Easy to see the strategic importance of the place, isn't it, with the river valley and the road forming between them the main highways from Caledonia to the south; and the Inner Kingdoms of the Picts thrusting down through the Forest in the northwest. . . .Then if Daglaef spake truth, there is a lateral road from Trimontium running thus, up towrd the headwaters of the Tweed and across the high tongue of the Forest to those of the Cluta, and downvalley to Castra Cunetium. . . . it is in my mind that those three roads and those two forts are the pattern of our fate for a good while to come, for on our holding and our handling of them depends our hold on Caledonia." "
  • "From the Wall to Trimontium was a three-day march, and we did it in something over three weeks...we had lost something like a fifth part of our strength, when we came at last in sight of the great red sandstone crouched at the foot of three-peaked Eildon; Trimontium, the Place of Three Hills."
  • "For a good while the fort was hidden from us by the slow moorland billows of the land between. But all the while three-peaked Eildon stood up before us, rising taller into the changing sky as the long miles passed. It was drawing toward evening when Bedwyr and I left the war host behind the last ridge, and riding forward alone, came out through the hazel and birch woods that had clothed the hills of the past day's march, and saw the lean red menace of the old fort, no more than five or six bowshots away."
  • " "The fort was built to hold a double cohort of a thousand for months on end; it would hold three or four times as many for a short space." "
  • "From the shallow valley that ran down ahead of us, the land on the right rose gently in a kind of broad spur to the fortress walls, not cleared back, as it must have been in the old days, but overgrown with the wildest tangle of hazel and elder scrub. Beyond the fort and on either side, it seemed, as well as I could see, that the hillside fell away steeply as the swoop of a falcon, into the wooded river gorge below Eildon. The place, in fact was a spur above the river, and if the three farther sides were what they seemed, only this, the southern side, could be attacked in any force."
  • "[we] watered the horses at the stream which, rising somewhere in the high moors southward, flung its ferny loop around the far shoulder of the ridge and went purling down to join the Tweed"
  • "But there was a deer track, and a postern gate on the north side, and in one place the wall was down to not much over the height of a man, with plenty of stone and rubble still outside to aid climbing, so that it might be possible to get a small band around that way"
  • "Some of our men were throwing Saxon dead and wounded alike over the ramparts at the spot where the escarpment fell almost sheer to the river"
  • (13) [the grave of the Little Dark Woman] ""But if you bury her here in the midst of the camp, she will be quiet with life going on about her and the warmth of the cooking fires overhead."... "Lay her in the old grain pit before the horses go in," I said. "Thrice three horses above her should make all safe, without keeping off the warmth of the cooking fires.""
  • "We went out from the narrow northern gate...From the foot of the fortress wall the hillside dropped almost sheer to the river, thinly covered with broom bushes, hazel and bramble scrub. "This way," said the girl. "Come," and dropped from sight almost as though over a cliff. I followed, and found my feet on a faint path, half lost, narrow and precipitous as a wild-sheep track, that swooped through the scrub."
  • [the village of the Little Dark People] "at last we came up by some small patches of oats and barley, over a last shoulder and the open moor, into a shallow upland hollow where three small lost valleys came together....This time I think we travelled straight, for we left the valley at a different point from our entering it and without fording the stream, and the three peaks of Eildon were before us all the way"
  • "She brought me to a small secret hollow among hazel bushes, not half a bowshot below the walls. Something in the formation of the hillside there must have blanketed sound, for it was not until I was on the very edge of it that I caught the least voice of fallling water. It was only a small sound even then, and oddly bell-like. The girl moved down into the tiny dell, and stooping, lifted aside a mass of bramble and hart's-tongue fern. "See," she said, and I saw a minute upwelling of water that sprang out between two rocks and dropped into a pool the size of a cavalry buckler, and then disappeared under the rocks and fern again. A man might pass within his own length of the water and never know that it was there....I got up, and turned to the postern gate of the fort, which I could see above me, and began to climb."
  • " "When you have need of my people, hang a straw garland on the branch of the big alder tree that grows above the pool for watering the horses, and someone will come....There is one place that is clearly better than all others, where the burn comes down to join the open river, close above the ford. We water our cattle there when we move them from pasture to pasture. You will know the place, and the tree." "
  • "An elder sapling had rooted itself in the cracked doorsill of a ruined guardroom." [compare The Eagle of the Ninth]

600 CE – The Shining CompanyEdit

Eildon and the Roman road are once again a rejected route for a covert march southward.

(14) "To take the direct way by three-peaked Eildon and on down the great upland road through the heart of Gododdin territory would have seemed most likely, but once past the hosting place at Habitancum it would bring us overnear to the empty land–empty for the good reason that in the past years it had suffered too many raids from Bernicia–and our left flank would be dangerously exposed...So we followed the western road, three days longer than the other, but well clear of the Saxons' reach almost all the way; and for the most part through a still-living land"