African Soldiers Guarded Antonine Walls in 2nd Century Rome, Per New Findings

The Antonine Wall/Photo credit: Scottish Canals


Early archaeological findings by Dr. Vivien Swan, an expert on Roman pottery and military supply systems, found broken pieces of pottery of North African origin at the Antonine Wall site.

It contained remnants of dishes peculiar to North African culture which consisted of casserole as well as other dishes of brazier style.

Dr. Vivien’s excavations gave an earlier insight suggesting that North Africa soldiers had been stationed at the Roman Wall which stretches from North Africa to parts of Scotland. But, this evidence was not conclusive to many historians and archaeologists.

The Antonine Wall was erected by the governor Quintus Lollius Urbicus under the explicit directive of the Emperor Antoninus Pius, the successor to Hadrin in the mid-2nd century AD. Many military contingents pitched camps along its route from Scotland to the deserts of North Africa.

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But, emerging details from British archaeologists Professor David Breeze and Dr. Paul Holder indicate that people from North-Western Africa were given documents inscribed in bronze known as military diploma after successfully discharging their guard duties.


This badge was to show that the person bearing it has been given Roman citizenship after his military service. In the case of the North African soldiers, many of these military diplomas were found by the British archaeologists.

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The findings of Professor Breeze and Dr Holder established that the North African contingent were among the first cohort of Baetasians who were involved in the Mauretania war. They were believed to have been posted to the Bar Hill and Old Kilpatrick side of the Wall.

Though the archaeologists were not able to ascertain which North African country the soldiers were linked to, the Scotsman reported that there was evidence of movement of Africans on the Antonine Wall.

The pottery and dishes Dr. Vivien identified have been consolidated by the fresh findings by the British archaeologists.

Archeological excavations point to war expeditions waged by Antoninus Pius against Mauretania which is present-day Morocco. Historians believe that some of these North African soldiers were moved to Britain after the war to make up for the casualty suffered in the military campaign.

Roman Empire is known for its respect for cultural diversity and home to many people from different countries. It makes it easier for the historians to draw the linkage and sieve the doubts on African soldiers and their contributions to the Roman military campaigns across the world.

Historians further argue that, the reason why it is easy to establish the ancestry of those who acquired Roman citizenship irrespective of the country they belonged to is because the Empire allowed people to worship their own gods and continue with their customs and traditions.

Roman military contingents were built on ethnic lines, explaining why those of African extraction were found on the north-western African side of the Antonine Wall.

For instance, the Tungrians from present day Belgium and Vardullians who are linked to Spain were stationed at Castlecary fort.

Thracians from Bulgaria manned Mumrills fort. Hamian archers from Syria could be found at the centre of the Wall in Bar Hill fort.

The Syrian connection was well known and Lollius Urbicus was originally from Numidia present day Algeria.



Written by How Africa News

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