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Frontiers of the Roman Empire - The Danube Limes (Romania)

Date of Submission: 31/01/2020
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Culture
State, Province or Region:
Mehedinți, Caraș-Severin, Olt, Constanța, Galați, Tulcea counties
Ref.: 6446
Transnational
Other States Parties participating
Bulgaria
Croatia
Serbia
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The Tentative Lists of States Parties are published by the World Heritage Centre at its website and/or in working documents in order to ensure transparency, access to information and to facilitate harmonization of Tentative Lists at regional and thematic levels.

The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

In Europe the limes was established under Augustus was moved ahead under Domitian, Trajan, Hadrian and Antoninus Pius between the rivers Rhine and Danube, in the territory of the United Kingdom and Romania, was moved back under Gallienus and Aurelian in the 3rd century, and given up in the course of the 5th century. The boundary of this late Roman sector is in the Balkan, and involves the provinces Pannonia secunda, Moesia prima, Dacia ripensis, Moesia secunda and Scythia minor.

For the largest of the three envisaged properties, the Danube frontier, a nomination in two steps is proposed. The first step would concern a western segment consisting of the sites within the territories of Germany, Austria, Slovakia and Hungary, already delivered at UNESCO, as  Frontiers of the Roman Empire - The Danube Limes (western segment), and the second step an eastern segment comprising the sites in Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania, with current selections of 133 and 117 sites, respectively.

The province of Moesia started off as a northward extension to that of Macedonia. It received its own governor when Claudius added the Danubian Plain to its territory at the creation of the province of Thracia, in the 1st C A.D. By that time Rome had already for over a century been interfering with regional affairs on both sides of the Lower Danube, but it seems that the Claudian rearrangement first led to the foundation of permanent military bases on the river. Nevertheless military interventions across the Danube continued, at least as far as the Dnjestr river, over 100 km to the north of the Danube delta. It was only after Dacian incursion in 68/69 and 85/86 from across the Danube that the military infrastructure along the river was considerably extended. Following the latter invasion the province was divided in a Superior and Inferior part.

At the creation of the province of Dacia in 106 the military occupation of the bordering section of the Danube was reduced, whereas the lower course along the Dobrudja was strengthened following the inclusion of the eastern part of the Romanian Plain into the territory of Moesia, but this was soon given up. In the mid-3rd century the Moesian frontier suffered from invasions of Goths and other peoples, and in 271 the Dacian province was evacuated. Following these events both the provincial structure and the frontier were reorganised. Although barbarian raids persisted the area more or less survived the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century. As part of the Eastern Roman Empire the Moesian frontier was restored in the first half of the 6th century, but following invasions of Avars and Slavs the Danube frontier ceased to exist in the early 7th century.

A further remarkable feature is the near absence of fortlets and towers, with the exception of the Iron Gates. Although it cannot be excluded that this is influenced by the state of research, an explanation might be that on this frontier more than elsewhere the opposite river bank was under military control, even after the abandonment of Dacia after mid 3rd C A.D.

In contrast to artificial barriers such as the Upper German-Raetian Limes, which underwent several changes in advancing lines, the river frontiers of the Roman Empire in Europe along the Rhine and the Danube established by the 1st century AD remained rather static. There are few exceptions to this, mainly on the Balkans, where the Emperor Trajan crossed the Danube around AD 101/102, conquered Dacia in modern Romania and established a new province, which lasted until AD 271.

Although the rivers form a linear obstacle, which connects the individual monuments, the line itself is not easy to define and to present. Forts along the Rhine and Danube frontiers are 10 to 30 km apart, and inter-visibility does not often exist. Watchtowers, the intermediate elements in the archaeological landscape, are not so easy to detect. River frontiers were the River Rhine, Danube, Olt and Euphrates.

