button to main menu  Gents Mag 1746 p.357

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Gentleman's Magazine 1746 p.357

  Hadrian's Wall
Dissertation on the Roman Wall

A Dissertation on the Roman WALL, with Remarks.
IN the present situation of affairs, a plan of the method antiently practic'd by the vigilant Romans for securing the isthmus of Britain, with some remarks on it, will not I believe be unacceptable to the public.
Agricola, lieutenant to the emperor Domitian, seems to be the first of the Roman generals that extended his conquests after the reduction of the Brigantes to this isthmus. Such of the Britons as escaped his arms, retreated behind the long chain of mountains on the skirts of Yorkshire and Northumberland. But these strong barriers of nature avail'd little against the persevering courage of the Roman soldiery; they carry'd on military roads, and supported them with garrisons, thro' the most inaccessible desarts of Britain, and united territories which the mountains had sever'd in vain. Whilst any land remain'd the Britons fled before the Romans, 'till getting beyond the isthmus at Carlisle, a more extended and hilly country, it afforded them not only a safer retreat, but the liberty of returning through defiles of thick and entangling forests, yet unknown to the Romans. But it was not long that the natives could play this game, under the attentive eye of Agricola; he soon perceiv'd the inconvenience, and found out a remedy. He fixed a series of stations in a line across the isthmus, at regular intervals, and, garrisoning them with what soldiery he could spare, proceeded with the rest to reduce the North. At Bodotria another isthmus occurr'd, much straiter than the first; this he fortify'd in like manner, and recall'd the soldiers to keep garrison there as in the former, marching to subdue the countries by the Grampian mountains. But before he could complete his scheme, he was recall'd, and the Caledonians, resuming their independency, carry'd their arms to his first line of stations again.
Hadrian afraid of the consequence, and with a view to suppress the nocturnal excursions of the enemy, through the intervals of Agricola's garrisons, which they frequently perform'd with astonishing celerity and silence, connected all these stations by a mud-wall, two aggers, a ditch, and military way.
Antoninus Pius his successor found means to curb the insolence of the Caledonians, and confine them to their mountains once more, driving them beyond the second isthmus, and fortifying it with an admirable wall of hewn-stone from sea to sea, along the series of Agricola's stations.
After his death Britain was again neglected, and the Caledonians overthrowing his wall stretched their limits to Agricola's first stations, and the wall was never more recover'd from them by the Romans. Whether the succeeding emperors disregarded such a conquest as useless, or whether it was not in their power to retake it, is of no consequence to determine; probably their attention to affairs on the continent, afforded little time for their securing Britain.
After the death of Antoninus, Severus was the first of the Roman emperors that turn'd his eye to Britain, the island being well nigh lost by a general defection. He reduc'd them to obedience once more after several victories, promoted his boundaries to Hadrian's wall, and built one of hewn stone at this isthmus, similar to Antonine's, from sea to sea, which continu'd the limit of the Roman empire in Britain, 'till their final departure from the island. But 'tis to be observ'd that he had several advanc'd stations as exploratory garrisons, for giving signals on any alarms, and preventing surprize: As at * Beu-castle, Netherby, Middleby, &c. (See the map), besides the principal encampments on the wall, each of which appears to have consisted of 1000 foot and 150 horsemen, by the stone lately found at Cast-steeds and publish'd in the Magazine for 1741. p.650. See also Mag. 1742, p.30, 76, 135.
Such was the vigilance, resolution, and military application of the conquerors of the world. They turn'd not their soldiers into an army of useless observation at the East end of the wall, when the West was ravag'd with thieves, nor, amid their banquets, were they idle auditors of the oppression of their friends, without putting a hand to deliver them. Without any other qualifications but the virtues of a military face, and the sincerity of a Roman heart, they disregarded the inclemencies of a British air, nor dreaded the point of a Caledonian lance. Embroidery was no part of their garb, and took up no part of their time; as they dress'd not like mountebanks, they fought not like poltroons. Thus they liv'd, and dying left behind them such
* See Vol.XII. p.132, 318, 368, 529.
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