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COLO´NIA AGRIPPI´NA or AGRIPPINENSIS, or simply AGRIPPI´NA (Cologne, as the French and English call it; Cöln, and Köln, as the Germans call it), a town on the left bank of the Rhine on the Roman road, which ran from Augusta Rauracorum (Angst near Bâle) past Strassburg, Worms, Mainz, Bingen, Coblenz, and Bonn. The road was continued on the left bank of the Rhine from Cologne, through Novesium (Neuss), Colonia Trajana (Kellen near Cleves), Noviomagus (Nymegen), and thence to Lugdunum (Leyden). The position is determined by the Itineraries and by the name. There are also medals of Colonia Agrippinensis, and the name occurs on inscriptions.

This town was originally called Oppidum Ubiorum (Tac. Ann. 1.36), and it was the chief town of the Ubii, a German nation. The Ubii were on the east side of the Rhine in Caesar's time; but under Augustus they removed across the Rhine under the protection of M. Vipsanius Agrippa, to escape from the attacks of their neighbours the Catti. Agrippina, the wife of Claudius and the daughter of Germanicus Caesar, who was born at the Oppidum Ubiorum while her father commanded in these parts prevailed on her husband (A.D. 51) to send a colony of veteran soldiers there, and from that time the place had her name. (Tac. Ann. 12.27; Strabo, p. 194.) The Agrippinenses were made Juris Italici (Paulus, Dig. 50. tit. 15. s. 8), that is, the place had the Jus Italicum, which was a great privilege; but it does not appear whether it was conferred at the time of the colonisation or afterwards. An inscription in Gruter (p. 436) shows that it was also called Colonia Claudia Augusta Agrippinensium. Tacitus (Germ. 100.28; Hist. 4.28) observes that the Ubii were willingly called Agrippinenses, from the name of their founder (conditoris sui), as if Agrippa founded the colony, though, in the passage already cited, Tacitus ascribes the foundation of the colony to Agrippina, or to her interest at least. (See the note of Lipsius on this passage.)

Cologne is well placed for a large town, being just below the point where the flats of the Netherlands commence, in a fertile country, and forming a convenient place of transit between the countries on the east and west sides of the Rhine. Its position on the German frontier involved it in trouble during the insurrection of Civilis, whom the people at length joined. The Transrhenane Germans were jealous of Cologne, which had grown rich. (Tacit. Hist. iv. 28.) The Colonia was protected by a wall, which the rude Germans on the other bank of the Rhine considered a badge of slavery. The Roman settlers and the Germans in the place had intermarried. The town had a transit trade, which was burdened with duties; and probably the people levied tolls on the boats that went up and down the river (Tac. Hist. 4.63-65), an obstacle to commerce which long existed on the Rhine.

Cologne became the chief town of Germania Secunda or Inferior. Aulus Vitellius was at Cologne, as governor of the Lower Germania, when he was proclaimed emperor by the soldiers. (Sueton. Vitell. 100.8.) There was a temple of Mars at Cologne, in which a sword was hung up, that was said to have been the sword of Divus Julius. Vitellius went about the most crowded streets of Cologne with this sword in his hand, when he was proclaimed emperor, and carried it off with him. But he sent the sword with which Otho killed himself, to be dedicated in the temple of Mars at Cologne. (Vitell. 100.10.)

Trajan was also at Cologne when Nerva died A.D. 98, and he assumed the imperial insignia there. (Oros. 7.12.) Ammianus (15.11) mentions Cologne under the name of Agrippina, and Tungri (Tongern), as large and rich cities of Secunda Germania. The place was taken by the Franks, but was recovered by Julian about A.D. 356, at which time it was a strongly fortified place. It is also mentioned by Zosimus (1.38), under the name of Agrippina, as a very large city. In the Notitia it is called “Metropolis civitas Agrippinensium.”

The Roman remains of Cologne consist of what is called the Pfaffenporte, supposed to be the old Porta Claudia, with the inscription C. C. A. A., and some remains of the walls. Many statues, sarcophagi, and other Roman remains have been found there. Some authorities speak of traces of a subterranean passage from Cologne to Trèves, which is an absurd fiction. There was a Roman road from Augusta Trevirorum to Cologne, the line of which appears to be indicated plain enough in some parts by the directions and position of the modern road. The old town of Cologne was that which was surrounded with walls by the Romans, and until near the close of the twelfth century was called the “civitas intra coloniam.” The circuit of the ancient Colonia is described by Gelenius (De admiranda sacra et civili magnitudine Coloniae, Col. 1645, 4to.; referred to by Eichhorn). About A.D. 1180 a new wall inclosed the suburbs.

Cologne was made a Roman city “juris Italici,” which means that the municipal government and a limited jurisdiction in civil matters were in the hands of the city magistrates, whether they were called Duumviri or by any other name, and of an Ordo (Curia). The criminal jurisdiction and the jurisdiction in more important civil matters were in the hands of the Consularis or governor of Germania Secunda, whose residence was at Cologne. It seems a very reasonable conjecture that this important city never entirely lost its original constitution, and that its municipal system as it existed in the middle ages, as they are called, is of Roman original. Though this cannot be proved, it is shown to be very probable by Eichhorn (Ueber den Ursprung der Städtischen Verfassung in Deutschland, Zeitschrift für Geschicht. Rechtswissenschaft, Band ii). The place fell into the hands of the Franks in the first half of the fifth century, A. D.; and if it be true that the Roman general Aëtius recovered it, as some assume, the Romans did not keep it, for Childeric, the father of Chlodowig, had possession of the place. He spared the fortifications of Cologne, though he destroyed those of Trèves. It was the residence of the Frankish kings in Chlodowig's time, and is often mentioned in Frankish history as a strongly fortified place. It is well known that, as a general rule, the Franks allowed their Roman subjects to retain their own law, and it necessarily follows that they must have allowed them, to some extent at least, to retain the Roman institutions, without which the Roman law could not have been applied. Cologne was the first large Roman town that the Frankish kings got possession of, and there were reasons sufficient why they should allow this ancient and powerful city to retain its municipal constitution; and it is difficult to think of any reasons why they should destroy it. The investigation of this subject by Eichhorn is highly interesting.


hide References (4 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (4):
    • Tacitus, Annales, 12.27
    • Tacitus, Annales, 1.36
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 4.65
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 4.63
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