The Lost Fort

My Travel and History Blog, Focussing mostly on Roman and Mediaeval Times


18 Jun 2007
  Hadrian's Wall - Introduction

The anonymous 4th century Historia Augusta mentions that Emperor Hadrian "had a wall built to separate Romans and barbarians". It stretches 80 Roman miles (73 British miles, 123 kilometres) all the way from modern Newcastle / Wallsend to Bowness-on-Solway in the west. Building began in 122 AD, but ideas for a more permanent frontier in different parts of the expanding empire had been discussed before. Nor was the Hadrian's Wall the only solid border defense - the German Limes, an earth wall and palisade construction across the area between Rhine and Danube, was erected during the same time.

Remains of the Wall at Birdoswald

Such frontiers served to control traffic - trade and thus taxes, and migration - not to separate people the way the Berlin Wall did. The Hadrian's Wall had mile castles every mile, and most of them, as well as the forts, protected gates. Between each mile castle lay two observation turrets, though the structure was sometimes interrupted by major forts directly at the Wall, like Housesteads.

At first, only the eastern part of the Wall up to Birdoswald was built of stone while the western part was a turf and palisade construction, but later Hadrian ordered to have that part rebuilt in stone as well.

The wall part was about 4 metres high. It might have been painted white with a stone structure outlined in red, but there is no sure proof for it.

A reconstructed section of the Wall at Segedunum.

The thickness of the Wall varies from 3.6 metres to less than 2 metres, which points at different engineers and plans. North of the Wall lay a deep V-ditch (except where the land made it unnecessary), and on the south side, some 30-40 metres away from the Wall, was another turf wall and trench line, the vallum. It is thought to have demarked some sort of no man's land, but another argument is that it was built before the Wall and served as protection - makes one wonder why south of the Wall in that case since the belligerent tribes were north of it. Or the Brigantes were less reliable than Roman sources make us believe.

Between vallum and Wall ran a military road, but the old Stanegate road further south was still in use as well, as were some of the older forts, like Vindolanda where several layers of timber and stone buildings point at an occupation over centuries. Those places, as well as the supply fort in Arbeia (South Shields near Newcastle) were part of a border defense network.

Vindolanda (Chesterholm), view to the Pennine Hills in the northeast

Some of the forts attracted a vicus, a civilian settlement; the largest was that of Vindolanda. But town-like settlements also developed, like Corbridge (known in Roman times as both Coria and Corstopitum). It had been an Iron Age settlement before the Romans built a fort nearby in AD 84 which was in use until the Antonine Wall was abandoned. The fort ramparts were then levelled and temples were built, as well as a central complex that may have been intended as forum (though it was never finished to the original plans), and some villa-like houses, one of them large enough to have been the quarter of Septimius Severus.

Some of the buildings would later be dismantled and the stones used in building Hexham Abbey, but there are still some impressive remains left.

Corbridge settlement, main street

The wall was built by legionaries but the garrisons in the forts were auxiliary troops; the nearest legionary fort was in Eboracum / York some distance south of the wall. The same distribution can be found at the German Limes.

The Romans used the lay of the land and its natural defenses wherever possible. A good example are the Walltown Crags. I didn't have the time to go round the cliffs to the side where you can climb them, but the view from the hill where I stood was quite spectacular as well.

Walltown Crags
(I used a strong tele for this shot which makes the crags look less menacing than they were.)

Between 142 AD until about 160 AD the Hadrian's Wall was abandoned in favour of the Antonine Wall further north, but in the end turned out the be the frontier that worked best.

During the 3rd century, the number of gates was reduced and part of the vallum trench was filled in. Some of the turrets were dismantled, then erected again, some of the mile castles lost their function as gate protections but still were garrisoned. The border remained an unruly place.

Vindolanda, reconstruction of a stone watch tower

After the Romans left Britain, stones of the Wall have been used to build houses, and some with ornaments and insctiptions can still be identified today. There are some interesting ones in Hexham Abbey. If the Hadrian's Wall hadn't been used as quarry, more of it would be left.

More photos can be found here.
 
Comments:
*drools* I love old stones :)
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Whoah--cool photos, Gabriele. Many thanks for sharing them.
 
Celedë,
DFDS Seaways has a ferry from Bergen to Newcastle. You should jump on it and then chase down old stones all the way to Carlisle. There's plenty. :)

Thank you, Paul.
 
nifty photos. :)

Nice to know 2000 years later we still think walls keep people out...

So when are you going to write a story about the exciting life of guys stuck in a mile castle? "Over there! What's that?" "A deer" "I heard a noise!" "Sheep" "We're being attacked!" "Bunny."
 
As long as they don't have to deal with gnomes and orc-goblins ... :)
 
With Celede.
 
Thank you Bernita and Susan.
 
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The Lost Fort is a travel and history blog based on my journeys in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, the Baltic Countries, and central Europe. It includes virtual town and castle tours with a focus on history, museum visits, hiking tours, and essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, illustrated with my own photos.


