Part 3 of my Roman Empire occupation of Britain storiez, but they are so good I CAN'T STOP. And I drove right over this wall a few years ago on my way to Scotland and didn't even know it. My bucket list trip to Europe is going on the rebucket list, because I need to see all that I did not see.
Emperor Hadrian began construction of a 73 mile long defensive wall across England in 122 A.D. This heavily fortified border had various gates which allowed trade and taxation to pass thru.
The possible reasons for the wall are vast. A likely explanation is that it prevented immigration and smuggling, and allowed collection of customs dues. Another reason is that it could have been constructed wholly to show Rome's big balls, and was used as a political point by Hadrian. Hadrian's biographer wrote that the wall was built to separate the Romans from the unconquered "barbarians" of the north, ultimately keeping Roman control of Britain intact.
There is debate as to whether the wall was necessary at all, if the northern inhabitants of Britain posed a big enough threat to build this enormous wall while constantly manning it.
The wall varied in dimensions, ranging from 9.7 ft to 20 ft wide, and 11.5 - 20 ft tall. The wall was largely constructed out of local limestone within six years and once completed, it is thought that it had been covered in plaster and then white-washed. So put your sunnies on because the surface reflected sunlight and was visible for miles around.
Within a few years of construction, it was decided to add a total of 14 to 17 full-sized forts along the length of the wall, each holding 500 to 1,000 auxiliary troops. The total number of soldiers manning the early wall was probably greater than 10,000.
After Hadrian's death in 138 A.D., the new emperor, Antoninus Pius, abandoned the wall as he focused on building his own, Antonine Wall, located 99 miles north. This wall had significantly more forts but was unable to subdue the northern tribes. So when Marcus Aurelius became emperor, he abandoned Antonine Wall and
built Aurelius Wall reoccupied Hadrian's as the main defensive barrier in 164 A.D. The wall would remain occupied by Roman troops until their withdrawal from Britain in 410 A.D.
Over time, the wall was abandoned and fell into ruin. The stone was reused in local buildings and roads. It remains a popular tourist attraction in Northern England largely due to its rescue by John Clayton. He became enthusiastic about the wall and to prevent farmers from taking stones, began buying some of the land on which the wall stood in the 1800's. After Clayton's death, the land was passed to his relatives and was soon lost to gambling. Luckily, the National Trust acquired the land.
The wall can be followed on foot or bicycle AND if you want to visit, you can do so freely. It remains unguarded, allowing those who visit to go right up to the wall, and stand on it you so freely desire.
Other famous walls in the world: