The Big Picture Portfolio, #8
Ever feel like you should have known better? Before moving to Newcastle and encountering the remains of a very old wall I would have been hard-pressed to tell you much about what a certain Roman Emperor named Hadrian did almost two thousand years ago. But what he did is most definitely worth knowing.
Where: Northern England (south of the English/Scottish border)
What: The remains of a 73 mile (120 km) long coast-to-coast wall
Who: Emperor Hadrian of the Holy Roman Empire (and probably a few other guys)
Built: AD 122 to ~ AD 128
Occupied: By the Romans until ~ AD 409
The Romans conceived of and built it and that’s amazing. Yet, what almost interests me more is has happened after that. They “only” used it for about 287 years. That means it’s been doing other things for 1,602 years and counting.
It’s fragmentary these days – you can still “walk the wall” coast to coast but there are many breaks. Much stone was pilfered long ago for the building of newer structures and roads. Yet if we could trace those original stones that have moved on surely we’d find them in some peculiar places – far cries from the crumbling, in situ remnants which persist such fangled Roman origins.
Of course what remains of the wall itself is completely fascinating. Lost in the outskirts of Newcastle, wandering through the middle of small countryside villages, and dramatically on guard above natural features like Crag Lough in the shot above, it is a continuous, constant thread that regularly resurfaces and stitches together a composite fabric of landscape. You may not be able to see over the horizon, but when you move over it yourself you are assured that this wall will always extend – in one form or another – before your very eyes (though this can require some real looking).
For those who find themselves at the mercy of geography, a digital stroll across its contours on Google Earth/Maps can also be worthwhile (if equally arduous in its own quiet ways).
Quite naturally life is still built upon and around this wall. Sheep are herded along its preserved faces, the winds whip through its fallen gatehouses, and movie intros are shot in trees that are laughably young in comparison to the ancient wall itself (but quite old and majestic to a mere human mortal).
As seen in the video, in 2010 an event called Illuminating Hadrian’s Wall was staged. With thousands of people turning up to see and take part in the lighting of torches from coast to coast, it literally shed a great quantity of light on how real this thing remains in the lives of many people today. Someday the wall be gone. Today it’s still here. It’s all relative, I suppose. What would Emperor Hadrian say?
Eggs Benedict – now that’s a good way to start the weekend! Not to mention seeing old friends down at Longhi’s… Watching the USNS Mercy cruise by was a nice touch. Enjoy your Saturday!