Monday September 13, 2021’s Smile of the Day: Hadrian’s Wall

On this Day:

In 122, construction began on Hadrian’s Wall, in Northern England.

Hadrian’s Wall (Latin: Vallum Aelium), also known as the Roman Wall, Picts’ Wall, or Vallum Hadriani in Latin, is a former defensive fortification of the Roman province of Britannia, begun in AD 122 in the reign of the emperor Hadrian. Running “from Wallsend on the River Tyne in the east to Bowness-on-Solway in the west”, the Wall covered the whole width of the island, as Jarrett A. Lobell says. In addition to the wall’s defensive military role, its gates may have been customs posts.

A significant portion of the wall still stands and can be followed on foot along the adjoining Hadrian’s Wall Path. The largest Roman archaeological feature in Britain, it runs a total of 73 miles (117.5 kilometres) in northern England. Regarded as a British cultural icon, Hadrian’s Wall is one of Britain’s major ancient tourist attractions. It was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. In comparison, the Antonine Wall, thought by some to be based on Hadrian’s wall (the Gillam hypothesis), was not declared a World Heritage site until 2008.

Hadrian’s Wall marked the boundary between Roman Britannia and unconquered Caledonia to the north. The wall lies entirely within England and has never formed the Anglo-Scottish border.

The length of the Wall was 80 Roman miles (a unit of length… equivalent to about 1620 yards [or 1480 metres] in the modern measurement), or 73 modern miles. This covered the entire width of the island, from Wallsend on the River Tyne in the east to Bowness-on-Solway in the west.

Not long after construction began on the Wall, its width was reduced to be about eight feet, or even less depending on the terrain. As some areas were constructed of turf and timber, it would take decades for certain areas to be modified and replaced by stone.

Bede, a medieval historian, wrote the Wall to be standing at 12 feet high, with evidence suggesting it could have been a few feet higher at its formation.

R.S.O. Tomlin argues that along the miles-long wall there would have been a tower every third of a mile, adding more to the dimensions of the structure, as evident by the plentiful remains of the turrets.

Sections of Hadrian’s Wall still remain, particularly in its hilly central sector. Little remains in lowland regions, where the Wall was previously plundered as a source of free stone for new buildings.

Hadrian’s Wall extended west from Segedunum at Wallsend on the River Tyne, via Carlisle and Kirkandrews-on-Eden, to the shore of the Solway Firth, ending a short but unknown distance west of the village of Bowness-on-Solway. The A69 and B6318 roads follow the course of the wall from Newcastle upon Tyne to Carlisle, then along the northern coast of Cumbria (south shore of the Solway Firth).

Although the curtain wall ends near Bowness-on-Solway, this does not mark the end of the line of defensive structures. The system of milecastles and turrets is known to have continued along the Cumbria coast as far as Risehow, south of Maryport. For classification purposes, the milecastles west of Bowness-on-Solway are referred to as Milefortlets.

Hadrian’s Wall was probably planned before Hadrian’s visit to Britain in 122. According to restored sandstone fragments found in Jarrow which date from 118 or 119, it was Hadrian’s wish to keep “intact the empire”, which had been imposed on him via “divine instruction”.

Lobell comments on the obvious nature of the Wall, saying “if there are troublesome tribes to the north, and you want to keep them out, you build a strong defensive wall”. The Historia Augusta also states that Hadrian was the first to build a wall 80 miles from sea to sea to separate the barbarians from the Romans. However, this reasoning may not entirely explain the various motivations Hadrian could have had in mind when commissioning the wall’s construction.

On Hadrian’s accession to the throne in 117, there was unrest and rebellion in Roman Britain and from the peoples of various conquered lands across the Empire, including Egypt, Judea, Libya and Mauretania. These troubles may have influenced his plan to construct the wall as well as his construction of frontier boundaries in other areas of the Empire, but to what extent is unknown. Scholars disagree over how much of a threat the inhabitants of northern Britain really presented and whether there was any economic advantage in defending and garrisoning a fixed line of defences like the Wall, rather than conquering and annexing what has become Northumberland and the Scottish Lowlands and defending the territory with a loose arrangement of forts.

