ancient-britain

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The Wounded Pict
A short story about an unlikely romance between a Briton serving in the Roman auxiliaries and a Pictish prisoner of war

My first full-length short story. I’m hoping to place future chapters of this story on an alternate history timeline, but for now there are no big-picture deviations from the original timeline. Comments and constructive criticism welcome.

Length: 22 pages and 7,300 words (not counting the title page, footnotes, or author’s notes at the end)

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Key Stage 3 Learner Viking Rune Stones created by Drama students as preparation for their forthcoming participatory drama performances, ‘Furi: A Viking Story’ and ‘Odin’s Council’, 14.2.17.

Coin moulds for forging ‘silver’ denarii.

They were found in Lingwell Gate in West Yorkshire, between Leeds and Wakefield. Dated to 180-225 AD they would have been used to create forgeries of official Roman coinage. This was a popular thing to do before the debasement of the silver coins in later years.

Image from the Leeds Museum and Galleries flickr: Moulds

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Viking items from the York Minster collection, 12.2.17. Pictured above are a ceremonial horn, a Viking pin, a Viking ice skate and folding pocket weighing apparatus

Hadrian’s Wall

Aerial view of the Wall at Cawfields, looking east, showing Cawfields milecastle. The line of the Vallum – the earthwork to the south of the Wall – can be seen in the background

Permanent conquest of Britain began in AD 43. By about AD 100 the northernmost army units in Britain lay along the Tyne–Solway isthmus. The forts here were linked by a road, now known as the Stanegate, between Corbridge and Carlisle.

Hadrian came to Britain in AD 122 and, according to a biography written 200 years later, ‘put many things to right and was the first to build a wall 80 miles long from sea to sea to separate the barbarians from the Romans’.

The building of Hadrian’s Wall probably began that year, and took at least six years to complete. The original plan was for a wall of stone or turf, with a guarded gate every mile and two observation towers in between, and fronted by a wide, deep ditch. Before work was completed, 14 forts were added, followed by an earthwork known as the Vallum to the south.

Its military effectiveness has been questioned by many scholars over the years owing to its length and the positioning of the fortifications along the route. Regarding this, Professors Scarre and Fagan write,

Archaeologists and historians have long debated whether Hadrian’s Wall was an effective military barrier…Whatever its military effectiveness, however, it was clearly a powerful symbol of Roman military might. The biographer of Hadrian remarks that the emperor built the wall to separate the Romans from the barbarians. In the same way, the Chinese emperors built the Great Wall to separate China from the barbarous steppe peoples to the north. In both cases, in addition to any military function, the physical barriers served in the eyes of their builders to reinforce the conceptual divide between civilized and noncivilized. They were part of the ideology of empire. (Ancient Civilizations, 313)

Hadrian’s Wall facts
  • The construction of the wall began in 122 CE, under the reign of Roman Emperor Hadrian. It was 80 Roman miles (73 miles) long. Its width and height depended on the availability of the materials then.
  • Apparently a frontier, it was designed to be permeable, to supervise not to deny movement.
  • As time passed the job of guarding the surrounding countryside then gradually fell to men who were recruited from the local population. Manning Hadrians Wall was eventually viewed as a good job by the local population and the job of manning it was passed from father to son, much as with any other occupations of the era.
  • Initially, it was built in two parts, with the west side of the wall built first with turfs, so as to quicken the process of construction. Once the Wall was built, it is assumed to be covered in plaster, then white-washed to reflect the sunbeams which could be visible from far away.
  • Camps of people would accompany each regiment of soldiers at the wall, although little is known of these communities and they weren’t permitted to settle between the Wall and the ditch (or Vallum) that ran along its length.
  • The barrier was the first of two “great walls” created by the Romans in Northern Britain. Years later, on AD 142, the construction of the “Antonine Wall” started at the order of Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius 
  • 16 Roman forts were built along the wall - these forts could house up to 800 Roman troops and afforded even greater control across the boundary.
  • On the north side a deep defensive ditch was dug - ensuring that it could only be crossed through the Roman controlled Milecastles or Forts.
  • In 1987, Hadrian’s Wall was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ancient (Royal) Britons
  • “Old King Cole” was a real person. Coel was a fourth-century British prince who is said to be the father of St. Helen, who was the mother of Roman emperor Constantine. Coel appreciated music, which may be why the nursery rhyme makes mention of “his fiddlers three”.
  • Queen Boudicca is believed to be buried on a site now covered by the number 10 platform of King’s Cross Station.
  • There were ancient kings with such melodious names as “Offa,” “Ecgfrith,” “Eadwig,” and “Harthacnut." 
  • Aethelred the Unready was king of England – twice. The first time, he was deposed by a Danish king. But when he died, Aethelred returned from exile in Normandy, France, and ruled until his natural death.