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Situated at a widening of the Moselle valley, this site was settled in the pre-Roman period by mixed Celtic-Germanic tribes of the Treveri. The town was the point from which three ancient highways spread out to meet the Rhine at Cologne, Coblenz, and Mainz. Owing to the natural mountain barriers of Hunriick and Eifel, it lay sheltered from surprise attack. During his sojourn in Gaul in 15-13 B.C., Augustus showed particular favor to the town, which subsequently took the name Augusta Treverorum. Under Claudius, it maintained the aspect of an Italian city with the title colonia, an honorific without legal significance; thus one encounters at that period the designation Colonia Augusta Treverorum. At first it remained a purely civilian settlement, divided into rectangular blocks of dwellings (insulae) and covering an area of ca. 81 ha. It was the seat of the imperial fiscal authority for three provinces, Procurator Provinciarum Belgicae et Utriusque Germaniae (CIL III, 5215), and because of its advantageous position, it became a supply center for the armies of the Rhine and outposts on the limes.

Trade and industry were able to develop undisturbed; among its manufactures, pottery took the lead. Remains of richly decorated houses and palaces, the amphitheater, the St. Barbara baths, temples, and the large number of mosaic floors, wall paintings, and architectural fragments, as well as innumerable minor archaeological finds, all bear eloquent witness to the town's econumic prosperity. Also, native sculptors produced works of outstanding quality.

Only toward the end of the 2d c. A.D. was the city surrounded by a solid fortification wall. The best-preserved and best-known city gate from that period is the Porta Nigra in the N section of the enceinte. The city suffered from the attack of the Franks and Alemanni in 275-76 and its prosperity declined sharply.

With the imperial reforms of Diocletian, the city assumed a new role. In 293, Constantius I made it his imperial seat, a distinction well suited to its situation—protected, yet favorable to trade, and nearly equidistant from the Rhenish border centers of Cologne and Mainz. Constantius immediately expanded his residence, which soon was simply called Treveri or Treveris. Under his son and successor Constantine the Great the imperial palace quarter came into being, to which belong the Late Roman core of the cathedral, the Aula Palatina (the so-called basilica), and the imperial baths, all still visible. To make room for this, some of the existing streets and buildings (for instance, the peristyle villa under the imperial baths and the older palace under the so-called basilica) were obliterated. Near the Roman harbor on the Moselle were extensive warehouses. After a period of political setbacks, the city enjoyed renewed prosperity under Valentinian I (364-75) and his son Gratian (375-83).

The city was the seat not only of an imperial court but also of the Prefecture of Gaul, stretching over W Europe from the Scottish border to the Rhine, S to the S coast of Spain, and including Mauretania Tingitana on the NW coast of Africa. At its head was the Praefectus Praetorio Galliarum. In addition to many other institutions, the city possessed a university, a mint, workshops for gold- and silversmiths, and state textile mills. The imperial residence exercised a strong attraction: Lactantius, and later Ausonius, came there as imperial tutors at the court.

The Christian community was important also. On the N end of the imperial palace precinct Constantine the Great had built two large churches, parallel to one another. Bishop Leontius of Trier was primate of the Gallic church. Among important churchmen in residence during the 4th and 5th c. were Athanasius, the Church Fathers Jerome and Ambrose, and Bishop Martin of Tours. Toward the end of Roman rule the city had at least eight churches. From the necropoleis over 800 Early Christian inscriptions have been collected so far. A glassworks manufactured souvenirs for Christian pilgrims, and a sculpture workshop turned out sarcophagi carved with stories from Scripture. Christian symbols and inscriptions appear also on coins and on small utensils of all sorts. For about a century, the imperial residence experienced a period of glory as the spiritual and political center of W Europe, and enjoyed the fame of a major capital, reaching its largest extent in the 4th c. A.D. with a population of over 80,000 on ca. 285 ha. About 395 the court moved to Milan, and the prefecture to Arles.

Roman bridges led over the Moselle to the part of the city that lay on its E bank. In 1921 traces were discovered of a bridge on pilings, which may well be identical with the one mentioned by Tacitus (Hist. 4.77). It was succeeded by a stone bridge, built a little way upstream from it in the second half of the 2d c. A.D. and still in use, though restored. This bridge opened upon the E-W axis of the street grid, the decumanus maximus, which originally led to the amphitheater but was later blocked by the forum and the imperial baths. This brought into prominence the next E-W street to the S, which led W past the forum and imperial baths and terminated at the St. Barbara baths near the Roman bridge. The latter bath complex, once 240 m long from N to S and approximately 170 m broad, was built ca. mid 2d c. A.D, and remained in use until the end of Roman rule. Of the whole luxuriously equipped series of rooms, today only the SE part is visible in ground plan: frigidarium (incomplete), tepidarium, and caldarium, with adjoining anterooms to the E. From the richly decorated N facade of the frigidarium survives, among other items, a Roman copy of Phidias' Amazon. Subterranean service corridors allowed the business of bathing to proceed smoothly above. On the N side of that same E-W street lay the imperial baths (ca. 260 x 145 m), begun at the start of the 4th c. In sequence E to W was the triple-apsed caldarium—still standing to a height of 19 in—the tepidarium, frigidarium, and palaestra, which was bounded on three sides by colonnades. On both sides of the main axis were anterooms, symmetrically arranged. The W facade was emphasized midway by a weighty portal with three entrances. Subterranean service corridors and drainage channels, partly two-storied, connected the whole complex which was, however, never completed or used. Under Valentinian it was rebuilt and used for other purposes. The W part of the baths has now been excavated and is preserved in such a way that nearly the whole extent of the construction is visible. In the course of these excavations, the remains of overbuilding from the 1st to the 3d c. were found, including a palatial private house with wall paintings and mosaics.