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Location: Goettingen, Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History, interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who still hasn't got an Instagram account.
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Lorsch
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Scharzfeld (Harz)
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Palatine Seat Tilleda
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Stirling
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Doune
A Virtual Tour
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History: Royal Dower House

Duart Castle
Guarding the Sound of Mull

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Stirling
Robert the Bruce

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Arriving at Inchcolm Abbey

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Neolithic Orkney
Ring of Brodgar
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The Brochs of Gurness and Midhowe - Introduction

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Staffa


Wales

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Conwy
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Manorbier
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Pembroke
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Isca Silurum / Caerleon
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Akershus Fortress in Oslo
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Vardøhus Fortress
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The Fram Museum in Oslo


Denmark

Museums

Viking Museum Roskilde
To come


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Neolithicum and Bronze Age

Gotland
Gnisvärd Ship Setting

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The Vasa Museum in Stockholm


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Towns

Porvoo
Mediaeval Porvoo


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The History of Mediaeval Tallinn


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Riga
The History of Mediaeval Riga


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Towns

To come


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Ogrodzieniec Castle
A Virtual Tour
First Castle to the Boner Family


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Cheb / Eger
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Karlovy Vary / Karlsbad
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Atuatuca Tungrorum / Tongeren
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A Tour of the Town


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West Highland Railway

Wales
Views of Snowdownia

Wildlife
Sea Gulls


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Coast of Norway: Hurtigruten-Tour
A Voyage into Winter
Along the Coast of Norway - Light and Darkness
Along the Coast of Norway - North of the Polar Circle

Norway by Train
From Oslo to Bergen
From Trondheim to Oslo

Wildlife
Bearded Seals
Dog Sledding With Huskies
Eagles and Gulls in the Trollfjord


The Baltic Sea

A Baltic Sea Cruise

The Curonian Spit in Lithuania
Beaches at the Curonian Spit
Geology of the Curonian Spit



Mediaeval History

General Essays

by Country
- Germany
- England
- Scotland
- Wales
- Denmark
- Norway
- Sweden
- Livonia
- Lithuania
- Poland
- Bohemia
- Luxembourg
- Flanders

Roman History

The Romans at War
Famous Romans
Roman Life and Religion

Other Times

Neolithicum to Iron Age
Post-Mediaeval History
History and Literature
Geology


Mediaeval History

General Essays

Mediaeval Warfare

Sieges
Trebuchets

Weapons
Late Mediaeval Swords

Mediaeval Art and Craft

Mediaeval Art
The Choir Screen in the Cathedral of Mainz
The Gospels of Heinrich the Lion
The Hunting Frieze in Königslutter Cathedral
Mediaeval Monster Carvings
The Viking Treasure of Hiddensee

Craftmanship
Goldsmithery
Medical Instruments

Feudalism

The History of Feudalism
The Beginnings
Feudalism in the 10th Century

Special Cases
The privilege of the deditio

The Hanseatic League

The History of the Hanseatic League
Introduction and Beginnings

Hanseatic Architecture
Examples of Brick Architecture
Hall Houses (Dielenhäuser)

Goods and Trade
Stockfish Trade

Towns of the Hanseatic League
Riga
Stralsund
Tallinn / Reval

The Order of the Teutonic Knights

Wars and Battles
The Conquest of Danzig
The Siege of Vilnius 1390

The Vikings

Viking Material Culture
The Viking Treasure of Hiddensee

Viking Ships
The Nydam Ship


Essays by Country

Germany

Geneaology

List of Mediaeval German Emperors
Anglo-German Marriage Connections

Kings and Emperors

The Salian Dynasty
King Heinrich IV

Staufen against Welfen
Emperor Otto IV

Princes and Lords

House Welfen
Heinrich the Lion's Ancestors
The Dukes of Braunschweig-Grubenhagen
Otto the Quarrelsome of Braunschweig-Göttingen

The Landgraves of Thuringia
The Ludowing Landgraves of Thuringia
Albrecht II and Friedrich I of Thuringia

Dukes and Princes of other Families
Duke Otto of Northeim
Prince Wilhelm Malte of Putbus

Counts and Local Lords
The Marshals of Ebersburg
The Counts of Everstein
The Counts of Hohnstein
The Lords of Plesse
The Counts of Reichenbach
The Counts of Winzenburg

Feuds and Rebellions

Royal Troubles
Otto IV and Bishop Adalbert II of Magdeburg

Local Feuds
The Lüneburg Succession War
The Thuringian Succession War
The Star Wars


England

Kings of England

House Plantagenet
Richard Lionheart in Speyer
King Henry IV's Lithuanian Crusade

Normans, Britons, Angevins

Great Noble Houses
The Dukes of Brittany
The Earls of Richmond

Contested Borders

Northumbria
King Stephen's Troubles with King David of Scots


Scotland

Kings of Scots

House Dunkeld
Malcolm III and Northumbria
Struggle for the Throne: Malcolm III to David I
King David and the Civil War, Part 1
King David and the Civil War, Part 2

