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This was carried out across a terrain replete with high moorland, steep-sided valleys, river-crossings and hilltops along what has become the borderland between England and Wales. Firstly, it served as a deterrent: it demonstrated the might of Mercian mobilisation – any kingdom with the resources to create such a massive work could surely crush any would-be invaders.
Secondly, the Dyke bolstered Mercia’s standing as a European power.
Built at the command of the eighth-century king of Mercia, Offa’s Dyke is today Britain’s longest ancient monument, following the border between England and Wales.
Yet despite more than a century of study, experts still do not fully understand how or when the Dyke was built, and in recent years views have diverged even about such basic questions as its purpose , Keith Ray explores the history of Offa’s Dyke…
The manifest destiny of the latter kingdom was, in their world-view, to absorb all the English into Mercia (and that is possibly why the Mercians sought to build no such ‘barrier’ between themselves and either Northumbria or Wessex, the compliance of both of which kingdoms in Mercian dominion was achieved in part through marriages of their kings with two of Offa’s daughters). There are lots of reasons to attribute the building of the Dyke to King Offa, including a direct reference to the then 100-year-old structure by King Alfred of Wessex’s biographer, Asser (in a passage of his Life of King Alfred).