A couple of days ago I accomplished one item in my “bucket list” by visiting Hadrian’s Wall. At Homesteads in Northumbria is the best preserved of the wall forts in Britain. Even after hundreds of years serving as a pile of free building materials it is very impressive. To build a wall eighty miles long, twenty feet high and ten feet thick is amazing.
Hadrian was Emperor of Rome 76 -138AD. The empire reached it greatest under Trajan, Hadrain’s predecessor. Upon his accession Hadrian evaluated the situation and during his reign visited very province. He did a fascinating thing by pulling back and letting go territory conquered by Trajan.
Upon his accession to the throne, Hadrian withdrew from Trajan’s conquests in Mesopotamia and Armenia, and considered abandoning Dacia (Romania). Hadrian rightly surmised that he had more to manage than could be sustained. Most people don’t realize that by the third century Emperor’s rarely lived in Rome because they lived closer to the action at the border.
When he visited Britain he decided to mark the northern boundary of the Roman Empire and so it was so. He did this not so much to keep the Picts our as to gain control of the border for stability, trade and of course taxation.
I pondered what this wall built in 122 AD across the narrowest point in Britain has to tell us as Christians in the 21st Century. In the transistional period between Modern and that yet to be discerned epoch, we Christians must like Hadrian must carefully read the signs.
I’m sure that while Rome remained victorious when Hadrian took up the purple, doubtless many expected him to continue the traditional expansion. Under Hadrian Rome stopped expanding, It is that policy that brought the Emperor to the Northern most border of Roman Hegemony.
What can Hadrian’s Last Stand teach Christians? We also sense that we live in the inbetweentime from the ending of the modern to the beginning of the next epoch. At least some Christian leaders realize that life as usual is no longer possible. Many would argue that if we just tried harder to do what worked in the past all will. So they experiement with bands instead of organs, which to my mind is rather like rearranging the pews at the Church of Saint Titanic. The truth is we do not know the future but at the same time there are things we can do. Hadrian must have bought time for the empire by carefully responding to the real conditions.
What do we do in the in-be-tween time? Let’s think about that. JWS