Nida-Frankfurt a. M.-Heddernheim, capital of the civitas Taunensium

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Foundation and Structure

The civitas Taunensium was founded after the withdrawal of the military around 110AD. The honorific ‘Ulpia’, attested on a single milestone, derives from the Emperor Trajan and if this is taken into account, it seems likely that the civitas was founded before 117AD. Development culminated in the late 2nd or early 3rd century AD with the construction of the city wall.

Military installation

Ten consecutive forts were built in Heddernheim, between 75AD and the withdrawal of the military, with the earliest (5ha) constructed in stone. The associated military vicus was elongated in form, and extended beyond the western limits of the later town. It had two sets of baths, which lay 100m to the west and 70m to the south of the fort.

Plan of the military installations

The town and its structure

The settlement covered 45ha. The road system of the civitas capital reflected the streets of the earlier military vicus. This resulted in an irregular street grid without rectangular insulae. Two street names are known from inscriptions: platea praetoria and platea vici novi.
The stone defences (length 2,750m) were backed by an earth rampart and fronted by a ditch. They were built in the early 3rd century AD and surrounded the settlement in an irregular square. Seven gates and interval towers are known.

Plan of the Roman sites
Bird-eye view of the Roman town
Cross section through the Roman city walls, with additional obstacles

Public buildings and infrastructure

It is assumed that the forum lay at the crossing of the two main roads from the west, in front of the fort gate, but archaeological features are known in the area. Public structures could also have existed inside the former fort, and post-fort walls and apses have been found within the former headquarters building (principia).

Immediately to the west of the fort two large buildings stood, linked by a common portico. The (63 x 70 m) inn (praetorium) centred on a large courtyard around which 62 small, mostly square rooms were arranged. A small bath was added in the east wing. The complex was built in the early 2nd century and the (64 x 36m) East Baths (Ostthermen) consisted of a front section, arranged around a porticoed courtyard and a rear area, which contained the heated bathing suite.

Reconstructed plan of the praetorium and East Baths
Model of the praetorium (left) and the East Baths

In the space between the East Baths and the ditch of the former fort, a large (5.6 x 0.9m) foundation was found and it has been suggested that it (and a relief showing lictors) belonged to an honorific arch. It is possible that the relief refers to a scene of local importance, perhaps linked to the foundation of the civitas.
Reconstruction of the honorific arch

Nida was provided with a second set of luxuriously appointed public baths at the (45 x 68m) Westthermen, which had cold, warm and hot baths in two sequences.

The theatre (diam. 54m), in the south of the settlement, was entered through a stone passage, although the rest of the structure was timber built. It seated 1,000 - 1,500 spectators but it is unclear whether it was built during or after the fort phase.

Four sanctuaries have been found, all in the form of mithraea: two in the north; one in the south and one south-west of the praetorium. All were comparatively small structures, with an ante room and cult room with flanking benches, and a niche for a cult statue on the farthest wall.

Residential buildings

Residential buildings of different types have been found at various locations all over the settlement, although no details relating to phasing and date are available for most. The predominant design was the long, rectangular strip building and such buildings (up to 50m long) with shops flanking the road, were identified along the southern main road (platea novi vici). South of the praetorium, a peristyle house has been excavated.

In an excavated section along the northern main road (platea praetoria) the residential buildings consisted of more long rectangular strip buildings, whose plots remained stable from the 1st to 3rd century. In the early 2nd century the previously dense occupation developed gaps, which were filled with flimsier structures but, in the 3rd century all of the plots were again in occupation by houses which only now came to be stone built.

A house with six roughly equal sized large rooms and a stone cellar developed in the course of the 2nd century over the ditch of the former fort and cellars and fountains suggest that the fort's interior was also occupied by residential buildings.
Roman residential buildings and building plots
Ground plan of the Roman house over the fort ditch

Marked concentrations of pottery kilns were found in the south of the settlement and along the main road leaving town to the north.

Water supply

Numerous wells, associated with specific houses can be found throughout the town. No central water supply is known, even for the baths, but drains from the East Baths have been found.

Text: Thomas Schmidts

Select bibliography

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U. Fischer u. a., Grabungen im römischen Vicus von Nida-Heddernheim 1961–1962. Schriften des Frankfurter Museums für Vor- und Frühgeschichte 14 (Bonn 1998).

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