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The History of the Limes

UNESCO World Heritage - Limes

Since July 2021, the entire line of Roman borders in Germany has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Already since 2005, the Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes together with Hadrian's Wall and since 2008 with the Antonine Wall was the serial transnational World Heritage Site "Frontiers of the Roman Empire". In 2021, the river boundaries of the Lower Germanic Limes and the Western Danube Limes were also inscribed on the UNESCO List as further transnational World Heritage Sites, each in their own right. All three World Heritage sites together now form the only UNESCO World Heritage cluster to date, "Borders of the Roman Empire", which encompasses the former Roman imperial borders in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Slovakia and represents one of the most impressive and largest archaeological monuments in Europe. In the Federal Republic of Germany, the three sections of the World Heritage Cluster extend across the five federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Rhineland-Palatinate, Hesse, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria.

The total length of the former Roman borders in Germany is over 1,000 kilometres, about half of which is accounted for by the river borders on the Rhine and Danube and the other half by the artificial barriers on land between these two major European rivers.
The Rhine was Rome's first linear external border. The section of the border located here - the Lower Germanic Limes from Katwijk in the Netherlands to Remagen in Rhineland-Palatinate - reflects the complex development processes of the ancient border system in its 450-year history like hardly any other border section of the Imperium Romanum. From the first garrison area for the legions of Augustus to a system of forts and watchtowers in the 1st century AD to the fortified bulwarks under the late antique emperors.
Military installations are strung along the Danube Limes like pearls on a string. The 222-kilometre-long area in Bavaria between Bad Gögging and Passau formed the first part of the Roman frontier along the Danube. Here, starting from a series of small forts dating back to the 1st century AD, an elaborate system of forts, small forts and other infrastructure facilities developed, especially in the late 1st and early 2nd centuries, connected by a road as a communication facility on the south bank of the Danube and with the aim of closed surveillance of the northern border of the Roman Empire. The choice of sites was usually made for topographical reasons in such a way that, on the one hand, a good overview of the shoreline was possible and, on the other hand, insights could be gained into the meandering river as a traffic route.
Even though the rivers had a natural protective function, they by no means formed an insurmountable barrier, at best an obstacle to approach. The Lower Germanic Limes and the Danube Limes are characterised not only by the peculiarities of a river border, but also by the wide range of military installations: in addition to watchtowers, small forts and auxiliary troop camps - the typical components of Roman border areas - training or marching camps are known, and the legionary camps and a fleet camp were also directly integrated into the border protection concept.

 

 

The Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes is the outermost 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. As early as the beginning of the 2nd century AD, the current course of the Limes was already established in the north-western section, i.e. in Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse; in the south (Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria), the actual Limes line was not reached until a good 60 years later.
Typical features here are forts of varying sizes with their civilian settlements with residential and commercial buildings and sometimes 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 near Eining, a continuous stone wall was built in the last expansion phase.

For interested visitors, the Limes in Germany offers a very diverse spectrum of places to visit: in addition to rather inconspicuous terrain monuments, such as the ramparts and ditches of training camps or the former land border, it is above all the Roman ruins that can still be seen undisturbed in the terrain that attract attention. The border elements, some of which have been recreated on a scale of 1 to 1, are particularly attractive because they are often integrated into archaeological parks and museums as places of learning. As a member of the German Limes Commission, the German Limes Route Association is committed to coordinating the tourist development of this extraordinary archaeological heritage. I am convinced that you, as a traveller, will discover numerous interesting destinations when browsing through the website or the maps and will take away good impressions and insights into the Roman past during your visits.

Dr. Erich Claßen
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.


Rhineland-Palatinate:
RömerWelt Rheinbrohl:
www.roemer-welt.de

Hesse:
Limes information centre at Saalburg castle:
www.saalburgmuseum.de 

Baden-Württemberg:
Limes information centre at the Limesmuseum Aalen:
www.liz-bw.de

Bavaria:
Limes information centre at the Römermuseum Weißenburg (Weißenburg Roman Museum): www.limesinfozentrum.de 

 

 

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