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Frontiers of the Roman Empire - Lower German Limes (Allemagne)

Date de soumission : 04/02/2015
Critères: (ii)(iii)(iv)
Catégorie : Culturel
Soumis par :
Permanent Delegation of the Federal Republic of Germany to UNESCO
État, province ou région :
Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westfalia
Ref.: 6299
Autres États parties participants

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The Roman Empire, in is territorial extent, was one of the greatest empires the world has known. Enclosing the Mediterranean World and surrounding areas, it was protected by a network of frontiers stretching over 5,000 kilometres from the Atlantic coast in the west, to the Black Sea in the East, and from central Scotland in the north to the northern fringes of the Sahara Desert in the south. Much has survived above ground along this Frontier, which was largely constructed in the 2nd century AD when the Empire reached its greatest extent. At various times, the Frontier consisted of a linear barrier, at other times of protected spaces, or in some cases a whole military zone.

Substantial remains survive (clockwise from the west) in the UK, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Iraq, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. Starting on the western coast of northern Britain, the frontier in Europe then ran along the rivers Rhine and Danube, looping round the Carpathian Mountains to the Black Sea. The eastern frontier, stretching from the Black Sea to the Red Sea and running through mountains, great river valleys and the desert. To the south, Rome’s protective cordon embraced Egypt and then ran along the northern edge of the Sahara Desert to the Atlantic shore in Morocco. 

The remains include the lines of the linear frontier, natural elements such as the sea, rivers and deserts, and networks of military installations and ancillary features such as roads on, behind and beyond the frontier. These encompass both visible and buried archaeology. Together the inscribed remains and those to be nominated in the future form an extensive relict cultural landscape which displays the unifying character of the Roman Empire, through its common culture, but also its distinctive responses to local geography and political and economic conditions. Each component part is a substantial reflection of the way resources were deployed in a particular part of the Empire.

Hadrian’s Wall, Upper German-Raetian Limes, the Antonine Wall, situated in Great Britain and Germany, are already jointly inscribed on the World Heritage List as Component Parts of Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site (FRE WHS; since 1987, 2005 and 2008 repectively). The garrisoned river frontier of the Roman province of Lower Germany (Lower German Limes) served as a link between the frontiers on the British Isles (UK) and the Upper-German-Raetian Limes (GER).

In the 2nd century AD, the River Rhine formed the most north-westerly boundary of the Roman Empire in continental Europe. Currently, the Lower German Limes lies in the territory of Germany and the Netherlands. The nomination of this part of the Limes as an extension of the FRE WHS will therefore be made jointly by the two countries.

Nom(s) de l’élément/des éléments constitutif(s)





Coord. N LAT WG S84

Coord. E LONG  WG S84

Present Situation, State of Conservation



Auxiliary fort

Fort of Rigomagus



Visible remains of the principia, partly preserved and visible in the museum



Stone quarry

Area of rock stones with roman tool marks



Tool marks preserved and visible


Bad Münstereifel

Lime kilns

Lime kilns of the 30th legion Ulpia victrix with working rooms



Visible remains of lime kilns with information centre




walls of 11 manœuvre camps in the southern part of the Kottenforst



preserved and visible remains of the earthen walls



Legionary fortress

Legionary fortress of Bonna



85% of the area fortress still preserved in the inner city of Bonn; layout of the fortress preserved in modern road network and spatial develop- ment


Alfter and Bornheim


walls of 11 manœuvre camps in the northern part of the Kottenforst



preserved and visible remains of the earthen walls



fleet base

fort of the Rhine fleet Classis Germanica



Remains not visible, partly overbuilt




Headquarter of the Lower German Army



Remains preserved and visible



Late roman fortress

Late roman fortress of Divitia



Remains preserved and visible



Auxiliary fort

Fort of Durnomagus



Remains preserved and visible in the cellar of the parsonage of St. Michael



Auxiliary fort

Late roman fort of Haus Bürgel



Remains preserved and visible, integrated in the medieval castle




Fortlet and watchtower Reckberg



Remains not visible, preserved in forest area, ex situ reconstruction of watchtower



