• Imagining History

Hadrian's Wall - Why was it Built?



Put simply, Hadrian’s Wall was built to separate Romans from the ‘barbarians’. By Barbarians, the Romans meant everyone who wasn’t Roman.


To the North of this frontier of the Roman Empire laid the formidable tribes of Scotland, then known as the ‘Picts’. Despite their best efforts, the Roman Empire was unable to conquer this region. Instead a vast wall was constructed to prevent raids and attacks on Roman towns and citizens.


The wall did just that, it was 80 Roman miles long (which is, confusingly, 73 modern miles long) and was a very chunky 8 - 10 feet thick and an imposing 15 feet tall. Every Roman mile there was a ‘milecastle’ situated on the wall. These were small forts that housed garrison of around 60 men. Between each milecastle there were two or three towers. These had only a few soldiers inside and were primarily used for observation and to provide early warning of any big group of roaming Picts that were looking to break stuff. If the milecastle and towers weren’t enough, the wall also had sixteen larger forts situated along its length, each of these bad boys had another 500 – 1000 Roman Legionnaires inside.


Clearly, the Romans meant business. And we can assume – because of the extensive lengths they went to protect the wall - that the Picts to the North were a very dangerous threat indeed.



Further Reading:

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