Osterburken gives fragmentary glimpses of Roman life on the edge of the empire

A stylized metal statue of a Roman soldier stands in front of the Roemermuseum in Osterburken, Germany. The museum features the remains of a Roman bathhouse and artifacts from when they had a fort guarding the border here. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

It was far from the comforts of Rome, a lonely outpost in a cold, gray land. Standing in the watchtower, Roman soldiers watched across the hills, keeping an eye out for signs of Germanic invaders.

A reconstructed Limes watchtower stands on a hill near Osterburken, Germany.  The Limes was the frontier of the Roman Empire from the early 2nd century to AD 260. At first just a chain of guard posts, over the decades it was reinforced with a wooden palisade, moat and an earthen rampart to protect the Romans from Germanic.  tribes.

A reconstructed Limes watchtower stands on a hill near Osterburken, Germany. The Limes was the frontier of the Roman Empire from the early 2nd century to AD 260. At first just a chain of guard posts, over the decades it was reinforced with a wooden palisade, moat and an earthen rampart to protect the Romans from Germanic. tribes. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

They guarded the Limes, the border between the Roman Empire and the barbarian country from the beginning of the 2nd century to 260.

A defensive line, in Germany, it stretched from Rheinbrohl on the Dutch border in the northwest to the Danube near Regensburg in the south.

Originally a simple string of guard posts, the Limes (pronounced lee-mus) was reinforced over the decades with a wooden palisade, a moat and an earthen rampart to protect the empire from Germanic tribes.

It was backed by a chain of forts, where the soldiers lived. Besides the kastell, as the forts were called, there were often administrative offices, a sacred quarter and, important in Roman life, baths.

The ruins in Osterburken, Germany, of the Roman kastell, or fort, that once stood here.  In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, the Romans guarded the Limes here, the border between the empire and the Germanic tribes.

The ruins in Osterburken, Germany, of the Roman kastell, or fort, that once stood here. In the 2nd and 3rd centuries, the Romans guarded the Limes here, the border between the empire and the Germanic tribes. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

One of the forts along the border was in the present town of Osterburken. Nestled in the rolling, forested hills of the Odenwald are a reconstructed watchtower, the remains of the fort, and the Roemermuseum.

The tower and the section of the Limes are outside the city. You can climb to get a view of the surroundings. Originally, Limes Towers usually had a second-floor entrance, accessed by a ladder.

There is not much left of the fort, just a few low walls and foundations. The frame of the main gate was rebuilt using metal pipes.

A look through the Archaeoskop, a binocular-like contraption, shows the visitor what the gate experts looked like in the third century.

A view through the

A view through the “Archaeoskop”, a binocular-like device that shows the visitor what the experts of the Roman fort of Osterburken looked like in the third century. Today, only the foundations of some buildings remain, but an outline of the door, made of steel pipes, gives an idea of ​​its size once. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

The Roemermuseum gives an insight into Roman life in the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

The first thing to see is the Roman bath. Generally, the baths consisted of a tepidarium (warm room), a caldarium (warm room) and a frigidarium (cold room). Beyond their purifying function, they were a place of socialization and relaxation.

The ground floor of the museum is full of artifacts found in the area. Pottery, jewelry, weapons and coins are among the exhibits. See the legion of Roman toy soldiers on display.

There is even a small section of artifacts from the people who populated the other side of the Limes.

On the second floor is an exhibition on the religions and deities of the Romans.

At the top of the staircase is probably the museum’s most modern exhibit, a colorful painting of the pantheon of Roman gods. The image covers a full wall.

Probably the most modern thing in the Roemermuseum in Osterburken, Germany is this painting of the pantheon of Roman gods, with a few little ones like Bacchus, on the left.

Probably the most modern thing in the Roemermuseum in Osterburken, Germany is this painting of the pantheon of Roman gods, with a few little ones like Bacchus, on the left. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

If nudity makes you feel uncomfortable, even in art, beware, because the first thing you’ll see is Venus in all her naked glory.

Otherwise, the exhibit is mostly made up of different consecration altars. A person had an altar made and was then considered to be under the protection of the deities to whom it was consecrated.

Interior of the room dedicated to Roman religions at the Roemermuseum in Osterburken, Germany.  The carved stones on the right are Roman consecration altars.  A person had an altar made and was then considered to be under the protection of the deities to whom the altar was consecrated.

Interior of the room dedicated to Roman religions at the Roemermuseum in Osterburken, Germany. The carved stones on the right are Roman consecration altars. A person had an altar made and was then considered to be under the protection of the deities to whom the altar was consecrated. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

If you haven’t had your fill of Roman artefacts yet, about 20 minutes down the road from Osterburken is Jagsthausen, a small town with a large castle.

There was also once a Roman fort and bath here. The fort is gone, but the foundations of the bath are still visible, along with other relics, including parts of a column dedicated to the Roman god Jupiter.

A view of the Roman baths at the Roemermuseum in Osterburken, Germany.  The Romans built a fort here in the 2nd century to protect the empire from Germanic tribes.  Although far from the comforts of Rome, most outposts had baths.

A view of the Roman baths at the Roemermuseum in Osterburken, Germany. The Romans built a fort here in the 2nd century to protect the empire from Germanic tribes. Although far from the comforts of Rome, most outposts had baths. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

This stone was probably part of a column dedicated to the Roman god Jupiter.  The numbers on it are of Saturn, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury and Luna.  In the background are the remains of the Roman baths that once stood here in Jagsthausen.  About 12 miles south of Osterburken there was also once a fort protecting the Limes, the border of the Roman Empire.

This stone was probably part of a column dedicated to the Roman god Jupiter. The numbers on it are of Saturn, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury and Luna. In the background are the remains of the Roman baths that once stood here in Jagsthausen. About 12 miles south of Osterburken there was also once a fort protecting the Limes, the border of the Roman Empire. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

These are copies. The originals are exhibited in various museums, including that of the castle.

In the end, all the consecration altars in the area didn’t seem to help. The Limes was abandoned around 260 and invading Germanic tribes settled in the area.

Inside the Roemermuseum in Osterburken, Germany.  It features the remains of a Roman bath complex and artifacts found in the area, which once housed a Roman fort.

Inside the Roemermuseum in Osterburken, Germany. It features the remains of a Roman bath complex and artifacts found in the area, which once housed a Roman fort. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

A visitor looks at Roman artifacts on display at the Roemermuseum in Osterburken, Germany.  The Limes, a defensive border between Rome and the Germanic tribes, once passed near here.

A visitor looks at Roman artifacts on display at the Roemermuseum in Osterburken, Germany. The Limes, a defensive border between Rome and the Germanic tribes, once passed near here. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

On QT:

Directions: Osterburken is about an hour’s drive from Stuttgart and about 2.5 hours from Kaiserslautern. From Wiesbaden you can take a scenic route through the Odenwald via the A3 motorway and the B469 and B47 motorways. Jagsthausen is about a 20 minute drive from Osterburken.

Hours: The Roemermuseum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. The reconstructed tower is open from April to October.

Cost: Admission is 4 euros for adults and 2 euros for children. A family ticket for parents and their children is 10 euros.

Food: There is a cafe inside the museum.

Information: Online: roemermuseum-osterburken.de. The exhibits in the museum are labeled only in German. Fort and Limes Tower, however, have English descriptions.

About Laurence Johnson

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