In the first century BC. the Romans set their sights on the Lower Rhineland. They erected a military camp on the Fürstenberg so that they could advance into Germania to the east of the Rhine by crossing the river Lippe.
After the devastating defeat of Varus by the Germanic forces led by Arminius in 9 AD, the river Rhine became the eastern frontier of the Roman empire. A port and a settlement developed north of the camp. About 98 AD Emperor Traian granted the settlement colony status, and this became Colonia Ulpia Traiana.
Streets in a grid pattern, sewers, town walls, a forum, temples, baths and an amphitheatre were built, and all from stone that had to be hauled more than 100 kilometres down the Rhine.
In the Xanten Archaeological Park, some buildings have been partly reconstructed, some rebuilt and furnished to give visitors an idea of what the settlement would have been like. Original remains of Roman buildings can also be seen.
The modern steel and glass building is situated on the historic site of the major Roman settlement Colonia Ulpia Traiana. It is built on the excavated foundations of the entrance hall of the public baths. The size and the shape of the modern building correspond to the ancient Roman original.
Among the exhibits on display are the remains of a Roman boat, suspended from the ceiling at a height of 12 metres. Further highlights are a stunning, large mural and the oldest and best preserved Roman cannon yet discovered. Spanish oil amphorae, silver tableware, pottery and a considerable collection of Roman army weapons and equipment are also on display.
The municipal public baths of Colonia Ulpia Traiana were built under Emporor Hadrian around A.D. 125. The complex comprised hot, warm and cold baths, changing rooms, saunas and a sports-field.
The baths, destroyed in 275, were rediscovered in 1879. The museum building was openend in 1999. The building, combining glass and steel, reflects the design and dimensions of the original, allowing visitors to get a good impression of the imposing size of these ancient baths.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.