Legionary fortress

Legionary fortress (and later cavalry fort) of Novaesium



Remains not visible, layout of the fortress preserved in modern road network



Auxiliary fort

Auxiliary fort of Gelduba



Remains not visible, part of the front side  destroyed, not overbuilt




Fortlet Werthausen



Remains not visible, partly overbuilt



Auxiliary fort

Auxiliary fort of Asciburgium



Remains not visible, partly overbuilt




Marching camp Boenninghardt



Remains not visible, small area overbuilt




Marching camp Drüpt



Remains not visible, small area overbuilt



Legionary fortress

Legionary fortress Vetera I, canabae, amphitheatre



Amphitheatre visible, fortress not overbuilt




4 manoeuvre camps of Flürener Feld



preserved and visible remains of the earthen walls




13 manoeuvre camps of Uedem-Hochwald



preserved and visible remains of the earthen walls




Vexillation camp of Kalkar-Monreberg



Remains not visible, small area overbuilt



Auxiliary fort

Auxiliary fort, vicus, limes road and cemeteries of Burginatium



Remains not visible on the surface, not overbuilt.




Sanctuary of the Germanic war goddess Vagdavercustis, Kalkar-Kalkarberg



Remains not visible, not overbuilt



Auxiliary fort

Auxiliary fort and vicus of Till-Steincheshof



Remains not visible, small area overbuilt




2 marching camps of Till-Kapitelshof



Remains not visible, small area overbuilt



Auxiliary fort

Auxiliary fort of Qualburg-Quadriburgium



Remains not visible, partly overbuilt

Description de l’élément/des éléments constitutif(s)

The part of the Roman Frontier known as the Lower German Limes  ran for 320 km from Katwijk aan Zee at the mouth of the Rhine in the Netherlands to Remagen in Germany. It was established gradually, following the Caesarian and Augustan campaigns of conquest that led to its initial infrastructure. Some of the camps that were situated south of the river Rhine as part of the military support infrastructure for the conquest, subsequently became the springboard for the construction of forts and fortlets along the left levee of the Rhine from 40 CE onwards. These were supplemented with watchtowers near river bends, a clear indication that the system was intended to create a line to control movement and transport both across and along the river. This system was more or less completed by 70 CE and remained in use until near the end of the 3rd century CE.

This part of the Limes was not a military bulwark in the sense of a closed and interconnected system of walls, towers and forts along more or less ‘straight’ line. Instead, it consisted of more loosely connected forts on the left bank of the Rhine, like a necklace consisting of pearls on a string, with legionary fortresses in between or in the immediate hinterland. Many military installations were strategically placed in relation to the junctions of major tributaries upstream and branch channels downstream, to control movement over water as well as over land for military as well as economic purposes.

Following a temporary breakdown in the last decades of the 3rd century, this system remained in use during the 4th and the first quarter of the 5th century as the forward part of a defence system that in this period relied on an infrastructure reaching deep into the hinterland over a wide area in Northern Gaul. Some new forts were constructed and some existing facilities were partially or completely refurbished while others were abandoned. Downstream, especially in the wetlands of the western part of the Rhine delta where habitation conditions had deteriorated significantly, the system may have served mostly to protect the trade route over the Rhine to the province Britannia.

This infrastructure continued to influence the development of the area long after the demise of the Roman Empire and some “pearls on the necklace” became important Merovingian centres and later the basis for the ecclesiastical and administrative infrastructure of the Carolingian empire.

Justification de la Valeur Universelle Exceptionnelle

The Roman Frontier as a whole has an extraordinarily high cultural value. It was the border of one of the most extensive civilizations in human history, which influenced the western world and its peoples for many centuries. It had an important effect on urbanisation and on the spread of cultures among remote regions. The scope and extent of the frontier reflects the unifying impact of the Roman Empire on the wider Mediterranean world, an impact that persisted long after the empire had collapsed. The Frontier is the largest single monument of Roman civilization.

The Frontier illustrates and reflects the complex technological and organisational abilities of the Roman Empire which allowed them to plan, create and protect a frontier of some 5000 km in length, with a garrison of tens of thousands of men, and to manage the social, economic and military implications of this frontier. The frontier demonstrates the variety and sophistication of the Roman response to topography and political, military and social circumstances which include walls, banks, rivers, and sea.

The nominated segment, the Lower German Limes in The Netherlands, North-Rhine Westfalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, will significantly contribute to the Outstanding Universal Value of the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site. The extensive, multiform remains of the military infrastructure in the lower reaches and delta of the Rhine reflect the many centuries of Rome’s involvement, during which the border area functioned as:

  • a heavily patrolled frontier;
  • a base for launching new campaigns to conquer more of the world;
  • a zone connecting two key areas of the Empire – Gaul and Britain;
  • a crossroads for trade, cultures and ideas;
  • a place for recruiting substantial, highly-skilled auxiliary forces, including (up to the end of Nero’s reign) the emperor’s own household troops – the Praetorian Guard.

