To protect the territories conquered by his predecessor Trajan, Hadrian set about organising the Empire's frontier defence.
Hadrian spent most of his reign touring the provinces and in AD122 while visiting Britain he ordered the building of a wall, which was to run the entire length of the northern frontier in Britain.
There had been several invasions by the northern tribes between AD118 and AD122. The wall was intended to divide the barbarians in the north and the more civilised Romanised South.
The building of the wall is an indication of the immense potential of the Roman empire. It required vast resources and an enormously efficient organisation to build and manage it for nearly 300 years.
The wall stretched for eighty roman miles (73 modern miles) from Bowness-on Solway in the west to Wallsend in the east.
Before Hadrian became Emperor a general called Agricola had conquered some of the land in what is now called Scotland.
The wall marks the line that Hadrian wanted to be the most northern frontier of Roman Britain. It acted as a customs barrier to control the movement of barbarians to and from the Empire. If you wanted to come into the Empire to trade you had to cross the frontier at one of the many milecastles along the wall where you had to pay a tax.
The wall took six years to complete. In all there were 16 forts along the wall each big enough for between 500 to 100 men. Between the forts, at intervals of one Roman mile, there were milecastles capable of billeting around 60 men. The milecastles were separated by two watch towers. These defences were joined by a curtain wall between 2.5m and 3m thick, 5m to 6 m high.
To the south of the wall was a barrier known as the Vallum made up of two mounds and a ditch. This is believed to signify the start of a militarised area that civilians were not allowed to enter.
Another ditch and mound were built to the north of the wall.
The wall was built by detachments from all three Legions stationed in Britain with help from auxiliaries.
The Legions numbered many craftsmen and builders amongst their ranks. The wall would have been an ideal opportunity for them to leave a lasting impression upon the land that they had helped to 'civilize'.
The locals would have probably contributed too.
Inscriptions can be found all over the wall where the builders have left their mark.
LEG II AVG COH I FEC
'The First cohort of the the Second Augustan Legion made this'