© Jürgen Eigenbrod

Roman military camp on the Ehrlich

Short facts

  • Bad Ems
  • Roman Limes

A Roman military installation unique in Germany

Despite the size of several football fields, nothing can be seen of the camp on the surface after almost 2000 years of agricultural use. An information board in four languages has been set up next to the former main entrance so that the size of the camp and its outer enclosure can be easily understood. The information board shows the diverse approach of modern archaeology and where it was used in the camp area.

The text on the notice board at the site reads:

"1960 years ago you would have stood here 40 paces from the main entrance (porta praetorla) (10) of a Roman camp. The double gate, about 20 m wide, extended to the left side of the tarred path. The wood-and-earth camp was almost 8 hectares in size and is one of the largest Roman military installations in Rhineland-Palatinate. It was secured by a double pointed ditch with an earth wall behind it, which was probably stabilised with walls made of sod. Every 20 to 30 m there were wooden towers on four posts, in the rounded corners larger ones on six posts. The camp encompassed the southern plateau of the Ehrlich as far as its steep slope towards Bad Ems. There, near the Remy Bridge, one suspects the river harbour through which the camp was supplied. The inner area provided space for about 3,000 soldiers in tents or lightly built wooden shelters.

Jürgen Eigenbrod from the Verein für Geschichte, Denkmal- und Landschaftspflege Bad Ems e.V. (Association for History, Monument and Landscape Preservation) has been looking for traces of a Roman farm (villa rustica) on the Ehrlich since 2013. This stood on the site of the abandoned gravel pit, 200 m northwest of here (1). In 2016, while searching for further clues, he came across a suspicious growth disturbance in the field half-left of you. It was caused by two parallel, rounded weir ditches; they were the unmistakable clue to the northwest corner of the camp (2).An exploratory excavation by the State Archaeology of Rhineland-Palatinate in 2016 showed: the outer ditch was only slightly pronounced, the inner one an exemplary Roman pointed ditch. Its top is 1.80 m below the surface (3). In the geomagnetic prospection (5,8), the Friedrich- Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg contrasts the defensive ditches, gates, corner and intermediate towers and disturbances in the inner area. The latter was only partially investigated due to agricultural use and building development. Two teaching excavations by the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt a.M. in 2017 and 2018 revealed that the camp was built between 60 and 70 AD. A military base of this size and in this period (around 40 - 50 years before the construction of the Limes) on the right bank of the Rhine is singular. It probably served not only to secure the Lahn valley as a potential invasion route for the Germanic Chatti, but also in Rome's attempt to exploit the silver deposits in the region. Under Emperor Nero, the state finances got into difficulties. The end of the complex came abruptly, traces of battle are missing. The chaos of the Four Emperors' Year in 68 AD and subsequent uprisings may have prompted the Romans to withdraw and burn it down. Here and in the small Roman fort on the Blöskopf (about 2 km away on the other side of the valley), a largely identical spectrum of finds came to light, especially pottery. This indicates that the two sites were built at the same time. The small fort on the Blöskopf may have served to guard a mining district. You will find further clues on site.

The thanks of all involved go to Mr Werner Beisel for his advice and willingness to support the excavations on his lands."

On the map


56130 Bad Ems

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