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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  History and Archeology (Moderator: David Atherton)  |  Topic: Was Hadrian that afraid of the Scots? 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: Was Hadrian that afraid of the Scots?  (Read 3921 times)
basemetal
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« on: November 26, 2005, 11:10:06 pm »

I know that there are many interpertations of why Hadrian's wall was built.  Keep the Scots out, keep the subjects in, a good way to regulate trade with an unconquerd land, ect.  I know this is a scholarly debate and one must attribute, but I remember seeing a quote that "Hadrian was so afraid of the savage Scotts that he ordered the wall built.  Mmmm...the roman army in it's prime seems to me capable of handling the traditional Scottish clans, who like so many other foes the Roman Empire faced only united in times of great danger.  Warriors and capering heros would have been no more a match for the legions than were the tribes in Germany and Gaul. Why did Hadrian stop at the wall? Surely the empire could have gone farther-in fact-a secondary wall was built of earth about 30 miles farther north. Why then and why there?
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« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2005, 10:30:20 am »

The rest of the island had been pretty much subdued , but Scotland had not been tamed by the time of Trajan's death.  Hadrian had no interest in expanding the borders, so he built the wall to cement the Empire's lines, as he had no expectation of expanding any farther north
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« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2005, 11:14:47 am »

I very much doubt that Hadrian "was afraid of the Scots".á Antoninus Pius did in fact advance into Scotland to build the lesser known "Antonine Wall" across Central Scotland between the Clyde and Forth estuaries. This wall was built of turf (not earth) as had been much of Hadrian's wall which was only converted to stone at a later date. The Antonine Wall was occupied up until the reign of Commodus when the Roman troops withdrew and Hadrian's wall was recommissioned. I believe that the reason for Rome's failure to occupy Scotland was purely an economic one. It was just not worth it. The vast expenditure necessary for such a project would not be recompensed in terms of minerals or, for the most part, by soils suitable for large scale agriculture.

Alex.
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Bill Perry
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« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2005, 12:04:19 pm »

The wall was most likely a two fold purpose for him - first he had to maintain forces to patrol and respond to trouble all along the frontier - the even spaced forts with the wall allowed for minimum forces to be applied to the problem. I doubt anyone expected the "wall" to keep them out - only to slow them down enough for the watch to alert the forts which would respond. The other purpose of course was "idle hands" - the roman army was always kept busy as idle hands bred trouble. Hence the wall solved two important problems at once - allow for less forces to be applied to the pict problem and also to keep the troops busy building maintianing all the facilities involved with the wall - this included patrolling it.
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« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2005, 04:13:03 pm »

There were watchtowers across the area which were in sight on one another so in clear weather there would ahve been no problem getting a message through fast. What they did on a claggy night I don't know.
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« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2005, 11:18:17 pm »

Lit a fire?

 Wink
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« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2005, 12:17:15 am »

How would anyone see it in the mist?
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« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2005, 02:54:41 am »

Depends on how misty!

Ring a bell?
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« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2005, 03:03:36 am »

Probably ringing a bell, but when there is mist, it is difficult to spot enemies anyway, no?

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« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2005, 10:28:22 am »

It is, but then a few men in an isolated watchtower could be very vulnerable. I suspect things were pretty peaceful most of the time.
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« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2005, 01:55:06 pm »

If it was a big enough fire, then couldn't they see it through the mist? Say if they just tossed a torch on a big pile of hay? That's what they did in China on the great wall.

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Bill Perry
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« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2005, 02:31:30 pm »

Patrols and replacements like in most miltary through history - were also true in the roman legions. No watchtower would remain unchecked on I'm sure. Patrols and watch replacements were part of the system. So though a watchtower might be vunlnerable - any sizeable force would still be detected in time for a force to be mobilized from the forts - regardless of "which side" of the wall the enemy forces had manged to get to in that time. Just my opinion Smiley
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« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2005, 04:39:47 pm »

Personally, I think it is much more of a symbol of Roman power, in political as well as social sense.

In a much grander scale, China also has its great wall.  It never really were that effective in keeping people out when the various dynasties became weak; but the wall did served as a much stronger social and cultural line in the sand than a military one. 
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« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2005, 05:57:28 pm »

Also, I have heard that the wall itself was not so impressive.  What was important was the massive fortification in front of the wall.
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« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2005, 07:57:22 pm »

Also, I have heard that the wall itself was not so impressive.á What was important was the massive fortification in front of the wall.

What massive fortification in front of the wall?  Huh
The wall today, although there are no longer any sections at their original height, can still be quite impressive. The Romans used the natural topography when planning it and so there are cliffs (such as the whin sill) that it strides along the top of and on lesser ground a ditch was dug. In Roman times, some authorities now believe, the wall may have been rendered and whitewashed. In which case it would have been absolutely spectacular, a glittering line crossing the whole country from coast to coast. No native would have seen anything like it and it would have been an awesome symbol of Roman power.

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« Reply #15 on: November 29, 2005, 04:28:11 pm »

I walked all the way along it once, and spectacular is the word in the best places. It must have been awe-inspiring to people who functioned in smallish tribes with few resources. Whe it came to defence, the important thing would have been the forts and the militarised zone behind it; I think the wall itself was largely symbolic. But what a symbol!
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« Reply #16 on: November 29, 2005, 07:45:22 pm »

oh, well.  I guess I was wrong.  But I swear I heard in a previous discussion on Forvm that the more important (earthwork) defenses lay in front of the wall, and that the wall was more of a defining line. 
I couldn't find the discussion on the Forvm search function, but I did find that the wall was probably originally built out of earth, and was only later converted to stone.
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« Reply #17 on: November 30, 2005, 12:29:00 am »

It was built out of earth and turf at first, then much of it was rebuilt in stone later. Ditches alone aren't much defence, and neither are walls; it all depended on the garrison.
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« Reply #18 on: April 25, 2006, 08:46:04 pm »

I know this is an older post, but I can't resist an entry on one of my favorite emperors:

I feel the wall was not built from fear of the Scots, but rather to solidify the borders of the empire.  Hadrian was very interested in preserving the vast empire.  This wall could also control all traffic passing in and out of the roman territory, where fees and duties could be collected as well. 

It is well known that public works projects did indeed keep the troops busy, which seemed more productive and gave them a purpose.  I read that the wall is marked in several spots with legionary symbols.  The men must have been proud of their accomplishment.

Overall, I really don't think Hadrian feared the Scots...unless he had encountered William Wallace...WALLACE WALLACE!  Oh sorry guys.  I don't know where that came from. Roll Eyes

I thought it would be helpful for some to see a pic of the wall...

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« Reply #19 on: April 25, 2006, 08:57:27 pm »

Wow, that is a most impressive picture of the wall. The countryside around it looks quite tranquil.
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basemetal
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« Reply #20 on: May 06, 2006, 05:49:50 pm »

As an aside, I wonder if the Scots were distilling "Usebebagh" at that time?  Wow. How different the Roman empire would have been had there been the equivalent of a scotch with a beer back!
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« Reply #21 on: May 10, 2006, 02:15:29 pm »

Come to think of it, the Scots were still in Ireland at the time. The people beyond the wall were the Picts!
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« Reply #22 on: May 11, 2006, 05:39:00 pm »

Robert,

That's a good point!  It's no wonder Hadrian built a wall to keep these fierce warriors out.

For anyone interseted, here's a good tidbit on the mysterious Picts:

http://www.tartans.com/articles/pictcivilization.html
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