Antonine Wall

The second great barrier erected in the second century C.E. by the Romans in the province of Britain. Situated farther north than the Hadrian Wall, it stretched some 33 miles from the Firth of Forth to the Firth of Clyde in modern Scotland.

The wall was made of turf, resting on a cobbled base, but lacked the sophistication or complexity of Hadrian’s creation. The wall was only 14 feet wide, with a rampart and small wooden forts located at intervals along its length. A large ditch was dug in front of it, and a road to the interior of the province lay behind it.

Only one road actually went through the wall, and was probably used by the Legions for any advance into wild Caledonia beyond. The Antonine Wall was constructed by the II, VI and XX legions, under the supervision of Governor Lollius Urbicus, in 142 C.E., some 20 years after work had begun on Hadrian’s defenses.

Occupation of the wall continued from 142 to 184–185. From the start, the wall was impractical because of the pressures from the peoples to the north. Any temporary evacuation to suppress provincial uprisings necessitated the virtual destruction of the turf to avoid capture.

In 180 C.E., the wall was destroyed by the Caledonians, leading to the arrival of General Ulpius Marcellus in Britain. It was ultimately decided that the defense was a luxury the province could not afford. Roman troops were withdrawn, and the wall became a monument to Rome’s declining strength.

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