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What was the function of Hadrian's Wall? Use detailed examples (forts, mile castles, turrets etc) in your answer. Can a comparison with frontier defences in Germany during the 2nd Century AD help solve the problem?

Hadrian's Wall; a protected site of British Heritage, tourist attraction and constant reminder of Roman contribution to British history, remains an area of debate amongst Historian's to this day. Built upon the order of Roman Emperor Hadrian between the years 122 and 130 AD, stretching from Wallsend-on-Tyne to Solway Firth, it was around 73 miles long. One of three Roman fortifications, Gask Ridge and the Antonine Wall being the others, Hadrian's Wall, due to its historical and structural stature and its existence today, is undoubtedly the most famous.

Hadrian's rule as Roman Emperor, succeeding the expansionist Trajan, is generally considered, amongst Historian's to symbolize a period of restoration of order, rehabilitation and consolidation. Trajan's wars brought vast amounts of land under Roman control, but created instability throughout the empire, not least in Britannia. Quintus Pompeius Falco is considered to have been sent to Britannia to quash rebellion, and after a visit from the Emperor himself, to construct Hadrian's Wall. The nature and source of rebellion in Britannia is up for debate, and thus the intended function of Hadrian's Wall has come under scrutiny. Before travelling to Britannia, Hadrian travelled from Rome to Germania to inspect the Rhine-Danube frontier. Upon news of rebellion in Britannia, he continued there to employ a similar solution to civil unrest. Comparisons with frontier defences in Germany and Hadrian's Wall, therefore, are inevitable and will be considered in some detail later. Hadrian's Wall has been the focus of extensive government funding for the purpose of restoration and historical research for some time. The 1950's and 60's produced particularly vibrant investigations into the history of the wall.

Although the Germanic frontiers were intended to isolate barbari, in this case Germanic tribes as opposed to Scottish tribes, they were not intended to completely restrict movement between the north and south. Once again their intention was to monitor this movement, and prevent hostile forces entering the Empire, at least en masse. In terms of function alone, in fact, Hadrian's Wall and the Germanic frontiers were almost identical; only their geographical locations made them of notable difference. Where they did differ dramatically was in their appearance; limes Germanic were largely made from timber; where as, have we have seen, Hadrian's Wall was partially turf, partially stone. This demonstrates a certain degree of pragmatism in Roman construction, if timber had been more available in Northern Britannia it is possible Hadrian's wall would not have been made of stone; and thus unlikely as important in a historical sense. The use of turf seems to suggest the eventual cease of stone supplies.  

Although Hadrian's Wall still stands today as startling example of Roman ingenuity, one can to some degree only speculate over the function of the wall. What I have aimed to do, however, is to illustrate that the wall served as more than a mere barricade against enemy forces and was as bureaucratic as it was militaristic. To therefore consider the wall in linear terms would be unjust; it wasn't in its structure, and certainly wasn't in its function.

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