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The world of the living and the kingdom of the dead were clearly separated, and both religious views and sacred legal prescriptions demanded this. According to the Graeco-Roman tradition, the afterlife was a rather non-descript shadowy existence, apart from the lucky few who gained access to Elysium. The spirits of the dead (manes) needed to be mollified through regular memorial services conducted by the family on various feast days, as well as by repeated individual commemorations by as many of the living as possible. This was achieved (i.a.) by reading (frequently aloud) the grave inscriptions that named the dead, and the closer graves were to busy roads, or the larger an inscription’s associated grave monument was, the more likely it was to attract the desired attention. As a result, from the 1st century BC onwards, we see the development of extensive roadside necropolises along major highways, first in Italy, but soon after also in the provinces.If these commemorative acts were abandoned then, according to ancient reasoning, the dead were likely to return, to exact revenge on the living. Some concepts of the afterlife would also see the grave as the new home of the dead (domus aeterna) and, in either case, their peace needed to remain undisturbed. The grave was thus a sacred space (locus religiosus) and, as such, it benefited from the protection of religious law (ius pontificale).
All these ideas assumed that each grave was readily identifiable above
ground as a monumentum sepulcri. The term ‘Monument’ was originally used of any kind of marker, and not restricted
to what we would now regard as a monumental or built structure. The term was
even applied to the cemeteries of the poorest, as an inscription scratched
in broken Latin on a tile from Carnuntum (Pannonia) shows: litera nula docket nomen causanque – "who and why (s)he is buried here is not attested by a single letter".
Amongst the almost 20,000 graves that have so far been excavated in the province of Germania Inferior, there is only a handful where we have any idea what they originally looked like above ground. Likewise we do not have a single grave where architectural fragments from grave monuments can be securely associated with an excavated cremation or inhumation. Such specificity is also extremely rare in the neighbouring provinces. For example, at the villa of Duppach in the Saarland (Gallia Belgica), the monuments were demolished and their reusable building materials removed. The cemetery was later used as a ploughed field, and erosion along with other factors have all contributed to poor survival of the remains, as they did elsewhere. In densely occupied cemeteries that remained in use over a long time, the original presence of grave markers can be deduced from the absence of intersecting graves. There are, however, sites such as the Jakobstrasse cemetery in Cologne, where several older graves were overlain and disturbed by later burials, in this case apparently after just a few decades (Friedhoff 1991, 38).
The simplest and probably the most common marker was a small mound of the earth, possibly mixed with the pyre remains. A stone (or more commonly wooden) stele (cippus) would normally have recorded the name of the dead. Post settings, which are probably the remains of simple wooden markers, have been found at the fortlet cemetery of Neuss-Reckberg (Kaiser 1991).
On a narrow definition, the term ‘grave monument’ would take in stone grave markers (be they more or less opulent and impressive) in which worked and sculpted architectural elements were used. A rather broader definition would also include enclosures with grave groups. Grave monuments normally marked family cemeteries, which could be grouped around a more prominent ‘founder’s grave’. The central element of any grave monument was its inscription (titulus).
One result of the civil wars of the late Roman Republic was a need by the city’s leading oligarchy to find a lasting form in which to flaunt their (and their family’s) achievements and status. This was taken far beyond their duty to honour the ancestors and maintain the cult of the dead (pietas). As a result, tombs of increasing monumentality and variety were developed, on the lines of Hellenistic funerary temples, and a social competition began along the roadside necropolises of Italy to display the most ostentatious funerary monuments. Apart from a few regulating measures, there were no cemetery by-laws to limit the display of grave architecture. Generally speaking, therefore, the only limits to ambition were financial resources, taste and the availability of suitable real estate. To show opulence in funerary commemoration was basically allowed to all parts of the population, and the ‘nouveau riches’ (especially freedmen) soon adopted this type of display. Excessively opulent self flaunting (ostentatio) with regard to the size of a monument or the land it required could sometimes attract ridicule, as in Petronius´ cena Trimalchionis or the Satires of Horace (1, 8, 10 f.), but it had no administrative/governmental repercussions. As a result, there is only a limited correlation between the size of a monument and the status of the deceased (Eck 2001). It was perfectly possible for an eminent member of society, e.g. the twice consul Sextus Iulius Frontinus, to decide against a large monument on philosophical reasons (Pliny ep. 9, 19, 1). By contrast, there had been numerous attempts, from the XII Tables onwards, to limit the luxury of funeral processions (pompa funebris) and funerary games (ludi) (Engels 1998): the most Roman elements involved in honouring the dead. Other legal regulations were designed to prevent valuable objects going out of circulation by being used as grave goods, and thus ceasing to be an asset to the Roman people.
Pictorial representations of scenes from classical mythology are highly likely to come from grave monuments, and the selection of motifs was not random. The subject is usually a struggle against death or demonic powers: for example a Greek victorious over an Amazon on a sculptured block from Bonn, or the rescue of Andromeda, depicted on an architectural fragment from Euskirchen-Rheder. The flight of Aeneas, Anchise and Ascanius from burning Troy (one of Rome’s foundation myths) belongs to the same genre (Noelke 1976) and this is exemplified by a statue group from Cologne, which may have formed the acroter of a grave monument.
Other grave reliefs or sculptures express a longing for Elysium and a happy afterlife. This is expressed in a relief decorated block from Bonn with a Dionysian scene and a pairing of Ganymede with Jupiter’s eagle. For, according to the myth, the young Ganymede was kidnapped by the supreme god and so gained immortality.
