Foreword Reviews - - Contents - by Matt Suther­land


Ahead of the mid-oc­to­ber Frank­furt Book Fair, Vic­to­ria and I strapped on our hik­ing boots and crossed the whole of merry ol’ Eng­land by foot—eighty-five miles, coast to coast along­side Hadrian’s Wall. While a va­ca­tion, the idea was to use the eight long days of walk­ing as a sort of brain­storm ses­sion to dis­cuss Fore­word’s twenty-year anniversary and other big-is­sue stuff. But we were also ex­cited to be so close to one of the world’s ar­chae­o­log­i­cal mar­vels and to im­merse our­selves in an­cient Rome’s pres­ence at the western edge of its em­pire.

So we walked a soggy, windswept trail all day through the sheep-filled English coun­try­side and checked into a con­ve­niently po­si­tioned inn at night, our lug­gage hav­ing been hauled by a de­liv­ery ser­vice and now wait­ing in our room. What more to say than we had one of the great ad­ven­tures of our lives—stun­ning scenery, stren­u­ous ex­er­cise, ex­otic in a vaguely fa­mil­iar way (most of my an­ces­tors are Scots).

While de­mol­ished in many places, the Wall was orig­i­nally built of quar­ried stone and con­crete, fif­teen feet high by nine across. Dat­ing from 120 CE or so, it now hugs the land­scape like the picked car­cass of an an­cient ser­pent. Of the count­less sto­ries col­lected through the cen­turies, one of my fa­vorites is that well into the Mid­dle Ages, no one knew who built the Wall or why. It was thought to have been cre­ated by giants. Yes, giants, and the word seems spot-on when you con­sider Ro­man en­gi­neer­ing, gov­ern­ing and mil­i­tary prow­ess, cul­ture, and phi­los­o­phy.

Vic­to­ria and I both make fun of our faulty mem­o­ries, so our trail con­ver­sa­tions were a jum­bled mess of Ro­man history we’ve read over the years from in­die pub­lish­ers like Ox­ford, Pe­ga­sus, Over­look, Blooms­bury, Prince­ton, and the like, but we thor­oughly en­ter­tained our­selves. Of course, things only got worse in the pubs at night. Thank Jupiter the English bar­tenders are too po­lite to fact-check.

Have a great hol­i­day sea­son. See you next year.

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