The Saalburg, A Reconstructed Limes Fort
The German Limes was a frontier cutting through the right angle formed by Rhine and Danube, the first borders of Germania. It starts north-east of Wiesbaden and meets the Danube near Regensburg, thus adding not only the Taunus and Odenwald forests but also the fertile lands of the Wetterau and Neckar plains to the Roman Empire. Those areas were called agri decumantes.
The first stage in the development of the Limes was Domitian's victory against the Chatti in 83 AD. To keep them off, a series of watchtowers and forts, connected by a road, were built. The early Saalburg fort (the Roman name is unknown) was a wall and timber fort with wooden buildings housing about hundred men.
The next stage 90 AD was a larger fort, but still a timber construction fortified with walls and trenches. It was flattened when in 135 AD the second Raetian cohors equitata (a 500 man troop of mixed horse and infantry) was stationed in the Saalburg and built a new fort.
Saalburg, wall and trenches outside the fort
The new fort encompassed an area of 147 x 221 metres, surrounded by a stone wall and with both stone (headquarters) and timber buildings (barracks, stables). Outside the fort a village developed where artisans and traders lived. The Romans added a stone bath and a guest house. It is estimated that up to 2000 people lived in fort and village.
After several massive Germanic incursions into the agri decumantes
, the Limes was abandoned in 260 AD, fort and village fell into decline. The walls of the fort were used as quarry in the Middle Ages, much like the Hadrian's Wall.
Inner yard of the principia
In the 19th century, interest in Antiquity grew, and from 1894 on the Saalburg was excavated under the leadership of the archaeologist Louis Jacobi. The fort and its surroundings have been excavated fully which was an important achievement for the time, albeit modern archaeolgical techniques would be able to answer some questions better today.
Emperor Wilhelm II who took a keen interest in the discoveries, ordered the Saalburg fortress to be rebuilt in 1897. Leader of the reconstruction was Jacobi.
Between 1897 and 1907 the Saalburg fort was reconstructed on the foundations of the old castellum
. Jacobi used other known Roman buildings as foil and thus managed to reconstruct a somewhat close representation of a Roman fort. Though some details are wrong like the space between the merlons which is too small. It is said that Wilhelm ordered it that way, and who can argue with an emperor. Also, the white paint with the red lines is missing, thus making the walls appear aged instead of correctly Roman.
Via praetoria leading to the south gate, on a very rainy day
Not all buildings inside the fort have been reconstructed, instead leaving space for a park-like area with lawns and trees. The horreum
(granary) hosts a museum; the principia
(headquarters) have been completely rebuilt as well as a wooden barrack serving as taberna
(restaurant), and several wells. Further reconstruction is going on these days; side wings and a peristyle
garden have been added to the praetorium
(commander's house) which is the seat of the museum administration, and more barracks are to be built.
Since the entire outer wall stands in its original dimensions, one can get a good impression of the size of a Roman military fort. Quite impressive, despite the rain. And there's one advantage to the sucky weather - less tourists standing around in your photos. :)
More posts can be found here
. And here