Lion figures were very popular and were used as grave guardians on bases, enclosure walls, consoles and roof ridges. The predators were most commonly shown hunched over prey they had killed, probably as a symbol of death destroying life. One Cologne example shows a boar killed by a lion, and a fragment from Xanten still has a ram’s head surviving between a lion’s paws.
By contrast, Hercules as victor over the Nemean lion, also appears on funerary architecture. Numerous sea and river deities demonstrate the power of nature and our inevitable end as well as the richness of aquatic life, and one limestone acroter from Bonn shows what may be Rhenus, the god of the Rhine: hardly a surprising subject on the lower Rhine.
One Cologne sculpture of the wounded Aeneas might even suggest a doctor as the original owner (Neu 1989, 262), but other more generic themes include the hunt and the funerary meal, which increasingly became a family meal in honour of the dead.
Architectural fragments occasional survive at a monument’s original site, e.g. acroters, pinecones and statue pieces. Indeed as architectural decorations were of less use as reused building material, they were frequently left behind when the original structure was demolished. The foundations or underpinnings are the most likely to be preserved in-situ and can be several metres thick, but given such scrappy survival, the archaeologist faces a challenge in creating a "photo-fit" of the original monument. This is often a futile exercise and, for example, not a single grave monument can be reconstructed with confidence from the 50 architectural fragments known from Bonn and its vicinity (Bauchhenß 1979).
More complete monuments, often from the Mediterranean, can provide some pointers to the possible range of forms. Joints, lewis and clamp holes, and the remains of reliefs may offer valuable information for the reconstruction of a monument (Neu 1989), but the dating of individual pieces can be even more problematic. In a few cases the inscription offers important chronological clues, but an art historical analysis, on the basis of stylistic elements, is a more common approach, although this can usually only produce a fairly broad timeframe. Long distance comparisons with other monuments that can be dated by inscriptions or historical events may offer a tool for the classification and dating of some relief elements like e.g. garlands or compositional principles (Eck/v. Hesberg 2003). Even the fashion of the deceased’s hairstyle can sometimes offer a rough dating framework (Precht 1975, 61).
Apart from these classifications, which are based on an understanding of classical architecture and art history, as practiced by Classical Archaeology, there are also excavation results. The basic proportions of a monument can be estimated on the basis of its foundations and we can also study (i.a.) the character and number of graves associated with a particular monument, and the funerary habits, size and date of a cemetery, along with its landscape setting. Nevertheless, the vagaries of preservation mean that the two methodologies cannot always be combined.
The paradigms of Mediterranean grave architecture were brought to the Rhine from Upper Italy and southern Gaul, which were the main recruitment areas of the legions stationed there in the early Imperial period. The building materials had to be imported at great cost, as the lower Rhine area only offered a few good sources of building stone. Fine limestone from Lorraine was especially popular, and was particularly suitable for sculpture. Because of this, some earth and timber monuments should be considered that might have been built of stone elsewhere, for example in the roadside necropolis of the Augustan military and logistical base at Haltern an der Lippe (6 BC-9 AD, Berke 1991).
Several (4-14m diameter) ring ditches were found along the main road to the west, with their inner lips lined with post pits. These can be reconstructed as true tumuli in the Italian style (see below), with the one difference that instead of stone tambours, they had polygonal timber drums. Instead of enclosure walls, these monuments were surrounded by enclosure ditches with entrance breaks, which presumably defined the grave area, rather than just addressing drainage issues. There is some evidence that the deceased buried here came from Italy for, apart from urn-graves and cremations with pyre residue, the central burials can also involve the rite of burning the dead on a funeral couch. These clinae were decorated with high quality bone carvings, of which only small fragments survive the pyre, and analysis of personal names on graffiti from Haltern also suggests the presence of Italians.
Rectangular grave monuments, built on four or more posts, were found between the round tumuli. These could be reconstructed as small funeral temples, shrines (aediculae) or mausolea, but not enough evidence is available to be more definitive. Haltern was thus provided with a timber version of the classical roadside necropolis, typical of Mediterranean towns. No grave monuments have been found to honour individuals at purely military installations; instead the graves were marked with more humble stelae. The Haltern grave monuments are currently the earliest securely dated examples in the Lower Rhine area, however, and it has long been thought that the Halterner Hauptlager had been intended to become the core of a Roman city.
The grave monuments of Lower Germany can be divided into six separate groups on the basis of their architectural forms, and their development, distribution and mutual influence with ‘indigenous’ types will be discussed below.
Tumuli are circular graves built with a ring-wall (tambour or drum) and it is this that differentiates them from other barrow types (Schwarz 2002). Inside, a cone-shaped earth mound, with undergrowth, was crowned with a pinecone or sculpture in the round. This very traditional grave form dates back to Etruscan and early Italic antecedents and the poet Virgil insists that the Romans’ Trojan ancestors were buried in tumuli. In Italy this type of burial was largely restricted to elite families (Schwarz 2001) and, although the tradition opened up in the Imperial period, it continued to aspire to social exclusivity. Indeed the tombs of Augustus and Hadrian (Castel Sant’Angelo) in Rome are the largest and best known examples of the type.
The few examples known from the Rhineland underline this picture of elevated social status. They come from urban centres and, as far as they can be dated, they belong to the 1st century AD. A limestone relief from Neuss, showing a boucranion (the skull of a sacrificial bull), is slightly doubtful in this context. It could have been part of a temple frieze but, if not, analogies from Italy (e.g. the grave of Caecilia Metella in Rome) would suggest that it was most likely to be part of the upper frieze or crenulations of a tumulus (Eck/v. Hesberg 2003, 179). Likewise, several individual pinecones are known from Cologne, whose size and provision for being mounted on something else suggest that they may originally have crowned a tumulus.
