Roman Iron Age

History of Latvia between 0 AD - 399 AD

An important development in the so-called Roman Iron Age (1–400 AD) was the spread of knowledge about how to smelt and work iron. The peasant culture of the Baltic made remarkable progress. This can be partly explained by the very lively trade relations between the Baltic and centers of the Roman Empire, particularly with the Danube Basin. The Balts exported amber, which at that time was valued higher than gold, and expensive furs. In return they received Roman manufactured goods and coins. At this period the Eastern Balts began to split up into Lithuanians and Latvians, and the Finno-Ugrians into Finns and Estonians. The former began to cross the Finnish Gulf and settle down in present-day Finland.

The Roman Iron Age is remarkable because even at that time the Eastern border of the three Baltic peoples was almost identical with the later ethnic and political frontiers. Beyond this border at that time were very sparsely populated territories of Eastern Europe; this proves that these frontiers have not been established in a struggle with some other nation, but developed naturally, as the natural cultural boundaries of the Baltic nations and as the maximum reach of these civilizations.

Reference: Latvians.com

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Eketorp Fort

Eketorp is an Iron Age fort in southeastern Öland, which was extensively reconstructed and enlarged in the Middle Ages. Throughout the ages the fortification has served a variety of somewhat differing uses: from defensive ringfort, to medieval safe haven and thence a cavalry garrison. In the 20th century it was further reconstructed to become a heavily visited tourist site and a location for re-enactment of medieval battles. Eketorp is the only one of the 19 known prehistoric fortifications on Öland that has been completely excavated, yielding a total of over 24,000 individual artifacts. The entirety of southern Öland has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Eketorp fortification is often referred to as Eketorp Castle.

The indigenous peoples of the Iron Age constructed the original fortification about 400 AD, a period known to have engendered contact between Öland natives with Romans and other Europeans. The ringfort in that era is thought to have been a gathering place for religious ceremonies and also a place of refuge for the local agricultural community when an outside enemy appeared. The circular design was believed to be chosen because the terrain is so level that attack from any side was equally likely. The original diameter of this circular stone fortification was about 57 metres. In the next century the stone was moved outward to construct a new circular structure of about 80 metres in diameter. At this juncture there were known to be about fifty individual cells or small structures within the fort as a whole. Some of these cells were in the center of the fortified ring, and some were actually built into the wall itself.

In the late 600s AD the ringfort was mysteriously abandoned, and it remained unused until the early 11th century. This 11th century work generally built upon the earlier fort, except that stone interior cells were replaced with timber structures, and a second outer defensive wall was erected.

Presently the fort is used as a tourist site for visitors to Öland to experience a medieval fortification for this region. A museum within the castle walls displays a few of the large number of artefacts retrieved by the National Heritage Board during the major decade long excavation ending in 1974. Inside the fort visitors are greeted by actors in medieval costumes who assume the roles of period artisans and merchants who might have lived there nine centuries earlier. There are also re-enactment scenes of skirmishes and other dramatic events of daily life from the Middle Ages.

Eketorp lies a few kilometers west of Route 136. There is an ample unpaved parking area situated approximately two kilometers west of the paved Öland perimeter highway. There is also a gift shop on site. During peak summer visitation, there are guided tours available. Visitors are assessed an admission charge.