Hadrian's Wall is one of Britain's most famous Roman landmarks, spanning 73 miles across the top of northern England.
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The wall's construction started in 122 AD under Emperor Hadrian, who wanted to protect the Roman Empire's northern frontier against raids by the Picts and other tribes. The wall bisected the province of Britannia from the Scottish lowlands of Caledonia.
Although attempts to conquer more of Scotland followed the construction of the border, Hadrian's Wall marked the northern boundary of the Empire for hundreds of years. The wall connected the east and west coasts of Britain, a remarkable feat even for the Romans.
It took three full legions – some 15,000 men – a total of six years to build the majority of Hadrian's Wall. A network of fortifications was also constructed along the length of the wall, consisting of turrets, milecastles, and larger forts. These garrisons contained almost 10,000 men at full strength.
Larger fortifications were established at key strategic points, with smaller milecastle forts positioned at every Roman mile (about 1600 yards or just under 1500 meters). Each milecastle was flanked by two turrets, which stood at a distance of about 540 yards or 495 meters on either side. In total, the wall supported around 80 milecastles and nearly 160 turrets.
Some of the wall's major forts can still be visited today. Housesteads Fort – which is Britain's most intact Roman fort – is one of the main places of interest, along with Birdoswald Fort and Chesters Fort. There is a National Trail that runs along the course of the wall, connecting more than 20 surviving sites. Some of these sites are free, although most are run by English Heritage and have facilities such as cafes, toilets, and museums.
But it wasn't just fortifications that were constructed around the wall. As a major gateway to the Empire, the lands guarded by Hadrian's Wall were important for Britannia's economy. A series of towns sprang up close to the wall, although some existed before the border was built.
Coria – the basis for the modern-day town of Corbridge – is one such town that still stands today. The ruins can still be visited, with the plan of some of the Roman streets still preserved in the Northumberland landscape. In 1964, archaeologists made one of the most important discoveries in British history; the Corbridge Hoard. This find included Roman military equipment and is on display in the Corbridge Roman Town museum.
Although the Romans abandoned Britannia in 410 AD, evidence suggests that Hadrian's Wall was still garrisoned in some fashion. However, over the centuries the wall was gradually abandoned and left in ruins. Stone from the fortifications was repurposed to construct churches and other buildings throughout the region.
Eventually, thanks to efforts from a local clerk named John Clayton and eventually the National Trust, the surviving sections of Hadrian's Wall were protected and preserved as we know them today.
Hadrian's Wall was also categorized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.