It is not surprising that the oldest examples of monumental grave architecture come from Cologne, but both the form and the person named in the inscription of the earliest known monument yet found on the Lower Rhine, are unusual. In 1980/81 around 75 architectural fragments were found reused in the foundations of a late Roman tower (?) on the former Rhine island: Cologne "Massenfund" and about a dozen were limestone blocks, which probably belonged to the same monument.
According to H. v. Hesberg this (once c. 10m high) monument combined elements from tumuli and canopy type mausolea (see below). The earth cone and the tambour with inscription were clearly part of the tumulus tradition, and there may also have been a stone roof/covering. The square base and pilasters, on the other hand, come from the mausoleum tradition. A search for earlier examples of this type leads to the Drusus memorial in Mainz, which is currently the oldest known grave monument in the entire Rhine valley (see ‘Grave monuments in Upper Germany’), or to the victory monument at La Turbie near Nice, and both have links to the German and Alpine wars of Augustus.
The relief on the base is reconstructed as showing cavalry battles and may have had a triumphal character. Yet this was the burial of a dispensator, not a high-ranking officer:
I[- ca. 6 - divi Au]gusti / [et Ti(berii) Caesaris disp]ensatori / [- ca. 14 -]is.
If the gaps in the text have been correctly restored (by W.Eck), this
Imperial slave served under Augustus and Tiberius, which gives a date of
c. 20 AD (Eck/v. Hesberg 2003, 194). Despite their servile status, dispensatores often gained great influence in the early Principate, for they had personal
to the Emperor and administered his personal wealth. They also often gained
personal wealth (in whatever way) in performing this role. The example in
question shows clearly that the size and luxury of a grave are of only limited
reconstructing the legal status of the deceased. At most, such characteristics
only allow assumptions as to the owner’s wealth.The graves of two further early Principate Imperial freedmen can be identified
from inscriptions. That from the mausoleum of Vedianus, a freedman of Tiberius
and Livia, can be reconstructed to an original length of 4m, and the inscribed
slab of [Ele]uthero, a possible freedman of Claudius, could have been of a similar size (Galsterer
1975 Nr. 192; Eck/v. Hesberg 2003, 195f.).
This level of self-representation by wealthy slaves and freedmen might seem arrogant, but it is typical of the early Roman period, when the Imperial administration was still in flux and, although this choice of "hybrid architecture" may refer to ‘elite’ tombs, it did not imitate them too closely. As far as can be seen from current evidence, this particular combination remained uncopied, and it seems to have been a particular architectural expression by Imperial personnel who may have been in Cologne in connection with early Roman mining activities on the far bank of the Rhine.
It was also common to inter both individual and multiple deceased under
barrows in Lower Germany, although most of the grave mounds in the lower Rhine
area have been completely flattened by surface erosion. Many individual graves
in northeast Lower Germany were surrounded by generously sized rectangular
or circular enclosure ditches, but it is now almost impossible to ascertain
how many of these were originally topped by barrows.
It is hard to say whether this most simple form of grave monument was derived from pre-Roman traditions or whether (and to what degree) the Roman period barrows were (re)inspired by Italian tumuli. It might be possible to gain an answer through a comparative analysis of the funerary rites and the level of provision of grave goods. The better preserved, and thus more securely identifiable, barrows to the west and north of Cologne (between the Rhine and Maas) were almost all excavated in the 19th century, or plundered still earlier (Wigg 1993, 218-220). In some cases rich grave goods of the 2nd and 3rd centuries have survived, but this cannot necessarily be made to fit with an indigenous tradition. Quite the opposite in fact: near Krefeld, for example, what may be local Germanic graves from the early Roman period (i.e. before the Batavian uprising), can be identified by burnt brooches, but they otherwise show a low level (or even an utter lack) of grave goods (Reichmann 1998, 345). It thus cannot be ruled out that the barrows might reflect the influence of immigrants from northern Gaul. One barrow near Rimburg (Kr. Aachen) was apparently still 15m high before being destroyed in 1887, but barrows of this size are otherwise unknown in the surrounding Tungrian territory, around Tongeren (Massart 1994).
Aside from a secondary burial in a
Hallstatt period barrow near Cologne-Worringen, none of the published barrow
assemblages needs to date before 100AD, and again
such a hiatus would argue against an indigenous tradition.
Similar arguments could be raised with regard to the second concentration of barrows in southern Lower Germany (south of Cologne), which lay firmly on the fringes of the zone influenced by the Treveran examples (Wigg 1998). In contrast with the situation in Gallia Belgica and northern Upper Germany, true tumulus variants, with tambour walls and/or burial chambers with passages (dromos), are currently unknown here. Moreover, this may not be complete coincidence, for despite a general lack of good building stone, stone dedications (i.a.) are known from the area, and architectural blocks from tumuli are fairly easily to identify from their characteristic curvature.
Mausolea are two-storey graves/funerary temples that follow the general scheme of the tomb of King Mausolos of Caria, near Halicarnassos in Asia Minor (350 BC), which was one of the seven wonders of the world.
Above a closed, rectangular or square plan podium-style base, a more or less open upper storey was raised supported by columns. This offered space for the erection of life-sized statues of the various deceased, for mausolea were usually family tombs. The base carried the grave inscription, frequently framed by decorative floral or mythological motifs. The roof was a curved pyramid decorated by leaf scales, or a ridge with pediment. The temple-like upper storey could vary from a prostylos (cella with fronting columns), to a niche (see below) or canopy. The elegant canopy type with an open circular temple is so far unknown on the lower Rhine and an architrave fragment from the Bislicher Insel near Xanten, which has been linked with this type, may not, in fact, be part of a tomb (Andrikopoulou-Strack 1986, 164 f.).
