What is Hadrian’s wall and why was it built?

What is Hadrian’s wall and why was it built?

Sections of Hadrian’s Wall still remain, particularly in its hilly central sector. Little remains in lowland regions, where the Wall was plundered as a source of free stone for new buildings.

Hadrian’s Wall represented a frontier’s edge for the Roman Empire.

Moreover, this frontier or buffer if you will. Provided protection from barbarian tribes and enemies. Furthermore, the wall became a base for military units. However, the Wall was also a lasting monument to Emperor Hadrian. An emperor whose value of peace and stability far outweighed any desire for military expansion or personal glory.

Ordnance Survey map of Hadrian’s Wall, published in 1964.

Hadrian ruled Rome from AD 117 until AD 138. His family was Spanish. However, he lived his life in Rome. But, spent his reign travelling across his Empire.

But was the wall the “end of the line” for the empire’s rule? No.

Moreover, the idea of Hadrian’s Wall being the “end of the world” is a Scottish National myth. Some of the highest concentrations of Roman marching camps are in northern Scotland. 

This ditch-like construction is a section of the Vallum. This particular section is located near Milecastle 42, around modern Cawfields, placing it near the western part of the Wall.

Agricola thought all of Scotland was conquered half a century before Hadrian after his victory at Mons Graupius.

A second wall would be built further north between the Firths of Forth and Clyne, the Antonine Wall. Though it was never made into stone. You can still walk the outline of it. It was around 43 miles while Hadrians is around 78.

Hadrian’s Wall near Birdoswald Fort, known to the Romans as Banna, with a man spraying weedkiller to reduce biological weathering to the stones.
In the early third century Septimius Severus thought he too had annexed Caledonia after his Scottish victories.
Part of Hadrian’s Wall heading east from Housesteads fort, showing the Knag Burn Gateway in the valley. The very flat top of the wall at left is a sign of modern consolidation.
Each time internal pressures caused the Romans to look back to the center rather than out to the fringes. This, coupled with the difficult highland terrain and lack of resources, meant Caledonia was never annexed.
Leahill Turret in Cumbria, England, is a typical example of the intermediate turrets built into the Wall between the milecastles.

When Rome came to the point of collapse in the west, it was tribes from beyond the Rhine and Danube that caused it. While Britannia was being overrun by the angles and Saxons and Caledonia by the migrating Scots from Hibernia (Ireland).

Poltross Burn, Milecastle 48, which was built on a steep slope.
The remains of Castle Nick, Milecastle 39, near Steel Rigg, between Housesteads and The Sill Visitor Centre for the Northumberland National Park at Once Brewed.
The remains of the southern granary at Housesteads, showing under-floor pillars to assist ventilation.

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What is Hadrian’s wall and why was it built? Written by Jack Tappin