Hadrian’s wall has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. English Heritage, a government organisation in charge of managing the historic environment of England, describes it as “the most important monument built by the Romans in Britain”. It was a defensive fortification in northern England, and it marked the border of the Roman Empire when it was at its height in the 2nd century. It was the most heavily fortified border in the Empire. In addition to its role as a military fortification, it is thought that many of the gates through the wall served as customs posts, to allow trade and levy taxation.
Building probably began in AD 122, during the rule of emperor Hadrian, hence the name, and it was the first of two fortifications built across Great Britain, the second being the Antonine Wall, which isn’t as well known, because its physical remains are less evident today.
It’s estimated that it took soldiers 6 years to build the wall, which was 80 Roman miles long (73 modern miles) on the border of what is now England and Scotland. Designed ‘to separate the Romans from Barbarians’, it became the northernmost border of his empire. It’s part of what is known as the ‘Roman Limes’, which stretched over 5,000kms from the Atlantic coast of northern Britain, through Europe to the Black Sea, and from there to the Red Sea and across North Africa to the Atlantic coast.
A significant portion of Hadrian’s wall still exists today, particularly the mid-section, and it is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern England. For much of its length the wall can be followed on foot by Hadrian’s Wall Path or by cycle on National Cycle Route 72.
One of the most popular historical sites along Hadrian’s wall is Housesteads Fort (Vercovicium) the best preserved and most impressive of the Roman forts along the wall. Vercovicium was a 5-acre fort that held 800 people, and is also Britain’s only example of a Roman hospital, , Some of the stone foundations can still be seen, including “Murder House”, where two skeletons were found beneath an apparently newly-laid floor when excavated.
There are many other forts, temples and Roman architectural remains along Hadrian’s Wall, most of which are remarkably well preserved.
English Nobel Prize-winning author Rudyard Kipling contributed to the popular image of the “Great Pict Wall” in his short stories about Parnesius, a Roman legionary who defended the Wall against the Picts and Vikings. These stories are part of the Puck of Pook’s Hill cycle.
Sources – Visit Britain and Wikipedia