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Hadrian's Wall (Penguin History) [Paperback]

David J Breeze , Brian Dobson
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: £14.99
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Book Description

25 May 2000 Penguin History
A penetrating and lucid history of the best-known and most spectacular monument to the Roman Empire in Britain. Taking into account new research findings about the building of the Wall, Breeze and Dobson include fascinating details about the Roman army, its religion and daily bureaucratic life. A selection of photos, maps and diagrams help make this a book for both the expert and the layman, being simultaneously erudite and unusually accessible.

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Hadrian's Wall (Penguin History) + Hadrian's Wall (English Heritage Guidebooks) + The Wall: Rome's Greatest Frontier
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; 4Rev Ed edition (25 May 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140271821
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140271829
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 310,194 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

David Breeze is Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments in Scotland. He has excavated extensively in North Britain and written books and articles on Roman archaeology. He lives in Edinburgh. Brian Dobson was Reader in Archaeology at Durham University.He has now retired.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Romantic ruin or symbol of Roman oppression? 29 Feb 2012
Format:Paperback
If you want to know more about Hadrian's Wall than the brief outline you will get from a guide book, then this scholarly piece of work is what you need. It is a very detailed account of the functions, structure, history and development of the wall, as well as of what life was like along the wall in Roman times.

The Emperor Hadrian ordered the building of the wall in A.D. 122. What was the purpose of such an undertaking? First of all Breeze and Dobson show what the wall was NOT. It was not a defensive structure for fighting from, in the way that medieval city walls were. It was not for Roman soldiers to stand on top of, behind the battlements, fighting off besieging invaders from the north. Roman military strength lay in fighting battles in the open. If there was any trouble from the tribes to the north, the Romans would meet it by sending out troops from the forts on the wall.

An ancient biography of Hadrian states that he built the wall "to separate the Romans from the barbarians". This gives us a better idea of its purpose. It was essentially a frontier. It was built to provide border control. It controlled (and taxed) the movement of people across the border of the Empire.

The wall also provided security. It might only be a hindrance to large-scale attacks, which would be met on open ground, but it would prevent petty raiding. Its milecastles and turrets would also be look-out points. And its very existence would be a form of control, over people to the south as well as the north. The fact that a ditch-and-mound system, the Vallum, was built parallel to the wall on the south side, shows that the people on that side had to be controlled, too.

Above all, according to Breeze and Dobson, the wall signified the "concept" of a frontier.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Authoritative, but not fun 23 Aug 2009
Format:Paperback
If you need a relatively short book to impart the essential details of the purpose, building and use of Hadrian's Wall then start here. It covers the Antonine Wall too and also has a (fairly unnecessary) chapter on the Roman Army. It combines detailed and authoritative information with an economic written style which makes it a relatively quick read. However, it's not a fun read - ultimately rather dry and passionless. It's not a guidebook either, although to be fair it never sets out to be one. In the paperback version the maps are too small.

Probably one for the student (or teacher).
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic text 18 Feb 2009
Format:Paperback
My reason for posting this is that I wanted to add some balance to the previous review. This book might indeed be weighty, but it is a truly authoritative text on Hadrian's Wall and is indispensable for anyone who wants in depth information on the wall. I found it excellent and have read it cover to cover twice.

Ben Kane, author of The Forgotten Legion.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not one for the layman! 27 Aug 2008
Format:Paperback
I bought this book, as like many people, I was setting out to walk the wall and thought a bit of background reading would make my journey more pleasurable. The synopsis gave the impression that this would be accessible to just about anyone. I have to tell you that I was only able to make it to page 112. It could and should have been more interesting but there were just too many statistics: "The forward ditch measured 5 feet (1.5m) across and 2 feet 8 inches (0.8m) deep; it had been recut twice. The rear ditch measured 6 feet 6 inches (1.9m) across by 2 feet (0.6m) deep. A mile on, by tower 2b, only one ditch was found. It was 3 feet 6 inches (1.1m) wide............" aaarrgghh and so it goes on; mind numbingly dull. In beween the statistics however, there were some very interesting facts and I did learn quite a bit about Roman life on the wall. It was just that you had to wade through a pile of statistics, which were instantly forgotten before you came to the good bits. I can't fault the authors on their research; it's incredibly thorough. I just wish the book could have been a lot shorter than its 250 pages (before the appendices)sans stats and maybe then I could have finished it and learnt a lot more to boot.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Romantic ruin or symbol of Roman oppression? 29 Feb 2012
By P. Webster - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If you want to know more about Hadrian's Wall than the brief outline you will get from a guide book, then this scholarly piece of work is what you need. It is a very detailed account of the functions, structure, history and development of the wall, as well as of what life was like along the wall in Roman times.

