November 11, 2020

1.6 Archaeology of the Roman West: Social Interpretations of Hadrian’s Wall

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Dr. Matthew Symonds, Current World Archaeology.

Symonds, M. 2020. 'Fords and the frontier: waging counter-mobility on
Hadrian’s Wall', Antiquity 94 (373): 92-109.

Symonds, M. 2021. Hadrian's Wall: creating division. Bloomsbury Academic.

Mobility on the Tyne–Solway isthmus constitutes a
gap in our understanding of the planning and functioning
of the Roman frontier of northern Britain.
Although the inflexible design of Hadrian’s Wall
appears insensitive to variations in local environment,
identification of potential Roman-period
fords suggests that securing river crossings was
an important influence on military plans. The
Roman army exploited established routeways to
impose increasingly sophisticated systems to structure
movement, initially via a system of forts, fortlets
and towers—the Stanegate—and subsequently
using a continuous barrier: Hadrian’s Wall. As
these measures evolved, so local communities
experienced greater levels of military control and inequality.


Dr. Rob Collins, Newcastle University.

Collins, R. 2020. ‘The Phallus and the Frontier: The Form and Function of Phallic Imagery Along Hadrian’s Wall. In: Ivleva, T. & Collins, R. (eds.) Un-Roman Sex: Gender, Sexuality, and Lovemaking in the Roman Provinces and Frontiers. NY: Routledge.

The phallus is a ubiquitous symbol across the ancient world, visualised across
the spectrum in exquisite (or excruciating) naturalistic detail to abstracted iconographic
representations (Chapters 4, 5, and 10). These representations are not
limited to a single medium, but are found in sculpture, portable objects,
mosaics, frescoes, and more generic carvings. As has been eloquently argued
and appreciated for some time now (Johns 1982), the phallus can be symptomatic
of eroticism in the Roman world, but it often invoked and performed
a magical, apotropaic function. While undeniably true,
the apotropaic function covers a broad range of use and intention. Archaeology
offers the potential to explore and refine our understanding of the magic and/or
erotic phallus, particularly in those instances where a phallus is found in situ
and with an associated context. Given that Pompeii is commonly held up as an
example of the frequency and commonality of phalli in the Roman world, it is
essential to explore the frequency and occurrence of phalli in other locations
and cultural situations.


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