The Antonine Wall - Sarah Woodbury

The Antonine Wall

While most people have heard of Hadrian’s wall, which was begun in 122 AD at the behest of Emperor Hadrian, fewer people are familiar with the Antonine wall, which was constructed on the orders of his successor, Antonius Pius.

The Antonine wall is a turf wall built by the Roman legions, starting in 142 AD, across the belt of Scotland from the Firth of Clyde to the Firth of Forth. With a length of 39 miles, the wall was on average ten feet high and sixteen feet wide. To further augment the defenses, the Romans dug out a deep ditch on the north side and built a wooden palisade along the top of the wall.

The wall took twelve years to build and included 19 forts. We have visited both Bar Hill, and Rough Castle, which is the best preserved today.

Built on the southern side of the wall, the fort was defended by six-meter-thick turf ramparts and surrounded by defensive ditches. There were gateways through the main wall to the north, and also through the walls on the other three sides of the fort.
While the fort was one of the smaller built along the wall, it contained several stone buildings, including a commander’s house, barracks, headquarters, bath house, and a granary. One of the fort’s most distinctive features is its lilia pits to the north of the fort. These were constructed for defensive purposes with each pit containing a sharpened stake pointed upright, with the intent of slowing any attack on the wall from the north.

Emperor Antonius intended for the Antonine Wall to supersede Hadrian’s wall. Historians speculate that Antonius Pius, though not a military man himself, was trying to demonstrate his military prowess by ordering a renewed invasion of Scotland. Antonius Pius died in March of 161, and shortly afterwards, in the early 160s, the wall was abandoned. The border of Roman occupied territory once again became Hadrian’s Wall.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *