Archaeological evidence, in the form of a large number of shoes found at Bar Hill, reveals that children also lived on the Antonine Wall.
There are far more shoes than the single family of the fort commander would have needed, so other children must have been there too: perhaps the children of slaves or civilians from the nearby settlement.
Child's shoe. © Hunterian Museum
Claudia Severa, wife of a commanding officer on Hadrian’s Wall mentions her ‘little son’ in a letter to her friend Lepidina, so it is probable that the commanding officers along the Antonine Wall also had their families with them. The children of the commanding officer lived privileged lives in the most lavish quarters of the fort: the praetorium. This had heated rooms, private bathing facilities, slaves’ quarters and a private dining room.
Children probably occupied themselves with board games and toys such as dolls, balls, carts and pull along animals. Older children would have had school work: a handwriting exercise, possibly written by a child has been found at Vindolanda on Hadrian’s Wall.
Ordinary soldiers were not allowed to marry, but many had unofficial wives and children in the civilian settlements outside the fort. These children may have helped out in the fields, growing food for themselves and to sell to the garrison, but probably entertained themselves by pestering the soldiers on patrol on the Wall.