Hadrian's Wall

Outpost of Empire

Also called the Roman Wall, Picts' Wall, or Vallum Hadriani in Latin, was a defensive fortification in the Roman province of Britannia, begun in 122 AD during the reign of the emperor Hadrian.

It ran from the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea to the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea. It had a stone base and a stone wall. There were mile castles with two turrets in between. There was a fort about every five Roman miles.

A significant portion of the wall still stands and can be followed on foot along the adjoining Hadrian's Wall Path. It is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern England and was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.


When in use it was effectively the northern limit of the Roman Empire.

Roman Centurion During the Building of Hadrian's Wall
Roman Centurion During the Building of Hadrian's Wall

Mystery of the 9th

One of the most enduring legends of Roman Britain concerns the disappearance of the Ninth Legion.

The theory that 5,000 of Rome's finest soldiers were lost in the swirling mists of Caledonia, as they marched north to put down a rebellion.

It is easy to understand the appeal of stories surrounding the loss of the Roman Ninth Legion - a disadvantaged band of British warriors inflicting a humiliating defeat upon a well-trained, heavily-armoured professional army.

It was the Ninth, the most exposed and northerly of all legions in Britain, that had borne the brunt of the uprising, ending their days fighting insurgents in the turmoil of early 2nd Century Britain.

Hadrian's Wall was designed to keep invaders out of Roman territory as well as ensuring that potential insurgents within the province had no hope of receiving support from their allies to the north. From this point, cultures on either side of the great divide developed at different rates and in very different ways.

The ultimate legacy of the Ninth was the creation of a permanent border, forever dividing Britain. The origins of what were to become the independent kingdoms of England and Scotland may be traced to the loss of this unluckiest of Roman legions.


Hadrian walls Big Brother

It is the oldest monument from the Roman era in Northern England but Hadrian's wall had an older bigger brother. Archaeologists have been carrying out research into a huge late first century AD defence system, which stretches 120 miles across Scotland. A total of 14 forts, which formed part of a defensive network built in the AD 70s, have so far been discovered.

The structure which ran from south of Aberdeen to the Clyde was built 50 years before Hadrian's wall and 20 years before Antonine wall to keep the fierce Caledonian tribes at bay.

This confrontation came to a head with the battle of Mons Graupis in 83 AD.  Even though the Romans won a great victory under the great Pro consul Agricola they pulled back to the Antonine wall in 87 AD and eventually built Hadrian's wall in 120 AD (after the 9th Legion went missing (see above))

The Romans do not seem to have had the men and recourses to finish the job because of more pressing needs in other parts of the Empire such as Germania (which was n open revolt).  So the opportunity to conquer Northern Britain was lost and Hadrian's wall became the northern border of the empire for the next 300 years



roman wall
Hadrians_Wall_cross-section (1)
Hadrians_Wall (1)