All You Need to Know About Hadrian’s Gate, the Famous Arch in Antalya
Located right on Atatürk Boulevard in Antalya’s city center, Hadrian’s Gate is a stunning historic ruin that dates back to 130 AD. Built to commemorate Emperor Hadrian’s visit, it managed to survive the wear and tear of time and humanity.
When you’re wandering around Antalya, it’s impossible not to walk past one of the city’s most important historic sights: Hadrian’s Gate. The gate, which dates all the way back to 130 AD, was originally built to commemorate Roman Emperor Hadrian’s visit to Attaleia (as Antalya was known back then). It’s no surprise that this historical edifice also happens to be one of the main entrance’s to Kaleiçi, the city’s beautiful historic quarter. Known as Hadriyanüs Kapısı in Turkish, the gate was part of the city’s outer walls and became an important gateway after its completion. As for the gate’s architectural qualities, the two towers standing on either side are from different time periods. While the southern tower, built independently from the gate, is from the Roman era, the northern tower is associated with the Seljuk sultan Alaeddin Keykubat I, who reigned in the first half of the 13th century AD, with a befitting inscription in Arabic script. You’ll be able to notice that the southern tower, which is also known as the Tower of Julia Sancta, is quite distinct from the other and is marked by a stone inscription, which substantiates its ancient construction date.
A typical Roman triumphal arc, Hadrian’s Gate has three same-sized archways and has an overall height of around eight meters (26.2 feet) from the historic pavement to the very top of the gate’s entablature. In the front and back of the gate, you’ll be able to see beautifully adorned façades that are made from four columns each and composed of white marble, except the column shafts, which are granite. The entablature on the very top of the gate is also quite noteworthy and extends to both sides with a height of 1.28 meters (4.2 feet), including a frieze decorated with floral motifs and an ornate cornice that shows lion heads among other visuals. Last but certainly not least, the barrel vaults located on the archways are also quite decorative with caissons that each have their own floral motifs and rosettes. Discovered in 1817 by Irish-British hydrographer Rear Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort, the gate became part of his published diary that recounted his travels along the southern coast of Asia Minor. In this particular description, Beaufort describes the gate as having a higher level, but it must have been destroyed in the 19th century because no other accounts after that time period note this extension.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that the exposure and renovation of Hadrian’s Gate took place, quite astounding given what a beautiful monument it truly is. Nowadays, it’s among the most important sights in Antalya and leads to the historic houses, restaurants, and delightful shops in the city’s old town. After Hadrian’s Gate, it’s about a 10-minute walk until you reach a beautiful view of the city and the sea where having a cold lemonade at one of the cafés in the shade is a definite experience while in Antalya in the summer.
Hadrian's Gate resembles a typical Roman triumphal arch. Its three archways are of the same size - 4.15 meters wide and 6.18 meters in height, measured to the top of the arc. The whole structure has a height of more than 8 meters from the ancient pavement to the top of the entablature.
Both the front and the back side of the gate are adorned by the façades, composed of four columns each. The monument was built of white marble, with the exception of granite column shafts. The capitals of the columns are of the composite order, i.e. they combine the volutes of the Ionic order capital with the acanthus leaves of the Corinthian order.
The entablature above the colonnades extending on both sides of the gate has a height of 1.28 meters and consists of an architrave, a low frieze decorated with floral motifs and a cornice. The rich decoration of the cornice represents, among others, the heads of lions. The barrel vaults over the archways are decorated with caissons, each of which has a distinct decoration - floral motifs and rosettes.
Hadrian’s Wall was ordered to be built by the emperor Hadrian in the 2nd Century. It was designed to keep the Picts - the name of the Scottish warriors - from crossing into northern England, which was ruled by the Romans at the time. The Picts had become a serious problem for the Romans, regularly crossing into England to start battles or raid settlements.
The wall was built from stone in AD 122 and was 73 miles long, running from Wallsend-on-Tyne in the east to Bowness on the Solway Firth in the west. In parts it is large enough for two soldiers to do sentry duty side by side. The Romans built a special road - which was called the Stanegate - so that both soldiers and supplies could easily be sent up to Hadrian’s Wall.
To bolster the defences of the wall, the Romans built a mile castle every 1,500 meters (roughly). These mile castles would house around 20 soldiers who could keep watch to ensure no forces attacked from the north. But that’s not all - larger forts would also be built at around eight kilometres apart, which would house anything between 500 and 1,000 soldiers as well as important supplies and food.
Although it was designed by skillful engineers, Hadrian’s Wall was actually built by the Roman soldiers themselves - as well as being skilled in combat these men were also well trained when it came to constructing walls, forts and roads. Indeed, the fact that the wall still remain in the north of England today, albeit only partially, is a testament to the quality of the job the Romans did in constructing it.
