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