Hadrian's Wall was a stone and turf fortification, built by the Romanss across the width of Great Britain to prevent military raids by the Pictish tribes of Scotland to the north.
The wall was the northern border of the Empire in Britain for most of the Roman Empire's rule, and also the most heavily fortified border in the Empire. In addition to its use as a military fortification, it is thought that the gates through the wall would also have served as customs posts to allow trade to be taxed.
A significant portion of the wall still exists, particularly the mid-section, and for much of its length, the wall can be followed on foot. It is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern England. It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
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6 Other Fortifications
7 See also
9 External Links
Hadrian's Wall ran for 120 kilometres, virtually due West, from Wallsend on the River Tyne to the shore of the Solway Firth. The wall ran some miles south of the present border between modern England and Scotland, being nearest at the Western end.
Hadrian's Wall was built following a visit by Roman emperor Hadrian. Hadrian was experiencing military difficulties not just in Britain, but from the peoples of various conquered lands across the empire, including Egypt, Judea (Palestine), Libya, Mauretania, and many of the peoples conquered by his predecessor Trajan, so was keen to impose order. However the construction of such an impressive wall was probably also built as a symbol of Roman power, both in occupied Britain and in Rome.
Construction started in AD 122 and was largely completed within ten years, with soldiers from all three of the occupying Roman legions participating in the work. The route chosen largely followed the Stanegate road from Carlisle to Corbridge, which was already defended by a (limes) and several auxiliary forts, including Vindolanda.
The wall was initially built to a width of 3 metres, but later sections were narrowed to 2.5 metres. The height is estimated to have been around 4 or 5 metres. Along the Wall there were 14 auxiliary forts, including Housesteads and Birdoswald. There were 80 fortlets with gates, known as Milecastles, one every Roman mile. Two turrets were set between each pair of Milecastles, probably used for observation and signalling.
The Wall was part of a defensive system which, from north to south included
- a glacis and a deep ditch armed with rows of pointed stakes
- the Wall itself
- a military road (the "Military Way")
- the Vallum -- two huge banks with a ditch between. The Vallum probably delineated a military zone rather than intending to be a major fortification, though the English tribes to the south were also a military problem.
GarrisonThe wall was garrisoned by auxiliary units of the army (non-citizens). Their numbers fluctuated throughout the occupation, but may have been around 9000 strong, including infantry and cavalry. They suffered serious attacks in 180, and especially between 196 and 197 A.D. when the garrison had been seriously weakened, following which major reconstruction had to be carried out under Septimius Severus. After the harsh suppression of the tribes under Septimus, the region near the wall remained peaceful for most of the rest of the 200s. It is though that many in the garrison may have married and integrated into the local community.
Fifteen years after completion of the Wall, a turf fortification, the Antonine Wall, was built to run between the Clyde and Forth estuaries in Scotland. As well as being less sophisticated, it was occupied and then reoccupied for a far shorter period as a decrease in the British garrison forced the Romans to fall back to Hadrian's Wall.