Despite the impression given by Hadrian’s Wall (and by a few other places largely in Germany) that they saw a linear divide between the empire and the barbarian world, the Roman image of the frontier was usually much more subtly nuanced. The empire shaded into “foreign” territory across many kilometres that were melting pot of cultural difference and often a hot-spot of trading and commercial activity. It was a question of frontier zones, rather than frontiers – governed partly by Rome, partly by a whole variety of non-Roman powers. Hadrian’s Wall, whatever its function, was an exception.She's referring to the Bush administration's idea of a security wall demarcating the US from Mexico. Who says late antiquity studies have nothing to say to contemporary immigration policy?
President Bush and our other wall-crazy political leaders might learn from that.
Monday, April 30, 2007
Mary Beard on Hadrian's Wall
In the latest entry of her blog, A Don's Life, Mary Beard examines the idée reçue that Hadrian's Wall was an attempt to insulate a Roman zone from a barbarian one. She points out that the structure is ineptly designed if it was originally intended to serve only defensively. She then describes the Roman notion of a frontier zone, a place not so much of fearful Us Versus Them as a geography of vivacious intermixture: