The European Provinces Part 2 | Roman Architecture | Second edition

The European Provinces Part 2 | Roman Architecture | Second edition

The European Provinces Part 2 | Roman Architecture | Second edition

Calleva Atrebatum (Silchester) was a pre-Roman settlement and formed part of the realm of Cogidubnus after the Roman invasion. In Flavian times the forum, measuring 43 × 40 metres, was built, flanked by an 84.5-metre-long basilica. At this time the grid plan was laid out, although the large number of buildings which do not conform to it suggest an earlier settlement. Other buildings include an amphitheatre and public baths. On the basis of the capacity of these, the city probably had a population of only about 1,000 people.

Before the Roman conquest Aquae Sulis (Bath) was probably a spring sacred to the native goddess, Sulis, the equivalent of Minerva. In Roman times it became a fashionable spa and the area around the spring underwent development. North of the spring a temple of Sulis stood inside a colonnaded courtyard measuring 53 × 75 metres (Figure 10.12). The temple itself was raised on a tall podium with steps leading up to it. Its façade had four Corinthian columns with a very high pediment containing a relief head of Medusa in a shield carried by flanking victories (Figure 10.13). The proportions of the podium were 2:1 and the cella was decorated with engaged half-columns like those of the Temple of Portunus at Rome

Figure 10.12  Aquae Sulis (Bath, England), Temple of Minerva and Roman baths, mid-second century ad: plan.

(After B. Cunliffe, Roman Bath Discovered [London: Tempus, 1971], figures 2 and 24.)

Figure 10.13  Aquae Sulis (Bath, England), Temple of Minerva: reconstructed façade. (After B.

Cunliffe, Roman Bath Discovered [London: Tempus, 1971], figure 4.)

(Figure 1.16) and the Maison Carrée at Nîmes (Figure 2.2). Bath must have been a cosmopolitan city, with visitors from all over Britain and a good number of Roman residents, which may explain why the temple was so Roman in appearance and so unlike the normal Romano-Celtic type of temple. The baths themselves were laid out, probably close to the sacred spring, towards the end of the first century ad. A vestibule to the south led to the bathing chambers. To the east was a large swimming pool, measuring 22 × 8.9 metres, with two smaller cold plunges beyond, and to the west the hot rooms. The swimming pool was lined with lead and covered with a wooden roof supported on 12 large masonry piers. Later a second set of hot rooms replaced one of the smaller cold plunges and a laconicum (dry hot room) was added to the hot rooms on the western side. A large circular cold bath replaced the vestibule to the west of the great pool. In the late second century ad the wooden roof over the pool was replaced with a barrel-vault. In the fourth or fifth century ad the area became prone to flooding and the baths were abandoned.

Of the many hundreds of villas found in Britain the most famous is perhaps that at Fishbourne, which in scale surpasses any other (Figure 10.14). It was probably built for the loyal, pro-Roman king of the Regenses, Cogidubnus or Togidubnus, who tried to Romanise the area in the early years of Roman domination. The villa was not the first building on the site. In the years following the conquest the site was a supply depot, and then a timber house of some pretensions was built there. In the 60s ad a masonry building took the place of the wooden one, but it was not until ad 75 that the great villa which we see today was laid out. Presumably the earlier buildings proved unsatisfactory for Cogidubnus, whose title, probably

Figure 10.14  Fishbourne (England), Roman palace: plan. (After B. Cunliffe, Excavations at Fishbourne [London: Society of Antiquaries, 1971].)

rex magnus, entitled him to greater style (RIB 91).4 The huge villa, which perhaps served as his residence in old age, was an astonishing creation both for its time and its place, covering as it does four hectares (ten acres). No comparable villa of the first century ad has been found in Europe outside Italy. An entrance hall in the centre of the east wing with a hexastyle porch and a pool at the far end led into a huge peristyle garden. In the NE corner was an aisled hall or basilica and in the SE a bath building. In the middle of the west wing was an apsed audience chamber where official receptions took place. In the north wing was a set of guest chambers with fine mosaic pavements disposed around two small peristyle courtyards. The private rooms of the king were ranged along the south wing. The only Roman villas to approach Fishbourne in size were built in the fourth century ad. Chedworth, one of a number of Cotswold villas in the region of Corinium (Cirencester), originally consisted of two buildings and a separate bathing suite, but by ad 300 these elements were united into an inner and outer courtyard. Fine mosaics were laid in the dining room and a second set of baths added.

Hadrian’s Wall was the largest single project ever undertaken by the Romans in Britain (SHA, Hadrian 11.2) and ‘perhaps the largest and most remarkable building programme ever undertaken in the these islands at any time’.5 In ad 105 Agricola’s conquests in Scotland were given up and the frontier fixed along the road between Luguvallium (Carlisle) and Coriosopitum or Corstopitum (Corbridge), known as the Stanegate, where a number of forts had already been established. There appears to have been a major uprising in northern Britain in ad 118 and, as a result of a personal visit by the Emperor Hadrian, it was decided to build a wall, 80 Roman miles long, from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. It ran along high ground a little to the north of the Stanegate where the main garrison was housed. In about ad 124 it was decided to evacuate most of the Stanegate forts and move the fighting forces up to the wall itself. The wall was an extraordinary undertaking which needed seven years to complete and which had to be managed for the next 300 years (Figure 10.15). It required the quarrying of 770,000 m3 of stone which in turn had to be transported to the site by 900 carts and 1800 oxen, not to mention an even larger number of horses and mules. Not surprisingly, although the original plan called for a wall ten Roman feet wide, the width was later reduced to eight feet. Hadrian’s wall was a fully integrated defence system, consisting of 12 forts to which four more were later added. In addition to the forts there were castles, measuring 20 × 25 metres, every Roman mile. Each mile was further subdivided into three lengths by two lookout turrets, each of which would have been manned by four soldiers, two on duty on top of the wall and two resting in the turret. North of the wall ran a continuous ditch, 8.5 metres wide × 3 metres deep, except where the wall followed a ridge or other defensive feature. The forts were served by a military road and just behind the road to the south an elaborate earthwork known as the vallum was built to delineate the military zone of the wall.

Vercovicium or Borcovicium (Housesteads) on Hadrian’s wall is a good example of an infantry fort (Figure 2.12). It covered just under 2 hectares (5 acres) and was probably manned by about 800 auxiliaries. It lay on the south side of the wall, which joined it at each end and was parallel to it, as with all forts on a cliff edge. It was divided into five areas by four main streets in the usual pattern: The central third of the fort consisted of the headquarters building (principia), granaries, and hospital. The commandant’s house (praetoria) had a small bath-house adjacent to it, whereas the bath-house for the use of the troops was about 200 metres away next to a stream. The rest of the fort was mainly occupied by barracks. In the SE corner of the fort was a remarkable communal lavatory with rows of timber seats built

Figure 10.15  Hadrian’s Wall (England), view eastward from Cuddy’s crags towards Housesteads.

over deep sewers flushed with water from collection tanks to the east. A narrow stone channel in front of the seats held the water in which the sponges could be washed. The cavalry fort at Cilurnum (Chesters) had similar arrangements, except that it lay across the wall. A good deal of the ground plan was given over to stabling, and its hospital was in the rear of the fort. A feature of the fort was the sunken stone strong-room below the main standard-bearer’s office where the legionary pay was kept. An abutment of the bridge over the river was also found near the fort. The small auxiliary fort at Brocolitia (Carrawburgh) is of interest too because of the discovery nearby of a third century ad mithraeum, with an anteroom separated by a wattle-work screen from the nave which was lined with the usual benches.

Hadrian’s Wall comes at an intermediate stage in the development of fortifications in Britain. The early forts built soon after the conquest were designed as bases for highly mobile troops who left the fort to fight in the open. By the time of Hadrian forts were becoming part of a static defence system, equipped with ditches and ramparts and, later, ballista platforms. Finally, when in the third and fourth centuries ad Saxon sea-raiders had begun to harry the coasts of England, the Low countries and northern France, a series of coastal forts were built as a defence against them. These forts of the Saxon shore had much more massive fortifications and took on the appearance of mediaeval castles. There were 10 or 11 of them along the coast of SE England. Mostly they had masonry walls about ten metres high with bastions and look-out towers. Communications between them seem to have been by sea because they usually do not lie near Roman roads. Richborough, Pevensey and Porchester are perhaps the finest of these forts. By the early fifth century ad the defence of Britain was no longer practicable and the island was abandoned by the Romans.

