The Roman North Gate in the Roman Germanic Museum






Cologne in late Roman times


Roman Rhineland

In the Rhineland everything, or almost everything, began with the Romans. To be more precise, with Gaius Julius Caesar. In 54/53 B.C., he extended the borders of the Roman Empire as far as the Rhine and formed an alliance with the Germanic tribe of the Ubii.

Under General Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa (son-in-law of Augustus), the Ubii were resettled from the Germanic right bank of the Rhine to the left bank, which was under Roman control. Here, probably as early as38 B.C., a settlement was founded under Agrippa's regency, the so-called »oppidum Ubiorum«. The Monument of the Ubii, the oldest square stone masonry ever found north of the Alps, stems from this period(24 B.C.).

In48 A.D., Emperor Claudius married Julia Agrippina, daughter of the Roman general Germanicus. She had been born and brought up in Cologne. In50 A.D., she granted her birthplace the rights of a Roman city. From then on it bore the name Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (CCAA), i.e. the Claudian colony of the Agrippinensi, site of the imperial altar. With this official ceremony, Agrippina laid the foundations for the first period of prosperity lasting almost 400 years for this north-eastern corner-stone of the Roman Empire.

Traces of this period can be found everywhere in the Rhineland. The first city wall was built in the form of a square with sides about one kilometre in length. Even today, large sections of the wall can still be seen. An 80-kilometre-long aqueduct supplied the city with fresh spring water from the nearby Eifel Hills, and an underground sewage system provided the city with a drainage system that would not have seemed out of place today. Roman spa culture can be experienced until today in Zülpich or Aachen. In the area of road-building, too, the Romans demonstrated their talents for developing civilisation. With the Via Belgica to the Atlantic Ocean and the Via Agrippa to Trier Cologne was directly linked to the Empires trunk road network. Hohe Strasse, the city's high street, then and now, has an unchanged course and is now Cologne's best-known shopping street.

Many cities in the region like Bonn, Neuss, Dormagen or Remagen, have their roots in Roman military camps along the Rhine. The Praetorium, the residence for the Roman governor, can be visited as the centrepiece of the »Arecheological Zone«, a kind of suburban museum encompassing 7,000 sqm, including excavations from Cologne‘s history in the past 2000 years. In310 emperor Constantin the Great commanded the building of a bridge across the Rhine as well as the Castellum Divitia on the right side of the Rhine to protect the city.

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Traces of the Romans in the Rhineland




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