The Emperor Hadrian ordered the building of the wall in A.D. 122. What was the purpose of such an undertaking? First of all Breeze and Dobson show what the wall was NOT. It was not a defensive structure for fighting from, in the way that medieval city walls were. It was not for Roman soldiers to stand on top of, behind the battlements, fighting off besieging invaders from the north. Roman military strength lay in fighting battles in the open. If there was any trouble from the tribes to the north, the Romans would meet it by sending out troops from the forts on the wall.

An ancient biography of Hadrian states that he built the wall "to separate the Romans from the barbarians". This gives us a better idea of its purpose. It was essentially a frontier. It was built to provide border control. It controlled (and taxed) the movement of people across the border of the Empire.

The wall also provided security. It might only be a hindrance to large-scale attacks, which would be met on open ground, but it would prevent petty raiding. Its milecastles and turrets would also be look-out points. And its very existence would be a form of control, over people to the south as well as the north. The fact that a ditch-and-mound system, the Vallum, was built parallel to the wall on the south side, shows that the people on that side had to be controlled, too.

Above all, according to Breeze and Dobson, the wall signified the "concept" of a frontier. This was a new idea for the Romans at that time. In the preceding centuries Rome had been constantly expanding. It had been assumed that this expansion would go on and on.

But now the Empire was reaching its limits. Expansion was no longer so easy. In the East there was the Parthian Empire, which was a tough nut to crack. Elsewhere Rome had reached what historian Neil Faulkner calls the "plough line", beyond which expansion would not pay for itself because the land was not fertile enough to produce much of a surplus. Hadrian ordered the building of frontier barriers in various parts of the Empire, including Germany, where it consisted of a timber palisade, and North Africa. Hadrian's Wall is simply the best known, best preserved and most impressive of these barriers.

Expansion did not come to a complete end with the building of the wall. For example, the frontier was for a short time moved northwards to the Antonine Wall; and the Emperor Septimius Severus later made an unsuccessful attempt to conquer the whole of Britain. Nevertheless the wall does signify a new stage in the development of the Roman Empire. And from this point of view it can be seen as a sign of weakness rather than strength.

In his magnificent book, "The Class Struggle in the Ancient Greek World", G.E.M. de Ste. Croix argues that the end of Rome's expansion led eventually to its decline. Conquered provinces were a source of taxation in cash and kind. But they were also a source of slaves, especially during the process of conquest itself. But when expansion ceased, the supply of slaves began to dry up. To make up for this, Rome's rulers began to squeeze the free peasants more and more, to the point where many peasants preferred "barbarian" invaders to Roman rule.

All this suggests that Hadrian's Wall symbolises a turning point in Roman history. Although its building was followed by a long period of continuing Roman power, the pinnacle had been reached. There was nowhere else to go but backwards.

Hadrian's Wall is an impressive monument to Roman power and engineering. To us, its remains also look beautiful: they run through wonderful scenery and form what guide books might call a "romantic ruin". But eighteen hundred years ago it would not have been seen as "beautiful". Impressive and awe-inspiring, yes; but not beautiful. In fact to the majority of the native population it would have been a symbol of oppression which was occasionally fought against and the rest of the time sullenly resented.

Phil Webster.
(England)
5.0 out of 5 stars Details, details and superb maps. 22 Aug 2013
By DR - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This trip is in the planning stage, so don't know how it will work on trail, but it is small enough and light enough to take along in the pack. Looks like it might be all we need for route finding and simple info. Husband really likes it also.
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