Extending seventy-three miles from one side of England to the other, Hadrian’s Wall remains one of the most dramatic symbols of Roman power. What was the point? It was a feature of a new ideology in which the empire became a fortress of civilization rather than a vibrant empire capable of endless expansion and inclusion. Hadrian’s exclusionary ideal was both bogus and dangerous.
David Potter is the Francis W. Kelsey Collegiate Professor of Greek and Roman History at the University of Michigan.