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VINDONISSA (Windisch) Aargau, Switzerland.

Roman legionary camp and vicus just E of Brugg, at the confluence of the Aare, the Reuss, and the Limmat. The site, at the foot of a pass over the Jura, also dominated access to the Rhine 15 km to the N, and was thus a strategic crossroads. Three roads met here: the highway on the left bank of the Rhine via Augusta Raurica to Lake Constance, the road from the Rhone valley via Genava to Tenedo and the Danube, and that via Aquae Helveticae, Turicum, and Curia to Italy. When the Rhine was the frontier of the Empire, before A.D. 75 and again after 260, Vindonissa was vital in the communications system between the armies on the Rhine and the Danube. It also guarded that part of the Rhine frontier made vulnerable by the sharp bend of the river at Basel.

A fort was built here when the Rhine became a defense line under Tiberius, and the legionary camp at Oberhausen-Augsburg in Vindelicia was abandoned, probably ca. A.D. 16-17. It is possible that a small fort had existed since early Augustan times, but this is attested only by small finds. From A.D. 16 to 45-46 Vindonissa was occupied by the Legio XIII Gemina from Oberhausen; from 46 to 69 by the Legio XXI Rapax and two auxiliary cohorts, first the III Hispanorum and VI Raetorum, later the VII Raetorum equitata and the XXVI voluntariorum civium Romanorum. In A.D. 70 Vespasian, after defeating the adherents of Vitellius (Tac., Hist. 1.67-69), sent the Legio XI Claudia pia fidelis as the new garrison from Burnum in Dalmatia.

When the frontier was transferred from the Rhine to the Upper German Limes, Vindonissa lost its strategic importance. The legion probably left in 101, but the base continued to be manned by a detachment of Legio VIII in Argentorate. After A.D. 150 it apparently became part of the vicus Vindonissensium (CIL XIII, 5195, 5194 = Howald-Meyer nos. 265-266), but a statio of beneficiarii remained to guard the roads and bridges. About 260 it was refortified (CIL XIII, 5203 = Howald-Meyer no. 294) to an unknown extent, and occupied by troops ca. 260-70. Numismatic evidence indicates occupation throughout the 4th c. A smaller fortress was built on the spur between the Aare and the Reuss, just W of the legionary fort. An inscription mentions Valentinian I (CIL XIII, 5205).

This Castrum Vindonissense (Not. Gall. 9.5) is mentioned in the early 5th c. as the seat of a suffragan bishop, and bishops are attested in the 6th and 9th c. After the departure of the garrison, probably in A.D. 401, the vicus continued to flourish. Cemeteries of the Early Middle Ages have been found.

A ditch (20 m wide), going back to the Celtic oppidum indicated by the name Vindonissa, has been identified. It barred off the spur E of the site of the Roman fortress. The legionary camp was oriented to the S. Its irregular shape, with seven corners, arose partly from the terrain (area 221.7 ha). Inside it the principia were not in the center at the crossing of the main roads, but at the angle between them. The via decumana and via principalis (4 and 6 m wide without the porticos) ran straight through from gate to gate, crossing at right angles. There were three building periods. The two earlier ones (A.D. 14 to 25-30; 25-30 to 45, Legio XIII) had wooden structures, but in the third and main period (A.D. 45-69, Legio XXI) the camp was rebuilt in stone with some additions and alterations. In periods 1 and 2 the walls and gates were earth and timber, and in period 2 the fort was enlarged on the N.

In the stone fortress of the third period three main gates have been explored. The N and S gates (porta praetoria) were almost identical (3 and 3.5 m wide) and there were two towers (7 x 6.3 m); the W gate dates from the late 2d c. The walls were 3.5 m thick, and carried six towers of various types. Along the S and W walls ran double ditches (berm 1.3 m; ditches 7.8 and 4.8 m wide); the other sides were partly protected by the steep slopes. Among the buildings identified are the principia, baths, a hospital (?), an arsenal, a granary, two more storehouses, and the scant remains of what was probably a first period praetorium and sanctuary.