A distinctive feature of river frontiers are bridgehead fortifications. We do know about very few bridgehead fortifications in the earlier Roman frontier system, such as the fort of Iža in Slovakia and the fort of Dierna in Romania. Both of them were constructed when Roman politics caused advances of the army into Barbarian territory. We do not know of any permanent bridges which crossed the major river frontiers. The stone bridge, which spanned the Danube close to the forts of Pontes and Dierna, was built after Trajan’s decision to turn the territory north of the Danube into the Roman province of Dacia. Another bridgeheads are known at Drobeta and Sucidava, the last probably a later addition.

The military installations along the river frontiers in Europe were occupied over a period of 400 years, mostly from the reign of Augustus to the final years of the 4th, and on the Lower Danube even to the 5th and 6th centuries AD. In the late Roman period, those frontier defences were modernized and turned into strongly fortified military bases. The remains, which in many cases survived astonishingly well to the present day, in- and outside of settlements and in the open countryside, are the most distinctive and still visible witnesses of the European river frontiers. The consequences of this situation are extremely complex military sites, in chronological as well as archaeological respect.

All the river and artificial frontiers of continental Europe share a common feature: With very few exceptions all forts lay on, or close to, the frontier line itself, that is the river bank or the linear barrier.

Name(s) of the component part(s)

No.

Territorial Administrative Unit

Locality

No. of site/TAU

Toponym

Type of site

Coordinates in stereo 70

1

Pojejena

Pojejena, Caraș Severin couty

1

Șitamiţa

auxiliary fort

228700.152

369602.083

2

Grojdibodu

Grojdibodu, OLT county

1

 

auxiliary fort

439925.882

245071.691

3

Corabia

Celei, OLT county

1

 

auxiliary fort

456596.145

251758.443

4

Corabia

Celei, OLT county

2

 

bridgehead

456386.742

251655.450

5

Traian

Traian, Teleorman county

 

1

Flămânda

fort

498775.294

248298.281

6

Islaz

Islaz, Teleorman county

1

Racoviţa

fort

480575.693

248194.860

7

Drobeta-Turnu Severin

Insula Banului, Mehedinți county

 

1

Insula Banului

auxiliary fort

305634.970

354190.755

8

Drobeta-Turnu Severin

Drobeta-Turnu, Severin, Mehedinți county

2

 

auxiliary fort, legionary fortlet

315095.375

349922.248

9

Drobeta-Turnu Severin

Drobeta-Turnu, Severin, Mehedinți county

 

3

 

brigehead

315008.351

349797.060

10

Hinova

Hinova, Mehedinți county

 

1

Tarină

auxiliary fort

323013.272

340915.200

11

Desa

Desa, Dolj county

1

 

auxiliary fort

336298.125

259972.637

12

Bistreţ

Bistreţ, Dolj county

1

Grindu Cetate

auxiliary fort

383301.669

258730.749

13

Ostrov

Ostrov, Constanța county

1

Durostorum

auxiliary fort

684700.645

292791.731

14

Lipniţa

Canli, Constanța county

1

Dervent

auxiliary fort

698709.577

295612.216

15

Lipniţa

Canli, Constanța county

2

 

auxiliary fort

700656.131

297334.052

16

Oltina

Satu Nou, Constanța county

1

Pârjoaia

auxiliary fort

705473.317

301262.774

17

Oltina

Satu Nou, Constanța county

2

Capu Dealului

auxiliary fort

710488.941

302536.075

18

Oltina

Oltina, Constanța county

3

Măciuca

auxiliary fort

715045.809

302117.604

19

Ion Corvin

Viile, Constanța county

1

Beilic

auxiliary fort

721273.276

300718.161

20

Aliman

Dunăreni, Constanța county

1

Dunăreni

auxiliary fort

727667.891

308487.516

21

Rasova

Rasova, Constanța county

1

 

auxiliary fort

731820.338

307647.418

22

Cernavodă

Cernavodă, Constanța county

1

Hinog

auxiliary fort

740912.003

317069.291

23

Seimeni

Seimeni Mari, Constanța county

1

 

