Archaeologists have found a Roman sanctuary near the German Limes

(ORDO NEWS) — At the site of the branch of the Baal from the Rhine, temples were discovered in which Roman soldiers offered prayers to their gods for several centuries.

In 2021, volunteers from the Dutch Association of Volunteers in Archeology (AWN) came across fragments of buildings and altars from the Roman period in Gelderland, a province in the east of the Netherlands. Then specialists from the local archaeological research agency RAAP began work.

They reported that they had found a relatively intact Roman sanctuary. Remains of statues of gods, reliefs, painted gypsum items, as well as several complete votive altars dedicated to various gods and goddesses have been found.

In addition, archaeologists have found a preserved stone well, painted walls and many roof tiles. Researchers suggest that there were several temples dedicated to different gods at this place.

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Stone well typical of Roman settlements

The sanctuary is located at the confluence of the rivers Rhine and Waal, where there was already a small hill, which was artificially made a little higher. There were temples on top of this hill. Today we can talk about two buildings in the Gallo-Roman style with painted walls and tiled roofs.

Of particular interest are the remains of several dozen votive stones (small altars). The stones are dedicated to Hercules-Magusan, Jupiter and Mercury.

The last two gods are from the traditional Greco-Roman pantheon, but Hercules-Magusan is a synthesis of the Greek god-hero with a local character. True, it is not yet clear with Celtic or Germanic.

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A large stone well was not just a source of water: a stone staircase leading down was preserved inside it. Perhaps the well had some sacred function. Around the temples, judging by the hearths found around them, large sacrificial fires burned periodically.

In general, not many Roman sanctuaries have been found in the Netherlands today, which is quite understandable: it was the northern outskirts of the empire, bordering on very difficult neighbors. And the place where these temples were discovered is located on the very German limes – the border.

Roman limes – a system of border fortifications, usually defensive ramparts with watchtowers. On the inner side of the shaft were military camps, kastrums. At some distance there were castells – now we would say that these are camps with reserve units.

Initially, only Roman legionnaires stood on the border. But gradually, as the empire expanded and the border was strengthened, cohorts (foot military units) and alas (cavalrymen), made up of local peoples, whom the Romans considered allies, began to settle in castellas.

In the 70s of the 1st century AD, all the military installations of the German Limes were connected by a road, from which branches had already left deep into the province.

Where possible, limes were erected along the banks of the river, which thus served as additional protection. This is how the limes is located on the territory of modern Holland – along the Rhine. River crossings, as well as roads, were guarded with particular care: the Zarein Germans from time to time tested the border of the empire for strength.

Archaeologists suggest that the found sanctuary was used mainly by soldiers. This can be judged by the numerous brands on the tiles: in those days, the production of tiles was one of the activities of the army.

Judging by the same traces, temples were used from the end of the 1st to the beginning of the 4th century AD, that is, all the time when the border of the empire in the territory of modern Holland passed along the Rhine.

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A fragment of a tile with a stamp

In addition, they found a lot of horse bones, parts of armor, spearheads. On the votive altars mentioned above, inscriptions have been preserved indicating that they were erected by high-ranking soldiers of the Roman army. They did it for various reasons.

Someone wanted to thank a god or goddess for granting a wish. And for this it was not even necessary to win the battle: the very survival in those northern regions was often enough reason for gratitude. But some altars, judging by the inscriptions, were set up to fulfill a certain vow: thus, this was a request for help, not gratitude.


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