Each part of Section 3 has a dedicated map showing more detail.
After sixteen years of retrenchment and consolidation of the empire’s boundaries, Antoninus Pius ordered his Legions to advance back into Scotland. There they established the Antonine Wall - an earth rampart, ditch and Military Road - that ran for 37 miles between Bo’ness and Old Kilpatrick and served as Rome’s Northernmost frontier for two decades.
THE ANTONINE WALL: ROME’S NORTHERNMOST FRONTIER
Shortly after Antoninus Pius became Emperor in AD 138, Roman military forces swept back into southern and central Scotland marking the end of years of retrenchment, rather than expansion, of the Empire. Advancing to the narrow neck of land between the Firth of Forth and the Clyde, a new frontier was established. Using lessons learnt from the previous decades spent building and maintaining Hadrian's Wall, the Romans constructed a turf rampart and ditch supported by a Military Road that ran for 37 miles. Garrisons were placed on the Wall accommodated in forts and fortlets. To the east, west and north of the Wall were additional outposts securing the frontier.
The Wall Today
In the modern popular mind, the Antonine Wall is the poor relation of Hadrian's Wall. Whilst many have heard of the latter, exposure to the Scottish frontier is more limited. For those who have seen parts of it, there tends to be disappointment; its title leads viewers to expect a physical wall whereas what is on offer is an earth rampart. It also suffers in comparison with the southern frontier for scenery; whereas the surviving sections of Hadrian's Wall predominantly run through the undeveloped beauty of the Northumberland National Park with its stunning views atop the Whin Sill, the Antonine Wall runs through the highly urban and populous Scottish central belt. Although in places it does offers superb panoramas, it struggles in this context. But most of all the remains of the Antonine Wall are much more limited. Whereas huge swathes of Hadrian's Wall survive in one form or another, remaining segments of the Antonine Wall are much shorter. It is an unfortunate fact that the Roman engineers were just too efficient; when the Canal, Railway and Motorway builders arrived they could not better their second century counterparts and followed a similar route to their destination destroying much of the heritage as did the house builders attempting to meet the needs of the expanding nineteenth and twentieth century populations.
Whilst the Antonine Wall may lack the tourist appeal of the southern frontier, it is a hidden gem and a 'must see' for anyone interested in the Romans. What is on offer is a glimpse of a military disposition considerably more sophisticated than that of Hadrian's Wall. Walking the line the visitor cannot help but be impressed as it darts between summits, towers above the Carron and Kelvin valleys and guarded against approaches from the Campsie Fells and Kilsyth Hills.
This article comes in three sections:
Section 1: This introduction and an article detailing the components of the Wall.
Section 2: An account of the history that led to the creation of the Antonine Wall and its place in Roman Britain. Why did the Romans not conquer the whole island and why was the Wall abandoned after only a couple of decades?
Section 3: A detailed account of the line of the Wall from east to west as it exists today. Each section has postcodes, OS grid reference and lat/longs to help you find the segments of the frontier. Whatever part of the Wall you are visiting, this section can help you get there!