auxiliary fort

744138.687

325696.996

24

Topalu

Capidava, Constanța county

1

Capidava

auxiliary fort

745873.562

337377.878

25

Topalu

Topalu, Constanța county

2

 

auxiliary fort

741462.601

347434.266

26

Hârșova

Hârșova, Constanța county

1

 

auxiliary fort

734143.590

357845.971

27

Gârliciu

Gârliciu, Constanța county

1

 

auxiliary fort

742615.299

362762.975

28

Ostrov

Piatra, Tulcea county

1

 

auxiliary fort

748095.887

382230.354

29

Peceneaga

Peceneaga, Tulcea county

1

 

auxiliary fort

748242.865

391428.768

30

Cerna

Traian, Tulcea county

1

 

auxiliary fort

755169.175

397572.215

31

Turcoaia

Turcoaia, Tulcea county

1

La Cetate

auxiliary fort

751330.344

409837.570

32

Măcin

Măcin, Tulcea county

1

 

auxiliary fort

745649.497

420305.004

33

Jijila

Jijila, Tulcea county

1

 

auxiliary fort

746824.947

428891.833

34

Jijila

Garvăn, Tulcea county

2

Cetatea Dinogeţia

auxiliary fort

745883.240

435838.294

35

Lucaviţa

Lucaviţa, Tulcea county

1

Dealul Milan

auxiliary fort

756637.410

428917.465

36

Lucaviţa

Rachelu, Tulcea county

2

 

auxiliary fort

761867.847

425690.658

37

Isaccea

Isaccea, Tulcea county

1

Noviodunum

auxiliary fort

774136.028

424915.777

38

Tulcea

Tulcea, Tulcea county

1

 

auxiliary fort

799873.725

416701.805

39

Mahmudia

Mahmudia, Tulcea county

1

 

auxiliary fort

820150.143

408194.135

40

Murighiol

Murighiol, Tulcea county

1

 

auxiliary fort

830843.950

400274.756

41

Murighiol

Dunavăţu de Sus, Tulcea county

2

Dunavăţu de Sus

auxiliary fort

833053.209

399889.720

42

Murighiol

Dunavăţu de Jos, Tulcea county

3

Cetatea, Zaporojenilor

auxiliary fort

827662.344

395176.391

43

Galaţi

Galaţi, Galați county

1

 

auxiliary fort

734098.624

438285.275

44

Galaţi

Galaţi, Galați county

2

 

fort

735151.743

438725.033

45

Braniște / Șendreni

Traian, Șerbeștii Vechi, Galați county

1

Valul lui Traian 4

earthen rampart

724437.746

438445.462

46

Braniște / Șendreni

Traian / Șerbeștii Vech, Galați county i

2

Valul lui Traian 3

earthen rampart

724530.374

439919.248

47

Smârdan / Vânători

Mihail Kogălniceanu / Odaia Manolache, Galați county

1

Valul lui Traian 2

earthen rampart

727937.444

450643.343

48

Smârdan

Mihail Kogălniceanu / Cișmele, Galați county

2

Valul lui Traian 2a

earthen rampart

726520.944

447950.240

49

Vânători / Tulucești

Odaia Manolache, Tulucești, Galați county

1 / 2

Valul lui Traian 1

earthen rampart

733896.556

454854.273

Description of the component part(s)

The Iron Gates provide a formidable third obstacle in the Danube. Here the Carpathians and Balkan Mountains meet at the river, separating the Great Hungarian/Pannonian Plain in the west from the Wallachian/Romanian and Danubian Plains in the east. The Iron Gates did not coincide with a separation between two provinces, but they divided the operational areas of the Pannonian and Moesian fleets. The location of the Pannonian-Moesian border was determined by the confluence of the Sava river.

