Profiles

Joanna Sperapani

Originally built in 117 AD, world heritage site Hadrian’s Wall is one of Britain’s most well-known remnants of the Roman Empire. The wall was constructed by the Emperor Hadrian to clearly define the separation between Roman and Barbarian territories, and marked the north-west frontier. Stretching 84 miles from Wallsend and the mouth of the River Tyne to Solway Firth, the wall took 15,000 men 6 years to complete, and served as the main defense of the Roman territory in modern-day Britain. The finished walls consists of 80 milecastle towers, observation turret towers at every ⅓ of a mile, and 17 forts, and is made of stone and 6 meters high. A vallum, a deep ditch that runs the parallel to the wall, was constructed a few decades after the wall. For the following 300 years when Britain remained under Roman control, the wall remained an active military base, with a brief 20 year respite when Antonine’s Wall, in Forth-Clyde, was briefly used.

 

Following its use, the wall became a source of stone for the surrounding houses, churches, and castles, until the conservation movement that began in the 18th century. Historians John Clayton, John Hodgson, and John Collingwood Bruce made a name for themselves by seeking to preserve the wall. Today, the wall open to visitors and tourists. The most well-preserved areas include the fort Housesteads, which still contains the foundation of the original hospital and barracks, and Heddon-on-the-Wall, where the frontier still stands.

 

The wall also remains as a cultural, historical, and literary symbol of the past and the inspiration drawn from its stature. Several writers have used the wall in their work. Notably, the nobel-prize winning author Rudyard Kipling used it as inspiration for the “Great Pict Wall” in his stories of a Roman legionary in 1906’s Puck of Pook’s Hill series. American author George R. R. Martin used the wall within his popular book and tv series “Game of Thrones.” M.J. Trow used the wall in his Britannia series as the center of British culture. The wall is also used within the movies King Arthur, Centurion, The Eagle, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, The Last Legion, Doomsday, and several British television shows. Finally, the wall has even appeared through poetry, found in W.H. Auden’s eponymous radio documentary and the poem “Roman Wall Blues.”

 

Sources:

“Hadrian’s Wall; The Facts,” Hadrian’s Wall Country, 2017.

“Hadrian’s Wall,” Wikipedia.

Breeze, David, “History of Hadrian’s Wall,” English Heritage UK.

“Hadrian’s Wall,” Encylopedia Brittanica.