The rectangular principia (190 x 150 m), dated by building inscriptions to A.D. 47, consists of two open courts divided by a wall. The courts are surrounded on three sides by rows of small rooms (double row in the back), comprising the armories and a shrine. On the fourth side, across the via principalis, which was spanned by two monumental archways, was a basilica (95 x 20 m) with an apsidal tribune at each end. The baths (70 x 44 m) had frigidarium, tepidarium, and caldarium side by side on the long axis, with dressing-rooms on both sides of the cold baths and two sweating-rooms between the warm and the hot baths. The baths were decorated with wall paintings and floor mosaics (geometric, black and white). A granary (33.8 x 10.8 m) lay E of the N gate, with two rows of six pillars; farther E was an arsenal (41 x 33 m) with portico, vestibule, two lateral wings for carts, and a freestanding cella surrounded by pillars. The hospital (70 x 63.8 m) consisted of two concentric series of small identical chambers around a rectangular court. The praetorium of period 3, not certainly identified, was perhaps located, like the earlier one, in the corner W of the via decumana and N of the via principalis, opposite the principia.

The barracks were mostly oriented N-S, parallel to the decumanus, and comprised 10-12 contubernia. Four of the six houses of the military tribunes have been excavated, and two more identified on the via principalis sinistra. They vary in size (40 x 32 m, 49 x 39 m), and have open inner courts (12 x 7; 5.25 x 22 m) surrounded by porticos. The reduced function of the fort after A.D. 75 is reflected in the addition of a basilica to the baths, the reduction of the principia to smaller size, and the demolition of some barracks in order to build a large storehouse (81 x 43 m). After A.D. 150, when civilians took over the fort, the principia and baths were torn down, and some buildings remodeled for private use.

To the 3d c. fortifications (ca. 260) belong the stone walls and towers, and the monumental W gate flanked by polygonal towers (overall width 28.4 m). The gateway proper had a concave facade and three passageways (1.5; 6; 1.5 m). Inside the fort some barracks and possibly a new praetorium built on the axis of the 1st c. principia, have been investigated.

The 4th c. fort had three concentric ditches (8 m wide) in the area of the 1st c. E wall, barring off the tip of the spur between the Aare and the Reuss. The topographical distinction between the vicus and canabae is not clear as yet. The former was W of the legionary camp, the latter surrounding it to the S and E. Buildings outside of but connected with the 1st c. fort include an amphitheater (112 x 98 m; arena 64 x 51 m) with stone retaining walls and earth and timber seating arrangements; a forum (138 x 122 m) with a rectangular court surrounded on at least three sides by rows of small rooms; an aqueduct, partly subterranean, which comes from Birrfeld and is still functioning. The military cemeteries lay along the main roads, SW to Aventicum and NW to Augusta Raurica and Tenedo.

The dump at Vindonissa on the slope outside the N wall (ca. 200 x 16 m, 15 m deep), used A.D. 30-100 by the legionary camp, has produced remarkably well-preserved organic material such as wood, leather, ink, and plants. The Vindonissamuseum is in Brugg.


R. Laur-Belart, “Vindonissa, Lager und Vicus,” Römisch-Germanische Forschungen 10 (1935)MPI with bibl.; E. Ettlinger, RE IX A (1961) 82-105; H. R. Wiedemer, “Der Stand der Erforschung des römischen Legionslagers Vindonissa,” Jb. Schweiz. Gesell. f. Urgeschichte 53 (1966-67) 63-77MPI; C. M. Wells, The German Policy of Augustus (1972) 49-53; museum: C. Simonett, Führer durch das Vindonissamuseum (1947); reports & summaries: AnzSchweiz; ZSchwAKg; Jber. Gesell. Pro Vindonissa (1942-); Jb. Schweiz. Gesell. f. Urgeschichte passim & bibl. 54 (1968-69) 85-86; 56 (1971) 231; 57 (1972-73) 345; Veröffentlichungen der Gesellschaft Pro Vindonissa 1-7 (1942-70).


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