The Rhine and Danube frontiers

The Rhine/Danube frontier remained the most difficult to defend throughout the Roman Empire (Figure 10.16). In his conquest of Gaul Julius Caesar had penetrated as far as the Rhine. After Actium Augustus pushed his armies as far as the Danube. Noricum (most of Austria and parts of Slovenia) became a client kingdom in 16 bc and a province at the time of Claudius. The province of Moesia, created about ad 6 and later divided into two provinces, stretched across the northern Balkans from central Serbia to northern Bulgaria and southern Romania. Further west Tiberius and Drusus defeated the Raeti in 15 bc and extended the frontier to the upper Danube. This resulted in the creation of the province of Raetia, which largely corresponds to central and eastern Switzerland and the Tirol. In 5 bc the Tropaeum Alpium was set up at La Turbie above Monaco to commemorate the conquest of the Alpine people. It was a roofed circular colonnade of 24 columns with a statue of Augustus on top. Its total height, including its square podium, was almost 50 metres. Between 12–9 bc. Tiberius subdued Pannonia (eastern Austria, western Hungary, northern Croatia and parts of Slovenia) which at first was part of Illyricum, but later became a separate province. Meanwhile in a campaign of 12–9 bc the Roman armies under Drusus crossed the Rhine and reached the Elbe, which today springs in the Czech Republic and passes through Dresden on its way to Hamburg. The Elbe-Danube line provided an excellent natural frontier along a mainly river boundary, and it was hoped eventually to incorporate the whole of Germany up to the Elbe into the Roman Empire. However, in ad 6, while Tiberius was operating against the Marcomanni beyond the Elbe-Danube line, a revolt in the Balkans caused him to recall his troops. In ad 9 the troops of Publius Quinctilius Varus were ambushed between the Rhine and the Elbe and three legions were lost, a terrible catastrophe for the Emperor Augustus. As a result, the Roman forces were recalled to the Rhine–Danube line, and the fort of Argentorate (Strasbourg), now in France, but in Roman times in the province of Germania Superior, was rebuilt as an important legionary fortress. Before long an extensive civilian settlement had grown up near it in a locality called Koenigshoffen to the west of Strasbourg. The only other major advance across the Rhine was in ad 83 when Domitian embarked upon an expedition against the Chatti and drove them from the Rhine valley. The frontier was pushed a little beyond the Rhine in the region of Mogontiacum (Mainz), and met the Danube a little west of Castra Regina (Regensburg). Most of this triangle of land was added to Upper Germany (Germania Superior) which was formally established as a province at this time along with Lower Germany (Germania Inferior). Upper Germany corresponds to SW Germany, Alsace and western Switzerland, and Lower Germany to the land west of the Rhine, Luxembourg, parts of Belgium and the southern Netherlands.

The Lower German limes (frontier) extended from the North Sea to Rheinbrohl, just south of Rigomagus (Remagen). The Upper German limes extended to Lorch and the Raetian limes to Castra Regina (Regensburg). Most of the frontier followed the Rhine and the Danube, but along the 300-kilometre-wide land corridor between the two rivers wooden palisades were erected, probably in ad 121–122 at the time of Hadrian. There were timber watch-towers and a road behind the palisades, although many of the watch-towers were later rebuilt of stone. In the Danube region the palisade itself was later replaced by a stone wall. The stone watch-towers had three storeys internally. There was usually a stone doorway giving access from the outside to the middle level, but not the lowest, which had to be accessed internally. There was a doorway in the top storey of the tower which gave access to an encircling wooden balcony surrounded by a balustrade and there was an overhanging roof. Reconstructed examples can be seen at Anhausen, Oberbieber and Rheinbrohl, but not all are accurate. Wooden towers have been reconstructed at Rainau and Schwabsberg. The watch-tower reconstructed at Bad Ems in 1874 was the first and oldest reconstruction of a watch-tower. It was based upon the towers shown in the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius in Rome, but it is no longer considered historically correct. The watch-tower at Hillscheid is considered the most accurate, as is the elaborate reconstruction of a small fort and watchtower at Pohl. The western gateway of the Antonine auxiliary fort at Welzheim and the gateway to the fort of Biriciana (Weissenburg) have also been reconstructed. The most complete reconstruction of a Roman fort in Germany is at Saalburg in the Taunus mountains. There is also a well-preserved cohort fort at Eining on the Danube (Abusina). Good sections of the limes can be seen at Anhausen, Buch, Feldbergkastell, Gunzenhausen, Hienheim, Jagsthausen, Pohlheim-Grüningen and Walldürn. There are foundations of the Castellum baths at Theilenhofen and Würzberg.