The best known mausoleum
from the Rhineland is the prostylos-type of L(ucius)
Poblicius, a veteran of legio V Alaudae. It originally stood about a kilometre outside the south gate of Oppidum Ubiorum, as Cologne was then called.
Its near complete survival was apparently due to the Rhine, or a nearby stream, whose flooding undermined its foundations at some point in the 2nd-3rd century AD. As a result, it collapsed and was eventually covered in sediment. Around 130 architectural fragments from (or probably from) the monument have been found at various times, still in their collapsed state and, although they make up less than 10% of the original fabric, no other grave monument can be reconstructed with greater confidence. The bulk of its material is probably still in the ground, but it is currently inaccessible due to modern buildings. Its full height is calculated to have been c. 50 Roman feet (over 16m) and the remains of paint show that it was originally multi-coloured.
Its date rests on four criteria:
2. From the mid 1st century onwards it became common to include the third part of the Roman name (cognomen) in inscriptions, but it is absent here (Galsterer 1979).
3. The collapsed blocks were found together with two of the oldest military gravestones known from Cologne (Galsterer 1975 Nr. 206 u. 222).
4. The latest date suggested by stylistic criteria is c. 40 AD (Eck/v. Hesberg 2003, 159).
Even today, impressive finds are still possible. For example, 90 ashlars
were found during the excavation of late Roman foundations on the former Rhine
Island at Cologne, 46 of which were decorated with reliefs (Neu 1989).
On the basis of their shapes, capitals, reliefs and friezes (scrollwork, weapons), the fragments can be assigned to 21 separate grave monuments, of which at least 3 correspond closely to the Poblicius monument. A relief decorated block with weapons and military decorations is shown here as representative of the others.
In the 1st century AD, there must have been a building boom along the roadside necropolis to the south and west, which began before the promotion of Oppidum Ubiorum to colonia status. By contrast, the number of two-storey grave monuments appears to decline from the late 1st century onwards. This downturn might easily be explained by a lower Romanised population after the Batavian uprising, but the "Massenfund" of 1980 may have distorted the true picture. For example Bonn has produced less evidence, but the relationships seem to be reversed, with only a minority of the monuments belonging to the 1st century, despite the fact that this site suffered almost as much from the events of 69/70AD. Despite what might be expected, no deliberate desecration of these openly Mediterranean structures can yet be identified during the Batavian revolt, but new (and smaller) grave monuments did come to the fore in Cologne from the 2nd century onwards (see below).
Only a few pieces of possible mausolea have come to light at other Rhineland urban centres, and these usually take the form of sculptural fragments, as at Bonn, Neuss, Xanten and Nijmegen, and further to the west at Aachen, Zuelpich and Juelich. Only Maastricht has produced an impressively large sample of 1st century grave monuments (Panhuysen 1996).
Deceased men were generally depicted in classical Roman costume, i.e. the toga, but although the majority of women were also shown in Mediterranean dress, there are exceptions. For example, one portrait head from Cologne wears the typical bonnet worn by Ubian women, and documented on numerous matrones dedications.
A robed statue from Aachen-Burtscheid, whose pallium dress
might be associated with the Muse Calliope, used to be identified as just an
educated Roman woman (Gabelmann 1979). The statue was found out of context,
but its general location within a bath building might better suggest that it
was part of one of the typical statue groups that often decorated bath interiors.
It should be stressed again at this point, that our present view can only reflect the current state of research. Nevertheless one fact is striking: for unlike the civitas Treverorum in neighbouring Gallia Belgica, there are almost no grave monuments of this type known from the Lower German military district appart from at urban centres. One of the few exceptions is a tomb from Wesseling-Keldenich, near Cologne, and even here the combination of relief fragments of a cavalry battle, and the inscription [---] item Perrnia Pau[la, lina o. ae. ---] probably points to a legionary veteran as the owner. By analogy to other more complete inscriptions, item ("and", "also") commonly precedes the name of a spouse and the identification of this wife with the Etruscan name Perrnia, suggests veteran status, as serving soldiers were not allowed to marry (G. Alföldy in Gabelmann 1973).
The "Ubiermonument" in Cologne demonstrates that even partially upstanding monuments can still become the focus of controversy. It has an almost square (9.5m) base of tufa blocks and still stands 5m high, which is in keeping with an impressive mausoleum. Dendro-dates from the oak piles beneath its foundations show that it was built between autumn 4 AD and spring 5AD, which makes it one of the oldest stone buildings in Germany. The interpretation as a tomb is much debated, however, as it was included first within the earth and timber defences of Oppidum Ubiorum, and later by the stone defences of CCAA (Neu 1997). Such a combination of stone and timber architecture is not without parallel in Roman defensive architecture, but the important question remains, whether this building, which is otherwise identified as a harbour tower, was originally designed as such, or if it reused the ruins of a grave monument. Its general lack of architectural decoration would not preclude an interpretation as a tomb, as the literary sources (Plinius ep. 6, 10, 2-4) document cases where, even in Italy, the heirs of a senator could not be bothered to complete a tomb as stipulated in the will. Nevertheless, the monument’s position on the bank of the Rhine argues against its being a mausoleum, as does its use of tufa. Other 1st century mausolea show a preference for limestone imported from Lorraine, whilst public buildings were usually built of Brohltal tufa. There is also no sign of the inscription that one might have expected on the preserved base.
