Just cos he didn't build it...

One of things that always gently worries me with history is our obsession with the start and the end. It extends across our lives, genealogy and indeed we then apply it to written and recorded history.  So let me take my pet project, interest and current research project The Gallic Empire.

This was a breakaway structured rebellion that covered modern day Britain, Spain, France, Belgium Holland and tracts of Germany and included parts of Italy and Switzerland.  So a pretty large undertaking.  So from 260AD to 274AD the Roman Empire as governed and administered from Rome and presided over by the Emperor was removed from the operations of these provinces and countries.  But reading the history books you would think nothing happened in northern Britain during this time - cos they didn't build anything that is directly recorded.

So by example, I am off to Hadrian's Wall for a talk on Imperial Roman Cavalry for I reckon that the means of this part of the empire breaking away successful for 14 years was due to the army, the use of cavalry and horse communications and rivers, fleets and marine routes.

But all the stories of what and when are stuck on simplicity - so I know Hadrian's Wall was in full use and operation at this time - but the history books are stuck at 'built by Hadrian' and 'fell into disrepair after 400AD'.

I find myself feeling sorry, annoyed, a little frustrated, even peeved at the neglect between times.  So one of the threads of research I am undertaking and trying to construct is better understanding the periods in between.  Which towns and structures and more were built early, still being used, in full swing and more - perhaps even repaired and restored.

But when you get to the sites, locations and besides there is an institutional and archaeological nervousness about attributing cause, effect and then the very name.  Now I have a few places where I can unlock some details and that helps me at least.  The current excavations at Vindolanda which seems to throw up shoes by the pit full are being called the Severan Ditch.  We know Septimius Severus was in Britannia, the Severan dynasty has a good run in length-of-reign and so opting for a name that spans several Emperors is a clever compromise as Several covers the whole dynasty.  In Carlisle there hides a small, but for me, a deeply significant mile stone that names the rebel British Emperor Carausius (286-293AD). Further, we know that life at Birdowsald continued until the 7th century, there is a bath house also at Birdoswald repaired during the reign of the rebel Gallic Emperor Postumus (260-268AD).  And so by stitching these together we can in fact be more assertive.

We can take pieces, places, entire constructions and remind people that it might be called Hadrian's Wall, built during the reign and visit of that Emperor, but let's go one further.  The Severans (193-235AD) had a key impact on the northern frontier. Under the Gallic Empire of Postumus through to the joint reign of Tetricus I and Tetricus II (274AD) the northern frontier was still in full operation, road repairs were an issue (as today) under Britannia's Emperor Carausius (286-293AD) the baths were working having been repaired and the military fort of Birdoswald was a key part of the defence and engineering capacity of Roman Britain.

So love him, respect him and appreciate him as I do, I guess I am just saying: when looking at the Wall built after 120AD - it's not all about Hadrian