The final season of Game of Thrones is almost upon us, and the promotional onslaught for the HBO series is underway. English Heritage, the charity that preserves the country’s historic sites, announced that before the finale premieres, it is posting its own version of the Night Watch on Hadrian’s Wall in northern England — the original inspiration for the wall in George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series.
The organization said earlier this month that its members will be decked out in black cloaks and shields, and will be posted at four main Roman sites along the historic structure — Birdoswald Roman Fort in Cumbria, and Corbridge Roman Town, Housesteads Roman Fort, and Chesters Roman Fort in Northumberland. They’ll be in place until the debut of the final season on April 14th, to answer questions for tourists. The charity says that ever since the TV series began airing in 2011, its staff has become familiar with Martin’s series, answering questions about the similarities between the real and fictional versions. Martin seemed to be amused by the idea, and wrote about it on his blog today: “But now something very strange is happening. Reality is turning around to imitate fantasy.”
Constructed around AD 122, the stone wall stretches 73 miles across the northern edge of the Roman Empire, with forts located every five miles along its length, and was manned for nearly 300 years, until the Roman Empire retreated from the country. After that time, the wall was used by locals for newer, nearby structures, until a formal preservation movement began in the 18th and 19th centuries. The remains of the structure was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987.
Martin has long said that his series was inspired by history, and that the great wall of his novels was directly inspired by a visit to Hadrian’s Wall in 1981. “I stood up there and I tried to imagine what it was like to be a Roman legionary,” he told Rolling Stone in 2014, “standing on this wall, looking at these distant hills. It was a very profound feeling. For the Romans at that time, this was the end of civilization; it was the end of the world.”
Since then, fans of the series have made their own pilgrimages to the historic landmark, asking staff about the similarities between the novels, show, and real history, and its seems that English Heritage is eager to tap into the promotional momentum before we see how the story ends. There’s no word on whether or not the charity is making its staff swear an oath to the Night Watch before they begin their watch, or what they’ll do if they encounter an army of White Walkers.