Pillar monuments are in effect an architecturally simplified, and so probably cheaper, development of the mausoleum. Instead of the mausoleum type’s open upper floor, their upper storey/ies were usually closed. The columns were replaced by pilasters, and the sculptures in the round, by reliefs. Pillar monuments tend to be narrower and higher than mausolea, and a third storey could occasionally be added, as in the case of the "Igeler Säule" near Trier (originally c. 23m high), which is the best known and most complete example yet found. All round (originally painted) relief decoration, also turned the tomb into a virtual billboard, as is shown by a faithful copy of the Igeler Säule in inner court of the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Trier.
Mythological scenes and (an innovation compared to 1st century AD mausolea) scenes from the deceased’s everyday life were closely linked (Freigang 1997), as is shown by the office scene from the Cologne "Massenfund" illustrated here.
The grave inscription was integrated into this imagery and no longer demanded the immediate attention of the viewer, as was the case with mausolea. The type’s development began in the 1st century AD in the territory of the Treveri (Gallia Belgica) where, in contrast to the Lower German military zone, a confident elite had formed early. Even so, Italian influences were not ignored, as is demonstrated by the scene of a child playing with a dog on a block from Cologne.
Pillar monuments only became common in Lower Germany in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, for example at the roadside necropolis of St. Severin in Cologne, where several corbel and relief fragments are known (Päffgen 1992, 99). They towered above some villa cemeteries, and the colossal (4.2 x 5m, and 1.8m deep) rectangular foundation from "Hostert" near Berg vor Nideggen, can hardly come from anything less than a comparable pillar monument to the "Igeler Säule" (Gaitzsch 1993, 35).
The size record is held by the foundations of the Eschergewähr monument near Hambach (6.5 x 9m). Yet this is associated with a single urn grave that only contained rather mediocre grave goods, in the form of tableware and a coin (Gaitzsch 1995).
As the grave was dug into the back of the foundations without disturbing them, the monument’s construction must have been started before the death of the person buried (see below). The foundation of a markedly smaller (3 x 3m) pillar or altar (?) monument from Elsdorf (Erftkreis) was built for a cremation equipped with rather more exclusive amber decorations (Gaitzsch 1998) and the potential (1st half of the 3rd century) villa owner(ess) thus combined her Mediterranean influenced funerary architecture with the luxurious grave goods of the Gallic tradition.
No grave has yet been found under a pillar monument. Indeed, quite the contrary, it is sometimes not possible to identify any graves in the vicinity of such tombs. This would suggest two things: on the one hand these ostentatious monuments were apparently built during the lifetime of the owner, which is expressed on inscriptions by the term vivus fecit. On the other hand we must assume that the containers for the ashes and grave goods were deposited in small chambers inside the monuments. A small tufa door (height 47cm, width 30 cm) from a sadly unknown Lower German find spot may once have sealed such a loculus.
This less grandiose variant of the single storey mausoleum usually dispensed with the column-decorated temple for its statues. There are, though, exceptions from 1st century Cologne, such as the "Grabbau mit den Barbarensaeulen", which is reconstructed as being c. 5-6m high, which is still small in comparison to the Poblicius tomb (Klatt 2001). It had two columns in front of its temple cella which, rather than being fluted, carried reliefs of bound eastern (Parthian) barbarians, who resemble atlantes. This might suggest a soldier or veteran tomb owner, as the motif of the vanquished barbarian is also known from 1st century AD cavalry tombstones.
Another variation of the niche monument is a daring reconstruction of the "Schiffreliefgrabbaus" (tomb with the ship relief) by S. Neu, based on a comparison with a better preserved monument from Pellenz near Kruft (s. Grave monuments Upper Germany).
Later versions, in particular, can show the deceased (sing. or pl.) in relief in one or more arcaded niches (aediculae), hence the monuments’ designation as niche monuments or funerary chapels/shrines, although they can occasionally become impossible to differentiate from pillar monuments.
They are often, however, nothing more than over-sized tombstones, as is the case with the Flavian period Thracian cavalryman Longinus Biarta. The size of one pediment (H: 0.73m Width: 1.52 m Depth: 0.32 m) from Frenz near Bonn might suggest that it topped a niche monument. It depicts the flight of Orestes, Pylades (both armed with short swords and spears) and Iphegenia (with the cult statue of Artemis) from Tauris, a myth, which had been popularised by Euripides’ tragedy. It was a metaphor for being rescued from death, since Iphegenia was escaping being sacrificed. The majority of relevant fragments in the study area, cannot be differentiated between normal or monumental stelae, but niche monuments never achieved the importance in Lower Germany that they had in some parts of Gallia Belgica, where they became the most common grave monument type in the 2nd and 3rd centuries (Willer 2005, 14f.).
Funerary temples are only known with certainty from the 3rd century onwards, although there are many rectangular wall foundations surrounding individual graves (or groups of graves) and it is not always possible to differentiate between simple walled enclosures (see below) and possible aediculae if nothing else survives. The Cologne "Capricorn-pediment" might represent an early predecessor that, stylistically, should date to Tiberian times, and its width can be used to reconstruct an original height of c. 6.8m, using the proportions given by Vitruvius (4, 1, 8). This extremely early example would be so isolated, however, that it might be better to attribute it to a mausoleum temple storey (Andrikopoulou-Strack 1986, 31f.). Moreover the entrance façades of sumptuous grave enclosures could also be decorated in a similar way, albeit no examples are yet known in the Rhineland (Eck/v. Hesberg 2003, 188f.).
