Novaesium, alias Neuss

Limes Germaniae Inferioris

Ein Artikel von H. v. Petrikovits

Germania inferior
[Voll-Ansicht (87 KB)]
The fortified military border of the Roman Empire in the province of Lower Germany extended along the Rhine from Vinxtbach by way of Bad Breisig to the North Sea, a distance of some 300 km as the crow flies. The Limes road connecting the fortified areas followed the windings of the river along its lowest terrace. The placing of fortifications and their troop strength were determined by the character of the mountains and streams on both sides of the river.

A first stage in the formation of the limes was the establishment of stand-by and supply bases for the offensives against the Germans living between the Rhine and the Elbe, ca. 15 B.C-A.D. 15. These bases included Vectio (Vechten), Noviomagus (Nijmegen), Vetera (Xanten), Asciburgium (Moers-Asberg), Novaesium (Neuss), Colonia Agrippinensis (Cologne), and Bonna (Bonn). After Tiberius recalled Germanicus from the Rhine and abandoned the idea of military occupation of the right bank of the river (the territory of the Frisians excepted), the bases on the left bank became the frontier defenses. From A.D. 10 until the 90s four legions were stationed on the Rhine; Hadrian reduced the number to two. At different periods the legions were stationed at Noviomagus, Vetera, Novaesium, Colonia Agrippinensis, and Bonna; Vetera and Bonna served the longest.

From the end of the offensive against the Germans (A.D. 16) until the middle of the 3d c. the peace of the limes was disturbed only twice: during the Batavian rebellion (69-70) and by an attack by the Chauci under Marcus Aurelius. Since the Germans hardly menaced the limes for a long time, the troops there were reduced between the reign of Tiberius and the mid 3d c. from 42,000 to 21,500 men. From the year 256 or 257 on, however, the Franks often broke through the line, which led to numerous military counteractions by Gallienus and others up to the end of the 4th c. The removal of strong units to take part in struggles for the throne greatly weakened the line from 387 on, and from 406 on its right flank was threatened by the breakthrough of Germans into neighboring provinces. No details are known of the end of the limes in the 5th c.

The limes consisted of only one line along the left bank of the Rhine; there was no defense in depth, and no reserves. Its strength rested on the legions and auxiliaries quartered in fortified bases. The auxiliary troops of the limes included a cohors milliaria and all three kinds of quingenarian auxiliaries, but no AJA milliaria. In the 3d c. there were also a few numeri. So far, 25 auxiliary bases have been identified or suggested, and some small forts and towers have also been found. The distribution and strength of the troops on the limes in the Late Roman period have not yet been fully investigated. (In the Notitia Dignitatum the list is missing for Germania II.) The garrisons communicated with each other by means of the limes road and the Rhine, which was guarded by the Classis Germanica and could be crossed in several places by permanent bridges. Of the legionary bases only Novaesium, and of the auxiliary bases only Valkenburg have as yet been fully excavated. In addition to the permanent bases of the limes several temporary camps and training camps have been found, and more workcamps are expected to turn up.

The troops were supplied partly by deliveries from the more protected provinces, and partly by their own products. Raw materials and land for agriculture or manufacture was available on both sides of the Rhine. From the second half of the 3d c. on supply stations were built on the main highways of the interior (e.g. the Belgian Limes).

The development of the fortifications on the limes follows a pattern common to the Rhine and the Danube. The wooden camps of Augustus' time often had more than four sides, and the sides were often bent inwards. Construction in wood continued until the time of Claudius, in some cases until the Batavian rebellion (A.D. 69-70), but from the Flavian period on stone was used. After the breakthroughs of the Franks many fortifications were strengthened, modified, or rebuilt, particularly by Constantine, Julian, and Valentinian I.

Quelle: H. v. Petrikovits, Limes G. Inferioris, in: Marian Holland McAllister - Richard Stillwell - William L. MacDonald (Hrsg.), The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites, Princeton University Press (Princeton, N.J. 1976)


  • H. v. Petrikovits, Limes-Studien. Vorträge des 3. Limes-Kongresses (1959) 88 ff.
  • Ders., Das römische Rheinland (1960) 14 ff.
  • Ders., Die römischen Streitkräfte am Niederrhein (1967)
  • J. E. Bogaers, Ber. van de Rijksdienst voor het Oudheidkundige Bodemonderzoek 17, 1967, 99 ff.
  • Ders., ebenda 18, 1968, 156 f.
  • G. Alföldy, Die Hilfstruppen der römischen Provinz Germania inferior (1968)
  • J. E. Bogaers - C. B. Rüger (Hrsg.), Der Niedergermanische Limes (1974)
  • H. v. Petrikovits, Die Innenbauten römischer Legionslager in der Prinzipatszeit (1975)
  • M. Gechter, Die Anfänge des Niedergermanischen Limes, in: BJb 179, 1979, 1-129
  • H. Schönberger, Römische Truppenlager der frühen und mittleren Kaiserzeit zwischen Nordsee und Inn, BRGK 66, 1985, 321-497
  • B. Pferdehirt, Die römische Okkupation Germaniens und Rätiens ..., in: JRGZ 33.1, 1986, 221-320
  • T. Bechert - W. Willems, Die römische Reichsgrenze von der Mosel bis zur Nordseeküste (1995)
  • J. S. Kühlborn, Germaniam pacavi (1995)
  • C.Bridger - K. J. Gilles (Hrsg.), Spätrömische Befestigungsanlagen in den Rhein- und Donauprovinzen (1998)

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