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 strange 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 especially at the isolated Mithraeum on the moors. The trouble was, well… the Romans.
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 he 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 an 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.
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