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Antonine Wall

The Antonine Wall

Nearly 2,000 years ago, the Antonine Wall was the north-west frontier of the Roman Empire. Built on the orders of the Emperor Antonius Pius in the years following AD140, it ran for 40 Roman miles (60km) from modern Bo'ness on the Firth of Forth to Old Kilpatrick on the River Clyde.

Over time, the industrial and commercial heartland of Scotland has grown around it yet, unbelievably, one-third of its total length is still visible today. Archaeological excavations have demonstrated that much of the rest survives well beneath both fields and urban areas.

In 2008 it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, becoming part of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site, alongside Hadrian's Wall and the German Limes.

What was the Antonine Wall?

The Antonine Wall was both a physical barrier and a symbol of the Roman Empire's power and control. It was never a stone 'wall', but consisted of a turf rampart fronted by a wide and deep ditch.

Forts and fortlets provided accommodation for the troops stationed on the frontier and acted as secure crossing points to control movement north and south. Behind the rampart, all forts were linked by a road, known as the Military Way.

The Antonine Wall was the most northerly frontier of the empire and, when it was built, was the most complex frontier ever constructed by the Roman army. It was the last of the linear frontiers to be built by the Romans and was only occupied for about a generation before being abandoned on the AD160s.

What can I see and do today?

The line of the Antonine Wall crosses five modern local authorities (East Dunbartonshire, Falkirk, Glasgow, North Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire) and there are a number of sites and museums in each of those areas.

Some of the best preserved sections of rampart, ditch and Military Way are at Croy Hill and Seabegs, good forts are visible at bar Hill and Rough Castle, and Roman baths survive at Bearsden and Bar Hill.

Museums along the route have personal artefacts, gravestones and mile markers on display; try the Auld Kirk Museum in Kirkintilloch, Callendar House in Falkirk, the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, or the National Museum in Edinburgh.

Where can I find out more about the Antonine Wall?

Additional information about the frontier is available on the Antonine Wall website

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