On three different occasions the Picts attempted to destroy the wall but each time the Romans would rebuild the section that had been attacked. Hadrian’s wall was constantly patrolled and guarded for almost 250 years, marking the northern border of the vast Roman Empire.
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Hadrian’s Wall, continuous Roman defensive barrier that guarded the northwestern frontier of the province of Britain from barbarian invaders. The wall extended from coast to coast across the width of northern Britain it ran for 73 miles (118 km) from Wallsend (Segedunum) on the River Tyne in the east to Bowness on the Solway Firth in the west. The original plan was to construct a stone wall 10 Roman feet wide (a Roman foot is slightly larger than a standard foot) and at least 12 feet high for the eastern sector and a turf rampart 20 Roman feet wide at the base for the western sector both were fronted by a ditch, except where the crags rendered this superfluous. At every 1 /3 Roman mile there was a tower, and at every mile a fortlet (milefortlet, or milecastle) containing a gate through the wall, presumably surmounted by a tower, and one or two barrack-blocks. Before this scheme was completed, forts were built on the wall line at roughly 7-mile intervals and an earthwork, known as the vallum, dug behind the wall and the forts. Probably at this stage the stone wall was narrowed from 10 Roman feet wide to about 8 feet. The fortlets, towers, and forts continued for at least 26 miles (42 km) beyond Bowness southward down the Cumbrian coast.
Emperor Hadrian (ruled 117–138 ce ) went to Britain in 122 and, in the words of his biographer, “was the first to build a wall, 80 miles long, to separate the Romans from the barbarians.” The initial construction of the wall took approximately six years, and expansions were later made. Upon Hadrian’s death, his successor Antoninus Pius (138–161) decided to extend the Roman dominion northward by building a new wall in Scotland. The resulting Antonine Wall stretched for 37 miles (59 km) along the narrow isthmus between the estuaries of the Rivers Forth and Clyde. Within two decades, however, the Antonine Wall was abandoned in favour of Hadrian’s Wall, which continued in use nearly until the end of Roman rule in Britain (410).
Hadrian’s Wall was built mainly by soldiers of the three legions of Britain, but it was manned by the second-line auxiliary troops. Its purpose was to control movement across the frontier and to counter low-intensity threats. There was no intention of fighting from the wall top the units based on the wall were trained and equipped to encounter the enemy in the open.
In 1990–91 excavations of a milefortlet just north of Maryport, Cumbria, provided information on a Roman garrison’s lifestyle. The fortlet, which was occupied for a short time during Hadrian’s reign, rendered artifacts such as fragments of game boards and a large number of hearths and ovens. The fortlet has been partially reconstructed and made accessible to the public.
In 1987 Hadrian’s Wall was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Over the centuries many sections of the wall have suffered damage caused by roads traversing it and by the plunder of its stones to build nearby houses and other structures. However, the remaining foundations and forts attract tourists from throughout the world. Compare Great Wall of China.
The fort was of the standard ‘playing card’ plan for Roman forts, a rectangle with rounded corners. Apart from the north-east corner, where the modern road cuts across Hadrian’s Wall, the fort walls are completely exposed. These were backed with an earth rampart and would have been some 4–5 metres high. In each corner was an angle tower, and interval towers were provided north of the east and west gates.
There were six gates, of which all but the north are visible. The four main gates – one on each side – were of a standard pattern of a double portal flanked by towers. Two additional single-portal gates were provided on the east and west sides, and are a relic of the early plan for a projecting fort like that at Chesters. The main east gate is the best preserved on Hadrian’s Wall, with one voussoir (wedge-shaped arch stone) surviving.
On the east wall there are traces of many repairs and rebuildings. Several of the towers around the fort were later used as bakehouses, and typical circular Roman ovens can be seen.
The building of the fort
There is little evidence for pre-Roman activity at Housesteads. The first Roman presence is evident in the broad foundation of Hadrian&rsquos Wall along the north edge of the escarpment, and in a turret (no. 36b), one of a regular system of towers and small forts (known as milecastles) along the line of the Wall. The turret now lies within the fort walls.
The building of the fort began before either the Wall at Housesteads or milecastle 37 to the west was completed.  The presence of a cremation burial in the north-west corner of the fort suggests that the timespan between the two building phases may have been more than a year:  Roman burials were always outside forts and settlements, so this cremation must pre-date the construction of the fort. Work on the Wall at Housesteads, at a narrower gauge, was resumed once the fort walls were complete.
Where is Hadrian’s Wall?
The wall stretches across the breadth of northern England, from Wallsend and the banks of the river Tyne on the eastern North Sea coast to Bowness-on-Solway and the Irish Sea in the west.