At Singidunum/Belgrade, the Sava, and near Viminacium/Kostolac, the Great Morava, coming from the Balkan Peninsula, flow into the Danube. Then comes the last and most important, 130 km long mountain breach between the South Carpathians and the Balkans: the “Iron Gate” (Đjerdap). The Iron Gate region encompasses the banks of the Danube from Golubac to the mouth of the River Timok. In this region for millions of years, the Danube cut its way through the rocky massif of the Transylvanian Carpathians, forming one of the largest river gorges in Europe. Between the river and the mountains of Homolje, Miroč, and Deli Jovan on its south bank, the space available for human habitation is very limited. In some parts of the Danube gorge, there are many submerged reefs, rapids and cataracts, while in the Great and Small Gorges in the middle of the canyon, the Danube is the deepest river in Europe. In antiquity, the river often froze during severe winters, making crossings very easy during those periods. From the end of the Gorge, at the Roman castellum Diana, to the mouth of the Timok River, the Danube again becomes a broad and smooth flowing stream with numerous islands and sandbars.

After the Iron Gate, the Danube reaches the lowlands of Wallachia. Here the riverbed with its vast swampland and river meadows lies in a 10 to 15 km wide valley close to the 100 m high steep edge of the Bulgarian chalk cliffs. The most important tributaries from the Carpathians are Jiu, Olt and Arges, from the Balkans Timok, Isker and Jantra.

Before the Danube comes to the tableland of Dobrudja it turns north again, but forms a number of arms, between which there are very marshy floodplains. At Galaţi, the river bends to the east and reaches the mouth delta, a 4300 km² swamp area with reed beds and numerous water veins. The three main estuaries extend several times to lakes, but are heavily muddy and so shallow that shipping is not possible.

The main characteristic of the Lower Danube is the predominance of forts and the absence of watchtowers.

The so-called Limes Moesiae was a system of fortifications consisting of three lines of defence, between the Black Sea shore and the Danube. It probably was built initially during Trajan times. Between the 2nd and the 3rd century was increased and abandoned. It consists of three sections: one in the south between Constanta and the Danube, usually called Trajan's Wall; a second just north of the Danube delta, called even Lower Trajan's Wall in Moldova or Athanaric's Wall; and a third in central Moldova from the Prut to the Dniester River, called Upper Trajan's Wall or Greuthungi Wall. These three sections consist of earth ditches, three meters high and two meters wide.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The registration of the Roman border crossing various countries was a joint objective, a transnational Frontiers of the Roman Empire (FRE) monument being established in 2005. The goal of the LIMES programme is to draw up the documentation regarding the monuments composing the Roman border from Romania, the largest unitary heritage monument in the country, contributing with the longest sector, of over 1000 de km, to the unique UNESCO monument “Frontiers of the Roman Empire” (FRE). Most of the archaeological sites lie in rural areas, hence many are well preserved.

The research of the Roman border started in the 19th century, extensively carried out in the 1970’ies. Nevertheless, currently, the monuments composing the Roman border are not topographically mapped, yielding little archaeological information though.

The thematic study which must be drafted and the proposals for the Indicative National List suppose a comprehensive documentation for the draft of a list of monuments to be included, based on criteria also applied by the other European states and adapted to regional specificities, on the Tentative UNESCO List. The documentation of these monuments, given the nature of the sites in Romania, is very difficult, hence the programme development under optimal conditions is key.

The known monuments that make up the Limes Scythiae Minoris are quite numerous and the list is likely to be enriched and detailed with new ones as they will be documented. Fortifications with legionary or auxiliary troops in the garrison are usually on promontories with high visibility, close to the most accessible ways of communication. They are located in a varied landscape, sometimes on the high plateau of some rocky hills that bordering the river. To a great extent, these fortifications also preserve river fords / points of passage or the place of inflow between the Danube and its major tributaries (Carsium, Barboşi).

