Lower Germanic Limes

The Lower Germanic Limes (German: Niedergermanischer Limes) is the former frontier between the Roman province of Germania inferior and Germania Magna. The Lower Germanic Limes separated that part of the Rhineland left of the Rhine as well as the Netherlands, which was part of the Roman Empire, from the less tightly controlled regions east of the Rhine.

The route of the limes started near the estuary of the Oude Rijn on the North Sea. It then followed the course of the Rhine and ended at the Vinxtbach in present-day Niederbreisig, a quarter in the town of Bad Breisig, the border with the province of Germania superior. The Upper Germanic-Rhaetian Limes then started on the opposite, right-hand, side of the Rhine with the Roman camp of Rheinbrohl.

The Lower Germanic Limes was not a fortified limes with ramparts, ditches, palisades or walls and watchtowers, but a river border (Lat.: ripa), similarly to the limites on the Danube and Euphrates. The Rhine Line was guarded by a chain of castra for auxiliary troops. It was laid out partly by Augustus and his stepson and military commander, Drusus, who began to strengthen the natural boundary of the Rhine from the year 15 A. D. The decision not to conquer the regions east of the Rhine in 16 A. D. made the Rhine into a fixed frontier of the Roman Empire. For its protection, many estates (villae rusticae) and settlements (vici) were established. The names and locations of several sites have been handed down, mainly through the ‘’Tabula Peutingeriana and Itinerarium Antonini.[1]

Together with the Upper Germanic-Rhaetian Limes, the Lower Germanic Limes forms part of the Limes Germanicus


As it runs along the Rhine the Lower Germanic Limes passes four landscapes with different topography and natural character. The southernmost and smallest portion, between the Vinxtbach and the area around Bonn still belongs to the Rhenish Massif, through which the river passes in a relatively narrow valley between the heights of the Westerwald and the Eifel Mountains. From roughly the area of Bonn, the Rhine valley opens into the Cologne Bay, which is bounded by the Bergisches Land, which hugs the river on the right-hand side, and the Eifel and High Fens to the southeast and east. The Cologne Bay has fertile loess soils and is characterized by a very mild climate. It is therefore little wonder that most of the rural vici and villae rusticae (farm estates) in Lower Germania were established in this area in Roman times. In the vicinity of the military camp of Novaesium, the Cologne Bay expands further into the Lower Rhine Plain, a river terrace landscape. Only a little west of today's German-Dutch border, roughly in the area of the legion camp of Noviomagus, the Lower Rhine Plain transitions into the watery marshland formed by the Rhine and Meuse and which finally ends at the North Sea in the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt delta.[2]

See also


  1. Tilmann Bechert, Willem J. H. Willems: Die römische Reichsgrenze von der Mosel bis zur Nordseeküste. Stuttgart, 1995, ISBN 3-8062-1189-2; Margot Klee: Grenzen des Imperiums. Leben am römischen Limes. Konrad Theiss Verlag, Stuttgart, 2006, ISBN 3-8053-3429-X, pp. 33–40.
  2. Ariw J. Kalis, Sabine Karg, Jutta Meurers-Balke, H. Teunissen-Van Oorschot: Mensch und Vegetation am Unteren Niederrhein während der Eisen- Und Römerzeit. In: Martin Müller, Hans-Joachim Schalles, Norbert Zieling (eds.): Colonia Ulpia Traiana. Xanten und sein Umland in römischer Zeit. Zabern, Mainz, 2008, ISBN 978-3-8053-3953-7, pp. 31–48; Renate Gerlach, Thomas Becker, Jutta Meurers-Balke, Irmela Herzog: Das Rhein-Limes-Projekt. Wo lag der Rhein zur Römerzeit? In: Andreas Thiel (ed.): Neue Forschungen am Limes. 4. Fachkolloquium der Deutschen Limeskommission 27/28 February 2007 in Osterburken. Theiss, Stuttgart, 2008, ISBN 978-3-8062-2251-7, (= entries on the World Heritage Site of the Limes, 3), pp. 9–17; Tilmann Bechert, Willem J. H. Willems: Die römische Reichsgrenze von der Mosel bis zur Nordseeküste. Stuttgart, 1995, ISBN 3-8062-1189-2.


  • Tilmann Bechert: Germania inferior. Eine Provinz an der Nordgrenze des Römischen Reichs. Zabern, Mainz, 2007, ISBN 978-3-8053-2400-7.
  • Tilmann Bechert, Willem J. H. Willems: Die römische Reichsgrenze von der Mosel bis zur Nordseeküste. Stuttgart, 1995, ISBN 3-8062-1189-2.
  • Tilmann Bechert: Römisches Germanien zwischen Rhein und Maas. Die Provinz Germania inferior. (Edition Antike Welt, 4). Hirmer, Munich, 1982, ISBN 3-7774-3440-X.
  • Julianus Egidius Bogaers, Christoph B. Rüger (eds.): Der niedergermanische Limes. Materialien zu seiner Geschichte. Rheinland Verlag, Cologne, 1974, ISBN 3-7927-0194-4.
  • Michael Gechter: Die Anfänge des Niedergermanischen Limes. In: Bonner Jahrbücher. 179, 1979, pp. 1–129.
  • Michael Gechter: Early Roman military installations and Ubian settlements in the Lower Rhine. In: T. Blagg, M. Millett (eds.): The early Roman empire in the West. 2. Auflage. Oxford Books 2002, ISBN 1-84217-069-4, S. 97–102.
  • Michael Gechter: Die Militärgeschichte am Niederrhein von Caesar bis Tiberius. Eine Skizze. In: T. Grünewald, S. Seibel (eds.): Kontinuität und Diskontinuität. Die Germania inferior am Beginn und am Ende der römischen Herrschaft, Beiträge des deutsch-niederländischen Kolloquiums in der Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen, 27. bis 30.6.2001. De Gruyter, Berlin, 2003, pp. 147–159 (Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde, Ergänzungsband 35).
  • Heinz Günter Horn (ed.): Die Römer in Nordrhein-Westfalen. Theiss, Stuttgart 1987; Lizenzausgabe. Nikol, Hamburg, 2002, ISBN 3-933203-59-7.
  • Anne Johnson: Römische Kastelle des 1. und 2. Jahrhunderts n. Chr. in Britannien und in den germanischen Provinzen des Römerreiches. Zabern, Mainz, 1987, ISBN 3-8053-0868-X (Kulturgeschichte der antiken Welt, Vol. 37).
  • Margot Klee: Grenzen des Imperiums. Leben am römischen Limes. Konrad Theiss Verlag, Stuttgart, 2006. ISBN 3-8062-2015-8. pp. 33–40.
  • Hans Schönberger: Die römischen Truppenlager der frühen und mittleren Kaiserzeit zwischen Nordsee und Inn. In: Bericht der Römisch-Germanischen Kommission. 66, 1985, pp. 321–495.

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