You may wish to see an introductory page to this section first.
Monument to Ludwig Van Beethoven and behind it the Main Post Office in a small palace built in 1751 for the canons of the Convent of Saints Cassius, Florentius and Malusius
Bonn is a small town of the electorate of Cologne situate on the west side of the Rhine and the ordinary residence of the elector of Cologne. It is supposed to be the Colonia Julia and Ara Ubiorum of the Romans near which place Julius Caesar built a bridge cross the Rhine. Its name is said to be derived from its happy situation which is in a pleasant fruitful country, abounding with vineyards, at the end of a long ridge of mountains which shut in the Rhine on both sides from hence as far as Bingen. It suffered much in the beginning of the present century, when it was besieged and taken by the duke of Marlborough, but the late elector, upon his return from France after the conclusion of the general peace, caused the old demolished houses to be rebuilt, and a great many new ones to be erected so that it improves every day while Cologne is decaying. It is now a well built town pretty populous and strongly fortified. The churches are stately especially the collegiate dedicated to the martyrs Cassius, Florentius and Malusius, and said to have been founded by St Helena, the mother of Constantine.
Thomas Nugent - The Grand Tour - 1749
Rheinische Landesmuseum Bonn (RLB): (left) Jupiter Saule (Column) with seated Jupiter and Juno, Minerva and Hercules on the shaft; (centre) Jupiter Saule with Jupiter on a horse and Juno on the shaft (see other Jupiter Columns in the introductory page); (right) remains of a bronze statue of Jupiter, which are mentioned below; the image used as background for this page shows a bronze decoration of a ship portraying Minerva
Bonn, a town of 12,000 inhabitants, on the left bank of the Rhine,
is chiefly remarkably for its University, established by the King of
Prussia, in 1818. (..) The Electors of Cologne formerly
resided here, having removed their
court hither from Cologne in 1268;
their Palace now serves to contain
the University: (..) The same building contains the
Museum of Rhenish Antiquities, a very
large and interesting assemblage of local remains discovered on the banks
of the Rhine, and relics of Roman settlements in this part of Germany. (..) The
following seem to be the most remarkable objects: A Roman altar, dedicated to Victory (..). A bronze vase, bearing
figures of Hercules, Mars, and Venus,
in a pure style of art, found at Zulpich. Numerous weapons, trinkets,
vases, glass vessels, a winged head of
Mercury, found at Hadernheim; the
gravestone of one M. Caelius, who
fell in the great battle of Varus (bello
Variano), against Arminius (if genuine); Jupiter's wig, and thunderbolt of bronze, from the Hundsruck;
tiles stamped with the numbers of
several Roman legions (xxi. xxii.)
stationed in these parts; a Roman millstone of Mendig tufa, and an ancient
German shield of wood, dug up at
Isenburg, in Westphalia, besides 200
John Murray - A Hand-Book for Travellers on the Continent - 1838
In 1815 the Kingdom of Prussia was assigned the territories of the Electorates of Cologne and Trier; in 1822 they were merged with other Prussian possessions to form the Rhine Province of the kingdom. The collections of the museum at Bonn included exhibits from the northern part of the province, i.e. from Cologne, Aachen and Xanten; in 1877 a detached section was opened at Trier to house those from its southern part. Modern Bonn is located to the south of the Roman fortress, today the neighbourhood of Bonn-Castell, and therefore it does not retain any ancient monuments, apart from those in the museum.
RLB: IInd century AD altars found near Bonn: (left/centre) to Aufanian Matrons (a similar altar is on display at Cologne); (right) to Mercury Gebrinus
These two fine altars show how local deities were merged with the traditional iconography of Greek/Roman gods. The triple (praenomen, nomen and cognomen) names of the donors indicate that they were fully Romanized and one of them was quaestor (treasurer) at Cologne.
Aufania is most likely a Latinized word for abundance and a girl carrying fruit is portrayed on the short side of the altar. Matron means married woman and is almost a synonym of mother. The cult of a plurality of ancestral mother goddesses, most usually three (but in this altar perhaps only two), can be found in Gaul and in Britain too (at Cirencester).
The cult of Gebrinus is attested only in the proximity of Bonn. The god was most likely worshipped only by the Ubii, who lived in the area when it was conquered by the Romans. It was perhaps a horned god, similar to Cernunnos in Luxembourg, because the altar dedicated to him showed a ram in addition to a cock which is a traditional symbol of Mercury.
RLB: (left) relief showing Orestes, Pylades and Iphigenia escaping from Tauris; (right) small statue portraying Aeneas with father and son escaping from Troy (you may wish to see that by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in Rome) from a mausoleum of Cologne
Other exhibits of the museum show that the inhabitants of the region were familiar with Greek and Latin literature. The scene related to Orestes was rarely depicted (see a mosaic found in Rome). Maybe the story was known in Germany after Ovid's account, rather than Euripides' play.
