This week’s theme is U – for Undulations.
Yesterday, we looked out at the Great Wall of China … today, we are standing among the remnants of another great defensive wall – this time in Northern England.
Hadrian’s Wall is the largest Roman artefact anywhere – a defensive wall that runs for about 115km in Northern England.
Many people wrongly believe that the wall marks the border between England and Scotland … because it DID mark the border between Roman power and the barbarians to the north.
In fact, it could be argued that Hadrian’s wall was an early indicator of Rome’s decline. Up till Emperor Hadrian’s time, Rome had been expanding inexorably.
But Hadrian adopted a policy of defence before expansion, because there had been rebellions brewing in Roman Britain, in Judea, and in Egypt.
So the wall effectively became the high-water mark for the Roman empire – while another defensive wall (the Antonine Wall) was started 20 years later, it was quickly abandoned.
The parts of Hadrian’s Wall that still stand are quite impressive – at times the wall was a stone barricade three metres wide and six metres high, with forts every 8 km or so along its length.
It also featured a large ditch below the wall – in fact, the ditch was often deeper than the wall was tall.
Construction began in 122AD and was completed by 130 .. and yet, nearly two thousand years later, it’s possible to walk large stretches of the wall – and look north toward Scotland, or south (as in our picture) toward the safety of Roman Britain.
Today, instead of Legionaries marching – or Picts rebelling – there are just sheep and cattle, grazing peacefully on the rolling hills.
And tourists tramping along beside the wall, reflecting on the history of it all.