In the reign of the Roman emperor Publius Aelius Trianus Hadrianus Augustus (tongue twister 101!) it was decided that something had to be done to stop the Scots invading England and to protect the now Roman-influenced island of Britain, known back then as Britannia. The Emperor, known better and more modestly just as ‘Hadrian’, decided that a wall of epic proportion was in order, one to stop any Scots from crossing into England.
And so construction began, resulting in a wall that ran from the River Tyne near the North Sea to the Solway Firth by the Irish sea, on the other side of the country. With stone walls and base and double turreted towers every mile on the wall, ditches either side, and garrisons every 5 roman miles, it was sure to keep the Scots at bay!
But was it? You see, for many years, it was accepted that this is why Hadrians wall was built – to keep the Scots away. But when archaeology advances and teaches us more, it seems more and more unlikely that this is why the wall was built! Just to start, there is evidence of huge Scottish sites, full with hundreds of battle hard warriors, warriors who could easily break through the wall, especially since there were only guards every mile.
And Hadrian knew this. No wall could stop the Scots, so the problem was how to stop them invading without force? The answer was simple, and a tactic that the Romans used a lot – civilise them.
There have been a number of fascinating artefacts discovered by archaeologists at Hadrian’s wall and the surrounding area, many of which support the idea that the wall was actually built to encourage trading – and also, it was used as a toll point! In Vindolanda, near the wall in Northumberland, archaeologists have uncovered children and ladies shoes, busts of roman gods, pottery, iron and other items that may have been traded between the two different worlds. So instead of forcing the Scots out, Hadrian actually played as being friendly, encouraging them in – for a price – to experience all that his lifestyle had to offer!
Join me next week as we delve deeper into the archaeology of Hadrian’s wall!