The eastern end of the wall, at modern-day Wallsend, was the site of Segedunum, an expansive fort which was likely surrounded by a settlement. The wall originally terminated at Pons Aelius (modern-day Newcastle-upon-Tyne) before a four-mile extension was added in around 127.
The remains of a Roman bathhouse at the site of the Chesters fort, one of the best-preserved along Hadrian’s Wall.
The wall’s route extends across Northumberland and Cumbria, where the fort of Maia (now the site of Bowness-on-Solway) once marked its western end.
Forts and milecastles were constructed along the length of the wall, ensuring that the entire frontier was well monitored. Milecastles were minor forts that housed a small garrison of around 20 auxiliary soldiers. As the name suggests, milecastles were situated at intervals of around one Roman mile. Forts were substantially bigger, typically hosting around 500 men.
Excavations in the 20th and 21st Centuries
In 1911, FG Simpson began work at Birdoswald, examining the stone Wall turrets west of Birdoswald, including turret 49b.  Between the wars, in a great campaign of excavations along Hadrian’s Wall designed to establish the relationship of the various elements of stone and turf Walls, the forts and the Vallum, FG Simpson focused much of his attention on Birdoswald.
Together with Ian Richmond, Simpson conducted seven consecutive seasons of work beginning in 1927, first under the Durham University Excavation Committee and after 1930 under the Cumberland Excavation Committee. The following areas were examined:
- 1927: the east fort rampart and the turf Wall under the fort
- 1928: the south-west corner of the fort, the fort ditches and the relationship between fort and Vallum
- 1929: a barrack block on the east side of the fort. This excavation identified four dated levels, which had huge influence on the formulation of the four Wall periods that were the basis of Wall research for 50 years
- 1930–31: the east and south defences rapid trenching established an outline building plan
- 1932–3: the Vallum, ditches and timber structures south of the fort.
Turf Wall turret 49a was discovered under the fort in 1945. From 1949 to 1952 consolidation of the fort walls and gates took place, and archaeological recording was undertaken by JP Gillam.  In 1959–60 a cremation cemetery to the west of the fort was discovered during ploughing.
Excavations resumed in 1987, directed by Tony Wilmott for English Heritage. Areas examined were:
- 1987–91: the former gardens in front of the farmhouse, revealing the granaries, exercise or drill hall, workshops and main west gate. These excavations identified the ‘Dark Age’ structures and the medieval and post-medieval sequence
- 1988–9: the north wall and interval towers
- 1992: the minor east gate and wall, and the south-east angle tower
- 1997–8: the area of the visitor centre, identifying barrack blocks beneath the buildings and courtyards
- 1999,  2009: the cemetery to the west of the site.
The Fears That Fueled an Ancient Border Wall
President Donald Trump has promised to build a “great, great wall” between the United States and Mexico, ostensibly to prevent illegal immigration. But this isn’t the first time a world leader constructed a wall between himself and those he deemed imminent threats. In 122 A.D., Roman Emperor Hadrian did just that.
Stretching 80 miles from the Irish Sea in the west to the North Sea in the east, Hadrian’s Wall in northern England is one of the United Kingdom’s most famous structures. But the fortification was designed to protect the Roman province of Britannia from a threat few people remember today—the Picts, Britannia’s “barbarian” neighbors from Caledonia, now known as Scotland.
By the end of the first century, the Romans had successfully brought most of modern England into the imperial fold. The Empire still faced challenges in the north, though, and one provincial governor, Agricola, had already made some military headway in that area. According to his son-in-law and primary chronicler, Tacitus, the highlight of his northern campaign was a victory in 83 or 84 A.D. at the Battle of Mons Graupius, which probably took place in southern Scotland. Agricola established several northern forts, where he posted garrisons to secure the lands he’d conquered. But this attempt to subdue the northerners eventually failed, and Emperor Domitian recalled him a few years later.
It wasn’t until the 120s that northern England got another taste of Rome’s iron-fisted rule. Emperor Hadrian “devoted his attention to maintaining peace throughout the world,” according to the Life of Hadrian in the Historia Augusta. Hadrian reformed his armies and earned their respect by living like an ordinary soldier and walking 20 miles a day in full military kit. Backed by the military he had reformed, he quelled armed resistance from rebellious tribes all over Europe.
But though Hadrian had the love of his own troops, he had political enemies—and was afraid of being assassinated in Rome. Driven from home by his fear, he visited nearly every province in his empire in person. The hands-on emperor settled disputes, spread Roman goodwill, and put a face to the imperial name. His destinations included northern Britain, where he decided to build a wall and a permanent militarized zone between “enemy” and Roman territory.
