Antonine Wall at Falkirk, Scotland

This evening, I am focusing on the Antonine Wall in Scotland.This was built by the Romans and for a short whiled replaced Hadrian’s Wall as the northern frontier of the Roman Empire.

The Antonine Wall is a turf structure stretching east-west between the rivers Forth and Clyde (Edinburgh and Glasgow) and covering a distance of 37 miles (59 Km). It is named after the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius who ruled from AD 138-161. Construction of such a wall may have been politically inspired to enhance the status of Antoninus who had succeeded the ‘consolidator’, Hadrian.  In July 2008 the Antonine Wall was designated a part of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site.

Here is a video clip of the wall at close to the Forth and Clyde Canal at Bonnybridge.

There is no meaningful evidence of a military imperative for the abandonment of Hadrian’s Wall (built about AD 122-130) and relocation of the frontier in Britain a modest 100 miles (160 Km) north to the Forth-Clyde region. The initiative may well have driven by the need to provide Antoninus with a military triumph at the commencement of his Emperorship and thereby secure his standing in Rome. This was at a time when Britain was one of the chief problem areas in the Roman Empire.

Section of Antonine Wall at Bonnybridge, Scotland

The Roman presence in Britain lasted from AD 43 to AD 410. The Antonine Wall venture was neither the first nor last excursion into what is now Scotland which at the time was occupied by tribes including the Caledonii from where the name Caledonia emanates. Moving the frontier to the new Antonine Wall entailed reoccupation of sites and forts built around the period AD 77-AD 84 (possibly earlier) when the Emperor Vespasian established the Gask Ridge frontier in, mainly, modern day Perthshire.

Section of Antonine Wall between Castlecary and Croy Hill, Scotland

The Antonine Wall dates from the period AD 139-142, with the latter date coinciding with the abandonment of Hadrian’s Wall to the south. It was built from east to west, ran from Bridgeness on the banks of the river Forth to Old Kilpatrick on the river Clyde and covered a distance of 37 miles (40.5 Roman miles). Constructed on a 14 ft. wide stone base, the turf built rampart was probably 10ft. high and 6ft. at top width.

Section of Antonine Wall at Seabegs Wood, Scotland

Construction of the Wall (a term which includes the Military Way, ditch, rampart and other structures) was undertaken by soldiers from the legions II Augusta, VI Victrex pia fidelis and XX Valeria Victrix. It is estimated that the construction force may have totalled some 8000 men comprising a mix of legionaries and auxiliaries who between them possessed the full range of specialist skills necessary for such a project. From this era we have a legacy of some 20 Distance Slabs which are elaborately embellished carved inscriptions on stone tablets which record individual stretches of construction by detachments of the three legions. Studies of the Slabs suggest that the construction project was divided into 15 sectors.

Here is a video clip of the Distance Slabs on display at the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow

Along the line of the Wall there may have been 26 forts (of which 17 are known) with the six principal ones at Barr Hill, Carriden, Mumrills, Castlecary, Balmuildy and Old Kilpatrick. Other sites are: Bishopton, Duntocher, Cleddans, Castlehill, Bearsden, Summerston, Wilderness Plantation, Cadder, Glasgow Bridge, Kirkintilloch, Auchendavy, Croy Hill, Westerwood, Seabegs, Rough Castle, Watling Lodge, Camelon, Falkirk, Inveravon and Kinneil. The garrison complement of the six primary forts may have been 4000 soldiers.

At the eastern end of the Wall, although not part of it, is the Cramond supply base.

Baths attached to Roman Fort at Bearsden near Glasgow

Section of Wall foundations at Bearsden near Glasgow

Roman Fort at Barrhill

Refer this video clip for a view of the ‘minefield’ or lilia at Rough Castle. The pits were filled with upturned sharpened spikes and camouflaged to deter attackers.

Abandonment of the Antonine Wall commenced around AD 158 on a progressive basis. This  coincides with rebuilding work on Hadrian’s Wall which was reoccupied from about AD 160.

Be Sociable, Share!