Sarcophagi might be indirect evidence for grave temples or shrines, as their relief decoration and inscriptions suggest above ground display. However, open-air locations in front of grave enclosures as free standing ‘houses of the dead’ should also be expected. One case in point is a legionary sarcophagus from Weilerswist-Klein Vernich, Kr. Euskirchen (Wagner 2003, Andrikopoulou-Strack/Bauchhenß 2006). It is currently the earliest sarcophagus known in the Rhineland and its inscription dates it to 212-222. It was later buried in a different location, but not until the 4th century, and traces of wear show that it had previously stood in the open air. There are also examples from the Mediterranean where sarcophagi were displayed on stone plinths.
Two main categories can be differentiated:
2. Funerary altars proper (arae), which were either positioned inside grave monuments (of whatever type), or integrated into the enclosure walls of enclosed cemeteries, for the presentation of sacrifices. When removed from their original contexts these can only be differentiated from normal dedications through their inscriptions (Noelke 1996; Willer 2005, 16-22).
Altar-style grave monuments are characterised by long rectangular proportions, which would make them unsuitable for sacrifices. Relevant fragments are known (i.a.) from Bonn, Cologne and Dormagen. Their surfaces are largely undecorated, with no figural reliefs to parallel those known from Treveran altars. Nevertheless, the central inscription is sometimes framed with scrollwork, and the pulvini are decorated with leaf scales and with medusa heads or animal protomes at their terminals.
These altar monuments only became common in the Rhineland during the 2nd century AD, about 100 years after their exemplars in the city of Rome. Their distribution is currently limited to the urban centres. The presence or absence of certain decorative features (e.g. garlands) have been used to suggest a link with southern Gaul. In Italy the container for the ashes was frequently immured in the altar and the so-called "testament of the Lingonian" (CIL XIII 5708) would seem to require the same. We still lack proof of this habit in the Rhineland, however, as the inner stone or opus caementitium cores do not survive, unlike the external cladding of recyclable blocks. The altars only became the superstructures for subterranean stone burial chambers during the 1st half of the 3rd century in the study area, whereas this fashion began more than 200 years earlier in Italy. There are no signs of the covering roofs above altar monuments that occasionally occur in Treveran territory.
Altar stelae complement this type of grave monument (Faust 1998) and can easily be seen as miniature versions of the same thing. Their often residual sacrificial bowls (focus) raise doubts as to their use in sacrifices, even though they too are described in inscriptions as "ara". Their distribution is concentrated in the Cologne area. They mostly date to the first half of the 3rd century, and almost all seem to have been commissioned by Greek speakers. One peculiarity of Cologne altar stelae was the provision of portrait medallions of the deceased (clipeatae imagines). They used the same material as in Mainz, but they are narrower, which implies different workshops as well as reflecting the cost of longer distance transport for the original limestone.
Burial chambers are not strictly speaking an independent monument form, but a particular type of insertion into tumuli, or beneath funerary temples and grave altars. They are not yet attested in combination with tumuli in the study area (in contrast to neighbouring Upper Germany and Gallia Belgica), but can at least be postulated with the other two types. For structural reasons, however, these hypogaea are unlikely to appear as substructures beneath mausolea and pillar monuments. Like altar graves, they only reached the Rhine a hundred years after becoming popular in Italy. But they then quickly became the dominant ‘elite’ burial form of the later 3rd and 4th centuries, at least in the rural hinterland and the St. Severin necropolis at Cologne. The reasons for this are hard to determine, but there may have been a need for funerary cult rooms.
The best known structure of this type, and the only one to date to our study period, is the columbarium from Cologne-Weiden, about 9 km from the provincial capital. It was probably the tomb of the villa owners.
It was originally discovered in 1843 and was the first Roman monument in the Rhineland to be conserved. The barrel vaulted burial chamber is made of tufa blocks and reaches 5.44m below the Roman surface. It is a mixed columbarium, with space for both cremations and inhumations, and parallels from Rome (e.g. beneath St. Peter’s) and Ostia were built as inhumation slowly gained ground in Italy around 120/3-180 AD.
To judge from the pottery found in the building pit, the Weiden chamber dates to 150AD at the earliest, and possibly to as late as 190-200 AD, if three Severan marble portrait heads depict the vault’s founders (Sinn 2003). As with a later sarcophagus, which was originally displayed above ground, these art works are thought to have been produced in Rome itself, and we may thus be seeing a burial habit that was imported from central Italy.
The chamber was equipped with stone dining room furniture (clinae for men, wicker chairs for women), which was not an Italian trait. There, beds for the dead were used in the initial burial ceremony, but they were not part of the grave furnishings and, at most, such furniture might be expected in the above-ground funerary temple for use by the surviving family during periodic meals in honour of the dead. Yet what were amenities for the living in Italian memorial customs, became grave goods here (i.e. the property of the dead), which would be in keeping with Gallic tradition. This near literal interpretation of the domus aeterna is also expressed in internal reliefs of a dining room on a sarcophagus from Simpelveld (NL).
The 29 wall niches also mix Italian and Gallic elements. For they were not used for the urns (which were kept in tufa cists on the chamber floor), but seem to have been (ab)used to deposit grave goods, such as valuable amber jewellery. Such grave good niches were a typical element of 1-4th century Rhenish graves and appear in simple earth graves as lateral extensions next to the pit for the urn. One case in point is a grave from the Rommerskirchen (Kr. Neuss) cemetery, where the niche for the grave goods was (as is normal) separated from the bustum cremation proper by an upright tile.
