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OBERADEN Kr.Unna, Land Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany.

One of the earliest Roman sites in Germany, the fortress lies on the S bank of the Lippe, about 80 km from the legionary headquarters at Xanten (Birten)-Vetera. Oberaden is one of the great military stations that served as a base of operations under the emperor Augustus, placed as far across the Rhine in the direction of the enemy as possible. The fortress (820 x 670 m) is irregular in plan. The four gates are not placed exactly opposite one another. The area enclosed, 54 ha, would have been sufficient to accommodate two legions with their baggage train. But it is also possible that only large detachments from individual legions were stationed there or even auxiliary units, which changed often according to the needs of the military situation.

The fortress was protected on all sides by a ditch, 4 m wide and over 2 m deep. Within this lay an earthen rampart, 2.3 m wide, which was supported on its inner and outer faces by timber uprights. (The narrow trenches in which these posts were set have been found.) In this earth and timber rampart stood wooden towers at intervals of 45 m. Little is known of the internal arrangements in the fortress, but recent excavations have demonstrated that, contrary to earlier views, the structures were normal wooden buildings, such as are found in Roman forts elsewhere.

The fortlet at Beckinghausen lies ca. 2 km W of the fortress on gently rising ground immediately S of the Lippe. It is 1.6 ha in extent, oval in plan, and surrounded by three V-shaped ditches, except on the river side. One is inclined to think of harbor installations and to imagine that goods brought by ship up the Lippe for the great fortress at Oberaden were unloaded here. That is possible, but it is also conceivable that Beckinghausen was a largely independent supply base that played a role in military activities farther up the Lippe. At any rate, both Oberaden and Beckinghausen were occupied for more than just a summer. At Beckinghausen a long period of occupation is proved by the fact that pottery kilns were constructed here to supply the needs of the garrison.

On the evidence of Cassius Dio (54.32ff) both forts could have been founded in 12 B.C. or later when Drusus, Augustus' stepson, began his campaigns from the Rhine against the inhabitants of the Lippe area. Coin types showing the altar at Lyons (Lugdunum), minted in 12 B.C. or more likely 10 B.C., are absent from the forts and so both may well have been given up soon after the death of Drusus (9 B.C.) when the military dispositions were radically changed.


C. Albrecht, ed., Das Römerlager in Oberaden, Veröffentlichungen aus dem Städtischen Museum für Vor- und Frühgeschichte Dortmund II,1 (1938); II,2 (1942); K. Kraft, “Das Enddatum des Legionslagers Haltern,” BonnJbb 155-56 (1955-56) 108f; H. Aschemeyer, “Neue Untersuchungen im Römerlager Oberaden,” Prähistorische Zeitschrift 41 (1963) 210ff; for plans see also Saalburg-Jahrbuch 19 (1961) 5,1; in general see H. Schönberger in “The Roman Frontier in Germany: an Archaeological Survey,” JRS 59 (1969) 144ff with map A.


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