IRENE's TRAVELOGUE

JUNE/JULY 1999

TRACING ROMAN GERMANIA I

The Trip
Bad Ems
Bad Kreuznach
Köln/Cologne
Mainz
Saalburg
Trier
Xanten
Abtei St. Hildegard  Lennep  Remagen/Linz

MORE TRAVEL
Tracing Roman Germania 2002
Tracing Roman Germania 2003 in the works
Ancient Rome as seen in the year 2001

 

Gladiator panel, click here for more

photos

BAD KREUZNACH — VICUS CRUCINIACUM

My friends in Bad Ems surprised me with a Sunday trip to Bad Kreuznach, a spa on the Nahe river, north-west of Mainz, where they grew up. An old Roman settlement as so many in the region, it has its own museum. And what a marvelous little museum it is!

It centers around the remains of a Roman Villa, so large that a street runs right through it today. It's supposedly the only peristyle villa found in Germania Superior and surpasses all other excavated villas in size. The oldest written evidence dates back to 1772 as being an old, extensive Roman building, but it then disappeared and knowledge got lost until quite recently. Technical and financial difficulties have prevented preservation of the masonry work, and the site has been refilled with soil and the layout marked by stones and shrubs.

Oceanus, click here for picturesHowever, the villa's two mosaics floors have been preserved and are on view in the adjacent the museum. The first one, depicting gladiator and related scenes, the Gladiator Mosaic, was discovered in 1893 and had been preserved, including the hypocaust below it. The assumption of the archeologists is that this floor was part of a secondary dining hall. The second one, the Oceanus Mosaic, showing the Sea God Oceanus and ocean scenes, was accidentally discovered in 1966, after which the villa was finally systematically excavated. The Oceanus Mosaic had a fountain in its center, which has been reconstructed. From other finds it has been deducted that this floor was part of the triclinium of the villa.

The villa seems to have been built in the 2nd century CE, and the mosaics have been dated to the early 3rd century. In the 4th century is was converted into a fortress. [I'm utterly fascinated by these kinds of archeological datings.]

There are no ancient records of the villa, so one can only speculate as to the owners over the many years of its existence, considering its size, and especially after the sumptuous mosaics floors had been added. The villa was situated about a mile away from the actual settlement, secluded and otherwise luxuriously fitted too. So one can let one's imagination wander…

The adjacent museum, the Römerhalle, is a converted cow shed from a former surrounding large farm and now part of a park and art exhibition complex. Aside from the two mosaic floors, it has the usual display of pottery, glass, utensils, etc., as well as a Jupiter column and several tombstones, among them the well known tomb of Annaius, of a soldier, originating from nearby Bingerbrück. The strangest exhibit is a vitrine with Fluchtäfelchen or curse tablets, made of lead, found in the cemetery there. Here are examples:

“Data nomina hoec ad inferos”
“Nomina data legata ad inferos, per viru corripiant: Siloniam Secundum. Ille te sponsus procat, illum am”

I had never heard of curse tablets, but one of our reading group members kindly found an explanation for me. Unfortunately, the contrast on the tablets I saw was too poor to get a good photograph of them.

The number of these tablets found – 75 of them! – has led to the assumption that the settlement was a rather large one, since not everyone could have been feuding. Vicus Crucianicum (from a Celtic word) was established between 1 and 20 CE, as a small military post. By the time of Vespasian, it had become a prosperous town. From the tablets and the tomb stones, this must have been a rather cosmopolitan place: Romans from Italy, Celts from Gaul and the Alpine regions, Greeks, Thracians, Syrians, and natives from other Eastern parts of the Empire, among them veterans from the auxiliary units. There was a local pottery industry, and glass works may have existed too.

Bad Kreuznach is an attractive spa. As many other towns, it was heavily damaged during WWII, but again, many buildings have been restored. Here are some photos.

© Irene B. Hahn 1999

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