Hadrian’s Wall

August 31, 2023

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Photographer: Jim Bucko 
Summary Author: Jim Bucko  

Hadrian’s Wall was built to define the northern border of the Roman Empire and to restrict traffic of tribes from the northern hills. It was started under Hadrian’s rule, in 122 CE, and took about 10 years to build by three Roman Legions. It originally stretched from Bowness-on Solway on the west coast of northern England to South Shields on the east coast. However, the extant remains of the wall are primarily from Carlisle in the west to Newcastle in the east, approximately 70 miles (113 km).

The wall was originally about 20 ft (6 m) high and varied in width from about 10-14 ft (3-4 m). This wall included a fort every 5 miles (8 km) (bottom photo) and a small ‘mile-castle’ every mile (1.6 km). Perhaps the most impressive construction is over the Winshields Crags (numerous geologic extrusions) about halfway along the trail. Today the wall is a World Heritage Site and British National Trail.

On a personal note, I’ve dug at three Roman forts and at Pompei for four summers. However, I gained another level of respect for Roman engineering power, and their understanding of intimidation/propaganda. The numerous forts, mile castles, and settlements are impressive enough, but the high walls that went on and on and on and on for miles over steep hills was inconceivable for me. It was truly a display of power and engineering technology meant for intimidation. By the way, driving from fort to fort you only see small sections of the wall, so you don’t get a full feel for the magnitude of the effort, until you walk the distance next to the wall.

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