Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall

In 123 AD, the Roman Emperor Hadrian ordered the building of a vast wall across the frontier of Roman Britain. It’s purpose was to keep the Romans separated from the barbarians, since the Romans were having trouble conquering what remained of the British isle. The wall Hadrian’s soldiers built spanned 73 miles, from Bowness-on-Solway to Wallsend on the river Tyne. Frontier installations continued another 25 miles down the Cumbrian coast.

When the Romans abandoned the wall, it was scavenged by locals for usable building material. Today, only sections of the wall remain. Together they form one of England’s most popular tourist attractions. At the end of our long road trip, we stopped at Birdoswald (originally called Banna by the Romans), one of the sixteen forts located along the original wall.

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Hadrian’s wall actually runs parallel to the road in this region. Today, it doesn’t look like much more than a glorified barrier, but it’s easy to imagine how impressive it must have been when it was complete. Birdoswald has a rich history. In fact, it is the only sight with a proven significant Roman occupation and is subject to a long-term archaeological programme. The visitor’s center contains a great deal of information about the people who would have lived in the fort after it’s construction. Though Roman soldiers made up the initial population, it is believed they interacted (and married) heavily with the locals. By the time the Romans were ready to abandon Hadrian’s wall, most of the men stationed at Birdoswald were locals who simply decided to stay.

When we finished reading about the people who occupied Birdoswald while it was a fort, we headed outside to survey the ruins. Most of what remains are foundations.

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The fort was made up of several buildings. The foundations of the granaries seem to have survived particularly well.

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The other most notable features are the gaps left from where the gates once stood. If you look closely, you can still see the pins which held them in place driven into the ground.

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We walked along the outer edge of the wall, trying to take it all in, imagining what it might have looked like when it was new. This area is still heavily farmed and the locals allow their sheep to graze among the ruins. I will admit, we were almost as interested in the cute little lambs as we were in the ruins.

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(Look how precious!)

It wasn’t the most impressive stop on our journey. There were no sweeping towers. The ramparts are long since gone. But it was certainly one of the most thought-provoking sites we visited.

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