Sites and Monument Record: Antonine Wall: General (SMR 163)

Object detail

Site history notes

This Wall was built around 142 AD at the successful completion of a campaign in southern Scotland that was undertaken by order of Antoninus Pius. He was probably motivated by a need for military prestige to strengthen his position as the new emperor of the Roman empire. The Wall, like its predecessor built under the reign of Hadrian, would have been intended to divide the island in two. The area to the south was to be fully integrated into the Roman culture. However, following the death of Antoninus the Roman army withdrew from central Scotland after an occupation of only a little over 20 years.

The Antonine Wall was a 38 mile (61 km) long barrier built across the narrowest part of central Scotland, from Carriden on the Forth to Old Kilpatrick on the Clyde. It consisting of a turf and earthen rampart standing 3.5 m (11 ft) high on a stone foundation and surmounted by a wooden palisade. Some 6 m (20 ft) to the north of this lay a massive V-shaped ditch, averaging 12 m (40 ft) wide and 4.2 m (14 ft) deep. Between the rampart and the ditch was a Roman minefield - small pits with sharpened wooden stakes protruding from them.

Attached to the south side of the rampart were a series of forts to provide accommodation for the garrison whose task it was to control movement across the frontier. At first there were only six of these, spaced at approximately 8 mile intervals as had been the case on Hadrian’s Wall. The milecastles of that earlier wall were again used on the Antonine Wall, where they are known as fortlets, placed between the forts at intervals of around a mile. The forts and fortlets were linked by a cobbled road known as the Military Way. This permitted men and supplies to move rapidly along the Wall. For some reason this original blue-print was changed part way through the Wall’s construction and the 17 forts we know today were built instead. Rough Castle, near Bonnybridge, is the best preserved of these forts. The others known to lie in the Falkirk district are at Carriden, Inveravon, Mumrills, Falkirk and Castlecary. At the same time that these extra forts were added the fortlets appear to have been abandoned, or replaced by a watch-tower as happened at Kinneil.

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