Civilians on Rome's Northern Frontier

By Robin Birley

For most people, the Roman occupation of northern Britain and Hadrian's Wall are synonymous. The colossal series of frontier works, which stretched from the mouth of the Tyne to the Solway Firth and beyond, make up the best known of all of Rome's many frontiers. Apparently manned by thousands of Roman soldiers, gloomily watching over the northern horizons for signs of invading Scots, the wall has captured the public imagination. Kipling wrote of the soldiers' lonely existence in those northern hills, and a visit to a Wall fort on a bleak November day reinforces his tale. But the truth was very different.