Hadrian’s Wall was a defensive fortification marking the frontier of the Roman Empire for around three centuries between the province of Britannia (Britain) and Caledonia (Scotland), where the unbeatable Pictish people lived. Built on the orders of Emperor Hadrian since 122 and stretching from the North Sea to the Irish Sea, the wall measured 135 km in length. At every Roman mile, small forts were established along the wall.
New Emperor, new policies
After the death of Trajan, the Emperor conqueror (declared “best ruler” by the Senate itself) who led the greatest military expansion in Roman history, Hadrian abandoned the expansionist policies and some of the territorial gains, preferring a stable development, unification of the empire and strengthening of the borders. The Wall was thus already planned to prevent from Pictish raids when his reign begun but before his personal visit to Britannia in 122.
Rome vs the Picts
After the military expeditions by Caesar in 55-54 BC and since the invasion by Rome of Britain in 43 AD, the Picts (“The Painted People”), savages men who often were completely naked in combat, successfully fought back the Roman legions every time the Empire tried to move into their territory. Attacking legions often by surprise or after making them believe they had fled, Picts were unpredictable and Caledonia soon became to Rome what Russia would to Napoleon. The Pictish people north of the wall remained fully independent and unconquered. Afraid of the Loch Ness monster, they became Christians in 565. The only people Rome couldn’t conquer mysteriously vanished during the 10th century.
The Wall after Hadrian
Another wall has been built in 142 by the new emperor Antoninus Pius in the north (the Antonine Wall), but was abandoned then by the Romans who preferred Hadrian’s one. A significant portion of the wall still stands today and can be followed on foot and it is today considered as an important British icon and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.
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