Germanic settlement and Roman buildings at Bratislava-Dúbravka

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Only 4 km far from the crossroad of two major transeuropean trade routes – the Amber Route and the Danubian Route, at the confluence of the rivers Danube and Morava, there is a site at Bratislava-Dúbravka (200 m a.s.l.). It is situated in the basin between forested slopes of promontories of the Little Carpathian Mountains. This basin is opened only to the north and north-west, and so it provides the protection against the winds blowing from the west along the Danube. It is flowed off by a stream from its southern and eastern edge. Approximately in the centre of the basin there is a reed-grown depression that could have been a lake in the past. In the southern part of the basin there is a strong spring – abundant source of fresh water. Sufficiency of water, arable land, proximity of forest – source of wood – and pastures always provided exceptionally suitable conditions for the life. The occupancy of the site is evidenced from the Late Palaeolithic until the Middle Ages (ca. from 10 000 – 8 000 BC to AD 13th century).

Shortly after the turn of era the Germanic tribes arrived to this territory and assimilated remains of the Celtic population. Occupancy of Bratislava-Dúbravka during the Roman Period can be divided into three main phases.

During the first phase of the settlement dated back to the Early Roman Period (second half of the first century AD) houses with semi-sunken floors with 2 or 6 supporting posts were built. Their walls were made of thinner branches and plastered by clay, the roofs were made of the bound wisps of reed or straw. Iron-melting workshop also belonged to the settlement from the AD 1st century (fig. 1, 2).

The most significant discovery at the settlement is the remains of the Roman architecture. The foundations of the stone building together with segments of its aboveground masonry were preserved up to the height of 150 cm and formed rectangular ground plan with the measurements 13 x 11 m. From three sides it had adjacent semicircular apses of different size. Foundation masonry with the thickness from 56 to 62 cm was built in the Roman style from three layers of quarry stones laid in a fishbone pattern (opus spicatum); each layer was one Roman foot thick. Regarding the analogies known from the territories of the Roman provinces this structure can be interpreted as the project and commenced construction of the Roman bath of circular type common during the Late Roman Period. Apses were supposed to be the pools for cold (frigidarium), warm (tepidarium) and hot (caldarium) water; 2 adjacent rectangular spaces were intended for warm and hot air; space with the ground plan of L-shape was probably supposed to serve as cloakroom or dressing room (fig. 3, 4).

Along with the building stone from collapsed walls and fragments of the polychrome wall plaster, thousands of fragments of the Roman roofings (tegulae – flat roofing tiles and imbrices – semi-cylindrical roofing tile) were found in the bath filling. Roofing material was imported from the private workshop in Pannonia, most probably from Carnuntum or Vindobona (Vienna). Analogies to two up to now known stamped bricks from the ground of our building that bear the names of their producers – SEP(timii) VIT(alis) and CENT KARVS – come from the above mentioned sites, too. Worth mentioning is notable construction detail of the building at Dúbravka, specifically absent underfloor heating system of tepidarium and caldarium that is common in the baths in the Roman provinces. Thus, assumingly, the original project was changed and unique building could have become common house with only a cold bath. Interior of the building yielded only few finds: Roman pottery, polychrome mosaic glass, bronze fibulae, fragments of the wine glass from Trier (Augusta Treverorum), coins of Emperors Alexander Severus (222-235), Gallienus (253-268) and others (fig. 5, 6).

Similar structures that served as baths in the provinces became parts of the civil residences of villa rustica type in the Roman countryside. Such Roman country residences were independent agricultural productive units. Apart from the bath they consisted of owner residence, shrine, outhouses etc.

The architecture – bath – is of exceptional importance not only for being remarkably well-preserved but above all for its cultural-historical background. Almost whole territory of contemporary Slovakia except for the small area of transdanubian part of Bratislava (Gerulata-Rusovce) lay beyond the frontier of the Empire (limes romanus). Countryside residence at Bratislava-Dúbravka (only 5 km far from Carnuntum) similar to villa rustica type originated probably in the first third of the third century AD during the unprecedented economic prosperity of Pannonia under the Severans. This fact is evidenced not only by existence of the bath in this region but also by the remains of the hall building with ground plan measurements 14 x 12 m that was found 80 m east of the bath.

Fragments of the Roman roofing material in filling of its large post holes with the diameter ca. 1 m evidence that even its roof was covered in the Roman style. Dating of this hall building within the AD 3rd century is implied by the find of the coin of Alexander Severus (AD 222-235) as well as by terra sigillata fragments (samian ware). The building probably served as an outhouse, perhaps as a granary. In the second third of the third century AD, when the relationships between the Romans and the Germans got worse, the residence at Dúbravka probably ceased to exist. It is still not possible to say who the constructor of these buildings was. It could have been the Roman veteran of the Germanic origin who returned to his fatherland after finishing his military service and let build the country residence in the Roman style.


Kristian Elschek


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