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The Roman limes of the province of Raetia joins the limes Germaniae Superioris (q.v.) at Lorch in Württemberg. Then, running in a gentle curve N of the Danube, it bends round the S part of the present-day Middle Franconia and N Swabia. It reaches the Danube at the village of Hienheim and follows the river as far as the mouth of the Inn—that is, to the boundary of the province of Noricum. The adoption of this line does not date back beyond the end of the 1st c. AD—indeed part of it is not earlier than the middle of the 2d c. For at the beginning of the Roman occupation, no one thought of laying out a military frontier in this manner.

Before Drusus in 12 B.C. launched his attacks on Germania in the W, secure routes had to be opened across the Alps in the S. This led to the campaign of 15-14 B.C. in the Alps and the subjugation of the Alpine tribes. But on the approaches to the Alps we still know of no military site which belongs to these years. Only in the SW (outside the limits of the later province of Raetia) has a legionary fortress been found in recent years, that at Dangstetten in S Baden, which may be connected with the campaign of 15 B.C. Somewhat later, in the last years of Augustus' reign or the first years of Tiberius', a series of military posts was established a long way S of the Danube. We do not know how large most of these were, and their existence can often be presumed only from finds. The sites involved are: Bregenz, Kempten, Auerberg, Augsburg-Oberhausen, Lorenzberg bei Epfach, and Gauting.

The last legion was withdrawn from Vindelicia in 16-17 at the latest, and from then on no legion was stationed in this area for ca. 150 years. The province of Raetia was founded not later than A.D. 50. The Via Claudia was extended along the Lech to the Danube and soon afterwards the military posts mentioned above were moved up to the S bank of the Danube itself. Most of them, like the civil settlements in the hinterland, were totally destroyed in the upheavals of 69-70 (q.v. Limes Germanine Superioris). But this is clearly not true of all of them; for during the excavations of 1968-69 m the fort at Oberstimm, for example, not the slightest trace of destruction was encountered.

After the reorganization of the imperial frontiers by Vespasian, the forts that now lay immediately S of the Danube were rebuilt and remained occupied for some years. About A.D. 85 they were moved N across the Danube to the Schwäbische Alb. Soon afterwards the 200 km gap which had hitherto existed downstream from Oberstimm to Linz in Upper Austria was closed. In this connection the excavations that have been carried out in recent years at Künzing on the Danube have yielded important results. This fort showed evidence over-all of four successive building phases.

A number of Roman forts were built toward the end of the 1st c. far to the N of the Danube (at Munningen, Aufkirchen, and Unterschwaningen). Their purpose is at the moment obscure. The province of Raetia, like Upper Germany, attained its greatest extent under the emperor Antoninus Pius about the middle of the 2d c. Above all in W Raetia the forts were again moved forward some distance in order to link up with the limes in present-day Württemberg, which had similarly been moved forward at this time. As in Upper Germany, so too in Raetia, the actual frontier barrier consisted of a wooden palisade.

The province was comparatively quiet in the period 160-70, but some forts were destroyed in the wars against the Marcomanni. Böhming, for example, had to be rebuilt in A.D. 181, as a building inscription tells us. As a result of the Marcomannic wars, a legion, the Legio III Italica, was now stationed in the province for the first time in ca. 150 years. It took over the newly built fortress at Regensburg in A.D. 179. A number of well-preserved stretches of defensive wall are still visible today at various points in the city. Augsburg-Augusta Vindelicum remained the seat of the civil administration of the province.

The limes in Raetia, as in Upper Germany, was strengthened again at the beginning of the 3d c. if we accept the current view. Instead of the wooden palisade (which, by contrast, was not abandoned in Upper Germany) a wall was erected, about the height of a man, with interval towers bonded into it. The ruins of this barrier can still be seen on the ground in many places today. In the first three decades of the 3d c. there are no signs of violent destruction of the limes fortifications. The series of Alemannic invasions did not begin here until A.D. 233 under Severus Alexander. The fort at Pfünz was probably destroyed at that time and not rebuilt. Other forts may not have been finally given up until several years later. Among these one may cite as an example the fort at Künzing on the Danube limes in Bavaria, where in 1962 excavation brought to light a great hoard of weapons and iron tools and not far away a coin of 242-44. In the hinterland the last inscription from the W part of the province comes from Hausen ob Lontal and is dated to ca. 256. All the evidence points to the conclusion that here, as in Upper Germany, the last forts were finally evacuated under Gallienus (259-60).

From what we know today it was apparently the emperor Probus (276-82) who saw to the building of a Late Roman limes, and after him Diocletian and Valentinian I. The outer line of Late Roman forts ran from Lake Constance to the Iller, and along the Iller valley to the Danube, where it turned downstream.


H. Schönberger, “The Roman Frontier in Germany: an Archaeological Survey,” JRS 59 (1969) 144ff with maps


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