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The History Of Hadrian’s Wall

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hadrianswallWe have all heard about Hadrian’s Wall but what do we know about the history of Hadrian’s Wall and what it actually stands for. The building of the wall began way back in A.D. 122 when the Roman Emperor Hadrian set about building two walls across England known as Hadrian’s Wall and the lesser-known Antonine Wall. As Hadrian’s Wall has by far and away the most physical remains still evident today it is this particular one which has certainly caught the attention of archaeologists, tourists and even the UNESCO world heritage organisation.

Why was Hadrian’s Wall built?

It is unclear exactly why Hadrian’s Wall was built in the first place but what seems certain is the fact that it was planned well in advance of the Roman invasion of Britain. There are some who believe the Roman Emperor Hadrian set about separating parts of the UK so that he could maintain control with rumours of rebellions although there are others who believe it was the fighting spirit of the Scottish people which forced the construction of the Roman Wall.

However, many experts believe that Scotland was sparsely populated at the time of the Roman invasion of Britain and therefore the creation of such a monumental wall across the country could not have been purely and simply to keep out the invading Scottish armies.

There is a more common theory with regards to the creation of Hadrian’s Wall and the fact that it was purely and simply a political issue and a show of strength. While not widely reported it is believed that the wall was covered in plaster and whitewashed upon completion meaning that it was able to reflect the sunlight and was visible from many miles around. Whatever the reason there is no doubt that the creation of Hadrian’s Wall was an amazing feat and one which has stood the test of time.

Construction of Hadrian’s Wall

The wall was constructed across a line which you could draw from Carlisle across Corbridge and through to Vindolanda and beyond the north-east of England. The original idea appears to have been a ditch with a wall and 80 milecastle fortlets across the way, each at one Roman mile intervals. However, history shows that the terrain was more brutal and more demanding than the Romans had originally thought and indeed the location of these fortlets was in fact anywhere between 200 yards east or west of the one Roman mile post.

Originally the wall was built from limestone although some areas of the sparse terrain were not easily accessible and turf was used to complete some parts of the wall. When you take into account the fact that the wall is indeed 80 Roman miles long which equates to 73 modern-day miles and 120 km it was certainly a massive project.

What happened to parts of the wall?

When you consider the wall actually goes back to A.D. 122 it is no surprise to learn that large areas of the phenomenal defence wall have actually disappeared. History shows that large sections of the stone used in the Roman Wall were taken and used for road building from the 18th century. However, it is not so well known but a gentleman by the name of John Clayton actually set about buying up vast areas of the Roman Wall between Brunton and Cawfields back in the 1800s to ensure that farmers and industrialists were prevented from dismantling this amazing spectacle.

Conclusion

This is just a relatively short overview of the Roman Wall and a brief history of this world heritage site. We will soon be looking at specific elements of the Roman Wall including various forts such as Vindolanda which to this day continue to attract massive tourist interest. When you take into account the fact that the Roman Wall began back in A.D. 122 it is amazing that any of the wall is still visible today.


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