The many functions fulfilled by the border zone – some concurrent, others successive – are precisely what make the Lower German Limes an indispensable contribution to the river frontier of the FRE WHS.

Criterion (ii): The frontiers as a whole reflect the development of Roman military architecture and the impact of the frontier on the growth of transport routes, and urbanisation.

The Lower German Limes formed part of the frontier throughout the entire existence of the Roman Empire and as such reflects the development of Roman military and related civilian facilities and infrastructure from its earliest beginnings in the last decades BC until the mid 5th century (the building programmes of the Roman emperors from Augustus to Valentinian III). It is also illustrative of the development of all successive phases of its military strategy from a period of conquest through a phase of stabilization and forward defence and ultimately to a system of defence-in-depth. In addition, its built legacy served as a backbone that shaped early medieval civil and religious infrastructure.

Criterion (iii): The Roman frontier is the largest monument of the Roman Empire, one of the world’s greatest preindustrial empires. The physical remains of Limes, forts, watchtowers, settlements and the hinterland dependent upon the frontier reflect the complexities of Roman culture but also its unifying factors across Europe and the Mediterranean world.

Unlike the Roman monuments already inscribed, the Roman frontier constructions are evidence from the edges of the Empires and reflect the adoption of Roman culture by its subject peoples. The frontier was not an impregnable barrier: rather it controlled and allowed the movement of peoples within the military units, amongst civilians and merchants, thus allowing Roman culture to be transmitted around the region and for it to absorb influences from outside its borders.

The Lower German Limes is a part of the frontier, which is throughout the entire existence of the Roman Empire, with an unbroken occupation.  It summarises all elements that the military occupation could encompass, from legions in early and late forms to regular as well as irregular auxiliaries in addition to the fleet. It is also a good example of a river frontier with exceptional (underground) preservation of wooden riverine infrastructure such as quays and ships.

Criterion (iv): The Frontier reflects the power and might of the Roman Empire and the spread of classical culture and Romanisation which shaped much of the subsequent development of Europe.

As a river frontier which – in the delta area as well as the lower Rhine terrace upstream – has always remained a wetland with superior conservation conditions, the Lower Rhine limes exhibits unique testimonies of water management strategies and constructions, in addition to holding an extremely varied dataset encompassing organic materials and artefacts bearing unique information on frontier life and on vanished traditions such as notably that of river boat building.

Déclarations d’authenticité et/ou d’intégrité

Authenticity: The archaeological remains are fully authentic and they are preserved either undisturbed or well conserved. The full variety of features from the military infrastructure is represented.

Integrity: Because the Lower German Limes was never a closed line, the nomination does not need to be a closed line either, while the integrity can still be shown to be excellent. This gives considerable freedom in strategically choosing parts to be included in the nomination and determining the buffer zones on the basis of not only preserved archaeological remains but also feasibility from a spatial planning perspective and conservation options.

Justification de la sélection de l’élément/des éléments constitutif(s) en relation avec la future proposition d’inscription dans son ensemble

The selection of the component parts of the Lower German Limes is according to the Koblenz Declaration of 2004 and also to the following aspects of

  • a representation of all elements of the Roman Frontier, to illustrate the great diversity
  • the Time depth, to illustrate the long period of use, and
  • Preservation, to illustrate the exceptional preservation conditions that are the reason why certain types of sites constructed from wood and other organic material, have survived here.

The Lower German Limes as part of the FRE WHS consists of the line of the frontier at the height of the empire from Trajan to Septimius Severus, and military installations of different periods which are on that line. The installations include f.e. legionary camps, fortresses, forts, towers, the limes road, burgi, water management elements, military industrial facilities, artificial barriers and immediately associated civil structures.

Comparaison avec d’autres biens similaires

The Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site is a serial nomination for which the participating States Parties have agreed that all component parts should have OUV. This means that the overall Frontier will eventually be represented by a series of components that will each display particular and significant characteristics of the Frontier, and together the components as a series will show how the Frontier reflected substantial and distinctive responses to local topographical and political conditions as well as the unifying forces of the Empire.

For the German part of the Lower German Limes, the emphasis is on the interaction of the various levels of garrisons and the army’s involvement in mining, industry, logistics and building activity.