Besides a defensive structure made to keep people out, the Wall also served to keep people within the Roman province. Since the Romans had control over who was allowed in and out of the empire, the Wall was invaluable in controlling the markets and economy. Describing the Wall as a major component of the empire’s frontier military strategy, Lobell argues for the psychological impact of the Wall:

For nearly three centuries, until the end of Roman rule in Britain in 410 [CE], Hadrian’s Wall was the clearest statement of the might, resourcefulness, and determination of an individual emperor and of his empire.

The Wall also provided years of work for thousands of soldiers who were responsible for building and maintaining the structure which gave the further benefit of preventing any boredom for the soldiers.

Nick Hodgson suggests that the Wall’s primary purpose was as a physical barrier to slow up the crossing of raiders and people intent on getting into the empire for destructive or plundering purposes. Hodgson argues that the Wall was not a last stand type of defensive line, but, instead, an observation point that could alert Romans of an incoming attack and act as a deterrent to slow down enemy forces so that additional troops could arrive for support. This is supported by another defensive measure found in front of the Wall as well – pits or holes which likely held branches or small tree trunks entangled with sharpened branches. Originally thought of as local features for the nearby fort, it is now thought that they are a general feature of Hadrian’s Wall. Hodgson argues that this new discovery has reignited the discussion of the purpose of the wall and demanded a reconsideration of the long-held interpretation that it had no defensive or tactical role.

Once its construction was finished, it is thought to have been covered in plaster and then whitewashed: its shining surface reflected the sunlight and was visible for miles around.

Hadrian ended his predecessor Trajan’s policy of expanding the empire and instead focused on defending the current borders, namely at the time Britain. Like Augustus, Hadrian believed in exploiting natural boundaries such as rivers for the borders of the empire, for example the Euphrates, Rhine and Danube Rivers. Britain, however, did not have any natural boundaries that could serve this purpose – to divide the province controlled by the Romans from the rebellious Celtic tribes in the north.

With construction starting in 122,[18] the entire length of the Wall was built with an alternating series of forts, each housing as many as 600 men, and manned milecastles, operated by “between 12 and 20 men”.

It took six years to build most of Hadrian’s Wall with the work coming at the hands of three Roman legions – the II Augusta, VI Victrix, and XX Valeria Victrix, (totalling 15,000 soldiers) – and some members of the Roman fleet. The production of the Wall was not out of the area of expertise for the soldiers as they travelled with their own surveyors, engineers, masons, and carpenters.

R.G. Collingwood found evidence for the existence of a broad section of the Wall and conversely a narrow section. He argues that plans changed during construction of the Wall and its overall width was reduced.

Broad sections of the Wall are around nine and a half feet wide with the narrow sections of the Wall two feet thinner, being around seven and a half feet wide. The narrow sections were found to be built upon broad foundations. Based on this evidence, Collingwood concludes that the Wall was originally due to be built between present-day Newcastle and Bowness, with a uniform width of ten Roman feet, all in stone. However, in the end, only three-fifths of the Wall was built from stone and the remaining part of the Wall in the west was a turf wall. Plans possibly changed due to a lack of resources.

In an effort to preserve resources further, the eastern half’s width was therefore reduced from the original ten Roman feet to eight, with the remaining stones from the eastern half used for around five miles of the turf wall in the west. This reduction from the original ten Roman feet to eight, created the so-called “Narrow Wall” (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

Emperor Hadrian is looking north from his wall and a Scotsman appears from behind a small hill and shouts up to him: “One Scotsman can beat any Roman.”

Hadrian turns to the Legion and says, “Brutus go and sort him out”.

Brutus goes off and there’s a clanging and clattering of swords – and Brutus doesn’t come back. The Scot then comes out and shouts up to Hadrian: “One Scotsman can beat any cohort of Romans.”

Hadrian then turns and says to Marcus – “Take your cohort and sort that bugger out.”

Off Marcus goes with his cohort and there is a great clanging and banging of swords – and Marcus and his cohort don’t come back. The little Scot then comes from behind the hill and shouts up at Hadrian: “One Scot can beat a Legion of Romans!”