The imperial baths form the S termination of the palace quarter, which stretches N over a natural terrace ca. 700 m long. In the center of this complex is the Constantinian Aula Palatina (so-called basilica), the imperial audience hall. It is a simple but impressive rectangular chamber with a large apse embracing practically all of one end. Its interior length is 67 m, width 27.5 m, height 30 m. In front of its S face there was originally an elongated, narthex-like transverse forehall, also 67 m long and with an apse at the W; thus the Aula originally had a T-shaped ground plan. The immense wall surfaces were articulated on the exterior by high arcades, in which two rows of nine windows each were set; the apse had two rows of four windows each. Beneath each row ran exterior galleries, reached by spiral staircases in the walls. The heated marble-paved floor and the marble-revetted walls, as well as gold-glass mosaics in the seven wall niches, exemplified the richness of the building's interior decoration, while clever exploitation of perspective effects made its imposing dimensions appear even greater. Beneath Constantine's Aula Palatina and built on the same axis are the remains of an older, single-naved apsidal hall, apparently part of the old palace complex of the Procurator Provinciarum Belgicae et Utriusque Germanlae.

The N end of the imperial palace precinct was marked by two Early Christian basilicas, placed parallel to each other with a large baptistery between, the whole complex begun in A.D. 326. The S church (today the Liebfrauenkirche) was soon completed and already in use in 330. Construction of the significantly larger N church, the Early Christian Bishop's church (today the Cathedral), took longer. Both churches have flat E ends with side chambers; that of the N church was extended in the 4th c. and several times remodeled. Over the E part of the foundation of the rectangular Constantinian building, which was destroyed by fire, Gratian had a new rectangular building erected; its walls are preserved today up to 30 m high in some places. In the S church fragments of ceiling painting have come to light. The chancel of the E choir was altered several times and in the plaster of two of the three chancel walls, Christian graffiti were discovered. From the baptistery also remains of a ceiling painting were recovered, geometric in design as in the S church.

Under the Constantinian N building has been found the coffered ceiling of a residential palace, finely painted. The portraits, over life-size and of high artistic quality, depict the mother of Constantine the Great, Flavia Helena, and the empress Fausta. This palace was demolished during Constantine's lifetime, and the double church complex built on its site.

Somewhat W of the parallel churches, the tree-lined cardo maximus led N to the Porta Nigra. This gate consists of the gatehouse and two flanking towers, which project in semicircles to the outside but on the city side are reflected merely in lightly emphasized corner projections. The great blocks of gray sandstone, laid without mortar, were originally bound by iron clamps fastened into the stones with lead. The front sides of the blocks show over 200 quarry marks. The gatehouse encloses a courtyard, which could be shut off on the outer side by two portcullises and on the city side by two gates. The towers had four stories in all, one story projecting above the gatehouse. Their ground floors were lighted only by narrow slots but, as in the gatehouse, the open galleries above have round-arched windows all around. The total length of the Porta Nigra (excluding choir apse) is 35 m, the width of the towers ca. 21.5 m and their height, now complete only in the W tower, ca. 29.5 m. In the Middle Ages the Porta Nigra was used as a church, the top story of the E tower having been removed and an apse added.

On the W fringes of the city, near the ancient harbor, lay horrea, built in the 4th c. A.D. Two parallel halls, originally two-storied, were separated by a loading alley 12 m wide, forming in toto a rectangle ca. 53 by 70 m.

On the continuation of the decumanus maximus at the E edge of the city lies the amphitheater, built ca. A.D. 100. The E part of its cavea was hollowed from the slope of the hill. The arena (75 x 50 m) has in its center a cross-shaped cellar, cut out of the living rock. In this was the machinery for a platform that could be lowered. Later the city wall was joined to the cavea, so that the N amphitheater entrance is now inside the wall, the S outside it. Consequently, the amphitheater also served as a city gate.

The sacred precinct in the Altbach valley near the imperial baths, like the Temple of Lenus Mars and the tribal Sanctuary of the Treveri on the opposite (E) bank of the Moselle, indicate that the town was a religious and political center for the Treveri. An outstanding archaeological collection is to be found at the Rheinisches Landesmuseum.


D. Krencker & E. Kruger, Die Trierer Kaiserthermen (1929)PI; W. Reusch, “Die Aula Palatina in Trier,” Germania 33 (1955) 180-210PI; id., “Die kaiserliche Palastaula,” Basilika-Festschrift (1956) 11-39PI; id., “Die Ausgrabungen im Westteil der Trierer Kaiserthermen (Grabungen 1960-61),” Germania 42 (1964) 92-126PI; id. “(Grabungen 1962-66)” 51.-52. RGKomm (1970-71) 233-82PI; K. Kempf, “Trierer Domgrabungen 1943-54,” Neue Ausgrabungen in Deutschland (1958) 368-79PI; id., “Untersuchungen und Beobachtungen am Trierer Dom 1961-63,” Germania 42 (1964)PI; id., “Grundrissentwicklung und Baugeschichte des Trierer Domes,” Das Münster 21 (1968) 1-32PI; id. & W. Reusch, Frühchristliche Zeugnisse (1965)PI; J. Steinhausen, “Das Trierer Land unter der römischen Herrschaft,” Geschichte des Trierer Landes (1964) 98-221MPI; H. Cüppers, Die Trierer Römerbrücken (1969)MPI; B. Gose, Die Porta Nigra in Trier (1969)PI; id., Der gallo-romische Tempelbezirk im Altbachtal zu Trier (1972)MPI; E. Wightman, Roman Trier and the Treveri (1970)PI; R. Schindler, Landesmuseum Trier (2d ed. 1971)PI.


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