Yo, Hadrian!

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The Smithsonian’s new issue has an article about the current state of Hadrian’s Wall, “‘now the heart of an 84-mile-long National Trail that winds through some of England’s most scenic countryside, following in the footsteps of Roman soldiers who once patrolled the empire’s frontier.”

It is well worth reading in its entirety, for it makes the interesting assertion that the primary result it was built was not to keep the barbarians out, but to limit the glory-hungry Roman commanders from seeking new areas to conquer. It also is believed to have been used to control immigration and emigration. Though there are still those who hold to the “keep out the barabarians” school of thought:

Even so, the wall also served to keep out not just “casual migrants” but enemies, says Ian Haynes, an archaeology professor at Newcastle University. In the past decade, excavators have turned up extensive pits that had held posts, possibly for sharpened stakes, fronting parts of the eastern section of the wall. “The kind of effort that goes into these defenses isn’t just for decorative purposes,” says Haynes. “It’s wise to think that they were doing this in deadly earnest.” Archaeologists have long searched for traces of the tribes who lived north of the wall, partly to assess the threats the Romans faced.

And though they are not cited in the article, every true Howard reader knows whom of they are speaking — the bloody Scots and the savage Picts.