Antonine Wall

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The Antonine Wall, looking east, from Barr Hill between Twechar and Croy
The Antonine Wall, looking east, from Barr Hill between Twechar and Croy

The Antonine Wall is a stone and turf fortification, built by the Romans across what is now lowland Scotland.

Construction of the Antonine Wall began in AD 142 during the reign of Antoninus Pius, and was completed in 144. The wall stretches 60 kilometres (37 miles) from Old Kirkpatrick in West Dunbartonshire on the Firth of Clyde to Bo'ness on the Firth of Forth. The wall was intended to replace Hadrian's Wall 160 km (100 miles) to the south, but while the Romans did establish temporary forts and camps north of the wall, they never managed to conquer the Pictish and Celtic tribes, and the Antonine Wall suffered many attacks. The Romans called the land north of the wall Caledonia, but it is thought that Alba, the modern Gaelic name for Scotland, may originate from the Latin word for "white", as a result of the country's many snow-covered mountains. Also, however, Alba may be a variation on the same theme as Albion, which was applied originally to the whole of Britain but is used often now to mean just England.

The Antonine Wall was inferior to Hadrian's Wall in terms of scale and construction, but it was still an impressive achievement, considering that it was completed in only two years, at the northern edge of the Roman empire in a cold and hostile land. The wall was typically an earth bank, about 4 meters high, with a wide ditch on the north side, and a military way or road on the south. The Romans initially planned to build forts every 6 miles, but this was soon revised to every 2 miles, resulting in a total of 19 forts along the wall.

The wall was abandoned after only 20 years, when the Roman legions withdrew to Hadrian's Wall in AD 164. After a series of attacks in AD 197, Emperor Septimius Severus arrived in Scotland in AD 208 to secure the frontier, and repaired parts of the wall. Although this re-occupation only lasted a few years, the wall is sometimes referred to (by later Roman historians) as the Severan Wall.

Although most of the wall has been destroyed over time, sections of the wall can still be seen in Bearsden, Kirkintilloch, Twechar, Croy, Falkirk and Polmont.

The Antonine Wall, remains of Roman fortlet, Barr Hill, near Twechar
The Antonine Wall, remains of Roman fortlet, Barr Hill, near Twechar

See also

External links

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