Walls as symbols of control, even if there is none.

Hadrian’s Wall

Iain MacIvor, former Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Historic Scotland, said:

The first military works to divide north from south Britain were made by the Romans, and for a long time there was a fanciful link between the famous wall from the Tyne to the Solway [Hadrian’s Wall] and the border between Scotland and England. The Scots were to find a lasting source of national pride in the notion that, whereas the southern parts of Brittania had been taken over without much difficulty by the mighty Roman army, their own ancestors had held out against the Roman Empire for centuries , and that this undaunted resistance forced the Romans to builds one word the wonders of Europe to protect their province of Britannia – Hadrian’s Wall. 

Around A.D. 79 the tribes causing most concern to the Roman army were the Votadini in the east with their capital Traprain Law in Lothian; the Novantae in the south-west (Dumfries and Galloway); and between them the Selgovae, dominating from Eskdale to the Cheviot Hills.

Beyond these three tribes were the Damnonii, around the Firth of Clyde. Those even further north, in the mountainous Highlands were collectively named by the Romans as Caledonii by the Roman historian Tacitus.

It was not economical for the Romans to pursue the Caledonians, though they tried from A.D 70 for a decade. There was also another effort to use a wall in A.D 142, which is known as the Antonine Wall which was a turf fortification connecting the Central Belt of Scotland, from the Firth of Forth to the Firth of Clyde. The Romans abandoned this wall in A.D 162, returning to the Hadrian Wall fortification.

In A.D 208 Emperor Septimus Severus had repairs carried out to Hadrian’s Wall, from this point it was renamed by some the Severan Wall. He re-established legions there.

The Romans may have left their mark through Christianity and education, but never subdued the Caledonians. Britain was free of the Roman Occupation by A.D 410. 

What the Romans learned over centuries was, rather than fight and annihilate, it made sense to form alliances with native rulers who were willing either to fight alongside them or at least provide logistical support. This tactic remains with us in modern global warfare as ‘coalition’ is a common term cropping up again and again in military language.

But alliances only occur if the military rules with superior skill. There were many historical examples in Scotland where battles were fought under one insignia emblazoned on the chest garment, but underneath was the insignia of the ‘enemy’ which could become ‘friend’ if alliances were switched due to who was winning the battle. Or a brother could fight with the English King, and his sibling fight with the Scottish King. The outcome would leave the family close to the winning King.

This is another recurring pattern which we witness in the 21st century in wars around the world.

Another conquering tactic was described by the historian Tacitus:

‘He [Agricola] wanted to accustom them [the Britons] to peace and leisure by providing delightful distractions. He gave personal encouragement and assistance to the building of temples, piazzas and town-houses, he gave the sons of the aristocracy a liberal education, they became eager to speak Latin effectively and the toga was everywhere to be seen.’

When native aristocrats adopted a Roman lifestyle , the rulers of the empire were delighted.

‘And so they were gradually led into the demoralising vices of porticoes, baths and grand dinner parties. The naïve Britons described these things as ‘civilisation’, when in fact they were simply part of their enslavement.’

To become a Roman citizen, Place of residence, language, religion, parentage – did not matter. But If you had standing in your own community and supported the Roman occupation, you would be groomed to become part of a dynasty of pro-Roman ‘client-kings’ . These were puppet rulers who referred all important decisions, especially regarding foreign policy, to Rome. 

This model of a superior ruling power grooming a replacement ‘puppet’ ruler has long been the strategy adopted by centuries of powerful military rulers.

Further down the hierarchy, influential merchants within the empire were eager to become Roman citizens – and there are plenty of archaeological discoveries which prove the process of striving and gaining such citizenship. Then a network of thriving merchants trade and develop their local community, under the secure umbrella of the Roman Empire.

History reveals military conquest and comings and goings of empires over the short existence of humans on this planet. The integration of military and trade partnerships has ensured each period of empire lasts until some event occurs which helps dismantle it. 

Nothing lasts for ever, certainly not empires.

About borderslynn

Retired, living in the Scottish Borders after living most of my life in cities in England. I can now indulge my interest in all aspects of living close to nature in a wild landscape. I live on what was once the Iapetus Ocean which took millions of years to travel from the Southern Hemisphere to here in the Northern Hemisphere. That set me thinking and questioning and seeking answers. In 1998 I co-wrote Millennium Countdown (US)/ A Business Guide to the Year 2000 (UK) see https://www.abebooks.co.uk/products/isbn/9780749427917
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