From the 2nd century AD onwards, grave good niches were also provided in stone ash-cists, as at Flerzheim and Maastricht. They could also take the form of chamber-like insertions, such as the (2m wide x 1.5m high) inserted burial pit at Kreuzau-Stockheim (Kr. Düren; Horn 1987, 405), whose floor was decorated with a six-pointed star made of coloured pieces of marble.
Niches for grave goods were particular common in north Italian burial rites, but there they took different architectural forms, e.g. as fitted shelves (cf. grave monuments in Raetia). A typological link between small, monolithic burial containers and the accessible hypogaea is provided by a mid 2nd century burial chamber at the Aachener Strasse in Cologne, whose internal area measured 1.35 x 1.30m. A rectangular (4.2 x 5m) foundation near Niederzier (Kr. Düren) might also be an early burial chamber, where three late 2nd century cremations were found inside, one of which contained two golden finger rings (Gaitzsch u. a. 1988).
Finally, it seems that the Cologne-Weiden family followed metropolitan Roman burial habits for several generations, but adapted them to the Gallic vision of the afterlife as similar to that of the living.
Each grave and burial place lay on a sacred area, protected by law. It
was neither saleable nor part of the normal inheritance and, like the monument
itself, its size depended on aspiration, availability and wealth. In the main
it is likely to have been used as a grave garden. The early Roman tombstone
of M(arcus) Petronius, from Cologne, followed Italian habit by naming the grave’s
legal extent: in f(ronte) p(edes) XIIX in r(etro) p(edes) XIIX, i.e. c. 6m x 6m (Galsterer 1975 Nr. 306).
The ‘testament of the Lingonian’, mentioned above, included a complete vineyard, whose produce was to be made into wine for the festivals of the dead (cf. also the Gallic inscriptions CIL XIII 1657 & 2449) and the 3rd century Cologne sarcophagus of Florentia Crispina stood in hortulo suo (in its own grave garden) according to its inscription.
The enclosure served as a demarcation for all of the graves above ground, which separated the sacred land from the living. It was thus part of the grave monument and usually held a grave garden.
Numerous archaeological examples of enclosures are known from Lower Germany. They usually involved narrow (up to a 1m wide) ditches, which normally defined rectangular areas around the grave monuments, although they could also be circular, as at Krefeld-Gellep, or polygonal, as at Berg vor Nideggen.
These, often quite generous, enclosures were common in northern and mid Lower Germany from the 1st - 3rd centuries AD. The enclosures usually adjoin each other and the cemeteries that best show them are Nijmegen-Hatert and Toenisvorst-Vorst, Kr. Viersen.
The latter case was probably the public burial ground of a vicus, or of several rural settlements and, although no direct continuation from the pre-Roman Iron Age has yet been identified, the enclosures seem most likely to express an indigenous grave type. In the 1st half of the 1st century AD, the grave goods copied Roman habits, sometimes in combination with "Germanic" brooches. From the Flavian period onwards, however, more (and more luxurious) pottery was included, whilst the brooches were increasingly absent. Moreover, although the change in grave goods might betray the arrival of a new population group, there was no noticeable change in the monuments (Bridger 1998). Only exceptional cases still allow us to tell if the enclosure ditches formed part of bank and ditch arrangements, or planting trenches for hedges and the like. Nevertheless, the latter seem to have been more common, for there are cremation groups in rectangular patterns, which seem to take their orientation from archaeologically invisible boundaries. These can hardly be anything else but such plantings, and a cemetery near Zülpich makes a probable case in point.
It is tempting to speculate about the type of hedge or bush, especially as box, which is still in common usage for the purpose, was known in the ancient Rhineland (Gaitzsch 1993, 28). At present, such grave groups are predominately known from villas in the lignite mining area between Cologne and Aachen (e.g. Eschergewaehr, Grabungsplatz Hambach, Grave group B), although this could just reflect the state of research.
Another Rhenish phenomenon is also most apparent in this area. Several of these grave groups seem to be arranged in a rectangle or ring, around an archaeologically empty central space. It is conceivable that this was the site of a natural grave monument, such as a tree, or a gathering place for mourners. One pertinent example is the cemetery of a villa near Jüchen (Kr. Neuss), where 14 cremations were found in a 25 x 16m enclosed area. The entrance was marked by two posts (1.2m apart) inside the ditch and a path then led directly to the central empty area, around which 7 cremation groups were arranged. There were also traces of a (2.5m square) timber monument over one grave in the enclosure’s western corner (Arora/Lochner 1999).
Rectangular or square walled enclosures, for family or (more rarely) individual graves are more common in urban roadside necropolises than rural settlements. It would be useful to be able to differentiate here between Italian style maceriae and indigenous stone enclosures, which might be achievable by means of a large-scale comparison of grave assemblages and inscriptions. But, although we do have examples of the latter, the square inscribed slabs are only tentatively assigned to these enclosure walls, which would originally have stood about 1.5m high.
The Cologne examples are all from secondary contexts, but they can be compared to examples from (i.a.) Mainz-Weisenau that were found still in-situ. It was more common to integrate stelae into enclosure walls. The inscribed slabs sometimes include the phrase vivus fecit (built during his lifetime), which might imply an associated grave monument or enclosure, unless one wishes to assume that it only refers to the inscription itself, which is not probable at all.
At rural cemeteries, such as Berg bei Nideggen and Alt-Inden, enclosure walls and ditches were occasionally combined so that, whilst the foundation of the central grave monument was enclosed by a rectangular wall, the surrounding graves were enclosed by a common ditch.
