Dreaming Stones: Hitting the wall…

After the odd meeting  with the woman at the pub, we now felt we had to visit Hadrian’s Wall. It had been on my mind for a while, for some reason, and had cropped up a lot in odd places as I read and researched various things. I admit that I felt that Stuart should one day see at least part of it… I have fond memories of time spent in the area and at the isolated Mithraeum on the moors in particular.  The trouble was, well…Romans.

geograph-5929898-by-Trevor-Littlewood

Now, it has to be said that, along with plumbing, central heating and a host of technological and educational innovations, the Romans brought a ‘civilising’ influence to the country that came to be known as Britain. But you have to take the word in a literal sense… they built cities. And with cities, you get administration, record-keeping, statutes and organisation… and control. In the case of the Romans, it was the control of the invader, imposing the will of its leadership on a foreign nation… and that seldom works out well, at least, not for the conquered nation.

Julius Caesar first invaded in 55BC, but didn’t get far. The following year, he tried again and took a sneaky political control of a third of the country below what is now the Scottish border by installing client kings. Julius’ invasion was more a fact-finding mission than a full-scale invasion and, in AD43, when Aulus Plautius invaded with forty thousand men at his back, they  were far better prepared and the Britons became part of Claudius’ empire. Those who lived beyond the border a little way to the north of the wall in what is now Scotland, were a different matter.

In AD 60, Anglesey, the Holy Island of the Druids, was decimated and its shrines destroyed by the Roman general, Gaius Suetonius Paulinus. Britain was firmly under Roman rule. Sixty-two years later, the emperor, Hadrian, ordered a wall to be built to mark the northernmost reach of his domain. Stretching across the land, east to west, from the Tyne to the Solway Firth, it ran unbroken for seventy-three miles. The wall was a stone structure, with additional ditch, Roman road and vallum, a huge earthwork that runs almost coast to coast. It was punctuated by milecastles, forts and turrets, allowing the wall to be continually manned and ready for action along its entire length.

Much of the wall still remains and a great deal has been learned about the Roman way of life, public, military and personal, from what has been found along its length. The walls were up to twenty feet high and, on average, ten feet thick… and that is without the forts. Completed in around six years and was, and is, a magnificent achievement… the largest Roman remains in the world. When new, it would not only have marked the extent of the empire, but with its white stone reflecting the light, it would have made an unmistakeable statement about just who was in charge.

Given that our interest lies primarily with the earlier, indigenous culture of these isles… if, indeed, it was wholly indigenous, we don’t have a lot of time for the Romans. They are part of the story of this country, as they are of so many others across the globe, but their culture was not only superimposed upon our own, but marked the beginning of a misunderstanding of our native history that is only just beginning to be laid to rest.

There is a common misconception that ‘BC’… before Caesar… these islands were populated by uncouth, unsophisticated tribes, when in fact, the artefacts that have come to light over the years show that the people who lived here had a rich culture, full of poets, artists and colour… as well as the warriors and farmers. And five thousand years ago, millennia before the foundation of Rome,  our ancestors were building complex astronomical alignments into vast stone temples that included  entire landscapes.

The Romans held sway in Britain for four hundred years…and then they left, leaving Britain to face a new wave of invaders…which is the point in history where the legends of King Arthur begin to emerge. Some of their legacy was now so firmly entrenched in daily life that it remained… other aspects of what was left behind we simply discarded, or recycled…like the stone from the wall, which was used as a ‘quarry’ and supplied the stone for many building, including the Norman Lanercost Priory, to which we nodded as we passed.

We did not see a great deal of the wall itself…at least, not compared to its length and history, but we touched base, visiting one of the ruined turrets, driving along a stretch of the wall to cast a glance at the crowded Birdoswald fort… where we decided against joining the throng. It was enough. Our hearts and minds were still processing what we had seen and experienced in the north… and there was still a long drive ahead. We turned the car, expecting to take our usual route home… but, even now, in the final hours of our journey, the road had some surprises in store.

 

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
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59 Responses to Dreaming Stones: Hitting the wall…

  1. Suzanne says:

    I enjoyed reading this history of the Roman invasion of Britain. There is something about the ancient Romans I just don’t like but they were certainly brilliant engineers and builders.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jenanita01 says:

    I have often wondered why the Romans didn’t stay. What made them leave?

    Like

  3. trentpmcd says:

    lol, for a minute there near the beginning I thought you were about to break off into a Monty Pythons skit. What did the Romans ever do for us? Besides roads, education, etc…. what did the Romans ever do for us? Back in the late 80s and early 90s I began to realize that the standard history I had learned was all wrong. Of course it was written so the center of civilization slowly moved west – Mesopotamia to Greece to Rome to England and then across the pond to the US. All other lands were wastelands with only a scattering of barbarians. To discover that they weren’t was huge. To learn that by the 8th or 9th century the majority of Europeans were people whose relatives had never been ruled by Romans – from Saxons to Franks to Huns and beyond – was also an eye opener – the history we were taught was different.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sadje says:

    Interesting history! I was so entranced by King Arthur and his story. The best one that I loved was by Victor Canning.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Those darn Romans 😉 I had a tough time while in Rome feeling the heavy weight of their power. The land still feels it…

    Like

  6. A most interesting piece, Sue. We are going to be seeing a bit of Hadrian’s wall too. We visited York yesterday and today and visited the Castle Museum, the Roman Bath and the Viking Museum. We also took a walk along the wall.

    Like

  7. Dale says:

    This was a fascinating read, Sue. And the pictures, divine…

    Like

  8. Thank you for bringing my history knowledge up-to-date, Sue! Have a beautiful weekend! Michael

    Like

  9. Alli Templeton says:

    Hi Sue, we’re back now and settled in (more’s the pity), and I’ve really enjoyed your visit to Hadrian’s Wall. It is, of course, one of my favourite places – especially the Sycamore Gap – and we’ve just booked a fortnight up in Northumberland for next year as I’m missing it very much. Glad you got to see some of it. It’s a fascinating Roman remnant. 🙂

    Like

  10. Eliza Waters says:

    I love the way you keep us in suspense… 😉

    Like

  11. The Roman didn’t so much “leave” the Isles as desert it. But Rome was shrinking too and times were changing. I somehow always thought the wall was bigger, more like China’s Great Wall. Walls don’t keep invaders out, not then, not now either.

    Like

  12. Widdershins says:

    This story doesn’t end, does it? 🙂

    Like

  13. Love this!! And the history sprinkled between the stones. So well research too. Beautiful pictures.

    Liked by 1 person

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