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The Inner Moat of Hadrian's Wall

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Hadrian made a famous trip to England and decided to place the northern boundary of the Empire further north than the Stanegate. His reasoning for this was simple. Where the Stanegate was he could see no natural defensive area at all and saw many open areas where attack could not be repelled quickly or where the barbarians en-masse could easily and quickly destroy forts etc. He moved the defences north where natural hills and rivers along a similar line to that of the Stanegate made worthy defence lines.


I think a wonderful story could be told about the cartographers of ancient Rome. I wonder whether there might have been an ancient Roman equivalent of America's Lewis and Clark, canoeing along rivers throughout the empire and mapping the regions for the emperor back in the city of Rome? Or, did Hadrian take this task upon himself, being the traveller that he was? Perhaps this might make another interesting topic on this board: Mapping the Empire.


As for attacks on the Wall you will be surprised to know that there is NO evidence of any attack EVER taking place on the Wall across its entire length.


No, I wasn't too surprised to read that. I presumed the Wall served as an effective deterrent against attacks.


As I said above Corbridge was attacked at least twice although this was before the Wall was built and it proves to a certain extent that far from being a waste of time, money and resources it was hugely successful.


I'm sure it was hugely successful. It wasn't the practicality of building the Wall itself that was in question, though, but rather the possible impracticality of having a ditch or moat on the inner side of the Wall, which was eventually filled in.


But you answered that question for me, AC:


The Vallum is not filled in along its length as is proposed by some 'historians' and this is proven by visiting any amount of places along its entirety today. There are some parts of the Vallum that were filled in purely because it is too close to the fort it straddles.


Many thanks for that clarification, AC!


-- Nephele

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Hadrian did actually get as far north as the proposed Wall area and that is why the area chosen was to his obvious liking. He no doubt had advisors too who would give the dimensions such as the length of the Wall, thickness, height and costs too. To answer a question that has come up since my last post I do not know of the economic impact the Wall etc had on Rome to be precise and do not wish to second guess that estimate. I will endeavour to write to David Breeze and ask his advice. Depending upon his reply I will post here what is said.

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You should email Mr. Birley. He is probably one of the most authoritative people on the wall. I think people are discounting one big thing in Northern England: Rain! If you dig a ditch between and below the two continuous mounds, the ditch will eventually fill in. The question is whether or not the water would stay for any period of time? That would be an interesting experiment. I still stick to my theory that the vallum on at least one side had a wooden palisade of some sort on top of it. Usually when the wall was attacked, it was by people taking boats around the wall. Think of it as outflanking a phalanx. Why attack head on when you can go around?

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  • Map of the Roman Empire