Noviomagus- Speyer, capital of the civitas Nemetum

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The foundation date of the civitas Nemetum is unknown. It was probably linked to the removal of the military in the Flavian period (c. 74 AD), especially as public buildings have been postulated in the area of the former fort, but there is no available data for these buildings.

Native Predecessor

A grave of the late Celtic period (c.50 - 10BC) in the Johannes-/Armbrusterstrasse suggests the presence of a settlement of unknown size.

The military installation

At least three military installations are known from Speyer, of the period 10BC - 74AD. From the second decade AD attached civilian settlements are known in two locations. Two winged buildings (37m x 30m) were constructed around 30AD in the vicus of fort B, which are interpreted as a market forum. A few weapon graves suggest Celtic/Germanic elements amongst the early population.



Forts and civilian settlements of the 1st century AD
Early forum with reconstruction

The town and its structure

The road network of Noviomagus reflected the orientations of the earlier forts and military vici. The main roads crossed each other in right angles, but secondary roads occasionally ran at an angle (i.e. not 90 degrees). The occupied area was 25 ha. The city wall was not built until the second half of the fourth century AD.

Street grid and settlement evidence for the 2nd-3rd centuries. Outline: extent of the undefended settlement

Large Building complexes

Parallel walls in the south-eastern corner of the former fort C belonged to a public building, probably the forum.

A fragmentary inscription suggests the presence of an otherwise unknown amphitheatre.

Residential buildings

The houses in vicinity of the Roman main road (Roßmarktstrasse) were constructed as timber-framed buildings with posts or cill-beams in the first century. Two original plots had been joined into a semi-detached building (18 x 30m), in one case a stripbuilding can be recognized. The building plots remained stable. Towards the end of the second century, the houses were replaced in stone.

Excavations Roßmarktstraße. Roman occupation of the 1st century AD
Excavations Roßmarktstraße. Roman occupation of the 3rd century AD

Further to the west stripbuildings (c. 10 x 25m) with a portico flanking the road as well as wells and latrines in the rear part of the plot were constructed in the South-western corner of the former fort C (Heydenreichstraße).

Excavations Heydenreichstraße. Roman structures
Reconstructions of the Roman buildings (Excavations Heydenreichstraße)

The southern part of the settlement (Stiftungskrankenhaus) saw the development of several, mostly timber built (c. 10 x 13 m), stripbuildings in the area of the former forum. In the 3rd century, two roadside buildings were abandoned. At the same time a large L-shaped building on stone dwarf walls was constructed to the rear, possibly as an atrium house, along with a simple post-built structure.

Excavations Stiftungskrankenhaus. Roman features

The Domhügel (Cathedral hill) was densely occupied with stripbuildings with roadside porticos. These were constructed as stone buildings or as timber framed houses on stone dwarf walls.

Excavations on the Domhügel. Strip buildings of the 2nd-3rd centuries AD and late Roman features

The topography only allows for a harbour near the mouth of the Speyerbach, but no Roman features are currently known here.

Visible remains
The late Roman (4th century AD) defences are partially preserved in the medieval city wall at the Dom- and Archivgarten.

Roman finds are on display in the Historisches Museum der Pfalz, in Speyer.

Text: Thomas Schmidts

Select bibliography

H. Bernhard, Speyer in der Vor- und Frühzeit. Von der Steinzeit bis zum Frühmittelalter (um 20000 v. Chr. bis ins 5. Jh. n. Chr.). In: Geschichte der Stadt Speyer (Stuttgart2 u.a. 1983) 1-161.

H. Bernhard, Das römische Speyer. In: Unter dem Pflaster. Archäologische Grabungen von 1987-1989 (Speyer 1989) 15-23.

H. Bernhard in: Die Römer in Rheinland-Pfalz (Stuttgart 1990) 557-567.

H. Bernhard, Römische Vicusbauten in der Pfalz. In: Haus und Siedlung in den römischen Nordwestprovinzen. Grabungsbefund, Architektur, Ausstattung (Homburg/Saar 2002) 141-164.

H. Bernhard, Abschluss der archäologischen Untersuchungen in Speyer Ludwigstrasse 17 a. Archäologie in der Pfalz 2001 (2003) 207-209, Abb.

U. Grünwald, Römische Besiedlung am Domplatz. In: Unter dem Pflaster. Archäologische Grabungen von 1987-1989 (Speyer 1989) 24-34.

U. Grünwald, Keller des 2. und 3. Jahrhunderts am Domplatz. In: Unter dem Pflaster. Archäologische Grabungen von 1987-1989 (Speyer 1989) 45-50.

U. Grünwald, Ausgrabungen im römischen Stadtbezirk von Speyer (Noviomagus, Nemetae). Denkmalpflege in Rheinland-Pfalz 47-51, 1992-96, 511-513, Abb.

G. Lenz-Bernhard/ H. Bernhard, Das Oberrheingebiet zwischen Caesars Gallischem Krieg und der flavischen Okkupation (58 v.-73 n.Chr.). Eine siedlungsgeschichtliche Studie. Mitteilungen des Historischen Vereins der Pfalz 89, 1991.