There are a number of possible motivations for the construction of Hadrian’s Wall, which began in 122 CE, a few years after Hadrian’s ascension to the imperial throne. It symbolized the northernmost reaches of Roman-occupied Britain, however evidence suggests that it may have served more as a customs border or display of Roman power than a physical barrier to invasion from the north. Construction began on the east coast and moved west, utilizing a rock escarpment in its central section. Small fortified outposts with gates were situated roughly every mile along the length of the 79-mile (127-km) wall, with some 17 larger forts placed at important sites. The majority of the wall was between 16–20 ft (5–5.5 m) in height and a large ditch was dug on the northern side with forts constructed a few miles further north of the wall acting as scouting posts. The wall was completed in 128 CE with various modifications being added later. It was an engineering feat and a contemporary tourist attraction, with Hadrian’s Wall souvenir bowls found during excavations. In 142 CE the new Emperor Antoninus Pius abandoned Hadrian’s Wall and began construction of the Antonine Wall, further to the north, which runs between the Firths of Clyde and Forth. The wall, which protected Roman Britain from Caledonian raiding parties to the north, stood 10 ft (3 m) tall, and was lined by 119 forts. The protection it afforded the Romans was short-lived and it was abandoned in 165 CE, when Hadrian’s Wall was restored, continuing in use until the early 5th century.
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