The Saalburg is a Roman fort located on the Taunus ridge northwest of Bad Homburg. It is a Cohort Fort belonging to the Limes Germanicus, the Roman linear border fortification of the German provinces. The Saalburg, located just off the main road roughly halfway between Bad Homburg and Wehrheim is the most completely reconstructed Roman fort in Germany. Since 2005, as part of the Upper German limes, it forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.
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.
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.References:
Built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), the impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provided seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.
Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.
Today it is the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain.