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Hadrian’s Wall – Roman Britain

Below is a detailed article about Hadrian’s Wall in Britain. It is one of the most iconic and significant structures from the Roman era in Britain. It is also called the Roman Wall or Vallum Hariani in Latin. The purpose of the wall is defense from the external forces and the protection of the Roman Province of Britannia.

Dimensions – Hadrian’s Wall


Hadrian’s Wall was the largest Roman wall in Britain. It stretched 117km long. Along the way, the width and height of the wall varied according to the materials available in the vicinity. However, the wall at least 5 to 6 m tall when it was constructed. It does not remain so anymore due to the wind and a large amount of time it has surpassed.

image of hadrians wall
An image of Hadrian’s Wall

The wall may have been rebuilt with stone. The central section of the wall was 8 feet wide. The foundation of the wall is extremely strong even today which is why a large portion of the ruins stand even today. The central section is about 3m wide. Much preservation has gone into the wall ever since the Roman era.

The wall extended from Segedunum – a Roman town on River Tyne to the Solway Firth. This is toward the west of the village ‘Bowness on Solway’. However, this area does not mark the end of this defensive structure. Therefore, the accurate distance of the Hadrian’s Wall remains unknown.

Construction of Hadrian’s Wall

The construction of Hadrian’s Wall began under the command of Roman Emperor Hadrian – one of the five good rulers of the Roman Empire. He visited Roman Britain in 122 AD when the construction began. It was completed in six years. The construction largely began in the east and stretched four to seven miles along the west.

Hadrian’s Wall – Symbol of the Roman power

The Roman legions that lived in Britain participated in the construction work. A supply route was discovered from where all the material for construction would be brought in. Along with Hadrian’s wall, a series of forts were constructed in Stanegate where the ruins can still be seen. The fort of Vindolanda was in this province and the ruins are now a tourist attraction.

The material for construction is largely igneous delorite based rock which has it preserved to date. The part built with clay and brick have perished but the pathway can be seen underground. Archaeological excavations have largely helped in the tracing of the path of Hadrian’s Wall. There were turrets seen on different castles. These were built by the Roman legion. Inscriptions of these legions can be found. The turrets were 14 – 15 meters high.

The work of construction was divided every 8km. Every legion or group from a legion was appointed for 8 km of work. This helped uniformity in the speed of construction. The wall was completed in 128 AD. After the construction of the wall, it was plastered and whitewashed. The surface was smooth and had the sunlight reflecting on it. It had a charismatic appearance.

Purpose of building Hadrian’s Wall

Planning of this massive project may have been done long before its execution in 122 AD. The sand fragments of the wall date back to 118 AD or 119 AD. The main purpose of the wall was to safeguard the empire and keep it intact. Hadrian was the first to build such a magnificent wall that extended 117 km.

The wall was also majorly an expression of the Roman power. The forts too are for showing off the Roman power to the other rulers. Another reason is studied for the purpose of construction of Hadrian’s Wall. When Hadrian came to power in 117 AD, there was a lot of opposition from the Roman empire in the middle east, especially from Egypt and Mesopotamia. Hadrian as an emperor experienced this stress and may have wanted to divert his attention to a serious project which is why the Wall may have come up.

The wall also provided control over immigration of people from other territories The Vikings and the West Germanic tribes tried to enter the Roman Empire was various purposes. In a way, the wall also bought control over smuggling and customs that went on in Roman Britain. After the construction of the wall, people traveled only within the territory and conducted business within the territory.

Hadrian’s Wall was like a checkpoint for the Roman governors to understand what comes in and what goes out from the territory. Taxation became easier due to this. There were watchtowers along the wall that made it easy for the legions to patrol any incoming threat to the Roman Empire of Britain.

World Heritage Site

In the year 1987, Hadrian’s Wall has been declared a World Heritage Site. In 2005, it was declared a part of the transnational ‘Frontiers of the Roman Empire’.

Tourists at the Hadrian’s Wall

The wall remains unguarded. Many tourists visit this iconic construction. Many visitors climb and stand on the wall which is now discouraged as a part of the preservation of this historic structure. There are illuminating events that take place occasionally at Hadrian’s Wall. The wall is lit with over 500 beacons. This activity was a part of a large event called the London 2012 Festival.

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