As early as Claudian times legionary forts began to be built on a more permanent basis in stone, and fortresses became more numerous as more soldiers were posted to the RhineDanube frontier. At the time of Hadrian no fewer than 13 legions were permanently stationed along the Rhine-Danube frontier including Dacia, a total of 175,744 legionaries and auxiliaries, almost half of the Roman army. The legionary fortresses included those at Noviomagus (Nijmegen in the Netherlands), Vetera (Xanten in Germany), Novaesium (Neuss), Apud Aram Ubiorum (near Cologne) and Bonna (Bonn) in Germania Inferior; Mogontiacum (Mainz), Argentorate (Strasbourg in France), Vindonissa (Windisch) and Castra Regina (Regensburg) in Germania Superior and Raetia; Vindobona (Vienna), Carnuntum (Petronell in Austria) and Brigetio (Szöny in Hungary) in Pannonia Superior; Aquincum (Budapest) in Pannonia Inferior; Singidunum (Belgrade), Viminacium (Kostolac in Serbia) and Ratiaria (near Vidin in Bulgaria) in Moesia Superior; Oescus (Pleven in Bulgaria), Durostorum (Silistra in Bulgaria) and Troesmis (Iglita-Turcoaia, Romania) in Moesia Inferior.

Figure 10.16  The Rhine and Danube frontiers of the Roman Empire: map.

At Vetera (Xanten) on the lower Rhine remains of a double legionary fortress were uncovered, and are now reburied. An older timber fortress covering 45 hectares (111 acres) was rebuilt in stone in ad 43 and again by Nero (Vetera I) to cover 56 hectares (138 acres). Rectangular in shape and measuring 902 × 621 metres, it had the normal four gates and the principia in the middle. To the north were the residences of the two legionary commanders. Smaller houses were built for the tribunes, and smaller ones again for the officers. A hospital and barracks were also uncovered. The fortress was destroyed in the Batavian revolt of ad 69–70 (Tacitus, Hist. 4.22ff), and a smaller fortress designed to accommodate a single legion


was rebuilt a little to the east (Vetera II). In the period ad 98–105 the settlement of Colonia Ulpia Traiana was established 3 kilometres to the north. Covering 83 hectares (205 acres), it is now partially restored. It had a regular street plan, with an amphitheatre in the east corner as well as the usual baths, temples and shops. In 38 bc Agrippa transplanted the Ubii, a tribe friendly to the Romans, across the Rhine and they built a city on the site of modern Cologne. In 9 bc it received an altar for the Imperial cult of Rome and Augustus. A double legionary fortress (Apud aram Ubiorum) was also established there. The legions left in the 30s ad and in ad 50 Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippensium (Cologne) was established in honour of Claudius’ wife, Agrippina, who had been born there. The city, by then extremely prosperous and a leading religious centre, became the capital of the province of Lower Germany.

The legionary fortress of Carnuntum, east of Vienna, was rebuilt in stone after ad 73 and measured 500 × 400 metres. It had the usual principia in the centre with the praetorium to the south. Workshops, a hospital, a large bath building, houses for the tribunes as well as 60 barracks for the centuriae have been uncovered, but buried again. Outside the fortress was a legionary amphitheatre, measuring 98 × 76 metres, which held 8,000 spectators. Three kilometres to the west of the fortress at Petronell was the civilian city, which became a colonia under Septimius Severus. A number of houses and the public bath have been heavily restored. Outside the city is a second, larger, amphitheatre which could accommodate 13,000 spectators and to the south the substantial remains of a large four-sided triumphal arch, the Heidentor, built between ad 354 and 361 by Constantius II.