There are around 30 inscriptions (or fragments thereof) from grave monuments, which at least give the name, origin or profession of the deceased, of which more than half come from Cologne. Apart from the Imperial personnel already mentioned, the 1st - 3rd century examples belong predominately to soldiers and veterans of the Lower German legions (I Minervia and XXX Ulpia Victrix), with a much smaller proportion commemorating cavalrymen from the alae. One 1st century grave monument from Euskirchen-Billig belonged to a certain Q(uintus) Petronius, who had himself mourned as being too unlucky in the military (parum felix militiae).
What incident may have led him to include the unusual formula – perhaps a missio causaria (invalided out) – is unknown, but the suppression of his unit´s name is unusual. Indeed, if he had died on active service or as a normal veteran, its inclusion would have been more or less mandatory. Cavalry battle themes on reliefs also point to military personnel, but their occurrence is limited to the 1st century AD.
In as much as the inscriptions provide information, it appears that only soldiers and veterans of centurion rank or below were attested during the 1st century AD. Moreover, veterans from the legions or alae (e.g. Lucius Poblicius) who settled in the Rhineland after retirement, seem to have preferred to represent themselves as part of the new local elite. We currently have no 1st century grave monuments for higher ranking officers. For Lucius Nasidienus Agrippa, a tribune of legio XIIII Gemina, who died in service, was only provided with a simple (127 x 46 x 46cm) stele, which hardly shows sufficient pietas for the dead (Galsterer 1975 Nr. 199).
Two inscribed slabs belonging to equestrian officers may originally have been attached to grave monuments, but these already belong to the 1st half of the 3rd century (Galsterer 1975 Nr. 198 u. 203). One of them, a praef(ectus castrorum) leg(ionis) III Augustae from Carthage, died in Cologne: obviously far from home.
From the mid 1st century AD, we begin to find commemorations for a number of merchants (negotiatores) and members of the city council (decuriones CCAA). It is impossible to say much about their individual origins, but it is apparent that the deceased carried the duo or tria nomina associated with Roman citizenship. It is thus possible to tentatively mark out the regional ‘elite’ who carried Roman culture. There are at least nine (c. 50 x 50cm) inscribed slabs from 2nd and 3rd century Cologne. They are as usual found away from their originally contexts, which leaves us to speculate over the original grave monuments. Their measurements suggest that these may have been relatively humble, although they may have been attached to enclosure walls (maceriae) (see above). Amongst the five surviving indications of the deceased’s profession or status are two veterans of legio I Minervia: Titus Aurelius Rufinus and Marcus Aurelius Victor (Galsterer 1975, Nr. 211-212). There is one freedwoman: Priminia Augurina, whose patronus looked after the funeral, and there are also two traders. One of these, Sextus Haparonius Iustus, sold salves and perfume (negotiator seplasiarius), whilst the other, Tiberius Mainonius Victor, sold meat products (negotiator lanio). The dominance of the military amongst the owners of 1st century grave monuments had now become less overwhelming, but it has to remain speculative whether the inscriptions reflect a form of urban middle class.
Where graves and settlement features did "collide",
this was usually the result of later re-zoning of an area, in the interest
of the wider community. One example is CUT at Xanten, whose centre overlies
a 1st century AD cemetery. In undefended settlements the authorities tolerated
burial in backyards and this seems to have been the case in the Bonn southern
vicus, as at least during the 1st century AD, where inhabitants were usually
allowed to bury their dead in the yards behind their houses (Kaiser 2001, 235).
The urban centres’ roadside necropolises have already been discussed. Current research would suggest that the most typical areas at Cologne lay in front of the south gate, i.e. along the road sideways to the Rhine to Bonn. But other roads out of town also acquired increasingly numbers of grave monuments. As a general rule, the façades continued to be orientated with their inscriptions facing the road, but some were equally visible from the river, and this divergence from the norm would be particularly relevant in the case of the "Ubiermonument", if this was a grave monument. The cemeteries of rural settlements followed different patterns and mostly lay immediately outside villa enclosures (e.g. Cologne-Müngersdorf) or along field boundaries close to a road, as at Hambach 230 or at Niederzier.
Some grave monuments were placed several hundred meters away from the settlement on top of a local hill, as for example the cemeteries at Berg vor Nideggen and Alt-Inden (Paeffgen 2005).
Few grave monuments and funerary stele have been found over most of the lignite mining area to the west of Cologne, despite large-scale area excavations. There are stone dedications, however, and so a simple shortage of stone cannot account for the different distribution. This has led to speculation as to whether the villa owners might have preferred to be buried near the towns or larger vici, and may have left the running of their villas to tenants (clientes). There is, though, one example of a rural roadside necropolis near Eschergewaehr, on the highway from CCAA/Cologne to Iuliacum/Jülich, where area excavation found burial grounds and four grave groups along a 250m stretch of the road (Gaitzsch 1995, 77 A-D). We will have to wait for the final publication before deciding if they were all in use at the same time. Nevertheless, the typical hierarchy seen at urban cemeteries can be observed even here. The "Rich graves", such as grave A (with its large enclosure), and grave D (with a rich assemblage of glass and copper-alloy vessels), lay on one side of the road, with the poorer graves on the other. As with similar structures elsewhere, it remains debatable whether a number of neighbouring stone buildings were temples or just everyday structures. Close associations between temples and villa cemeteries are certainly known, as at Newel near Trier (Wigg 1993 Nr. 28) but, as yet, there are no unequivocal examples from Lower Germany.
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