Collection

Roman Neuss

Novaesium, as Neuss was known in antiquity, is the oldest Roman military site on the Lower Rhine.

The Romans first set up a military camp in Neuss around 30 BC, and for the next 400 years life in the region was largely defined by the military. In this period the Romans achieved a civilizational infrastructure only matched by that in the modern era. The early camps in Novaesium were temporary fortifications of wood and earth that were used as base camps for military operations in Germania east of the Rhine River. Only after the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD and the end of the Roman expansion in the areas east of the Rhine was a sequence of camps erected with sturdy wooden buildings for stationing army units all year round. Around the camps a civilian settlement known as canabae legionis grew up, populated by the families of the soldiers along with merchants and craftsmen. In 43 AD a new camp was built directly where the Erft flows into the Rhine today to house first the 16th and then the 6th Legion with their auxiliaries, numbering around 6,000 soldiers each. The buildings were initially made of wood, but soon replaced by stone structures. In the late 19th century Constantin Koenen, an archaeologist from Neuss, excavated the camp in its entirety, thereby writing archaeological history. When the 6th Legion was moved to Xanten around 100 AD the 24 hectare fort was abandoned. A few decades later an auxiliary camp was built on the site to station a cavalry unit of some 500 men. Novaesium remained a Roman garrison well into the 4th century.