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:
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.