You may wish to see an introductory page to this section first.
We came into lower Bavaria, and to Ratisbon on the Danube. (..) We here entered into the antient Vindelicia, so called from the rivers Vinde and Lycus, which unite below Augsburg. When the Romans conquered this country and Rhaetia, they made it one province under the name of the latter, and called the people of the former Rhaeti Vindelici.
Richard Pococke - A Description of the East and Some Other Countries - 1745
Archaeologists have identified 17 sites with remains of Augusta Vindelicorum, chiefly during the reconstruction of Augsburg after WWII. They show that the town had a small fortress, a Forum, baths, temples, drains, etc, but they are not visible on an ordinary basis, apart from some wall foundations near the Cathedral. The same thing occurs to some extent in Vienna.
Cathedral: columns, capitals, plinths and bricks which might be of Roman origin
Augsburg is a city of Germany. (..) Its Latin name of Augusta Vindelicorum it had from Augustus Caesar who about twelve years before our Saviour subdued those parts and planted here a Roman colony under Drusus Nero, brother of Tiberius. (..) It has been pillaged so often particularly in the time of Attila that there are hardly any remains of its antiquity to be found. In the last century they dug up a pillar five or six feet high on the top of which was the figure of a pine apple (which is shown in the image used as background for this page). They found also some medals of Augustus on the reverse of which the like pillar is to be seen.
Thomas Nugent - The Grand Tour - 1749
Open air exhibition of casts of Roman funerary monuments, reliefs and inscriptions near the Cathedral
It may not be inappropriate in this place to subjoin the inscription now to be seen upon the trophy erected on the Alps (near Monaco), which is to the following effect: "To the Emperor Caesar, the son of Caesar now deified, Augustus, Pontifex Maximus, and emperor fourteen years, in the seventeenth year of his holding the tribunitial authority (in 7-6 BC), the Senate and the Roman people, in remembrance that under his command and auspices all the Alpine nations which extended from the upper (Adriatic) sea to the lower (Tyrrhenian) were reduced to subjection by the Roman people. The Alpine nations so subdued were: the Triumpilini, the Camuni, the Venostes, the Vennonenses, the Isarci, the Breuni, the Genaunes, the Focunates, four nations of the Vindelici ...(the list includes 36 other tribes)".
Pliny the Elder - Historia Naturalis - Translation by John Bostock and Henry Thomas Riley.
The Vindelici were mentioned also in a poem written by Horace in 13 BC, but not by Julius Caesar in The Gallic Wars. They lived south of the upper course of the River Danube. Their chief town was renamed Augusta Vindelicorum.
The arsenal is a fair building having a front like many of the Jesuits chapels. Over the door is a very good brass statue of St. Michael beating the devil and by St. Michael are two or three lesser brass figures. On this house is written also "Pacis firmamento belli instrumento" (another way of saying "If you want peace, prepare for war"). Here we saw twelve rooms well filled with cannon and all sorts of warlike instruments.
An Account of a Journey made thro' Part of the Low Countries, Germany, Italy and France in 1663-1666 by Philip Skippon
In 2019 the building was utilized to temporarily house a selection of the exhibits of the Roman Museum of Augsburg which were formerly on display at a deconsecrated Dominican church. The whole collection testifies to the importance of the Roman presence in Germany, together with those at the museums of Trier, Bonn and Cologne.
