Aquae Mattiacorum-Wiesbaden, capital of the civitas Mattiacorum

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Foundation and structure

To judge from the evidence of a Roman milestone, the foundation of the civitas Mattiacorum must predate 122 AD and is probably linked to the withdrawal of the military in the early 3rd century. The decisive element in the town’s development was the thermal springs, which were also used by the soldiers. The town’s development as a spa mostly took place in the 3rd century, although building activity continued into the 3rd. The use of bricks with military stamps attests the participation of the army in these building works.

Earlier Settlement

A fort existed on the Heidenberg around the middle of the 1st century, at the latest. An earlier military occupation in the Augustan period at the beginning of the century cannot be ruled out, but the camp may have been located elsewhere (perhaps in the area around the Martiusplatz). The latest fort (2.2 ha) was abandoned in the early 3rd century and grave stones of auxiliaries allow some conclusions to be drawn on the troops stationed here.

Plan of the stone fort

The town and its structure

The known excavation tells us little about the shape and road network of the town, although the finds distribution suggests an area of about 20ha. The early civitas capital was not defended and the Heidenmauer wall, which remained incomplete, dates to the second half of the 4th century.

Plan of the Roman sites

Public buildings and infrastructure

At least one inn or pump room and two baths were built in the vicinity of the Kochbrunnen (Kranzplatz). The large Kranzplatz baths were equipped with and connected to four pools (max. 14 x 7.5m), which were filled with water from the hot spring, as were several smaller tubs. The building history is unclear. A central building might have been built in the late 1st century AD, then extended in the 3rd and bricks with legionary stamps document military involvement in the building. In the immediate vicinity of these baths was a further building contains several small rooms flanking a large internal courtyard. It dates to the 3rd century and is interpreted as an inn or pump room. Another bath, which is only partially known and contained a basin and a hypocausted room, has been located to the north of the large thermae.

Roman baths and mansio at the Kranzplatz
Plan of the large baths at the Kranzplatz

Little is known about the baths in the Schützenhofstrasse, although the few traces of walling suggest a large complex.

Roman walling in the Schützenstraße

A round structure (diam. 14 m) is known with three adjoining long rectangular buildings and a small apsed building. Its function is unknown function is for, although it has been identified as a sweat bath, no evidence for heating could be identified.

Plan of the Roman building complex near the Kaiser-Freidrich-Bad

A 3rd century AD mithraeum has been found on the Coulinstraße. It was partially cut into the living rock and had an anteroom opening into a cult room with platforms along the sides.

Plan and section of the mithraeum

Residential buildings

The residential buildings are poorly understood. Some ground plans are known from one larger excavation (Langgasse 5-9) and in the southern area two long, rectangular timber buildings were found (L.12.2m). These date to the late 1st and early 3rd century AD and, immediately to the north, several rooms with wooden partitions, from a probably later stone structure were documented.
Because of the swampy ground in the southern part of the town (Mauritiusstraße, Mauritiusplatz), the Roman houses were constructed on timber posts and only these pilings survive.
Roman buildings (Langgasse 5-9)
Reconstruction of Roman houses on pilings

Text: Thomas Schmidts

Select bibliography

W. Czysz, Wiesbaden in der Römerzeit. (Stuttgart 1994).

W. Czysz, Vom Römerbad zur Weltkurstadt. Geschichte der Wiesbadener heissen Quellen und Bäder. Schriften des Stadtarchivs Wiesbaden 7. (Wiesbaden 2000).

M. Mattern, Die römischen Steindenkmäler des Stadtgebiets von Wiesbaden und der Limesstrecke zwischen Marienfels und Zugmantel. Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani, Deutschland II,11 (Mainz 1999).

B. Pinsker, Die Kastelle der Römer auf dem Heidenberg in Wiesbaden. Nassauische Annalen 106, 1995, S. 17-59.

E. Ritterling, Das Kastell Wiesbaden. Der obergermanisch-raetische Limes des Römerreiches (ORL) B 31 (1909).

H. Schoppa. Aquae Mattiacae. Wiesbadens römische und alamannisch-merowingische Vergangenheit (Weisbaden 1974).

H. G. Simon in: Die Römer in Hessen (Stuttgart 1982) 485-492.