Although it was completed almost 1900 years ago, the Roman ruin known today as Hadrian's wall remains remarkably intact, and retains much of its former glory and mystique. Located in northern England, and stretching across nearly 80 miles of the hilly countryside of Northumbria, the ruin marks the northernmost expansion of one of the greatest civilizations in human history. It is architecturally significant as an astounding achievement of ancient engineering and design, and historically significant as a reminder of the military and political struggles of ancient Rome and Britannia. It is one of the most famed of all Roman ruins, and is unquestionably the most famous such edifice constructed so far from the capital city of Rome itself. On a grander scale, it is considered by many to be one of the greatest man-made structures of ancient times, and is often compared with the pyramids of Egypt, the Great Wall of China, and the ancient temples of the South American Aztecs. In the centuries before the birth of Christ, the city-state evolved as the central form of governmental power in the Ancient world. Sovereignty was centralized in the great cities of Rome, Vienna, Carthage, Alexandria, Cologne, and Damascus. Unlike the nation states of modern times, there were no clear boundaries delineating spheres of influence. Instead, each city-state governed local territories, and exerted its political influence as far outward as was pragmatically possible, with the only constraints being the technological, military and logistical limitations of the era. The city-states routinely went to war with each other over disputed territories and political conflicts. There was little peace in the outlying regions, and the only stability was found near the great cities themselves. Over the course of time, the city of Rome began to develop more influence and power, effectively gaining control of vast sections of modern day Italy and Germany. A combination of geography, natural resources, and a succession of visionary leaders enabled Rome to begin to build one of the first legitimate Empires of ancient times. A vast empire was envisioned by Julius Caesar, one of the greatest Roman leaders, and his wise rule and subsequent assassination in 44 B.C. started a chain of events which eventually led to the crowning of the first Emperor of Rome. That first Emperor was Augustus, a nephew of Julius Caesar, and his ascension to the throne in 27 B.C. marks what is traditionally considered the beginning of the Roman Empire. The Empire lasted at least 400 years as the dominant political force in a large portion of the ancient world. Roman influence spread far and wide over much of Europe, North Africa, and eastern Asia. At its height, the Roman Empire stretched from Spain in the west, all the way east to Syria, Arabia, and parts of modern day Russia. In the south the empire stretched to cover Egypt and much of north Africa, and in the north, the influence of Rome extended into the British Isles as far as contemporary Scotland. Hadrian's Wall, built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian, was begun in 122 A.D. at the very height of the Roman Empire. It marks the northernmost expansion of the empire, and dominates the landscape of central England to this day. The Romans remained a force in Britain until roughly the year 220, even after the wall itself had been abandoned. The Roman Empire had collapsed by approximately 400 A.D. Publius Aelius Hadrianus, the future emperor of all Rome, was born in southern Spain on January 24, 76 A.D. He was born into a wealthy, educated, and highly political family. When he was 10 years old, his father died. It was Roman tradition at the time that a male child must have a male guardian appointed upon the death of his father, so the young Publius was "naturally committed" to the care of the most powerful and influential men in the...
Bibliography: Birley, Anthony R., Hadrian: The Restless Emperor (London:
Routledge Books, 1997).
Perowne, Stewart, Hadrian (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1960).
Romans in Cumbria: The History of England (London: Edge Books, 1997).
Winpenny, David, Northumbria (London: Passport Books, 1998) p. 69.
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