Antonine Wall – another great Roman wall

When Hadrian dies in 138 AD, the Roman Empire is internally and politically stable, the roads are safe, and trade, art, education, and the development of crafts flourish. Imperial power is assumed by Antoninus Pius (138 AD – 161 AD), whom Hadrian adopted.

In the very first years of his reign, Antoninus Pius gradually conquered new territories 160 kilometres north of Hadrian’s Wall. He reached the narrowest point of what is now called the Central Belt of Scotland. The distance from the Firth of Forth to the mouth of the River Clyde is sixty-three kilometres (42.5 Roman miles). It can be said to be half the length of Hadrian’s Wall.

Around 140 AD, Antoninus initiates the construction of a new defensive wall. Theoretically, its defence should have been much easier. Based on the exposed, three-metre-wide stone foundations, it is assumed that the original plan was much more ambitious than Hadrian’s Wall had been.

It was to be three metres wide and six metres high. However, these dimensions were given up and a five-metre wide and four-metre high defensive earthen wall with a wooden palisade on top was built. A four-metre-deep ditch was dug in front of the wall.

Along the entire wall there was a garrisoned fortress approximately every third kilometre (two Roman miles). There were eighteen in all, with a smaller fortress every Roman mile in between.

(Fig. No. 7) Again, a supply road ran the entire length. However, this wall did not have a defensive ditch behind it, as was the case with Hadrian’s Wall.

The construction of Antonine Wall took twelve years. After its completion, all the troops from Hadrian’s Wall moved here. Historically, however, Antonine Wall was quite short-lived. It could not resist the constant attacks from the north and, after only eight years from its completion, it had to be abandoned and the military garrisons evacuated back behind Hadrian’s Wall.


Hadrian’s Wall served the defensive purposes of the Roman Empire for two hundred and eighty years after its completion. It was breached four times during its existence, and the damaged sections were always rebuilt from the ground up. It was not until 410 AD that it was abandoned by the last military garrison in service and since then it became a mere source of easily accessible building stone for the surrounding area.

Source: Lomy a těžba