Ovid: Ex Ponto - Book Three - Translation by A. S. Kline
The portrayal of the dead attending their funerary banquet was very common in the Greek and Etruscan cultures and later on in the Roman one. Whether the legionaries on the Rhine border actually enjoyed banquets laying on a couch or not is a matter for debate, because reliefs at Trier show the use of chairs in the region, yet some of them chose this traditional posture for their gravestones.
Inscriptions very often provided detailed information on the rank and life of the dead. Durises was a cavalryman (and this is confirmed by a small relief in the lower part of the gravestone) of ala Sulpicia (a regiment of auxiliary troops most likely founded by Emperor Servius Sulpicius Galba in 68 AD) in turma Nepotis (a squadron of the regiment under the command of Nepos). He died at 36 after 16 years of service. He gave instructions for his gravestone.
Other inscriptions indicated the country of origin of the soldiers; Pintaius came from Castellum Intercatia in the Asturian/Cantabrian mountains in Northern Spain. It was the last region to be conquered by the Romans who were impressed by the bravery of the locals and recruited them as auxiliary troops. They formed a cohors, a tactical military unit of a legion, and they were allowed to wear some distinctive equipment. Pintaius (died 30, served 7) chose to be portrayed with overlong bear claws (an endangered population of brown bears still exists in the Cantabrian mountains). His gravestone has inspired participants in the celebrations for the foundation of Rome.
Lucius Firmus (died 36, served 14) was portrayed in a more conventional way, but he too came from a province of the Empire for the conquest of which the Romans had to fight hard. He was a member of cohors Raetorum Natione Montanus, i.e. a cohort recruited in Raetia, a mountainous territory roughly corresponding to Switzerland which the Romans managed to subjugate only in 15 BC.
The relief depicting Attis on the gravestone of Firmus shows that, in addition to the local and the Greco-Roman ones, other religions appealed to the legionaries on the Rhine border, i.e. those coming from the Eastern Mediterranean. The worship of Mithra, a god of Persian origin, flourished in the IInd and IIIrd century. It was reserved to initiates who were not allowed to divulgate its ceremonies. This, together with the hostility towards this cult by the Christians, who tried to erase all references to it, explains why it is shrouded with mystery. The two elements which indicate a community of followers of Mithra, i.e. a relief/statue/fresco depicting the god in the act of slaying a bull and an artificial narrow underground hall for the ceremonies have been found in Italy (e.g. at Ostia), Spain (e.g. at Merida), France (e.g. at Arles), Germany and Britain (see a relief in London), but strangely enough, very rarely in the eastern provinces of the Empire.
Another initiatic cult which was widespread in the army was that of Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun) and the fine floor mosaic depicting the Chariot of the Sun surrounded by the signs of the Zodiac might indicate that the landlord of a large villa was an adept of it. The mosaic was found at Münster-Sarmsheim, not far from Bad Kreuznach where another villa with mosaics was found in 1966.
The fact that floor mosaics with this same subject have been found in ancient synagogues in Galilee, suggests that perhaps the mosaic at Bonn did not necessarily have a religious significance. The Chariot of the Sun and the Zodiac signs were both symbols of the passing of time and more generally of the agricultural cycle; in addition the subject can be seen as a variant of the depiction of a charioteer in the circus, another popular theme for floor mosaics (see an example at Trier).
RLB: (left) cavalry parade helmet (IInd century AD - see another helmet from Xanten in this museum); (right) Frankish helmet (VIth century)
Archaeologists found many finely worked Roman parade helmets in Germany (see also those at Frankfurt). That shown above was decorated with the head of a lion surrounded by sun rays. It might have had an astrological meaning because the Sun is the ruling "planet" of the Zodiac sign Leo.
The museum houses also some exhibits related to the period which followed the conquest of the region by the Franks in the late Vth century.
RLB: Glassware, in particular drinking horns which bring to mind a Greek "rhyton"
The glass workshops of Roman Germany managed to achieve levels of excellence almost unequalled in the whole Empire. The glassware collection at Bonn is complemented by those at Trier, at Luxembourg City and at the Römisch-Germanischen Museum of Cologne.
See other exhibits of this museum (Celtic/Gallic, other glassware and a hoard) in the introductory page.
Plan of this section:
Ahrweiler and its Roman Villa
Bad Kreuznach and its Roman Villa
Boppard (Bodobrica) and the Rhine Gorge
Cologne (Colonia Agrippina)
Igel, Nennig and the Mosel Valley
Trier (Augusta Treverorum)
Xanten (Castra Vetera and Colonia Ulpia Traiana)
Aachen: Palatine Chapel
Cologne: Romanesque Churches
Limburg an der Lahn