Hadrian’s Wall: History and Stories
Hadrian's Wall was a rich and vibrant place. It was a border, but it was also a place where borders were crossed. Here, soldiers and civilians from across Europe and North Africa met, traded and served together at the northern-western frontier of the Roman Empire. Many settled in this wild, foreign place across the sea and adopted local customs, worshipping native Gods even while preserving their own traditions.
Peel back the layers of 400 years of Roman rule in Britain and explore how new communities evolved at the edge of Empire.
Key Facts about Hadrian’s Wall
- Hadrian’s Wall was a complex system of communications and defences. As well as the Wall itself there was an earthwork, a ditch, two major roads and numerous forts, milecastles and turrets along the 73-mile frontier.
- The Wall was built under the command of Emperor Hadrian who travelled extensively across his Empire, making improvements to its defences and consolidating its borders.
- When the Romans arrived, Britain was home to numerous warring tribes. Some rebelled against the invaders, but others, such as the Brigantes tribe in northern Britain, became close allies.
- Many soldiers and civilians travelled great distances to reach the Wall, including people from modern-day Syria, Romania and North Africa.
Image: An artist’s reconstruction of Poltross Burn milecastle on Hadrian’s Wall © Historic England (illustration by Peter Lorimer)
Who Were The Romans?
Roman soldiers stationed at Hadrian’s Wall lived alongside a diverse and complex community, including craftspeople, local tribes, slaves and officials. Select the images below to find out more about the people who lived on Hadrian’s Wall. All images © English Heritage (illustrations by Adam Larkum)
Stories about hadrian's wall
Uncovering the Secrets of Hadrian's Wall
The remains of Birdoswald Roman Fort have revealed more about Hadrian’s Wall than any other site along the Wall. Discover what some of the key finds tell us about the Romans and those who came after.
The Corbridge Lion and Changing Beliefs
Lions were commonly used as sacred symbols in Roman memorials, but the Corbridge lion is different. Find out what this extraordinary sculpture tells us about changing beliefs in Roman Britain.
The mysterious absence of stables at roman cavalry forts
How recent archaeological excavations on Hadrian’s Wall have revealed why it has always been so difficult to discover where Roman soldiers kept their horses.
Mithras and eastern religion on hadrian's wall
A remarkable sculpture of Mithras found on Hadrian’s Wall reveals religious and military connections with distant parts of the Roman Empire.
The Mysteries of Corbridge
From strange heads on pots to missing temples, there are many things about Corbridge that continue to puzzle us. Read about the site’s most enigmatic mysteries here.
The People of Birdoswald
Once sworn enemies of the Roman Empire, the Dacians became trusted protectors of its north-western frontier. Explore their story and learn more about the diverse cultures on Hadrian’s Wall.
Death and Burial Rites at Birdoswald
A rare excavation of burial urns found at Birdoswald has allowed researchers to examine the remains of those who lived and died at the fort. Discover what the new research reveals.
Domestic violence on hadrian's wall
A pair of skeletons found at Housesteads Fort reveals a brutal side of everyday life in Roman Britain.
Hadrian’s Wall at a glance
From its original dimensions to the number of man hours it took to build the Wall, learn some headline facts about Hadrian’s Wall with our infographic.
Hadrian's Wall Sites
Follow the links below to learn more about the histories of some key sites along Hadrian’s Wall.