Gnaeus Julius Agricola (June 13, 40 – August 23, 93 AD), usually referred to as Agricola (Latin for "the farmer") was a Roman general who conquered parts of Britain.
Possible visit to Shetland
In a work written by Tacitus, he is said to have 'discovered and subdued Orkney' around AD 84. Tacitus's subsequent statement, 'Dispecta est et Thule,' usually assumed to be the first reference to Shetland, has been the subject of much discussion. The phrase is usually translated as 'Thule too was observed from afar', but in recent years the classicist Stan Wolfson has argued at length that it actually means: 'A close examination of Thule also was made', indicating that Agricola's troops landed here. He also argues that a hitherto puzzling reference in the text, where Agricola's troops are said to land at 'Trucculensis' harbour, actually refers to 'Tulensis' (Thule) harbour, which he suggests might be Bressay Sound. Wolfson's detailed argument can be read at http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/fartherlands/ and he has just produced a book-length treatment of the subject (Tacitus, Thule and Caledonia, ISBN: 9781407302744).
Agricola's life is well covered and can be read in some of the links below. The main source for his life is Tacitus'De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae. Tacitus was Agricola's son-in-law, which suggests a massive bias already.
He was born in southern Gaul to a senatorial family, and distinguished himself in campaigns in Britain. One of the leading events in this was the Battle of Mons Graupius against the Caledonians, led by Calgacus. The location of this battle is unknown, but it is often identified with Bennachie in Aberdeenshire. It has also been suggested that he campaigned in Ireland, but this is not proven.
Notably in regard to Shetland, he also instructed the prefect of the fleet to sail around the north coast of Britain, confirming for the first time that it was in fact an island.