Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius (138 - 161 AD) ordered the Roman armies to advance North into Scotland in 142 AD. Previously the northernmost limit of the Roman Empire in Britain had been Hadrian's Wall, build across what is now the North of England from Wallsend near Newcastle to the Solway Firth. However, the Picts (the inhabitants of Scotland prior to the arrival of the Scots from Ireland) north of Hadrian's Wall were a constant annoyance to the Romans, launching raiding parties and stealing from them.

Therefore, the Romans decided in 142 AD to build a wall further north than Hadrian's Wall, to protect southern Scotland and keep the Picts out. Unlike Hadrian's Wall, which was built of stone, the Antonine Wall, as it is now known, was made largely of turf with a stone foundation. There was also probably a wooden palisade on top. A ditch up to 12.5 metres (40 feet) wide ran along the North side, with the earth excavated being piled into a mound beyond, while a road, called the Military Way ran along the South, the Roman, side.

The wall ran 37 miles (60 km), from the mouth of the River Clyde at Old Kirkpatrick to the Firth of Forth at Bo'ness. (This area is incidentally the narrowest part of Great Britain from coast to coast.) At least 16 forts lined the Wall, although allowing for ones not yet excavated the true figure is estimated at 19 or 20. It was built between 142 and 144 AD by the II, VI and XX Legions.

The Roman occupation of central Scotland did not however last long, and the Antonine Wall was abandoned around 163 AD. Since it was made of turf, the wall no longer survives except for the ditch and mound, which can be seen in various locations, including Falkirk,Croy Hill near Croy and near Bearsden, Glasgow.


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