I am finally here at the most famous Hadrian`s Wall and actually at Housesteads, one of the best preserved Roman forts in Britain and close invisible border between Britain and Scotland.
It is situated on the Whin Sill outrop and was added in about AD 122 and designed to contain garrison of 800 soldiers. Yes, this is huge amount of soldiers.
Hadrian`s Wall marked the edge of the Roman province of Britannia, and the north -western fringe of the empire.
A wall is a 73 miles long and I wonder how was it possible to build this scenic wall?
So, short story about the idea of Hardian`s Wall looks like, when Hadrian became emperor, he travelled widely in conquered territories. He decided that the wall was an admission of the limit of Roman power, so he builded it.
I can see from information around that Hadrian`s Wall is part of the Frontiers of Roman Empire World Heritage Site, and part of the UNESCO.
Excavations here revealed the gateways, the curtain wall with turrets, latrines and tree barrack blocks. In the centre are the imposing remains of the commanding officer`s house, the headquarter`s building and hospital.
The area of the fort seems to be empty today, but it was once full of buildings, the remains of which lie burried beneth the turf. The low square foundation was part of turrets, which were lookout towers which Roman soldiers watched the unconquered lands beyond the wall.
Most of the building materials were found locally, stone, turf, clay and lime for bording stonework, timber from the valleys. Building the wall appears to have taken six years.
Roman soldiers were well fed with a varied diet, with bread forming a major part. Here is even the ancient oven.
The local economy produced food staples for those in and around the fort - meats, grains, bear, vegetables and fruits. Animals, leather, timber and stone were important and flexible local materials for both buildings and personal items. Workshops produced cast and forged metal- items, and possibly window glass, for military and civilian use. In the daytime the shops were open and they could get out shoes repaired or meet friends in the tavern. The headquarters building (principia) was the administrative, ceremonial and symbolic heart of the fort.
The most impressive for me was a communal latrine. With up to 800 men living in the fort, good hygiene was essential to keep them healthy. The latrine (latrina) reveals the clean, communal attitude to the hygiene of the Roman soldiers. The sewer was flushed by rainwater brought from all over the fort in drains and out via a culvert under the fort wall.
It is enigma today, what the soldiers used for toilet paper but probably it may have been moss, bracken or rags. :)
When you stand at the front of the wall and follow it along the natural ridge that Housestead sits on, you can imagine what it must have been like to stand at the edge of the known world. This wonderful landscape is now protected as Northhumberland National Park.
Above: Housesteads Roman Fort, Copyright © Agnes R, 2023
I forgot to mention that when you pass the gate of the site you need prepare for uneven ground and hard way up to the top, because the fort was built at the top of the hill in a rough landscape. Some people had a hard walk. I remember one elderly gentelman was greeting me when finally came up to his destination. Anyway, I admire his effort and enjoyment.
Also, I forgot to mention one more thing. You can meet the reptiles there. Yes, you read it right! There live adder, slow- worm and lizard. I have not seen any of those reptiles but for example adder have a distinctive black zigzag on their backsand have even 70 cm lenght. Slow- worm is a legless lizard, shiny in apparance.
At the top you can see the museum, which is free for National Trust and English Heritage members. You can discover history of this place in a short film, also a stunning objects and displays.
I met the lady who greeted all visitors at the entrance to the site and she told me a story about growing food in this place. There were shops, taverns and terraces. She showed me the map where the terraces were located across the hillside. The people from the fort growed vicus in the foreground and it has also been discovered that they tried to produce fruit trees such as apple trees. Maybe they tried produce a cider, made from fermenting apple juice. :)