Frontiers of the Roman Empire (extension)

Date of Submission: 17/08/2011
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Education, Culture and Science
State, Province or Region:
Provinces of Zuid-Holland, Utrecht and Gelderland
Ref.: 5636
Word File Word File

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


N52 12 44 E4 23 52(most westerly point)

N51 51 55 E6 03 49 (most easterly point)

The Limes is the former frontier of the Roman Empire, a military zone consisting of roads, fortifications and civilian settlements. Three parts of the Limes, situated in England, Scotland and Germany, are jointly inscribed on the World Heritage List as 'Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site' (FRE WHS). The garrisoned river frontier of the Roman province of Lower Germany (Limes Germaniae inferioris) served as a link between Hadrian's Wall (in the United Kingdom) and the Upper German-Rhaetian Limes (in the Federal Republic of Germany). Both of these have been World Heritage sites since 1987 and 2005 respectively. Currently, the Limes Germaniae inferioris 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.

The Roman Empire was one of the greatest empires the world has known. Enclosing the Mediterranean Sea, it was protected by a chain of boundaries 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 was at its greatest extent. At various times, the Frontier consisted of a linear barrier, at other times of protected spaces, or in some cases an entire military zone.

In the 2nd century AD, the River Rhine formed the most north-westerly boundary of the Roman Empire in continental Europe.

Substantial remains survive to this day. They include the lines of the linear barrier, natural elements such as the sea and rivers, networks of military installations, and ancillary features such as roads on, behind and beyond the Frontier. They 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 and 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.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Roman Frontier as a whole has an extraordinarily high cultural value. It was the border of one of the most extensive civilisations in human history, which influenced the Western world and its peoples for many centuries. It significantly affected urbanisation and the spread of cultures among remote regions. The scope and extent of the Frontier reflect 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 to Roman civilisation.

The Frontier illustrates and reflects the complex technological and organisational abilities of the Roman Empire, which made it possible to plan, create and protect a boundary some 5,000 kilometres long 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 topographical features (such as rivers and sea) and to political, military and social circumstances, for instance through the construction of walls and embankments.

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 Limes Germaniae inferioris an exceptional river frontier.

Excessively wet conditions along the Rhine and throughout its delta made it necessary to adapt traditional engineering techniques. The construction of the Limes Germaniae inferioris demonstrates a form of ancient water management: the line of forts follows the bends in the Rhine. It is precisely this adaptive approach, coupled with the use of perishable materials such as wood, that makes the area so distinctive. Thanks to the damp sedimentary conditions in the Rhine delta, archaeological remains are well conserved in highly stratified layers. The Limes Germaniae inferioris is an excellent example of a wetland Limes. Furthermore, the area downstream from Wijk bij Duurstede has benefited from the fact that some time around 1000 AD - over several centuries - the lower Rhine shifted its course, preventing further erosion at a later stage.

Criterion ii: The Limes as a whole reflects the development of Roman military architecture and the impact of the Frontier on the growth of transport routes, and urbanisation.

Criterion iii: The Limes is the largest monument of the Roman Empire, one of the world's greatest preindustrial empires. The physical remains of the Limes, its forts, watchtowers and settlements and the hinterland dependent upon the Frontier reflect not only the complexities of Roman culture but also its unifying factors across Europe and the Mediterranean world.

Unlike the Roman monuments already inscribed, the Limes' constructions are evidence of the outermost edges of the Empire 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, among civilians and merchants, thus allowing Roman culture to be transmitted throughout the region and for it to absorb influences from beyond its borders.

Criterion iv: The Limes 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.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The Limes is well identified, understood and documented. The inscribed and nominated components together reflect the various responses of the Empire to local trade, political conditions and defence needs. Overall, the final series will convey the extraordinary complexity and coherence of the Limes as a whole, with its key regional and local characteristics. Individual components will reflect certain outstanding regional responses.

The inscribed component parts have a high degree of authenticity and those nominated in the future will be selected for precisely the same reason. [[In most cases all the components of location and setting will remain visible in the landscape.]] The materials and substance of archaeological remains will be well-conserved, as will extant and visible remains.

Although many Roman infrastructural works and constructions have disappeared as a result of natural processes and human activity, a considerable number are still extant - foundations, underground remains and evidence in the soil, none of which are visible at surface level. A certain amount of this material lies under the built environment, proving that the site has been continuously inhabited since Roman times. There are also many remains in rural areas. They are extremely vulnerable, given the site's high population density in both Germany and the Netherlands.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Frontiers of the Roman Empire 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 Dutch part of the Limes Germaniae inferioris, the emphasis is on the archaeological remains that evidence adaptation to the dynamic, wet conditions along the border and the excellent state of conservation of organic materials under the ground.