Stretching across the island for 80 miles, the Wall was the showpiece of the frontier works and a powerful symbol of the might of Rome. For those crossing the frontier, it said ‘You are now entering our soil, these are our works; behold, be afraid and pay your taxes.’
However, it appears things didn’t go entirely smoothly during construction. There were delays, changes in plan, inadvertent demolition and some far from perfect work (was it ever thus with big public projects?) In the end, it appears what really mattered was getting the Wall up and functioning, and that’s just what the legions did. And while this may have led to a wall that lacked a really high quality Roman finish, to the Ancient Britons, it must have looked spectacular, alien and intimidating.
Meanwhile back in Rome, it appears it wasn’t that big a deal. Despite the enormity of the achievement, the Romans wrote very little about the Wall: no drawings, stories or epic poems have ever been found. And that leaves archeologists of today with some problems. As none of the Wall remains intact and there are no written records, how much do we really know? Did the Wall have a parapet? A walkway? Was it crenelated? Was it really painted white?
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