Dad and I paid a return visit to this remarkable, 6-metre high sculpture of a Roman Legionary’s head and helmet by Svetlana Kondakova, which now sits right on the line of the Antonine Wall, the ancient fortified boundary of the mighty Roman Empire, near Kilsyth and Nethercroy.
I grew up in a town on the edge of Glasgow which had been a major fortification on the Antonine Wall (begun in AD 142), a vast series of fortifications and barriers, which stretched from the Clyde to the Forth, bisecting Scotland across what today we call the Central Belt (between Edinburgh and Glasgow), and this is situated pretty close by. Unlike the more famous Hadrian’s Wall, it’s harder to see as much of its remains as the more northerly Antonine Wall was built mostly of wooden pallisades and turf and, of course, the normal Roman precautions of defensive ditches. While it doesn’t leave as much above ground as the stone-built Hadrian Wall further south, it does leave a very clear mark in the landscape of Scotland to this day, which you can cleary see and follow (it makes for a great walking route).
I love the positioning here: our legionary is facing out north, from the wall, the northernmost outpost of the Roman Empire, across the lower land below that leads over to the huge, geological bulk of the Campsie Hills in the distance (a long chaing of extinct volcanoes and major geological landmark), as if still scanning for any potential barbarian attacks. I also like that they chose not to paint it, but to allow it to be bare metal and oxidise naturally. The more stretched out tones of sunlight as we slip into autumn here suit that colouring rather well, I thought.