Roman Museum: Tabula Peutingeriana: 1) Italy; 2) Asia Minor; 3) Sri Lanka; (inset) Augusta Vindelicorum and Mediolanum (Milan) on the two sides of the Alps (see a section showing North-Eastern Italy)
We must now consider the roads which linked Italy
with Rhaetia and Noricum and the lands that slope towards
the Danube valley. There was firstly a route from Milan, (..) which rose over the Rhaetic
Alps and then descended into the Rhine valley (..) and then turning North-
Eastwards reached Augusta Vindelicorum. But the latter
town was also accessible by another route which started
M. P. Charlesworth - Trade-routes and Commerce of the Roman Empire - Cambridge University Press 1926
In the XVIth century Augsburg was an important cultural centre in addition to being a financial and mercantile one. Conrad Peutinger (1465-1547) was a humanist and a local statesman. He collected a large library and he promoted the printing of classical texts which were found in monasteries. In 1508 he received for printing a long parchment scroll made by a XIIIth century monk of Colmar in Alsace by copying an older document. It was a map of the Late Roman Empire (and of parts of Asia) with the roads which linked its cities. Its north-south dimension was greatly compressed in order to make the scroll portable, yet lands, seas, mountains and rivers are easily identifiable. The original is in Vienna, but the City of Augsburg placed a copy of it in the Roman Museum to honour their fellow citizen.
(left) Cast of the funerary monument to Marcus Aurelius Carus (late IInd century AD); (right) detail showing a peacock next to the dead, a symbol of eternal life because it was thought that its flesh never decayed, even after it died; eventually it became a Christian symbol of Resurrection
In 121 Emperor Hadrian (Publius Aelius Hadrianus) visited the region and he granted Augusta Vindelicorum a higher level of self-government. He renamed the town Municipium Aelium Augustum to highlight its new political status and its increased Roman character. Marcus Aurelius Carus was one of the seviri (six men) of the local College of the Augustales, a body in charge of the ceremonies in honour of the emperors in provincial towns. The inscription says that he was ingenuus (freeborn), but his parents were most likely freedmen who acquired a typical triple Roman name from their masters who were members of the gens (family) Aurelia (see another funerary monument of a sevir at Lyon).
Augsburg was formerly a place of great trade, but it has been upon the decline since commodities from the Mediterranean are no longer brought this way from Venice as formerly and from hence conveyed to other parts of the empire. Nugent.
The writer referred to the trade of the town in the XVIth/XVIIth centuries, but the sentence might have applied also to the Roman town in the IInd and early IIIrd centuries AD, by replacing Venice with Aquileia. It was a period of economic development in many provinces of the Empire which led to the construction of aqueducts, baths, amphitheatres and other facilities. The high number of gold coins of that period which were found at Augsburg testify to the prosperity of the town.
Mercury held a major role among the gods of the Greek/Roman pantheon who were worshipped by the Germans and the Gauls. His role as patron of trade suited the desire of social promotion of the mercantile society of the provincial towns. The horned animal which appears in the reliefs at Augsburg is not typical of the traditional iconography of Mercury; it most likely derives from the features of a local ancestral god.
Roman Museum: "Mirror of life" side reliefs of the tombstone of Pompeianius Silvinus and his brother (see another "Mirror of life" relief in the introductory page)
The inscription does not say anything about the Silvinus brothers, but the two side reliefs speak for themselves. They were retail wine merchants: in one relief wine is sold through a measuring equipment in a very modern looking shop counter; in the other relief sales are being accounted for in another part of the shop with the participation of a woman.
Roman Museum: "Mirror of life" tombstone
The inscription associated with this tombstone is lost, but the relief indicates that the dead was involved in the wine trade. One soon notices that the proportion between the oxen and the cart driver is wrong; it was most likely done on purpose to give more space to the depiction of a dog. These animals are often shown in Roman reliefs portraying children; it is rare to see them associated with an adult (exception made for hunting scenes), but this dog must have been the trusted companion of many long journeys.
Yudhishthira (just before it was time to ascend to heaven) proceeded on, without looking back. He had only one companion, viz., the dog, (..) that followed him now. (..) Yudhishthira said, "This dog, lord of the Past and the Present, is exceedingly devoted to me. He should go with me. My heart is full of compassion for him! (..) I shall not abandon this dog today from desire of my happiness!"
