At the 44th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, which met in Fuzhou, China, from 16-31 July, decisions were pending on 34 nominations. That is how many sites had applied for inclusion in the World Natural or World Heritage List. These included two possible candidates for the "Transnational World Heritage Site Frontiers of the Roman Empire": the approximately 400 km long Lower Germanic Limes and the western section of the Danube Limes with a length of 600 km.
Both applications were accepted. A total of five sections of the former Roman borderline are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites: in addition to the Lower Germanic and the Danube Limes, these are Hadrian's Wall in England (since 1987), the Antonine Wall in Scotland (since 2008) and the Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes in southern and south-western Germany (since 2005). Thus, the "Transnational World Heritage" stretches from the British Isles to Slovakia.
The application for the Lower Germanic Limes was submitted jointly by Germany and the Netherlands. The World Heritage status covers 44 archaeological sites, including forts, legionary camps and the governor's palace in Cologne. In contrast to the Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes, the Lower Germanic Limes was a wet border: While the Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes ran over land and marked the border in the form of ramparts, ditches and walls, in the case of the Lower Germanic Limes the Rhine, additionally secured by military installations, formed the border.
The same was true of the Danube Limes, the western section of which was nominated for World Heritage status by Germany, Austria and Slovakia. 77 sites, including military but also civilian traces of Roman life, for example baths and amphitheatres, are now part of the World Heritage Site.
Both along the Lower Germanic and the Danube Limes, renowned museums convey a picture of Roman life through impressive finds. In Germany, for example, these include the Roman-Germanic Museum in Cologne, the LVR-RömerMuseum in Xanten, the Gäubodenmuseum in Straubing and the RömerMuseum Kastell Boiotro in Passau.
The German Limes Road Association warmly congratulates the two new World Heritage Sites and looks forward to future cooperation.
In July 2021, the Lower Germanic Limes became part of the transnational UNESCO World Heritage Site "Frontiers of the Roman Empire". Reason enough to take a closer look at the northern "neighbour" of the Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes and answer important questions.
Where was the Lower Germanic Limes located?
The Lower Germanic Limes formed the outer border of the Roman province of Germania inferior (Lower Germania). It extended from today's Bad Hönningen-Rheinbrohl on the provincial border between Upper and Lower Germania to today's Katwijk aan Zee at the mouth of the Rhine into the North Sea, thus having a length of about 400 km. On the modern map, it runs through the federal states of Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia as well as through the Netherlands.
What did the Lower Germanic Limes look like?
In contrast to the Upper Germanic-Rhaetian Limes, which ran over land and marked the border with palisades, ramparts and walls, the Rhine formed a "wet border" for the Lower Germanic Limes. The sites of the Lower Germanic army were located on the left bank of the Rhine. Watchtowers and forts of various sizes secured the border.
When was this section of the border fortified? How long did it last?
The first legions were stationed on the Rhine under Emperor Augustus (ruled 31 BC-14 AD). The river developed into a border under Emperor Tiberius (ruled 14-37 AD). In total, the Lower Germanic Limes lasted for about 400 years.
What was the significance of the Lower Germanic Limes for the Roman military and border security?
In addition to numerous smaller sites, a large number of larger units are also known to exist along the Lower Germanic Limes: The central base of the Roman Rhine fleet was located in what is now Cologne-Marienburg. There were also four permanently used legionary camps: Noviomagus (Nijmegen), Vetera (Xanten), Novaesium (Neuss) and Bonna (Bonn). In the provincial capital Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (Cologne) was the praetorium - the residence - of the imperial governor and commander-in-chief of the Lower Germanic army.
What is left of the Lower Germanic Limes today? What traces have been preserved?
The application for World Heritage status includes 44 archaeological sites in Germany and the Netherlands that illustrate various aspects of life along the Lower Germanic Limes. These include the forts of Divitia (Cologne-Deutz) and Haus Bürgel (near Monheim) as well as the largest permanently occupied legionary camp of the Roman Empire, the two-legion camp Vetera I near Xanten. With the Praetorium in Cologne, the best-preserved governor's palace in the Roman Empire is also one of the important sites. In the Kottenforst near Bonn and in the Hochwald near Uedem are the ramparts of military camps that Roman soldiers built for training purposes. Modern cities also show traces of their Roman history: the former street courses within the legionary camps of Bonn and Neuss can still be found in the cityscape today.
What are the goals of the project "Frontiers of the Roman Empire"?
Only exceptional cultural and natural sites are entitled to the title "UNESCO World Heritage Site". The requirement is that they bear impressive witness to the history of mankind and nature and are considered to be particularly worthy of protection. They also include sections of the borders of the Roman Empire. Already recognised by UNESCO are Hadrian's Wall in northern England (1987), the Upper Germanic-Rhaetian Limes in Germany (2005) and the Antonine Wall in Scotland (2008). However, the international project "Frontiers of the Roman Empire" aims to have the entire frontier of the Roman Empire in the 2nd century AD - at the time of its greatest expansion - recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The recognition of the Lower Germanic Limes would create a "continuous" World Heritage Site from England to southern Germany.
The transnational World Heritage Site has also grown at the south-eastern end of the Upper Germanic-Rhaetian Limes: Bavaria (Germany), Austria and Slovakia nominated the western section of the Danube Limes, which received World Heritage status in July 2021.
© Verein Deutsche Limes-Straße
The Upper Germanic-Rhaetian Limes is one of 51 German UNESCO World heritage sites. As German Limes Road Association we are happy to be a member of the "UNESCO-Welterbestätten Deutschland e.V." association.
According to worldheritagegermany.com, "only the most outstanding testimonies to the history of mankind and nature are granted the World Heritage title by UNESCO. And many of them are in Germany.
Two thousand years of history have left behind a significant legacy in Germany: silent yet eloquent witnesses to magnificent cultural achievements and natural phenomena. Many of Germany’s most impressive architectural monuments, historical towns, significant industrial sites and distinctive natural landscapes have been deemed to be of international historical importance by UNESCO.
This is a legacy that is meant for you as well: because every visit to a UNESCO World Heritage site is a journey back in time to a shared cultural history. Succumb to the magic of these historical locations and set out to discover the wealth that mankind has inherited. In Germany, you’ll strike gold."
For more information about the world heritage "Frontiers of the Roman Empire: Upper Germanic-Rhaetian Limes" click here.