They built a wall…

…the Romans, that is. Starting in 122 CE (or AD if you’d like). They built a wall from one side of Britain to the other, to regulate travel and keep the south safe from Barbarica - in this case, Scotland.


In Rome, the army is power. Caesar came to power because he had support of the troops. When Octavian wanted to claim his inheritance, he bought off the army first. Any ruler worth his salt kept the army happy. And busy. Because a bored army is recipe for rebellion.

Emperor Hadrian was smart enough to recognize this, and put them to work building a wall, some forts and a milecastle every Roman mile. Sure, it was a lot about defence and transportation too. But the most important this is that the legions stationed in the North were too busy to come around and repeat the events of 69 CE (the year of four Emperors, all to fresh in the Roman mind).

Newcastle Upon Tyne stands at the Eastern-most edge of Hadrian’s Wall. Within a short journey is several major forts (Segedenum, Arbeia, Vindolanda, Birdoswald) and some of the most important Roman excavations going on now.


Being in Northeast, I’ve had a chance to visit some Roman ruins. We went out to Vindolanda about a week and a half ago. At Vindolanda, they found surviving examples of Roman papyri. Written in strange cursive Latin, the Vindolanda tablets show us daily life on the Roman frontier. From birthday party invitations to requests for leave, the tablets offer an amazing insight.

They’ve already done extensive excavations at Vindolanda, and they’re in the process of doing more. You can see a bathhouse, a granary, and several other buildings from the fort and the town that grew up around it to cater to the Roman army. You can see the complex system of wells and waterways that made it possible to supply water to almost every building. You can also see the remains of how they kept themselves warm in the cold Northeastern winter - the heated floors.


The second place I went was Birdoswald, where one of my professors is leading an excavation on a Roman cemetery. He led us through the excavation, and then we walked out to the Wall and followed it for a few miles to see a milecastle and a Roman bridge.


So I have a new goal. There is a path that follows the 80 miles of Hadrian’s Wall, from coast to coast. There are hotels and hostels on the way. I want to walk the Wall…. in the summer. Apparently it only takes about a week to get from Newcastle to the West coast.


  • By Eleni, October 2, 2009 @ 12:24 am

    Coming from the Americas, where the very oldest structures you’ll find are from the 18th, maybe 17th centuries, it is always amazing to go to Europe and see things that people built THOUSANDS of years ago. Very cool.

  • By Sebastian, October 2, 2009 @ 2:11 am

    Ah, the WALL!

    Always hilarious how some Scots think it was designed to keep the Romans out…

    And then get told that Hadrian was a Roman…

    The West Highland Way is meant to be the best walking route in Britain:

    If you fancy it… :)

  • By Hezabelle, October 2, 2009 @ 9:59 am

    THAT walking trail seems very Northern and cold. But I would so do it!! I like walking!

  • By Christine Sweeton (The Chris), October 2, 2009 @ 3:52 pm

    80 miles is just under 130km. To walk that in 6 days you would need to do just over 20km a day. The average person walks at about 4km an hour which means you would need to walk at a steady speed without breaks for 5 hours a day (3 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon.) That is totally doable. Though please start out each day early, I will worry about you walking in the dark. Also you would have to train up to that. Aka walking from your place to Willington Quay (10k away) and back along the river or on A186 (City Rd./Walker Rd/etc.) Sounds like an awesome trip!! Look forward to hearing about it.

  • By Jo, October 5, 2009 @ 12:26 pm

    Hezabelle! Thank you for the wishes : ) I must say, I love reading about your trips and adventures in England! : ) Walking the Wall… looks like a challenge to me! Hope you’ll make it! : )

  • By Faebala, October 6, 2009 @ 12:28 am

    Every time I come to your blog to check it (and its lack of updates :P ) I see the title for this blog and I get that really annoying, “We built this city …. on ROCK AND ROLL” song stuck in my head.

    Another reason you need to update, haha.

  • By The Chris, October 6, 2009 @ 5:11 am

    Really Sarah? I get the intro to The Big Bang Theory tv show… The History of Everything” by Barenaked Ladies….”We built a wall, we built the pyramids”….

  • By Hezabelle, October 6, 2009 @ 2:25 pm

    hehe Chris, that’s the song I was singing when I wrote it. :)

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  1. Hezabelle » Wall walking — July 7, 2010 @ 10:43 am

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