Nothing like it before, roads, forts, cities and not least the Wall are the might and power of an empire which dominates Europe for over four hundred years - Shakespeare's time to today. Visit Arbeia at South Shields to see not just the Tyne but sea-ways to Rome and beyond a thousand years ago - six hours by 'plane; six weeks to six months by sail.
Edge of Empire
"Beware Hadrian, others may see you as the Emperor who denied the growth of Empire."
Edge of Empire a 3D film at the Roman Army Museum of their conquest of all up to...? The Wall's part of a great north frontier, the Limes or limit from Cumbria to Dalmatia. Today, a World Heritage Site. Then a sea-change in Imperial policy. No need to conquer all, Hadrian consolidated. Tullie House Museum, Carlisle tells the story - not just Hadrian's Wall but Berlin and the Great Wall of China. They define one order imposed upon others - should there be a wall between the English and the Scots (and who would build or pay for it!)
How lay the land before the Wall? Forts already existed like Vindolanda and Corbridge (connected by the Stanegate). Roads too Dere Street, (today's A68), but the Limes traversed Europe. Visit forts at Maryport, Birdoswald, Housesteads, Chesters and Wallsend, then see the turrets, milecastles, ditches inbetween, to consider a stretch along the Rhine and Danube, three hours by jet to the command of one man, Hadrian.
Did it work? Yes and No. Visit sites, read guides to discover the Wall keeps changing throughout the centuries - Antoninus built another further north thirty years later. Did these Emperors have any other option?
Texts, mobiles, internet, facebook, twitter, youtube....our world creates and devours information, empires control it. The Romans brought reading and writing - text - to these shores. How else do they know where to move troops, and whether they'd moved as ordered?
Signals sent line-of-sight along coastlines, along the Wall, written messages horsebacked along quality highways, fresh steeds at the ready guaranteed swift delivery throughout Europe not beaten till steam trains and telegraphs. Knowledge is power, intelligence becomes a weapon. Look down to Segedunum - the strong place. All the land you can see and all beyond that is known without secrets. All roads lead to Rome.
What was written? The wood leaf tablets found at Vindolanda, carefully excavated, conserved, analysed and deciphered are scribbles to open a world beyond military orders, chits in triplicate, three bags full, sir. Soldiers call the natives Brittunculi 'Little Britons.' Squaddies always quick to put down the locals.
Life was, as ever, quite different for their officers, stationed with their wives. The best-known document is perhaps Tablet 291, written around AD100 from Claudia Severa, the wife of the commander of a nearby fort, to Sulpicia Lepidina, inviting her to a birthday party.