Hadrian sighs and turns to Mark Anthony and says: “Go over there with your Legion and sort that little bugger out.”

Mark Anthony marches his Legion down towards the hill and then there is a great and loud banging and clashing and screaming.  As Hadrian watches, Mark Anthony staggers back towards the Wall, all bloodied and battered and he shouts up to Hadrian: “Don’t send any more -its a bloody trap – there’s two of them…”

Second, a Song:

Hans Florian Zimmer (born 12 September 1957) is a German film score composer and record producer. His works are notable for integrating electronic music sounds with traditional orchestral arrangements. Since the 1980s, Zimmer has composed music for over 150 films. His works include The Lion King (for which he won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 1995), Crimson Tide, Gladiator, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar, Dunkirk, and Blade Runner 2049. He has received four Grammy Awards, three Classical BRIT Awards, two Golden Globes, and an Academy Award. He was also named on the list of Top 100 Living Geniuses, published by The Daily Telegraph.

Zimmer spent the early part of his career in the United Kingdom before moving to the United States. He is the head of the film music division at DreamWorks studios and works with other composers through the company that he founded, Remote Control Productions, formerly known as Media Ventures. His studio in Santa Monica, California has an extensive range of computer equipment and keyboards, allowing demo versions of film scores to be created quickly. Zimmer has collaborated on multiple projects with directors including Ridley Scott, Ron Howard, Gore Verbinski, Michael Bay, Guy Ritchie and Christopher Nolan.

Zimmer was born in Frankfurt, West Germany. As a young child, he lived in Königstein-Falkenstein, where he played the piano at home but had piano lessons only briefly, as he disliked the discipline of formal lessons. In one of his Reddit AMAs, he said: “My formal training was two weeks of piano lessons. I was thrown out of eight schools. But I joined a band. I am self-taught. But I’ve always heard music in my head. And I’m a child of the 20th century; computers came in very handy.” Zimmer attended the Ecole D’Humanité, an international boarding school in Canton Bern, Switzerland. He moved to London as a teenager, where he attended Hurtwood House school. During his childhood, he was strongly influenced by the film scores of Ennio Morricone and has cited Once Upon a Time in the West as the score that inspired him to become a film composer.

In a speech at the 1999 Berlin Film Festival, Zimmer stated that he is Jewish, and talked about his mother surviving World War II thanks to her escape from Germany to England in 1939. In an interview with Mashable in February 2013, he said of his parents: “My mother was very musical, basically a musician and my father was an engineer and an inventor. So I grew up modifying the piano, shall we say, which made my mother gasp in horror, and my father would think it was fantastic when I would attach chainsaws and stuff like that to the piano because he thought it was an evolution in technology.” In an interview with the German television station ZDF in 2006, he commented: “My father died when I was just a child, and I escaped somehow into the music and music has been my best friend.”

Zimmer has received a range of honors and awards, including the Lifetime Achievement Award in film Composition from the National Board of Review, the Frederick Loewe Award in 2003 at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, ASCAP’s Henry Mancini Award for Lifetime Achievement, and BMI’s Richard Kirk Award for lifetime achievement in 1996.

In December 2010, Zimmer received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He dedicated the award to his publicist and long-term friend Ronni Chasen, who had been shot and killed in Beverly Hills the previous month.

In 2016, Zimmer was one of the inaugural winners of the Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication.

In November 2017, a main-belt asteroid (495253) 2013 OC8 discovered by Polish astronomers Michal Kusiak and Michal Zolnowski was named Hanszimmer.

As of 2018, Zimmer had received eleven Academy Award nominations for his work, with a win at the 67th Academy Awards for the 1994 film The Lion King.

On 2 October 2018, Zimmer received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

In 2019, Zimmer was inducted as a Disney Legend (per Wikipedia).

Here is “Another Brick In Hadrian’s Wall” and “Woad To Ruin”, both by Hans Zimmer and performed by Globus.  Globus is a Santa Monica-based movie trailer music-inspired band consisting of a mix of producers, musicians, and vocalists. The band is led by composer and producer Yoav Gore.  This video is by ThunderPro-VideoClip (per I hope you enjoy this!


Thought for the Day:

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” – Michael Jordan

Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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