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Viewing Single Post From: The joys and pitfalls of studying Wall history
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Digging deeper into Wall history and eyewitness stories is fun. Maddening, but fun.

The fun comes from little gems like the following:

"...A Wall thare-efftyr ordanyt thai
For to be made betwene Scotland
And thame, swa that it mycht wythstand
Thare fays, that thame swa skayth[it] hade;
And it off comon cost thai maid;
And yhit men callys it Thryl Wal..."

That's possibly the earliest known mention of the Wall in English (medieval Scots-English, but still...). It comes from an epic poem on Scotland, "The Orygynale Cronykil," from one Andrew Wyntoun, c. 1400. Doesn't actually shed any light on the Wall -- it just takes Bede's story and rhymes it. But it's fascinating to see people studying & thinking about history far earlier than we tend to give them credit for.

There are earlier accounts too, from the 12th Century in the "Black Book of Hexham," in which charters mention the "Murus Romanorum" as parts of property boundaries. Again, fun -- to me!

But the names... that's the maddening bit. To truly study how long people have been talking about the Wall, you have to know what terms to look for. And it's not easy. In addition to "Murus Romanorum" and "Thrylwal" (meaning "Pierced Wall" -- maybe referring to the old milecastle gates which "pierced" the Wall every mile), I've uncovered:

The Wall of Severus, The Roman Wall,
Thirlwall, Thwertoner Dyke,
Pierced Wall, Picts Wall,
Pictes Wall, Pightes Wall,
Kepe Wall, Mursever,
Mur-sever, Gaul-sever,
Gal-sever, Bal,
Val, Murus Perforatus,
Vallum Aelium (Staffordshire Pan), Vallum Severi,
Hadrian's Vallum, and of course, Hadrian's Wall

At one point I was following leads for "Graham's Wall or "Grhames Wall" -- only to discover that these invariably refer to the Antonine Wall in Scotland. And then there's the fake De Situ Britanniae, which added the equally fake "Vallum Barbaricum," "Pretentatura," and "Claustra," among probably others, to the mix.

As an amateur who just likes learning this stuff, it's a great detective story. To the professionals who earn their living delving into ancient records to reveal to us something of our shared history, I tip my hat.
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The joys and pitfalls of studying Wall history · Factoids & Trivia