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Hadrian’s Wall, the ancient marvel that snakes through northern England, quite rightly steals the show when it comes to the frontiers of Roman Britain. It’s a spectacular sight, rolling poetically over hillsides and serving up ruins of fortifications for all to see.


It once reached up to 5m in height and spanned an impressive 73 miles, and today boasts impressive remains with large portions of the original stone wall still intact. Its enduring presence, however, overshadows the true frontier that the Romans, those wily conquerors who built one of the world’s largest empires by the 2nd Century AD, constructed around 100 miles to the north.


The Antonine Wall’s lack of celebrity status is also possibly due to its short lifespan. Although its year of completion remains debated (suggestions range from 142 AD to 150 AD), it’s generally accepted that this huge structure was abandoned within two decades.


What is certain, as Dr Louisa Campbell, postdoctoral fellow in archaeology at the University of Glasgow told me, is that the wall was a show of force, “a massive and labour-intensive physical presence”.

格拉斯哥大学考古学博士后坎贝尔博士(Louisa Campbell)告诉我,可以肯定安东尼长城展示了国力,是“一个体量巨大、凝结了大量劳动的实体存在”。

“The wall would most likely have been perceived as an intimidating structure and a hostile imposition to the cultural landscape, separating groups stretching back many generations,” she said, concluding that it was “unlikely to have been particularly welcomed by the locals”.


Unsurprising, really, when you consider that these locals resided in a land ruled by warriors and tribes deemed to be beyond the grasp of Rome. Despite various incursions, encampments and even some mutually beneficial trading relations, Caledonia, the Roman term for the unconquered lands to the north, remained a thorn in the side of many an emperor. The Antonine Wall marked the outer limits of what Rome saw as civilisation. What’s more, it was an uncommon one at that.


“Built frontiers were quite unusual in the Roman world as the army typically relied on natural boundaries such as rivers or mountains,” said Dr Fraser Hunter, principal curator of Roman Collections at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. “The Antonine Wall, therefore, gives us rare insights into the Roman Empire’s attempts to control the edges of its world.”

“罗马帝国人工建造边界的举动相当罕见,军队通常依靠河流或者山脉这样的自然边界,”爱丁堡苏格兰国家博物馆(National Museum of Scotland)罗马藏品的负责人亨特博士(Fraser Hunter)说:“安东尼长城给了我们一个难得的机会,让我们看到罗马帝国为了控制帝国边疆所做的努力。”

In addition, there are 47 named sites along the route for travellers to explore, although unsurprisingly not all of them were created equal given the wall’s lack of solid stone credentials. I planned a route westwards by car from Edinburgh to take in some of the must-see sections.


It was always going to be an interesting recce: for starters, the wall’s route through Scotland's central belt covers much lowland territory that was at the heart of the Scottish Industrial Revolution. This takes anyone on a quest to follow the Antonine Wall through areas scarred by heavy industry, such as former coal and oil shale mines and past old ironworks. Interestingly, the ruins run parallel to some of the region’s major arteries including the Forth and Clyde canal, walker’s paradise The John Muir Way, and the main railway line between Edinburgh and Glasgow, proving that this stretch continues to be as important today as it was to the Romans.

这个旅程一定很有意思。整个长城穿过苏格兰的中部地带,有许多低地,曾是苏格兰工业革命的中心。如果你之前没来过,只要跟着安东尼长城走,就能穿过那些留有重工业疤痕的地区,像是从前的煤矿、油页岩矿,以及旧钢铁厂。有意思的是,城墙遗迹与这里许多主要线路走向相同,包括福斯—克莱德运河、被称为徒步者天堂的“约翰·缪尔之路”(The John Muir Way),以及连接爱丁堡和格拉斯哥之间的主要铁路线,说明这段路在今天仍然像当年对罗马人一样重要。

My first stop was the town of Falkirk, around 26 miles west of Edinburgh, which stood out as a hotbed of remains with a number of different sites in quick succession. “I have a soft spot for the wall in Callendar Park, as it survived the urban sprawl of Falkirk,” Hunter had confided to me. Indeed, the park, which surrounds the museum at Callendar House, hosts a generous portion of the rampart and ditch, and provided me with my first excitable glimpse of the Antonine Wall. Inside Callendar House, there’s also a small exhibition detailing the history of the Antonine Wall under the expert eye of local archaeologist Geoff Bailey.

我的第一站是爱丁堡以西约42公里的法尔柯克(Falkirk),许多遗址都集中在这里。“我对卡伦德公园(Callendar Park)里的那段长城情有独钟,因为它在法尔柯克的城市扩张中得以幸存,”亨特向我吐露。的确,环绕着卡伦德宫(Callendar House)博物馆的公园里有大片的城墙和沟渠,让我第一次兴奋地一窥安东尼长城的样貌。在卡伦德宫还有一个小展览,详细介绍了安东尼长城的历史,有当地考古专家贝利(Geoff Bailey)为展览提供专业指导。

Less than three miles from Callendar House is Watling Lodge, where along a rather unprepossessing B-road, the tell-tale rise and fall of the ditch crawling over a low-lying hill was clear to see. Also in the area is Rough Castle. The remains of this once-upon-a-time fort are widely lauded as the jewel in the crown of the Antonine Wall, easily accessed by a path from the Falkirk Wheel (another, more contemporary, engineering success story).

距离卡伦德宫不到5公里的地方就是沃特林小舍(Watling Lodge),它位于一条不起眼的路上,从那里可以清楚地看到低矮丘陵上蜿蜒起伏的沟渠。拉夫城堡(Rough Castle)也在这个地区。这座曾经存在的堡垒,其遗迹被广泛誉为安东尼长城王冠上的明珠,从法尔柯克轮(Falkirk Wheel,一个更为现代的成功工程案例)有一条路很方便就过来了。

Although Rough Castle was the second smallest fort along the wall, Bailey said, “it has everything to give the impression of what a fort looked like.” And it’s instantly obvious why it’s so revered. Whether walking along the boggy bottom of the ditch or high on the ridge of the rampart, the sheer scale is overwhelming. Standing on a damp mossy section of rampart looking across to the west of Scotland, I couldn’t help but wonder how far from home those legionnaires must have felt in this savage outpost prone to bouts of bad weather and hostility from ill-tempered natives.


Of course, this cherry-picked approach to experiencing the Antonine Wall was only ever going to be an introduction. It gave me a flavour of what to look for and showed how addictive hunting down sections can be; no wonder there are experts and enthusiasts championing this forgotten frontier as a major attraction.


The story of the Antonine Wall may be more of a short read than a full-length feature, but it’s one that should be spoken of in harmony with its peer, Hadrian’s Wall. It has left a legacy of intrigue, archaeology, history, walks and activities – proof enough that it was, for a time, a pivotal frontier of the mighty Roman Empire.


“The wall is a lovely example of Rome’s endeavours to control what is now Scotland and the challenges the empire faced,” Hunter said. “It was an experiment – a massive-scale engineering exercise to try to separate Roman from non-Roman worlds.”