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The History of the Limes

UNESCO World Heritage - Limes

The Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes is one of the most impressive and largest archaeological monuments in Europe, with a length of 550 km, 900 guard posts and 120 larger and smaller fort sites. In the summer of 2005, this dividing line between the Roman Empire and the Germanic tribes was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as part of the "Frontiers of the Roman Empire". Together with Hadrian's Wall and the Antonine Wall in Great Britain, the Limes is thus of international interest and entrusted to the special protection of the riparians and the competent authorities.

The Limes is the most recent borderline in Germania. It is the result of a history of occupation lasting about 200 years, which took place in several stages and whose last expansion phase resulted in a border with an artificial barrier between the Rhine and the Danube. Already at the beginning of the 2nd century AD, the current course of the limes was fixed in the northwestern section, i.e. in Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse, while in the south (Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria) the actual limes line was not reached until a good 60 years later.

The Limes World Heritage Site includes numerous forts of varying sizes with their civilian settlements with residential and commercial buildings and, in some cases, extensive bathing facilities, as well as the Limes towers and the physical barriers themselves. The Upper Germanic Limes from the Rhine to the Rotenbach Valley, northwest of Schwäbisch Gmünd, last consisted of a rampart and ditch in place of a wooden palisade. In the province of Raetia, from the Rotenbach Valley to the Danube at Eining, a continuous stone wall was built in the last expansion phase.

Many Roman ruins along the Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes can still be seen undisturbed in the terrain today and can be easily experienced with the official Limes map and various guides. Others have been excavated in recent decades, preserved and made accessible to the public as special sites. The fact that this leads to a continuous loss of substance due to weathering and occasional false use, which can only be stopped by elaborate protective structures, is a sad realization.

Partly redesigned according to the latest findings, on-site information tells the history of the Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes and its predecessors. In some places, parts of the Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes have been recreated on a scale of 1:1 and incorporated into archaeological parks as learning sites. In this way, the visitor receives in an excellent way what archaeological excavations and scientific processing have been able to scientifically discover in the last decades about the buildings, the organization and the history of the Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes. In order to secure them for the future, some intact monuments have been removed from existing or planned use through land acquisition in agreement with the respective city, municipality or district - often with great financial help from historically interested associations and the states. The archaeological substance can thus be more easily preserved in perpetuity and is made available for future generations to experience and as a research reserve.





Numerous finds are presented to the interested public in the large state museums, but also in numerous regional museums. The RömerWelt in Rheinbrohl, the Saalburgmuseum in Bad Homburg v. d. H., the Römermuseum in Osterburken, the Limesmuseum in Aalen and the RömerMuseum in Weißenburg i. Bay. are special centers of information on the history and function of the Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes.

Research of the Limes has a long and traditional history. Already in the 18th century, especially by the Hohenlohe archivist Christian Ernst Hanßelmann, the first comprehensive studies were initiated. The Reichs-Limeskommission, founded in 1892, and its predecessors in various regions of southern Germany had the goal of researching the Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes in its entirety under uniform aspects. For this purpose, the Limes was divided into 15 sections from the Rhine to the Danube. The individual Limes towers (Wachtposten - WP) within the route as well as the forts were numbered consecutively by the Reichs-Limeskommission. These designations can still be found today on many explanatory notes.

The objectives of the early Limes researchers are continued today by the German Limes Commission founded in 2003. Its main purpose is to bundle the activities in the four states involved in the World Heritage Site - Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria - and to bring them together into a large whole despite differing monument protection laws and research traditions. Its tasks include ensuring the preservation claim, promoting the accessibility and experienceability of the monument and thus also taking up tourist aspects, but also formulating research questions and supporting concrete projects for further understanding of the ancient border, for example through dissertation scholarships.

The German Limes Road is involved in these processes as a member of the German Limes Commission and coordinates the tourist development of the Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes from the Rhine to the Danube.

I wish the traveler and hiker at the Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes many good impressions and insights into the Roman past. I am sure that you will also experience recreation and relaxation in the beautiful and varied landscape of our homeland along this ancient borderline.

Prof. Dr. C. Sebastian Sommer
Chairman of the Deutsche Limeskommission (German Limes Commission)

Official Limes Information Centres

Four official Limes information centres have been set up along the route which provide information on the

Limes in general and on the particular aspects relating to its sections in each federal state.

RömerWelt Rheinbrohl:

Limes information centre at Saalburg castle: 

Limes information centre at the Limesmuseum Aalen:

Limes information centre at the Römermuseum Weißenburg (Weißenburg Roman Museum):