the Romans met the Picts,
Hadrian's Wall, Border of Scotland - June 1, 1999
From the time of Claudius, Rome slowly conquered the tribes inhabiting Britain. But when they reached the north and present day Scotland, they came face to face with the fierce and indomitable Picts. There were many skirmishes on record, and an entire legion which vanished with no record at all.
In AD 122 after Emperor Hadrian toured Britain, he ordered that they build a wall to keep out the barbarians to the north. It actually replaced one built further to the north, which was abandoned. For three hundred years it marked the northern boundary of the 'civilized' world. To this day it bear's the emperor's name.
Many people told us we'd be impressed by Hadrian's wall, and of course we were.
One of the things that was most impressive however, was the testament the wall's remains make to the power of destruction. To the right we see the wall as it would have been. At fifteen feet high it was comparable in height (though at 73 miles, not in length) to the Great Wall of China, still visible from space.
But today, wherever the wall is still visible it is only four or five feet at the highest.
Where did all that stone go?
It was chipped off and built into the churches, barns and homes by Saxons, Vikings and Normans. When Rome fell, the Dark Ages rolled over this land and many hands hungry for easy building material made off with what the Romans had made.
The tradition of wearing down the walls continues.
I overheard one bright English lad telling his brother "I want to find a stone to take home." His older brother responded by picking up a pebble from the path and throwing it at him, "here you go" he said. The younger brother replied "No, I mean one that was laid down, so I know it was put here by the Romans."
I stayed quiet, since I knew all the loose stones were already gone.
But we were thankful they let us climb on the walls at Housesteads Fort. Once again we were able to marvel at the technology those ancient Romans had mastered.
The wall system was a massive earthworks even by modern standards. It covered the entire distance across northern England, 73 modern miles (80 Roman miles). There were 80 'mile castles,' (one every mile) and sixteen forts such as the Housteads fort we visited. The mile castles had eight men manning them, but the forts were home to a legion, about a thousand Roman soldiers and commanders.
On the north side of the wall was a deep ditch, and on the south side were two dikes, between which ran a military road. Around each fort entire villages would grow as the local economy expanded to support the soldiers.
These walls were built during the pinnacle of Roman civilization. Here at the left you see the granary for the fort. It sported multiple rooms with raised floors for drying the grain.
And as always, it paid to be the top dog. Everybody lived in a barracks except for the commander, who lived in a villa. Kathleen is photographing just the hot room of the villa (notice the raised floor, it was just like ones we saw in Bath).
Servants would keep a fire going in the adjacent room and blow the hot air through a hole in the wall. It would circulate under the stone floor and rise up through the walls. This was standard technology for the Romans. Servants did the work machines do today.
The commander got his own private loo as well. (Remember how the Abbot had his own? Hmmmm). Wooden seats were built over the dark drains you see here. Water was directed through a small channel for the loo user to wash a sponge which served as Roman toilet paper. Next to this was one of the ancient worlds other innovations: a urinal.
So when Kathleen asked Henry when in time he'd like to go if he could, he answered 'The Roman Empire in about 200 AD. But only if I get to be a commander.'
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