Houses Bruce and Stewart
The Early Stewart Kings

Local Troubles

Clan Feuds
MacLeans and MacDonalds
A Scottish Wedding

Scotland and England

The Wars of Independence
Alexander of Argyll
The Fight for Stirling Castle


Wales

Welsh Princes

The Princes of Gwynedd
The Rise of House Aberffraw

Wales and England

A History of Rebellion
Llywellyn ap Gruffudd to Owain Glyn Dŵr


Denmark

Kings of Denmark

House of Knýtlinga
Harald Bluetooth's Flight to Pomerania

Danish Rule in the Baltic Sea

The Duchy of Estonia
Danish Kings and German Sword Brothers


Norway

Kings of Norway

Foreign Relations
King Eirik's Scottish Marriages
King Håkon V's Swedish Politics
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union

Feuds and Rebellions

Rebels
Alv Erlingsson of Tønsberg


Sweden

Troubles and Alliances

Scandinavian Unity
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union


Livonia
(Latvia and Estonia)

Contested Territories

Livonian Towns
The History of Mediaeval Riga
The History of Mediaeval Tallinn


Lithuania

Lithuanian Princes

The Geminid Dynasty
Troublesome Cousins - Jogaila and Vytautas

The Northern Crusades

The Wars in Lithuania
The Siege of Vilnius 1390


Poland

Royal Dynasties

The Jagiełłonian Kings
Władysław Jagiełło and the Polish-Lithuanian Union

The Northern Crusades

The Conquest of Pomerania / Prussia
The Conquest of Danzig


Bohemia

Royal Dynasties

The Bohemian Kings of House Luxembourg
King Sigismund and the Hussite Wars


Luxembourg

House Luxembourg
King Sigismund


Flanders

More to come


Roman History

The Romans at War

Forts and Fortifications

The German Limes
The Cavalry Fort Aalen
Limes Fort Osterburken
Limes Fort Saalburg

The Hadrian's Wall
Introduction
The Fort at Segedunum / Wallsend

Border Life
Exercise Halls
Mile Castles and Watch Towers
Soldiers' Living Quarters
Cavalry Barracks

Campaigns and Battles

Maps
The Romans in Germania

The Pre-Varus Invasion in Germania
Roman Camp Hedemünden
New Finds in 2008

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
Museum Park at Kalkriese

The Battle at the Harzhorn
Introduction

The Batavian Rebellion
A Short Introduction

Roman Militaria

Armour
Early Imperial Helmets
Late Roman Helmets
The Negau B Helmet

Weapons
Weapon Finds at Hedemünden
The pilum
Daggers
Swords

Other Equipment
Roman Saddles


Famous Romans

The Late Empire

Alaric
The Legend of Alaric's Burial


Roman Life and Religion

Religion and Public Life

Religion
Curse Tablets and Good Luck Charms
Isis Worship
Memorial Stones
The Mithras Cult

Public Life
Roman Transport: Barges
Roman Transport: Amphorae and Barrels
Roman Water Supply

Architecture
Roman Public Baths

Domestic Life

Roman villae
Villa Urbana Longuich
Villa Rustica Wachenheim

Everyday Life
Bathing Habits
Children's Toys
Face Pots


Other Times

Neolithicum to Iron Age

Germany

Development of Civilisation
European Bread Museum, Ebergötzen
The Hutewald Project in the Solling
Open Air Museum Oerlinghausen

Neolithic Remains
Stone Burials of the Funnelbeaker Culture
The Necropolis of Oldendorf

Bronze Age / Iron Age
The Nydam Ship

Scotland

Neolithic Orkney
The Neolithic Landscape of Orkney
Ring of Brodgar
Skara Brae
Life in Skara Brae

Bronze Age / Iron Age
Clava Cairns
The Brochs of Gurness and Midhowe - Their Function in Iron Age Society

Scandinavia

Bronze / Iron Age
The Ship Setting of Gnisvärd / Gotland


Post-Mediaeval History

Explorers and Discoveries

Explorers
Fram Expedition to the North Pole
Fram Expedition to the South Pole

Discoveries
Otto von Guericke and the Magdeburg Hemispheres
Raising a Wreck, Now and Then (Vasa Museum in Stockholm)


History and Literature

Germany

The Weimar Classicism
Introduction


Geology

Geological Landscapes: Germany

Baltic Sea Coast
Chalk Cliffs on Rugia
Flint Fields on Rugia

Harz Mountains
Bode Valley and Rosstrappe Cliff
The 'Hübichenstein' Rock
Karst Formations in Southern Harz
The Lonau Falls
The Rhume Springs
Sandstone Formations: Daneil's Cave
Sandstone Formations: Devil's Wall
Sandstone Formations: The Klus Rock

Meissner / Kaufunger Wald
Blue Dome near Eschwege
Diabase and Basalt Formations
Karst Formations
Salt Springs at the Werra

Solling-Vogler
Raised Bog Mecklenbruch
Hannover Cliffs

Geological Landscapes: Great Britain

The Shores of Scotland
Staffa

Geological Landscapes: Baltic Sea

Lithuania
Geology of the Curonian Spit

Fossils and Other Odd Rocks

Fossilized Ammonites
The Loket Meteorite (Czechia)



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