Between ad 101 and 106 Trajan conquered Dacia (corresponding to part of modern Romania) and in ad 109 set up an enormous monument, 30.77 metres high, at Adamclisi in the Dobrudja plain (Moesia Inferior, but now in Romania) to commemorate his victory. Now rebuilt, it consisted of a huge masonry drum 30.52 metres in diameter raised on seven steps and capped with a mound. On top of the mound was a hexagonal tower supporting a giant trophy. The drum was decorated with 54 panels sculpted in a simple, direct style depicting the conflict between the Dacians and the Romans, now in the nearby museum. In the valley below the monument a town grew up called Tropaeum Traiani. It was impressively rebuilt after its destruction by the Goths and most of its monuments, including a large basilica, are Constantinian.

Germany (Germania superior and inferior)

The holy mountain of Magdalensberg in Austria had been settled by the Celts in the second century bc. During the first century bc because of its fine position, good soil, and plentiful water supply it became an important city in the kingdom of Noricum. In the period 40–20 bc it was a prosperous trading centre and individual houses were finely frescoed. Following annexation in 15 bc it entered its period of greatest prosperity with the building of a basilica, senate house, bath and large classical-style temple within an enclosure. However, the founding under Claudius of the new city of Virunum at the foot of the mountain brought about its decline and little more was heard of it. Virunum was the capital of the province of Noricum until the middle of the second century ad. Now largely reburied, it had a regular grid-plan with basilica/forum/capitolium situated along its main axis, as well as a Roman theatre. It also had an amphitheatre, 108 metres long × 46.5 metres wide, of unusual shape with straight long sides terminating in semicircular ends. The water-system with lead pipes, a sewage system and public fountains indicate a good water supply.

The oldest Roman colony on the Rhine, Augusta Raurica (Augst in Switzerland), was founded by Munacius Plancus in 43 bc. The centre of the town was rebuilt in the mid second century ad on regular lines (Figure 2.1) with basilica, forum and temple built as a single complex over three city blocks. By the second century ad Augusta Raurica had become extremely prosperous to judge by the aqueduct which supplied the town with water and the new theatre built in about ad 140–150. At Mogontiacum (Mainz), the capital of Germania Superior, the most remarkable Roman survival is the Jupiter column, more than 9 metres high, recomposed from nearly 2,000 stone fragments. It stands on two steps above which are two plinths, the smaller of which bears an inscription dating the column to ad 58 or 65. The plinths and the five-column drums they support are covered with reliefs of deities. On the Corinthian capital on top of the column stands a small plinth which originally supported an above life-size gilded bronze statue of Jupiter. This is the oldest of many Jupiter columns which have been discovered in the Rhineland.

Augusta Treverorum (Trier), situated on the west bank of the Moselle, was established as a military post by Augustus and shortly afterwards it became the capital of the province of Gallia Belgica and a leading economic centre. The second-century ad witnessed a burst of building activity with the laying out of a large forum, 400 × 150 metres, a new bridge, an amphitheatre and the St. Barbara Baths. The city is of great interest because of its two Gallo-Roman sanctuaries, the Altbachtal and the Irminenwingert. Like the rural sanctuaries in Gaul, they combined temples, shrines and altars with a cult theatre. The Altbachtal theatre had curved seating inscribed into high rectangular walls, presumably designed to ensure privacy for the initiates, and a very small stage. The discovery of grimacing and burlesque masks suggests this was a mystery theatre in which scenic and cult games were performed. The function of theatres of this type seems to have been primarily religious and the theatre model introduced in Roman times took the place of a simpler, pre-Roman performance area. The temple of Lenus-Mars across the river also seems to be Romano-Celtic. The city attained its greatest importance in the late third-century ad when it became the capital of Constantius Chlorus.

Country villas were the centre of a working estate and had to provide grain storage, stabling and farm buildings. In Northern Europe, early villas combined all these facilities under one roof, but soon the main house was separated from the buildings for farm workers and storage, as at Oberentfelden in Switzerland, Anthée near Namur and Estrées-sur-Noye near Amiens. A linking portico or corridor was commonly built along one side of the villa, often flanked at either end by a pair of projecting rooms, as can be seen in the Köln–Müngersdorf villa, while in larger villas the rooms were grouped around internal peristyles. The largest villa of all was the gigantic third-century ad villa at Nennig with its two-storey portico flanked by three-storey projecting wings and four internal peristyles.

