Located near the Moselle River, Trier was once one of the largest metropolises of the Roman Empire. The result of this is that many Roman traces can be found in this city. Many buildings or constructions such as baths, an amphitheater, Porta Nigra and columns or basilica give an image of authentic Rome. Why was Trier important to the Roman Empire? Which sights are worth a visit?
The importance of Trier
In the Roman Empire, Trier was known as Augusta Treverorum. The name means August city of the Triveri. The Triveri were a Belgian tribe of Germanic origin. About 80,000 inhabitants lived there around 300 AD. These inhabitants included local noblemen, craftsmen, Roman traders and the common people. With this large number of inhabitants it became the largest city in the north of the Alps. It was also the capital of the province of Belgica Prima.
Important trading place
Because it was close to the Moselle, trade was possible. It therefore became an important hub in trade between Italy and the Rhineland. This trade was not only possible due to the proximity of the river, but also due to the presence of Roman troops, which guaranteed the safety of the traders and residents. Moreover, prosperity in the area itself grew, which increased the demand for products.
Thanks to the presence of roads, demand could be met quickly. Prosperity was further fueled by the building of a bridge over the Moselle. The client for the construction of this bridge was Claudius. As trade increased, prosperity grew. They wanted to radiate this prosperity to underline the importance of the city. Large structures were built as a result, with the result that they can still be admired today.
Traces of the Romans in Trier
The arena was built, together with the city wall, around 160-200 AD. Because the access road to the city ran through the middle of the arena, it can be regarded as a kind of city gate. The amphitheater had room for 20,000 spectators. An amphitheater of this size indicated that Trier was an important city with a large population. Gladiator fights were organized in the amphitheater, but executions also took place. However, this function was lost after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. After the German invasions, the mighty amphitheater turned into ruins.
During the Middle Ages it came into the hands of the Kloster Himmerod, but since 1816 it has belonged to RheinlandPfalz, which had systematic archaeological excavations carried out. Today you can visit the amphitheater and get a nice picture of these types of buildings. In the summer they often perform there. Well worth a visit!
Source: Willie02, Pixabay Porta Nigra
The Porta Nigra is the gate that represented the north entrance to the city. Together with a city wall of 6 km long, it was built in 160-200 AD. The original Roman name of the gate is not known, but since the Middle Ages it has been called Porta Nigra, black gate. It got that name after small organisms in the stone caused a darkening of the white sandstone.
The stones used to build this gate came from the Trier area. They were secured with iron clamps. No cement was used. The Porta Nigra also often changed owners and functions throughout history. In 1973 the building was thoroughly restored.
In this museum you can get a nice overview of Trier’s Roman period. You will find a permanent collection supplemented with special exhibitions. For example, a Nero exhibition is planned for 2016. You can also go there for lectures or workshops.
Cathedral and Diocesan Museum
Next to the cathedral there is a museum where you can admire works of art from classical antiquity. The museum opened in 1988 and was originally Trier’s prison. In this museum you can enjoy the 70 square meter ceiling vault from a Roman residential palace.
Trier, a Roman city where one can find many thermal baths
The Barbarathermen are a monumental complex that was founded in the second century AD. It is the second largest thermal complex in the Roman Empire. It covers an area of more than four hectares and North African examples were taken into account when designing the swimming pools and bathing rooms. Marble was used and niches were designed as lake caves.
The city’s oldest thermal baths offered guests the opportunity to bathe and relax in plenty of luxury. The baths were partly heated and the two swimming pools offered guests more than just relaxation. The thermal baths were also a cultural center and one could find libraries, restaurants, shops and beauty salons there.
The thermal baths are located on the spot that was called St. Barbara in the Middle Ages. This was actually a suburb of Trier. It was therefore decided to name these thermal baths after this.
Source: Alias Franjomolitor, Flickr (CC BY-2.0) Imperial Baths
The Imperial Baths can also be visited. However, these thermal baths have always been in ruins because they were never finished.
At the beginning of the 4th century, Trier became the imperial residence from which everything was governed. For example, all decisions were taken from Trier for the areas of Gaul, Britannia and from the Iberian Peninsula to Mauritania. The fact that Trier became even more important was underlined by building many impressive buildings. Numerous imperial buildings, including the Imperial Baths, were designed and built.
The imperial baths were to become a large new complex of public baths. They were built just next to the older Barbarathermen. However, the ambitious project was halted under Emperor Constantine II. He focused more on the east and therefore ignored the west. The glory of Trier was somewhat damaged by this. But in 390 construction continued under Emperor Flavius Valentinian. However, the purpose of the building changed. He had part of it, the cold and lukewarm water bath, demolished to build a hall where he could receive guests or hold parades.
During the centuries that followed, the imperial baths often changed destination and owner. It was once part of a city wall, served as a residence for a noble family and partly turned into a castle. Still, the thermal baths are worth a visit!
Roman sights in the Trier area
In the middle of Igel, a neighboring village of Trier, stands a sandstone column. The column was decorated with reliefs from Roman times. The column is more than 20 meters high and was commissioned by a wealthy family of tailors. It has been there since 250 AD. and is another example of the prosperity in Trier and the surrounding area. The column is located on the spot where a busy trade road used to run.
In Mehring and Longuich you can admire Roman villas. One can see remains of mosaics, ceiling and wall paintings and even a bath complex.
Antikencard: inexpensively following the Roman tracks
Because there are so many Roman things to admire, you can choose to purchase the Antikencard. There are four different types of Antique Cards.
Antikencard Basic costs the tourist 10 euros and allows you to visit two Roman buildings of your choice and discover the Landesmuseum. With the Antikencard Premium you can visit four Roman buildings for only 15 euros. In addition, with this card you can also visit the Landesmuseum, the Roman villa Otrang and Klause Kastel near Trier. In addition, the owner of the Antikencard Basic or Premium also receives a discount for the Simeonstift City Museum, the Roman toga walk through Trier, the Trier Cathedral Museum and the experiential tour of Porta Nigra, the amphitheater and the Frankenturm.
Groups were also considered. They can purchase the Antikencard Gruppe . This costs 8 euros and allows you to visit two Roman buildings and the Landesmuseum with a group of ten people or more. You must be careful to order this card in advance as it is only valid one week after purchase. The
Antikencard schule is offered for schools . This card costs 4 euros and has access to all Roman buildings and the Landesmuseum in a school group of ten people or more. Here too, you must order the card in advance as its validity only starts one week after purchase.
Where can one purchase this card?
This card is available at all Roman buildings, the Rheinische Landesmuseum and Trier Tourismus und Marketing GmbH.
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