button to main menu  Camden's Britannia, edn 1789

button title page
button previous page button next page
button start of The Wall
Page 213:-
  Praetentura 5.
  The wall between Edenborough frith and Dunbritton frith.
  About A.D. 410.
  Soldiers stationed along the wall.
  A stone wall.
  Praetentura 6.

  roman wall no.5
  roman wall no.6

that it had a regular governor, and was afterwards called VALENTIA, in honour of the emperor Valentinian *. Theodosius, the son, when by his valour he had obtained the empire, took due care of the frontier, appointing that the magister officiorum should give an account yearly to the emperor of the condition of the soldiery, castles, and lines. But when the Roman affairs began to be evidently on the decline, the Picts and Scots breaking through the turf wall at Bodotria, ravaged this country in a dreadful manner; a Roman legion under Gallio of Ravenna, was sent to their relief †, who, after repulsing the barbarians, being recalled to defend Gaul, advised the Britans (to borrow the words of Gildas [k] and Bede [l]), "to erect a wall cross the island between the two seas for a defence to keep out the enemy, and so returned home in great triumph. The islanders setting about this wall as they were ordered, did not employ stone so much as sods, having no person fit for the work, by which means they made a wall of no use." "For being," as Gildas observes, "raised by the common people without a leader, of sods instead of stones, it did no good." Of the place where this was erected Bede proceeds thus [m]: "They made it between two straits or bays of the sea for some thousand miles, that where the water ceased to be a defence there the wall might secure the frontier from the inroads of the enemy." Such a wall Marcellinus tells us [n] carried on a for a great length, defended Assyria from foreign invasion; and, at this day, the Chinese, according to Osorius [o], defend their vallies and plains against the Tattars by walls. "Of this work then raised, i.e. a very broad a high wall, evident traces still remain. For it begins about two miles from the monastery Abercurvinig to the east in a place called in the Pictish language Penvahel, but in English Penveltun, and running west ends at the city Alcluith. But their antient enemies no sooner saw the Roman soldiers gone, but they came in ships, broke down the frontier, destroyed all that came in their way,cutting down and trampling on all they met with like ripe corn, and overrun the whole country. Embassadors upon this were again sent to Rome to implore assistance in moving strains, that their wretched country might not be utterly ruined, and the name of a Roman province, which had so long done them honour, be lost and rendered contemptible by the barbarity of foreign nations. Again a legion was sent, which coming unexpectedly in Autumn made a great slaughter of the enemy, drove beyond the arms of the sea all that could escape, who before used every year to carry off their booty beyond these arms without any troops to oppose them." The Romans now retired to Severus's wall, and per lineam valli (as it is expressed in the Notitia ‡, written about the end of the reign of Theodosius the younger), i.e. along the length of the wall on both sides within and without, planted in proper stations five troops of horse with their praefects, fifteen cohorts with their tribunes, one Numerus and one Cuneus: all which have been or will be pointed out in their proper places. Bede [p] proceeds to give this account of the times that followed. "The Romans then told the Britans that they could no longer encumber themselves with such troublesome expeditions for their defence, but advised them to take up arms themselves, and risk encounters with the enemy, who might possibly have the advantage over them merely through their own inactivity. The Romans further thinking it a piece of service to their allies, whom they were going to abandon, drew a wall of strong stone strait from sea to sea, between the cities erected there for fear of the enemy, where Severus had formerly raised his wall." I shall here subjoin the words of Gildas [q], from whom Bede borrowed the above. "The Romans immediately run a wall, not like the former, at public and private expence, by the assistance of the wretched natives, in their usual style of building, strait from sea to sea between the cities erected there for fear of the enemy." Now hear Bede again [r]: "This wall, so famous and visible to this day, they built at public and private expence, assisted by the Britans, eight feet broad and twelve high, in a strait line from east to west [s], as may be seen to this day." From which words of Bede we see a certain ingenious writer [t] shut his own eyes when he charged two others with being blind, and so warmly contends against Boetius and other Scotish writers, that Severus's wall was in Scotland. For does not Bede after speaking of the wall at Abercurving in Scotland expressly say, that the wall was built of strong stone where Severus built his wall, and where was that stone wall unless on this spot between Tinemouth and the frith of Eden? Where then was Severus's wall? Here are still such strong traces of the wall that one may follow its track, and, in the wastes as they are called, I myself have seen large pieces of it running a great way, wanting only the battlements.
  Castle steeds.
  Areani Exploratrores.

  mile castles
  roman forts

I have seen its track running in high hills in an extraordinary manner, and then coming down to levels, where the country is more open, having a broad deep ditch in front without, now filled up in many places, and within an agger or military way, but greatly interrupted. It had a number of towers or castles, a mile asunder, called Castle steeds, and within small fortified towns, now called Chesters, whose foundations are visible, of a square form, and towers between them, in which the soldiers were stationed to awe the barbarians, and the Areani had their posts till displaced by Theodosius before-mentioned for their treachery. "These kind of men were of antient institution, their business being (according to Amm. Marcellinus [u]) to scout about for a considerable distance on both sides, and give notice to our commanders of any disturbances among the neighbouring nations." So that those who established them seem to have followed the advice of that person [x] who addressed a treatise of the art of war to Theodosius and his sons. "Among the advantages to the state must be reckoned a care for frontiers on every side, whose security is best provided for by a number of castles. So that they should be erected at the distance of every
213.*   Blondus.
213.†   Codex Theodosii.
213.‡   Alciat calls it Theodosii Breviarium.
[k] § 14. p.13.
[l] I. 12.
[m] Ib.
[n] XXIII. 6.
[p] Ubi sup.
[q] Ubi sup.
[r] Ib.
[s] Lineasque & turres per intervalla collocant, ut hodie est, &c. Fordun ex Beda. Gale MS. n.
[t] Buchannan. See also Smith's Bede, p.50, note 1.
[u] XXVIII. c.3. See Introd. p.lix. note B.
[x] [blank]
button next page

button to main menu Lakes Guides menu.