You’re the Emperor of Rome and after endless years of bloody fighting in Northern Britain, you decide it would be far easier just to build a wall and leave Northern Britain to become modern day Scotland, the loss of thousands of your men’s lives is not worth the financial reward given the hassle of maintaining order in the frozen north. But you don’t build just any wall, you build Hadrian’s Wall. Not a humble border acknowledging a loose boundary, but a fully fledged fortified wall with imposing fortresses every mile along its length, fully manned and able (hopefully) to repel those damned irrepressible and belligerent Northern British on the other side.
Conquering Britain had been a long series of bloody campaigns undertaken gradually over many decades with many setbacks along the way. For several centuries, until the collapse of the Roman Empire itself, Hadrian’s wall did its job fairly well, keeping the northern tribes separated from the rest of what had become “civilised” Britain. By and large Roman Britain thrived south of the wall as conquered tribes adjusted to the new Roman way of life, even building their towns in the Roman way and living the Roman Lifestyle. Rome with its undeniable sophistication had its advantages, if one could look beyond its initial oppression.
Adopting Roman Values and making them your own (like some kind of imperial franchise) would have been unthinkable north of the wall. Here life continued in the old British tribal tradition, with memories of Roman atrocities ingrained in the minds of generations. When the Romans had been denied an easy path to victory in the north, while losing many thousands of soldiers in British guerilla attacks, they began down the path of mass atrocities – sewing the seeds of an eternal hatred within the northern tribes. Thus the people north of the wall had become suddenly different from those in the south, and in time were surrounded by a mysticism caused by this imposed disconnection between them and the rest of Britain.
Enter George RR Martin on a trip to Hadrian’s wall (as I understand it) and suddenly you have the cornerstone of a great work of fantasy. A great story. A centuries old wall guarding all the civilised world from the dangerous, unmapped, mysterious wilderness beyond… and perhaps instead of just warring tribes (daunting enough for most) we have the lurking evil of the monstrous White Walkers which haunt the forests. This is surely a dangerous enough prospect to keep any empire at bay – even the Romans.
Being fantasy, the Game of Thrones wall bordering the Seven Kingdoms had to be grander… far, far grander. So what could be grander or more imposing than a giant wall of ice cutting across the frozen reaches of the north, resembling the side of a gigantic iceberg? The size of the Game of Thrones Wall points to the fear behind its construction; its more of a final solution than a defensive buffer. It suggest that whatever exists upon the other side is so terrible and so evil that it must be barricaded from the civilised world altogether! I wonder how that policy works out for them in the long run? And will there eventually be a union between the Seven Kingdoms and the Wildlings? And if so will they one day push for a referendum on independence? who knows…
#GameOfThrones #trivia #fantasy
Next week: The inspiration behind Game of Thrones deadly political games