Hadrian’s Wall

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Silver phalera showing Medusa’s image, from Vidolanda

Silver phalera showing Medusa’s image, from Vidolanda
Medusa’s image, discovered on a silver phalera (a decorative medallion worn on the breastplate of Roman soldiers during parades) unearthed at the fort of Vindolanda, near Hadrian’s Wall.

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Hadrian's Wall

Hadrian's Wall, known to the Romans as Vallum Hadriani, was a grand fortification stretching across the width of what is now Northern England. Constructed on the orders of Emperor Hadrian in AD 122, the wall was a symbol of Roman power and engineering prowess. Spanning approximately 73 miles from the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea to the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea, the wall marked the northern boundary of the Roman Empire in Britannia. The wall was not just a defensive barrier; it was a complex system of forts, milecastles, and turrets.

Milecastles

Every Roman mile along the wall, there was a milecastle that housed garrisons of up to 30 soldiers. Between each milecastle were two turrets used as observation posts. Larger forts, like Housesteads and Vindolanda, were built at strategic intervals and housed substantial garrison forces. These forts became bustling communities, complete with barracks, headquarters, granaries, and even bathhouses. The construction of Hadrian's Wall was a monumental task, requiring vast amounts of labour and resources. The wall itself was primarily built of stone in the east and turf in the west, with a wide ditch on the northern side known as the Vallum. The wall's height varied, but it was substantial enough to deter invasions and control movement across the border. Hadrian's Wall also served as a customs post, regulating trade and taxation between the Roman provinces and the territories beyond. It was a statement of the empire's reach and a physical manifestation of the edge of the civilized world as seen by the Romans. The presence of the wall also facilitated economic stability and cultural exchange within the Roman-controlled regions. Over time, the significance of the wall evolved. After Hadrian's death, his successors continued to maintain the wall, although with varying degrees of interest. The Antonine Wall, built further north, briefly superseded Hadrian's Wall before being abandoned, returning the status of the frontier to Hadrian's original boundary. Today, Hadrian's Wall is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Britain's most iconic landmarks. Its ruins offer a glimpse into Roman Britain's history and the lives of those who lived and served on this remote frontier. Visitors can walk along the Hadrian's Wall Path, explore the remains of the forts, and visit museums that display artifacts unearthed from the site. The wall's enduring legacy continues to captivate the imagination of people around the world, symbolizing the enduring influence of Roman civilization.

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