Roman troops built a lot of forts. Whether temporary marching camps or full blown legionary bases, they tended to have a similar layout and shape (probably a very helpful feature for those retuning from a night in the local tavern). On the frontier, the auxiliary soldiers were already living and working from the forts on the Stanegate, but it wasn’t long before a huge building program of new forts was launched.
There were to be outpost forts north of the Wall, a series of forts stretching down the Cumbrian coast and a set of auxiliary forts placed along the Wall. The latter decision is not without controversy. It appears construction of these forts suddenly took priority over building the Wall. In fact, work on the Wall may have completely stopped for several years while the forts were built. Does this point to a big change in Hadrian’s original plan? Not necessarily but, if the forts were always supposed to be on the Wall, why were sections of Wall, turrets and ditch demolished to make way for them?
While the soldiers lived inside the fort, over time, lively civilian communities developed outside (the vicus). Despite being forbidden to marry, many soldiers had families who needed somewhere to live. And with all those soldiers next door, the vicus also became a hub for local trade, drawing in shopkeepers, traders and merchants from far and wide. And, yes, it appears there probably was prime real estate.
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