The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa - translation by Roy. Pratap Chandra - 1884
(left) Roman Museum: Augsburg Victory Altar; (right) cast of inscription celebrating Emperor Probus
The IIIrd century AD was characterized by a long period of military anarchy (235-285). In 1992 the pedestal of a (lost) statue of Victory was found by chance near Augsburg and it shed light on the effects of that period on the region. The altar was originally dedicated to Emperor Alexander Severus who was killed in 235 at Mogontiacum (Mainz) by his own legionaries. It was utilized a second time in 260 to celebrate an otherwise unknown episode. The local Roman commander, with the help of civilians and soldiers from the provinces of Germany, defeated bands of Iuthungi, a barbarian tribe, who had crossed the Alps and were returning home with lots of prisoners from Italian towns. The erased lines of the inscription made reference to Postumus, the commander of the legions in Germany, who proclaimed himself Emperor of Gaul, Germany, Britain and Hispania in 260. The secession was ended by Emperor Aurelian in 274, but the conflict greatly weakened the Roman army.
An inscription of 281 celebrated Emperor Probus for having restored the public buildings of Rhaetia. He was much involved in the defence of the Rhine/Danube border. He however let the Alemanni, one of the most bellicose tribes, resettle in the Agri Decumates, a Roman territory on the right bank of the River Rhine which bordered on Rhaetia, thus creating a wedge in the overall defence line.
Roman Museum: (left) head of a horse from a bronze statue of a chariot (IInd century); (right) golden parade helmet (IVth century); (inset) Sassanid relief from Bishapur
Augusta Vindelicorum did not house a large garrison and its museum, unlike those of frontier towns, e.g. Nida (Frankfurt) and Colonia Ulpia Traiana (Xanten), does not have many military exhibits. Both the very fine horse head and the helmet were found at Pfersee, now a suburb of Augsburg, most likely the site of barracks. The gathered tuft of mane between the ears of the horse is identical to that on the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in Rome. The helmet is made up of two parts which are united by a longitudinal ridge and it was designed by developing Sassanid patterns.
Cathedral - stained glass windows portraying Jonas (coming out of the fish), Daniel and David
Augsburg is the see of a bishop who has no share in the temporal government of the city. The chapter of the cathedral consists of persons of quality who are obliged to make proof of their nobility. The canons have the privilege of choosing their bishop who like all the prelates of Germany is a sovereign prince. (..) The cathedral is a Gothic gloomy fabric, but its ornaments are very rich. Nugent
Augusta Vindelicorum declined after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, but its location along important trade routes ensured it was never totally abandoned. The general economic recovery of Europe after the year 1000 favoured its development which had its physical expression in the construction of a large cathedral in 1065. The building retains some stained glass windows which were made soon after 1065 or in the early XIIth century and are regarded as the oldest ones in Germany.
The public buildings are generally magnificent, but the principal beauty of the town consists of several stately streets built and possessed by the family of the Fuggers who are lords of the adjacent country (see their chapel in S. Maria dell'Anima in Rome). They are descended originally from a rich weaver whose children became merchants at the time that the Levant commodities were brought hither by land from Venice and from hence spread all over Germany. One of the family rendered himself famous for entertaining the emperor Charles Vth in a grand manner and supplying him with money and then throwing the bond of security into the fire. In return the emperor is said to have made him a count of the empire. Four of these streets are built cross wise making a fair town of themselves and are inhabited by poor people who have an annual pension. Nugent
Statues of Mercury and Hercules in Maximilianstrasse and of Augustus near the Town Hall
Augsburg is now one of the largest and handsomest cities in Germany. (..) There are several noble fountains with brazen statues of different figures such as Mercury, Hercules killing the Hydra, and some of them adorned with the statues of emperors. (..) The wine market street (today's Maximilianstrasse), so called from a store house of wine in it, is adorned with two fine fountains. (..) Before the townhouse there is a very stately fountain where among other fine figures of brass the statue of Augustus is highly esteemed. Nugent
Perhaps to make up for the lack of actual ancient monuments, three statues linked to the Roman past of the town were erected in central locations between 1588 and 1600. The statues of Hercules and Mercury show the influence of Mannerist sculptors, e.g. il Giambologna.