Walking in the footsteps of the Romans
SO, what did the Romans do for us?
Well, how about sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, public health - oh, and peace?
You might recognise this impressive list from that very funny scene in Monty Python’s 1979 film, Life Of Brian.
But there is plenty of truth behind the humour. It’s generally accepted the Romans did have a civilising effect on the barbarian areas they conquered.
And we have one mighty example of Roman occupation on our doorstep, of course - Hadrian’s Wall.
Building started around AD 122 when the Emperor Hadrian visited the North of England to identify potential sites.
Hundreds of legionaries from Chester and York marched North to quarry the stone and build the wall which took around seven years to complete.
It runs through the narrow gap in the Pennines between the Solway Estuary in the West to, of course, Wallsend in the East.
The wall is 73 miles (80 Roman miles) long.
It was the most heavily fortified border anywhere in the Roman Empire.
The wall is usually said to have been 15 feet high - and so it was, to the level where the soldiers would stand - but with a parapet on top, it was more likely to be 20 feet - with a large ditch on either side.
On the North side, recent excavations found evidence of pits which were likely to have been filled with wooden stakes to deter “barbarians” from the North.
To the south there was the Vallum - a colossal ditch flanked by mounds of earth.
Fascinatingly there is evidence to suggest that it was painted white, making it even more of an imposing sight in the bleak Northumberland landscape.
Right along the wall, one mile apart, gates were protected by small guard posts called milecastles.
Forts, spaced just over seven miles apart, were built on the wall wherever possible.
The wall manned by regiments 1000-strong.
The troops based in the forts and milecastles of the wall were mostly recruited from the North Western provinces of the Roman empire.
The forts on the wall had a long life of nearly 300 years, but the wall was all but obsolete when the end of Roman Britain came in the early 5th cwentury.
And if, in 2018, we usually cherish and aim to preserve items of antiquity, that wasn’t always the case.
After the wall was abandoned, for centuries it became a source of stone to build local castles and churches, farms and houses.
It wasn’t until Victorian times that efforts to conserve the wall began and historians and archeologists began to study it.
Hadrian’s Wall became a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Enjoy our photographs from the Sunday Sun archive of sites along Hadrian’s Wall. was largely auxiliaries, in 500 or
Front: ‘Roman soldiers’ waiting in Joan Street, Wallsend, for the start of a march to Carlisle in 1979. These ‘Romans’ would walk the length of Hadrian’s Wall in aid of the Cancer Relief Fund. Joan Street was one of those that backed on to Swan Hunter shipyard. When the streets were demolished, the site of Segedunum Roman Fort would re-emerge. Today it’s a popular visitor attraction
Above, schoolboys sitting on the wall of the Roman Granary at Housesteads Fort, Northumberland, in August, 1948; left, pupils of Walker Technical High School, Newcastle, on a trip to Hadrian’s Wall, 1961 (Picture: Eileen Welsh)