Hadrian's Wall

defensive fortification in Roman Britain

Hadrian's Wall (Latin: Vallum Aelium or Vallum Hadriani) is a stone and turf fortification built across northern Great Britain by the Roman Empire in the early second century. The Roman emperor Hadrian built the wall to control barbarians: the ancient Britons to the north of the wall. The wall is now in England, and runs between the Solway Firth and the River Tyne in northern England. When the Romans built the wall, it was the northern border of the Roman Empire.

Map of Hadrian's Wall in northern England and the Antonine Wall in Scotland
Ruins of Hadrian's Wall near Greenhead
The remains of the fort at Housesteads
The Staffordshire Moorlands cup, an enamelled Roman bronze vessel (diameter 89.5 mm) which lists the names of several Roman forts on the western sector of Hadrian's Wall.

The Roman legions (armies) of the governor of Roman Britain, Platorius Nepos, built the wall for the emperor between 122 and 126.[1] The wall was about 118 kilometres (73 miles) long.[1] Most of the wall – 67 kilometres (42 miles) – was made of stone. To the west of this section – for 46 kilometres (29 miles) – the wall was made of turf. The stone part of the wall was 3 metres (9.8 feet) thick and about 4.2 metres (14 feet) tall. The wall's turf part was 6 metres (20 feet) thick and about 4.2 metres (14 feet) tall.[1] To start with, the wall's east end was at Newcastle upon Tyne (Latin: Pons Aelius), but later the Romans built more stone wall for 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) to the east, to Wallsend on Tyne.[1] In front of the wall (on the northern side) was a ditch. The ditch was 6 metres (20 feet) away from the wall. The ditch was at about 3 metres (9.8 feet) deep and was normally about 8.2 metres (27 feet) wide.[1] The Romans used the wall for at least two hundred years.[1]

Hadrian's Wall is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site called Frontiers of the Roman Empire.[2] It was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.[3] It shares this listing with the Antonine Wall in Scotland and the German fortifications known as the Limes Germanicus. Hadrian's Wall was the first of two "great walls" created by the Romans in Great Britain. Its ruins are more visible than the lesser known Antonine Wall to the north.It also had small watch towers/fortes along it.

The Vallum is a huge earthwork associated with Hadrian's Wall. It runs from coast to coast to the south of the wall.



Begun in AD 122, during the rule of the emperor Hadrian, it was the first of two fortifications built across Great Britain. The second was the Antonine Wall (now in Scotland), the lesser known of the two.

The original wall was 20 feet tall and 8 feet wide. It had a fort every 7 miles that housed a force of over 500 soldiers and for each mile there were smaller forts and watchtowers. There were three legions working on it and in 10 years it was nearly finished.

The wall was the most heavily fortified border in the Empire. In addition to its role as a military fortification, it is thought that many of the gates through the wall would have served as customs posts to allow trade and levy taxation.



A significant portion of the wall still exists, particularly the midsection, and for much of its length the wall can be followed on foot by Hadrian's Wall Path or by cycle on National Cycle Route 72.

"Stretching for 73 miles across northern England, Hadrian's Wall is the most important monument of Roman Britain, and the best-known frontier of the entire Roman empire".[4]

English Heritage describes it as "one of the towering achievements of military engineering, and a monument to the power of one of the greatest empires in world history".[5]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Richmond, Ian Archibald; Frere, Sheppard S.; Millett, Martin (2016). "wall of Hadrian". Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Classics. doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780199381135.013.6872. ISBN 978-0-19-938113-5. Retrieved 2021-04-18.
  2. Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Frontiers of the Roman Empire". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 2021-04-18.
  3. UNESCO, "Frontiers of the Roman Empire"; retrieved 2012-4-19.
  4. English Nature. Hadrian's Wall – Red Guide. [1]
  5. "English Heritage". www.english-heritage.org.uk. Retrieved 2021-04-18.

Other websites