Criterion (ii): The remains of the Roman frontiers of Moesia Inferior / Scythia (the final Danubian section of Romania) and those upstream, on the left bank of the Danube, represent, together with the Germano-Retic Limes, the Wall of Hadrian and the Wall of Antoninus Pius, and again the border of North Danube Dacia, the most significant elements of the Roman frontiers, present in Europe. The forts, burgers, towers, earth ramparts, walls, along with the connected infrastructure and civil settlements indicate an important exchange of human and cultural values at the peak of the Roman civilization by developing the Roman military architecture and expanding its technical knowledge in the construction and management to the edges of the Empire. These structures reflect the imposition of a complex border system on existing societies starting from the northern part of the Roman Empire, introducing for the first time military installations and dependent civilian settlements connected through an extensive infrastructure network. The Roman frontiers were not an impermeable barrier they controlled and allowed population movements: not only military troops but also civilians and merchants. Thus, they have begun the exchange of cultural values through the deployment of soldiers and civilians of different ethnicities. This has caused profound changes and developments in the affected regions, in terms of habits of human settlements, architecture and landscaping, in a word, the organization of the surrounding area. Even today, Roman borders are an obvious part of the landscape.

Criterion (iii): As part of the general defensive system of the Roman Empire, the Danube limes on the Romanian territory has an extraordinary cultural the Roman Empire power by strengthening its northern frontier, constituting a physical manifestation of the Roman imperial policy. It illustrates the ambition of the Roman Empire to dominate the whole world by imposing its laws and lifestyle in a long-term perspective. It is the testimony of the Roman colonization in the affairs of the territories, the distribution of the Roman culture and the various traditions - military, engineering, architectural, religious, economic and political - and the numerous human settlements associated with state defence, which contribute to the understanding of the lives of Roman soldiers and their families, in this part of the Empire.

Criterion (iv): The Lower Danube Limes in its final sector (Romania) is a remarkable example of the Roman military architecture, construction techniques and their evolution, perfected by engineers of the time, over many generations. It demonstrates the variety and sophistication of the Romans' response to the specific and climatological topography, or to the political, military and social circumstances in the northern part of the Empire that can be found throughout the European Empire, and thus influenced most of the later developments in this part of the world.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The elements selected for registration have a high level of authenticity each of them having been verified through extensive scientific studies. The materials and the essence of the underground archaeological remains are generally well preserved, as well as the visible remains on the surface. The shape and design of the Roman border components on the Romanian Danube section (limes Scythiae Minoris) are clear and easy to establish and associate. They express the evolution of the defensive systems during the Principality and the Dominance, as well as that of the specific urban development in late Roman and Roman-Byzantine period (4th-7th centuries BC) on this section of the Danube border. The Lower Danube frontier combines visible Roman border elements on other sectors of the river: besides the natural barrier bounded by the via militaris, we know lines of fortification in the form of a wave and trench along the network of castles, burgs, quadriburgia and towers. Most of its structures are underground and have never been excavated. Excavated parts were protected according to the latest standards and are generally in a good state.

The proposed components show the extraordinary complexity of the Roman frontiers in its European part. Although some parts, reduced in quantity, have been affected by natural or anthropogenic processes, the integrity of the structure is demonstrated by its visible and underground parts. A lot of elements have been already researched, and very few of them have further constructions above the ground, and where the reconstructions were appropriate, they were included in the system. The overwhelming majority of the lower Danube limes component sites are located underground in the countryside and significant parts are visible on the surface. Many individual sites are preserved impeccably.

Justification of the selection of the component part(s) in relation to the future nomination as a whole

The sites which were selected are representative for the whole concept of riverline frontier, adding much understanding to the concept of an organic frontier in Lower Danube area, contributing, therefore, to the comprehension of the frontier in this area. The fortifications in Dobrudja are very much alike the other sites along the eastern bank of the Danube, from Croatia to Durostorum, some of them extremely well preserved.

