The Trip
The Saalburg II
Cologne II
Southwestern Black Forest
Schwäbisch Hall  Berlin

Tracing Roman Germania 1999
Tracing Roman Germania 2003 in the works
Ancient Rome as seen in the year 2001

entrance to the fort, statue of Antoninus Pius

including 2002

BAD HOMBURG       The Saalburg,  2002

entrance to the ParkhotelAs I wrote in 1999, I would go back to the Saalburg, and I did. This time I stayed in Bad Homburg itself, at the excellent Parkhotel, across from the Kurpark and a block from the main – and cosmopolitan – shopping street, the Louisenstraße.

Friedrich III Kaiserin Friedrich

Bad Homburg is a spa close to Frankfurt. After the region became Prussian territory after the Prussian-Austrian War in 1866, it was the preferred residence of the Hohenzollern, starting with Kaiser Wilhelm I.  His son, Friedrich (Wilhelm) III and his spouse Victoria, daughter of Queen Victoria – later going by the name of Kaiserin Friedrich – spent a lot of time there. Their busts can be viewed in the Kurpark. Friedrich III died only 99 days after he assumed the crown upon his father's death, which left the empire in the hands of his son, Wilhelm II. Contrary to his father and his son, Friedrich was considered the hope and patron saint of the German liberals, which included the renowned historian Theodor Mommsen, and one can only speculate how world history would have progressed had Friedrich not died so untimely, leaving behind a son unprepared for his job.

In any case, the son, the Kaiser, also had a liking for Bad Homburg and made it his summer residence in 1888. He gave his patronage to the reconstruction of the Saalburg, the Roman castrum.

The Saalburg

Hadrian Denarius - 34-138 AD
Doug Smith

Hadrian Denarius
134-138 AD, Rome mint
ALEXANDRIA standing figure

Actually, the Hohenzollern interest in the site goes back to the grandfather, Kaiser Wilhelm I.  The Kaiser, Wilhelm II, himself was interested in history and archaeology – as many of his princely contemporaries. The original, but short lived, aim was to build a Limes museum at the site. In 1892 the Reichslimeskommission (typical German tongue breaker smiley), the Imperial Limes Commission, had been founded at the instigation of Theodor Mommsen, and heralded the extensive Limes research which is still ongoing. Instead of building the museum, it was decided to reconstruct the camp itself, and thus the first archaeological park was born.

To give the much maligned Kaiser his due: While he apparently did supervise the project, he only interjected himself on the subject of the crenellated wall. He insisted on shorter distances between the crenels, as he had seen in medieval fortifications.

Rather, it was the pageant of nationalistic pomp and circumstance which he created in 1900 for the laying of the foundation stone of the first building, the praetorium, that made him the ridicule of the world. For German speakers, here is a hilarious description of the event:  “ Sie muß den Kaiser auf der Saalburg sehen” - Die Feier zur Grundsteinlegung des wiedererrichteten Römerkastells am 11. Oktober 1900. Theodor Mommsen wisely chose not to attend. A commemorative exhibition was still present in the principia while I visited this year, and I chuckled my way through it.

The museum has a great and handsomely illustrated commemorative companion book for sale, which in addition traces the entire history of the Saalburg and has chapters on Roman life and the military, even on food and recipes: Hundert Jahre Jahre Saalburg: Vom römischen Grenzposten zum europäischen Museum, edited by Egon Schallmeyer, the State Archaeologist of the Hessen. It also contains critical essays on the nationalistic exploitation of the Saalburg project, and describes a commercialization which would have equaled the likes of tody's Disney World!

As I wrote in my 1999 travelogue, there were two consecutive camps, the first one a timber fortlet founded under Domitian. Then, under Hadrian, a stone fort was built, large enough to hold an entire cohort. Outside, there was the usual vicus. As everywhere, the fort served as a convenient quarry for later generations, until the place attracted attention again in the 18th century. Extensive archaeological excavations began in the middle of the 19th century under L. and H. Jacobi. Louis Jacobi was also in charge of the reconstruction and later became the museum's first director.

Addendum 2009: With regard to the early archaeology of the Saalburg, the truly historical photos online which I found online have unfortunatelydisappeared in cyberspace. Wikipedia now has a Saalburg page.

The bus to the park still goes only every two hours, but this time, since I was staying in Bad Homburg, I had more time – among noisy school kids thoroughly enjoying themselves, 5th graders, I think…Here are some of my photos.

The museum – if I remembered correctly – has added more exhibits since my last visit, as usual extremely well put together and quite educational as befits an archaeological park: painstaking assemblages and recreations of the origins of the fort, a history of the Roman Empire and its northern borders, depictions of daily life, etc.

I explored the vicus around the castellum, which can be visualized through its foundation remains, including a mansio and the cohort baths, and the many wells from which a lot of the artifacts in the museum have come. There are also outer fortifications and a palisade wall. I missed the latter because access was barred by a large fallen tree. I wanted to visit the model of the mithraeum near the fort, but it was locked, and unfortunately there was no staff available to take me there. For more details on the Saalburg layout, please go to my 1999 report. Since I visited the website of the museum last, the German language site has designed a nice interactive page.

I had an excellent lunch at the nearby historic Landgasthaus Saalburg. This had been built in 1872, with later expansions, to accommodate early tourists, who included Friedrich III and his family. It has been lovingly restored by the present owners. Here is a photo I took. (Addendum 2005: If find that the place has been sold, but I cannot find any details.)

Then on to Berlin…

© Irene B. Hahn 2002

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