|SAALBURG Roman Fort||UNESCO-WELTERBE LIMES|
In Roman times, the Saalburg fort kept watch over a section of the Limes in the Taunus hills. From the beginning of the 2nd century AD for approximately the next 150 years, the Limes marked the frontier between Rome’s Empire and the Germanic tribal territories.
The fort’s garrison was made up of 600 soldiers – both infantry and cavalry. A bath house and guest house were located just outside the main gate. A village housing craftsmen, traders and tavern keepers adjoined the fort. The Roman road to Nida (today, Frankfurt-Heddernheim) was lined with graves and small shrines. As many as 2000 people may once have lived in the fort and the village.
The buildings fell into disrepair after increasing Germanic attacks, campaigns in the East of the Empire and internal political problems forced Rome to abandon the Limes. Today, the remains of the 550 kilometre long frontier complex from the Rhine to the Danube comprise the largest ancient monument in Europe.
After initial archaeological investigation in the mid-19th century, thanks to an initiative led by Kaiser Wilhelm II, the fort was rebuilt between 1897 and 1907 to serve as open-air museum and research institute.
Between 2003 and 2009, with the reconstruction of additional buildings, an archaeological park was created. In 2005, the Limes (and with it, the Saalburg) was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The visitor who makes the rounds of the fort and its grounds gains a lively and vivid picture of the Roman way of life. Within the fortifications, which include defensive walls, rampart walk and four gateways, many original buildings have been reconstructed in stone and timber.
The horreum (granary) is now an exhibition room. The praetorium (commander's quarters) houses the Museum Administration Unit as well as the Saalburg Research Institute. The centrally located principia (headquarters building) impresses the visitor with its monumental assembly hall and colonnaded courtyard, around which museum rooms are grouped. In Roman times, these were orderly rooms, offices and armouries. The fabrica is modelled on the workshop buildings in Roman military camps. It is used for exhibits, special events and museum education. The common soldiers lived in the nearby centuriae (barrack blocks).
Archaeological finds, reconstructions, displays and models reveal the lives of the soldiers and the residents of the village outside the gates of the fort. Especially eye-catching are the reconstructed contubernium (barracks room), home to a squad of eight soldiers who lived in close quarters, and the richly decorated triclinium (officer’s dining room).
The aedes (regimental shrine) is particularly impressive: it was once the spiritual and religious centre of the fort. In the re-built ovens along the rampart walk, fresh Roman bread is still baked several times a year.
Visitors can enjoy the atmosphere of a Roman restaurant at the Museum Café Taberna. There, the cook-stove, sideboard and shelves replicate Roman originals. Guests choose food and drink from the culinary offerings and specialties typical of ancient Rome.
Outside the fort’s main gate, where the civilian settlement was located, the visitor finds the remains of a bathhouse and guesthouse as well as the cellars and wells of the private homes. These houses provided a model for two buildings that now serve as the cash desk and museum shop.
The „Saalburg Circuit Trail“ leads to a well-preserved part of the Limes, not far from the fort, where a section has been reconstructed at an ancient border crossing. The trail passes additional ruins, copies and reconstructions of archaeological monuments such as the Jupiter column and the Temple of Mithras.
Countless archaeological finds illustrate widely varied aspects of daily life: eating and drinking, construction and crafts, weapons and military equipment, dress and ornament, medicine and body care, finance and religion.
In addition to bronze, iron, glass and pottery objects, the leather and wooden finds are a special attraction of the Museum. While such organic materials rarely survive, these articles were found in unusually good condition at the Saalburg, preserved by moisture at the bottom of the fort’s many wells.
drawings: H. Wolf von Goddenthow; aerial image: Foto Storch; photo dining room: I. Dittrich; photo finds: M. Romisch, others: Römerkastell Saalburg