Bar Hill Roman Fort lies near the top of Bar Hill, in a strategic location looking north over the Kelvin Valley to the Campsie Fells. It was built as one of the forts housing troops manning the Antonine Wall, which was for a while the north-west frontier of a Roman Empire. Along with Rough Castle near Falkirk, it is one of the two best locations along the Antonine Wall to gain a real impression of what the wall was like, and what life would have been like for the troops manning it.
The Antonine Wall was built from AD 142 to 144 and ran for 60km from Bo'ness on the River Forth to Old Kilpatrick on the River Clyde. Like the better known Hadrian's Wall to the south, it formed a solid barrier right across the country. A clear symbol of Roman power and authority, the wall probably served to control the movement of people and goods between the Roman-controlled area to the south and the lands to the north.
The wall was in use for around 20 years. The relatively short period of occupation and the materials used in its construction mean that it has survived less well than Hadrian's Wall: but in its day it would have been just as formidable a barrier. The wall itself was built on stone foundations, 4.3m broad, on top of which turf was laid to a height of 3.6m. The top of the wall probably carried a wooden walkway protected by a wooden breastwork.
In front of the wall a ditch was dug to a depth of 3.6m and a breadth of up to 12m, with the spoil forming a mound along the north edge of the ditch. And in some places, as can be seen at Rough Castle, the wall was additionally protected by pits containing stakes. A little way to the south of the line of the wall ran a Roman Road, the Military Way, which was some 6m wide. At intervals of around 2 miles a fort was built to house the troops manning the wall. There were probably 19 of these along the wall, though only 17 have been found on the ground.
Bar Hill Roman Fort was unusual in that its north wall does not form part of the Antonine Wall itself. Instead, while the Antonine Wall follows a course a little way down the shoulder of the north side of Bar Hill, the fort is draped over the summit of the hill and built on its upper slopes. The Military Way passed between the fort and the wall.
It has to be said that the Antonine Wall as it runs along the flank of Bar Hill is not as well preserved as it is at Rough Castle, though here you do get more of a sense of how it would have commanded the landscape. Perhaps the best reason to visit is that, after excavations between 1979 and 1982, the plan and some lower levels of stonework of some of the buildings were left on view.
The largest visible building is the headquarters, placed on the south-facing slope of the hill, presumably with an eye to maximising sunlight. But in many ways the most impressive building is the bathhouse, which originally stood close to the north wall of the fort on the fairly steep northern slope of the hill. Here enough remains on the ground to give an impression of the function of what, for many who lived here, would have been one of the most essential buildings in the fort.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.