Sun setting on the Empire’s Edge, the Antonine Wall. Scotland.
The first idea of the northern part of these islands being different from the rest arises with the divisions that the Roman placed on the native tribes, firstly with Hadrian’s Wall and then the later and temporary Antonine Wall. The inability of Rome to fully secure the north of Britain made the building of a border fortification a necessity. With it the history of the two parts of the island diverged.
The Antonine Wall was constructed in the AD 140s and for only a generation it was the north-western frontier of the Empire. It ran 60 km from modern Old Kilpatrick on the north side of the River Clyde to Bo’ness on the Firth of Forth and was built of turf on a stone foundation rather than of stone. In sections, such as this by the fort of Bar hill, it survives as a deep ditch and bank. This elevated position and views across to the Campsie fells, where the ground begins its inexorable rise to the highlands beyond, allow one to imagine this as the very edge of the Empire, the edge and extent of civilisation and the written word. The regularly spaced trees dotting the fort site reminded me of a corps of well drilled soldiers gazing out onto the “savagery and barbarism” beyond.