WHY HADRIAN BUILT A WALL
to M.R.G.A (Make Rome Great Again)
It was and ever will be known as HADRIAN'S WALL.
Hadrian’s wall stretched across northern England, cutting Britain in two.
Built in the 120’s A.D.
The dimensions of Hadrian’s wall are staggering.
Hadrian’s Wall was more than just a “wall”.
It was a complex of Forts, lookout towers, and castles.
When new, the height of Hadrian’s wall reached 20 ft. (6.096 meters).
The wall was 10 ft. thick (3.048 meters).
The Roman army had conquered “most” (but not all) of Britain by conquering local tribes.
Hadrian’s wall represents determination--Roman know-how and determination.
It bespoke: “Stay Out or become Civilized!"
In its time, Hadrian’s Wall was a Wonder of the World.
Can you imagine the local tribesmen wide-eyed and staring at this project unfold, slack-jawed as their world transformed before their eyes?
Brick and mortar?
Arch gates and tiles?
Believe it or not, Roman writers and historians at the time shrugged indifferently and stated the wall’s purpose was to seal off the “untamed” from the civilized.
(i.e. Ruffians from Sophisticates).
Rome had commenced colonizing Britain 80 years earlier in 43 A.D. under Emperor Claudius.
Surely it was just a matter of "mopping up."
The southern parts of Britain (such as England) quickly came under control willingly.
Rome was the first power in history to “make you an offer you can’t refuse.”
Accept Roman rule and you can keep your local rulers, religions, customs and your enemies become ours.
The British “upper class” quickly jumped at the chance to enjoy the Roman lifestyle knowing full well they were protected by the greatest military power on Earth.
Ah, but what about north of England?
What about those pesky Scots??
In the land of the Scots, fiercely independent warrior tribes gave the middle finger to so-called “civilization.”
Scotland rejected Rome’s rule and stood ready to resist.
Rome won battle after battle but could never keep what they conquered under “control.”
Ruling a Scot was like herding cats.
In fact, it was such a pain in the ass dealing with the obstinate, cantankerous, uncouth tribes of Scotland--Rome retreated to the south and commenced walling the buggers in!
Romans came up with a scathing epithet to hurl Ad Hominem against the Scots.
The word they hurled in contempt was: BARBARIANS!
(To a Roman, civilized living was the elite way to exist and anything less was barbaric.
The word Barbarian comes from the sound of blubbering nonsense (“Baa-baa” like a sheep) which the Romans heard when Scots were speaking.
Yes, to a civilized Roman citizen, Scots were a basket of deplorable sheep who blather uttered nonsense.
Romans may have looked down their noses at “barbarians” but they also feared them.
Romans, as a people, were small and short in stature.
In Roman literature, the taller, menacing warriors of the north of England were scary dudes!
Claudius was succeeded by Emperor Hadrian who came calling on the troops to determine why the conquering standoff had stagnated (like today’s American troops in the Middle East.)
Hadrian determined to set the Roman Empire on a revolutionary new course.
Hadrian espoused his plan to rein in a sprawling, conquering warfare as a thing of the past.
You could say, Emperor Hadrian wanted to
M.R.G.A. for the S.P.Q.R.
(Make Rome Great Again) instead of pouring men and money into endless unprofitable skirmishes and quagmires.
As the poet Virgil had scribed:
“The gods have given Rome empire without end.”
Yet, Hadrian declared, “Enough is too much.”
(i.e. Get it all under manageable control and make the best of what we have.)
Emperor Hadrian made a tour of his empire to see for himself where hot spots needed shoring up.
After all, an Empire isn’t really an empire if it couldn’t control its borders.
Problem = Solution
While in Britain, Hadrian got an earful of complaints from his soldiers.
Archeologists have found actual letters written by soldiers describing the barbarians and their feelings about having to deal with them.
“We hate these Britons; the won’t stand their ground and fight you man to man! They’ll take a hack at you, throw their javelin and then--run off and hide behind a tree!”
Yes, hit and run strikes were seen as cowardly because the extremely efficient Roman soldier was only equipped (brilliantly) to fight a formal engagement with regular armies in standard variety formations.
Work began in 122 A.D. immediately after Emperor Hadrian’s tour of Britain.
“He came to Britain. He reformed many things. He built a wall--the first to do so, to separate the Romans from the Barbarians.” (Ancient biography of Hadrian.)
Master Architect or Know-it-all?
Who was the architect? Hadrian considered himself a great architect and saw himself as the great guardian of Rome’s building tradition.
Born in 76 A.D. just as the Coliseum in Rome was under construction, Hadrian had observed the feats of engineering with awe and determined to study and become a significant builder one day. He would continue his designing and building throughout his reign as emperor.
The inscription on Hadrian’s wall is more than symbolic. It was his personal ‘brainchild’.
It was the very symbol of his “M.R.G.A.” policy:
Protection of the borders, no more wars, peaceful development, and keeping uncivilized ruffians out.
Infrastructure was more important than endless conquests.
He was known as a “know-it-all.”
Hadrian’s ego was larger than life. To criticize him was to risk your personal fate.
Once while redesigning the Temple of Venus in Rome, Hadrian asked the opinion of a renown architect, Apollodorus of Damascus ( a Syrian-Greek engineer, architect, designer and sculptor from Damascus, Roman Syria, who flourished during the 2nd century AD).
Apollodorus wrote back to Hadrian telling him there was “...a problem with the statues of the goddesses portrayed as sitting on thrones in the temple.”
Apollodorus seemingly mocked Hadrian for making them so out-of-proportion to the temple itself….”If these goddesses ever stood to walk out of the temple, they’d smash their head against the ceilings!”
It was written as a sarcastic joke on Emperor Hadrian which was as one architect to another, not to be taken in offense.
Hadrian didn’t see the joke as evidenced by the order to have Apollodorus executed immediately.
(So great a loss to Rome would this be--it was pointed out--the sentence was softened to mere banishment.)
Was fear of the Barbarians the sole motive behind Hadrian and his 73 mile (118 km) wall?
After all--4 legions in Britain meant 4 X 5,000 troops--surely more than enough to deal with incursion, and insurrection by hit-and-run Scots, right?
Historians have noticed and rethought the matter.
The design of the wall, its length and disposition would belie a greater concern beyond ruffians screaming “baa-baa-” as they hurl a javelin and duck beyond a tree.
Control of human traffic.
Cross Frontier Trade, specifically.
Revenue from trade with foreign powers was quite the profitable enterprise for Rome.
Without proper controls--what was to stop the trade of Roman Weapons with potential enemies without
Historians suggest further--Hadrian wanted a mammoth symbol of his MEGALOMANIAC SCHEME to impress people! To place his “brand name” on a magnificent achievement that would last into the millennia.
This wall of his would tell future rulers, governors, citizens of posterity that Hadrian had been the first in history to say: “Here is the limit of empire, and this wall is my Trump card.”
After all, it is the person who builds great things and places his name upon those edifices who lives on in history--isn’t it?
Why else would we call it--HADRIAN’S WALL?