Rome’s Final Frontier Exhibition, Hunteran Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

This evening, I am focusing on an aspect of the Antonine Wall which, for a short period in the 2nd century AD, replaced Hadrian’s Wall as the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire in Britain. This frontier benefits from a dedicated exhibition in Glasgow’s Hunterian Museum which is attached to Glasgow University.

The Antonine Wall (named after the Emperor Antoninus Pius) was built around AD 139–142 and stretched for 37 miles across Scotland from modern-day Bridgeness in the east to Old Kilpatrick in the west. This wall acted as Rome’s northern frontier until around AD 160 when it was abandoned upon return of the Romans to the Hadrian’s Wall frontier, about 100 miles south.

The Antonine Wall was built of turf on a stone base 14 feet wide with the turf rampart rising to 10 feet in height and 6 feet wide at the top. Construction was undertaken by soldiers from the legions II Augusta, VI Victrex pia fidelis and XX Valeria Victrix with total force estimated at 8000 men. To record completion of construction of designated lengths distance slabs were recorded by the soldiers. Some nineteen of these slabs have been recovered which provide a unique series of epigraphic testament recording segments of the military construction project.The slabs were constructed from local sandstone and invariably include dedications to Antoninus Pius. Some incorporate ornate scenes of decoration and Roman triumphalism over the natives. It is likely the stones were originally embellished with coloured decoration.Upon their departure, the Romans buried the slabs to the south of the rampart from where they have been subsequently recovered by ditching and ploughing operations.

Here is a video clip of the slabs on display at the Hunterian-

Images of two of the slabs (which are on display at the Hunterian Museum) are provided below.

Distance slab of VIth legion recording completion on 3240 feet of wall.

Distance Slab of XX Valeria Victrex Legion

Gallery at Hunterian Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

Hunterian Museum, Glasgow, Scotland

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