The Balkans

Illyricum became two provinces in ad 10 under Augustus, Pannonia to the north and Dalmatia to the south. Salone (Solin) on the Adriatic coast of Croatia was settled by Roman traders in 47 bc. After supporting Caesar in the civil war it was raised to the status of Colonia and under Augustus became the capital of Dalmatia. It soon became by far the largest city in Dalmatia and, as a leading Adriatic port with good road connections with the interior, enjoyed unbroken prosperity from the late Republic to the Byzantine period. The city rapidly spread eastwards and by the time of Marcus Aurelius, the new sector (urbs nova) was walled. On the south side of the old town are the remains of the theatre, 65 metres wide, built in the first-century ad and altered in the second. East of the theatre is a porticoed forum, the remains of a Capitolium to the north and a small lapsed curia to the SE. Behind the scene of the theatre are the remains of a tetrastyle Corinthian temple dedicated to Augustus as pater patriae, dating to after ad 2. In the NW corner of the old city is the amphitheatre, built in the second half of the second-century ad and reconstructed at the time of Diocletian. It measures 100.65 × 124.75 metres and would have accommodated about 15,000 spectators. East of the city in the direction of Split is the well-preserved arcades of the aqueduct which brought water to Salona.

Pola was initially part of Illyricum until Augustus included it in the Tenth Region of Italy. It is located alongside a well-protected harbour on the SW extremity of the Istrian Peninsula. The city is rich in archaeological monuments, the most visible and monumental being the amphitheatre, which measures 132.5 × 105.1 metres and was probably completed in the Julio-Claudian period (Figure 10.17). Its entire outer wall is preserved, comprising

Figure 10.17  Pola (Pula, Croatia), amphitheatre, Julio-Claudian.

two storeys of arches and a top storey of rectangular windows, bringing its total height to 32.45 metres. The remarkably well-preserved Temple of Augustus, built between 2 bc–ad 14, measures 17.65 × 8.05 metres. A prostyle temple with a porch of 4 × 2 columns raised on a podium, it was one of two identical temples which stood in the forum. Another notable monument of Pola is the Arch of the Sergii built 29–27 bc (Figure 10.18). It’s single opening, with winged victories in the spandrels, is flanked by pairs of fluted Corinthian columns. The inner walls of the piers are decorated with vine and acanthus leaves, and the soffit with coffers ornamented with rosettes and a snake struggling with an eagle. Three podia divide the attic into two parts and over the podia stood statues of Lepidus Sergius, in whose honour the arch was erected, his uncle and his father. The city also possessed two Classical-style theatres, the smaller of the two being perhaps an odeum.

Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica) on the north bank of the Sava river in modern Serbia, became a Roman base during Augustus’ conquest of Illyricum. Its status was raised to Colonia in Flavian times and in ad 103 it became the capital of Pannonia Inferior. Because of its situation, it became important strategically in the third-century ad when Galerius built an imperial residence there. The buildings, which were constructed at great cost in brick, included a huge bath building, a public granary and a large and small palace. Running between the two palaces was a hippodrome.

Apollonia in the province of Macedonia, now in modern Albania, was an important harbour city and terminus of one of the Empire’s most strategic roads, the Via Egnatia, which linked Rome to Asia Minor. Unencumbered by modern buildings the site contains a theatre, bouleuterion and Temple of Diana. The city of Buthrotum (Butrint) in the province of Epirus, now in modern Albania, has recently been the subject of systematic excavations which have revealed a great deal about the city. An important discovery was the Sanctuary of Asclepius,

Figure 10.18  Pola (Pula, Croatia), Arch of the Sergii, 29–27 bc.

whose theatre, dating originally to the late fourth-century bc, was rebuilt in the second century and on a larger scale. Nearby is the forum which features a building probably used for political purposes. It had a wide antechamber opening onto three rooms, one of them lapsed. Many of the buildings at Butrint are early Christian in date, but one of them worth mentioning is the palace, adapted from a townhouse in about ad 400. Its most interesting feature is the tri coach, perhaps a dining room, at the east end of the great central courtyard.


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