The three sites, out of four chosen along the northern bank of the Danube, belonging at the beginning to the former province of Dacia (Pojejena, Drobeta, Sucidava, and the last two with their bridgeheads), have been at times under the control of the governor of Moesia, the province south to the Danube, which proves their interrelationship between the two provinces since the Dacian wars. However, during the existence of Dacia, there was not necessary to strengthen the northern bank between Pojejena and the river Olt (Sucidava), because of the bump created by the Dacian limes. After the abandonment of Dacia they were still in use, together with other new fortlets, represented here by the most well preserved and known, at Hinova.

Concluding, all these are some of the key features in understanding the topographic features of the Lower Danubian Limes. The selection have been considered in respects to the level of protection and manageability, to guarantee the long term protection.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Roman Empire, at the peak of its territorial extension, was one of the largest empires in history. Enclosing the Mediterranean Sea, it was protected by a border system flowing constantly all around.

The limits of the Roman Empire stretched from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Black Sea in the east, from central Scotland to the north, to the northern boundaries of southern Sahara. The Roman frontier was completed in the 2nd century AD. It has an approximate length of 5000 km, being formed of linear barriers (earthen ramparts with palisades or stone walls), beside legionary fortresses and auxiliary forts, towers, limes roads and many civil settlements. Best preserved limes portions are found in England, Germany, the Netherlands, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.

Until now, three sectors of the Roman border were registered in LPM UNESCO: Hadrian’s Wall (1987), the Limes Germanicus (2005) and the Anonine Wall (2008).

Spread on 130 km, from one shore to another of northern England, Hadrian’s Wall was built at the order of the emperor, in AD 122, as a linear continuous barrier on the northern limit of the Roman province of Britannia. The continuous wall between the two shores was preceded by a line composed of rampart, ditch and palisade, along several forts and burgi, as well as watch towers, all linked by a vast road network.

The German limes spreads on a length of 550 km, between the Rhine and the Danube and was built in stages, over the 2nd century AD. With its forts, burgi, towers, physical barriers, connecting infrastructure and civil settlements, it is an incontestable evidence of an inter-human values and civilisation exchange via the development of the military architecture in areas until then poorly developed. It was not only a military barrier, but also a system of economic and cultural limits. It is also an excellent example of topographical and engineering accuracy of the Romans.

The Antonine Wall was built around AD 140, in the attempt to partially conquer Scotland and extend the province of Britannia by a few tens of km northward. By its military and civil constructions it evidences an active cultural exchange between the civilisations. As it was in use only for a generation, it is a photography of the Roman frontiers, at a given moment in time, especially in terms of design and initiation of the constructional work.

Other sectors of the Roman border from Europe pending enlisting on the tentative PM list of UNESCO: the limes of Germania Inferior (joint effort Germany-the Netherlands), the Danube limes (with national sectors for Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania). These are, in overwhelming majority, riverine frontiers, set along the two most rivers of Europe – the Rhine and the Danube. Therefore, they exhibit specificities typical to a river frontier, lacking linear barriers, yet sometimes towers were built. It has, instead, a network of well situated forts, interconnected and connected to the civil world of the provinces via a complete road network and provided with strategic crossing points of the two important rivers.

The Dacian limes is the longest land Roman border sector of Europe, stretching over more than 1000 km. It is the most complex unitary concept of Roman border within the empire, bringing together all the other systems, alternately used in the Roman world. Its existence provides an entirely different view of the Danube limes system. Doubled for more than one century and a half by the Dacian limes, it somewhat became complementary to the latter, if not even inactive, for this period. The high variation degree of the geographical conditions in Dacia required an adapted frontier by alternating various systems within the same provincial border: limes Porolissensis is a continuous alternate between the linear barriers and tower network-systems. In the west and along the Olt river (Alutus), are noted continuous lines of fortification along certain roads. The lower Danube limes is a continuous line of fortifications between Durostorum and Halmyris, on the right bank of the river, alongside the Via Militaris, the strategic border road.

Its positioning mostly outside built-up areas provides the opportunity of a reliable protection, while accessibility is a management issue, making the cultural tourism along the Romanian FRE a feasible goal.