Primary sources on Hadrian’s Wall are widespread. They include everything from preserved letters to Roman historians to inscriptions on the wall itself. Historians have also used archaeological evidence like discarded pots and clothing to date the construction of different portions of the wall and reconstruct what daily life must have been like. But the documents that survive focus more on the Romans than the foes the wall was designed to conquer.
Before this period, the Romans had already fought enemies in northern England and southern Scotland for several decades, Rob Collins, author of Hadrian's Wall and the End of Empire, says via email. One problem? They didn’t have enough men to maintain permanent control over the area. Hadrian’s Wall served as a line of defense, helping a small number of Roman soldiers shore up their forces against foes with much larger numbers.
Hadrian viewed the inhabitants of southern Scotland—the “Picti,” or Picts—as a menace. Meaning “the painted ones” in Latin, the moniker referred to the group’s culturally significant body tattoos. The Romans used the name to refer collectively to a confederation of diverse tribes, says Hudson.
To Hadrian and his men, the Picts were legitimate threats. They frequently raided Roman territories, engaging in what Collins calls “guerilla warfare” that included stealing cattle and capturing slaves. Starting in the fourth century, constant raids began to take their toll on one of Rome’s westernmost provinces.
Hadrian’s Wall wasn’t just built to keep the Picts out. It likely served another important function—generating revenue for the empire. Historians think it established a customs barrier where Romans could tax anyone who entered. Similar barriers were discovered at other Roman frontier walls, like that at Porolissum in Dacia.
The wall may also have helped control the flow of people between north and south, making it easier for a few Romans to fight off a lot of Picts. “A handful of men could hold off a much larger force by using Hadrian’s Wall as a shield,” Benjamin Hudson, a professor of history at Pennsylvania State University and author of The Picts, says via email. “Delaying an attack for even a day or two would enable other troops to come to that area.” Because the Wall had limited checkpoints and gates, Collins notes, it would be difficult for mounted raiders to get too close. And because would-be invaders couldn’t take their horses over the Wall with them, a successful getaway would be that much harder.
The Romans had already controlled the area around their new wall for a generation, so its construction didn’t precipitate much cultural change. However, they would have had to confiscate massive tracts of land.
Most building materials, like stone and turf, were probably obtained locally. Special materials, like lead, were likely privately purchased, but paid for by the provincial governor. And no one had to worry about hiring extra men—either they would be Roman soldiers, who received regular wages, or conscripted, unpaid local men.
“Building the Wall would not have been ‘cheap,’ but the Romans probably did it as inexpensively as could be expected,” says Hudson. “Most of the funds would have come from tax revenues in Britain, although the indirect costs (such as the salaries for the garrisons) would have been part of operating expenses,” he adds.
There is no archaeological or written record of any local resistance to the wall’s construction. Since written Roman records focus on large-scale conflicts, rather than localized kerfuffles, they may have overlooked local hostility toward the wall. “Over the decades and centuries, hostility may still have been present, but it was probably not quite as local to the Wall itself,” says Collins. And future generations couldn’t even remember a time before its existence.
But for centuries, the Picts continued to raid. Shortly after the wall was built, they successfully raided the area around it, and as the rebellion wore on, Hadrian’s successors headed west to fight. In the 180s, the Picts even overtook the wall briefly. Throughout the centuries, Britain and other provinces rebelled against the Romans several times and occasionally seceded, the troops choosing different emperors before being brought back under the imperial thumb again.
Locals gained materially, thanks to military intervention and increased trade, but native Britons would have lost land and men. But it’s hard to tell just how hard they were hit by these skirmishes due to scattered, untranslatable Pict records.
The Picts persisted. In the late third century, they invaded Roman lands beyond York, but Emperor Constantine Chlorus eventually quelled the rebellion. In 367-8, the Scotti—the Picts’ Irish allies—formed an alliance with the Picts, the Saxons, the Franks, and the Attacotti. In “The Barbarian Conspiracy,” they pillaged Roman outposts and murdered two high-ranking Roman military officials. Tensions continued to simmer and occasionally erupt over the next several decades.
Only in the fifth century did Roman influence in Britain gradually dwindle. Rome’s already tenuous control on northern England slipped due to turmoil within the politically fragmented empire and threats from other foes like the Visigoths and Vandals. Between 409 and 411 A.D., Britain officially left the empire.
The Romans may be long gone, but Hadrian’s Wall remains. Like modern walls, its most important effect might not have been tangible. As Costica Bradatan wrote in a 2011 New York Times op-ed about the proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico, walls “are built not for security, but for a sense of security.”
Hadrian’s Wall was ostensibly built to defend Romans. But its true purpose was to assuage the fears of those it supposedly guarded, England’s Roman conquerors and the Britons they subdued. Even if the Picts had never invaded, the wall would have been a symbol of Roman might—and the fact that they did only feeds into the legend of a barrier that’s long since become obsolete.