Hadrian’s Syrians

Written by Charles O. Cecil

Once a station for soldiers and sentries, the excavated ruins of milecastle 39 now beckon hikers roughly midway along Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland, England. From the early second century, the east-to-west wall separated Roman Britannia from Pictish tribes in Caledonia (in present-day Scotland) to the north. Not only stones did the work: Up to 8,000 men from all parts of the Roman Empire guarded and maintained the fortification along its 118-kilometer length. They included Syrians, as evidenced in the bilingual inscriptions—in Latin and Palmyrene—at the base of the tombstone found near South Shields, below, a commemoration of 30-year-old Regina, from central Britannia, by her bereaved husband, Barates, from Palmyra.