Römermuseen: Lebensgroße Darstellung eines römischen Soldaten im Museum Quintana in Künzig
Roman way of life

Fancy following in the footsteps of the Romans? The Museum Quintana in Künzing has joined forces with four other museums to form the "Roman Museums on the Bavarian Danube Limes".

Reading time: 12 minutes

Roman museums in Bavaria

Together with the State Office for the Preservation of Historical Monuments, the museums are planning “digital storytelling via an app that also enables 360-degree views,” says Roman Weindl, the director of the archaeological museum. In the future, this will allow interested people to take a look at the past from their sofa at home before they travel. To experience a heritage site like the Danube Limes and get an idea of its dimensions, however, one thing is still best: a visit on site.

The Bavarian Danube Limes

The Bavarian Danube Limes is the northernmost section of the Danube Limes, stretching from Eining to the Black Sea. The Danube Limes marked the river border of the Roman Empire in Central and South-Eastern Europe. The border was secured with forts and watchtowers. Settlement remains and remains of military installations along the Danube Limes are witnesses to history and can be visited in the museums of the network "Roman museums along the Bavarian Danube Limes".

Römermuseen: Dr. Roman Weindl führt durch das Museum Quintana in Künzing
 Museum Quintana: Exponate aus der Römerzeit

A visit to the Wet Limes

Morning at the Quintana Museum in the small town of Künzing northeast of Passau. A group of middle-aged women and men stroll along the glass display cases. The guests look with interest at shiny coins, ceramic tableware and tools from the 2nd. century.

Weindl explains the finds. "When the adopted sons of Emperor Augustus conquered the foothills of the Alps before Christ, our region was sparsely populated. So they didn't come as a mere army of occupation, but also brought economic prosperity."

Around 500 soldiers were supposed to secure a section of the northern border of the huge Roman Empire here almost 2,000 years ago. This made the auxiliary fort at Künzing one of the smaller military camps that the Romans built on the banks of the Danube. They called the river border "ripa", today researchers speak of the "Danube Limes".

Römermuseen: Dr. Roman Weindl vor der Rekonstruktion eines hölzernen Amphitheaters bei Künzing

Part of the UNESCO World Heritage

At the end of July 2021, the Bavarian section of the Danube Limes between Regensburg and Passau, together with the Danube Limes in Austria and Slovakia, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This makes the Bavarian Danube Limes, along with Hadrian's Wall and Antoninus Wall in northern England, part of a string of pearls on the Limes World Heritage Site that spans several nations and now stretches from the Netherlands to Slovakia.

"The inclusion of the settlement remains and remains of the military installations along the Danube Limes in the UNESCO World Heritage Site is an obligation to preserve them for future generations and to bring our Roman heritage closer to visitors in the museums," says museum director Weindl.

The Romans brought wine culture to Bavaria

The archaeologist lingers a little longer in front of a display case. It shows his favourite exhibit, a small bronze decorative nail with a depiction of the sun god Sol. It was found near a sanctuary for the god Mithras, which is replicated in the exhibition next to the display case.

"In this Mithraeum," says Weindl, "secret cult celebrations took place in which Sol was worshipped as well as Mithras. Because of the many crockery remains and animal bones from the building, we know that sacrificed animals were eaten and wine drunk together during these celebrations."

Römermuseen: Gefäß im Archäologischen Museum der Stadt Kelheim

Until the late Middle Ages wine was more important than beer

"Hasn't beer always been drunk in Bavaria?" one of the gentlemen asks in amazement. The director answers in the negative: "Until the late Middle Ages, wine was more important than beer." There is no evidence of wine growing along the Bavarian Danube Limes at the time of the Romans, but it is very likely that the Romans brought the cultivation of vines with them from home.

Roman eating habits brought a welcome change to the local cuisine, which probably consisted mainly of spelt porridge with vegetables or meat. "With a little fish sauce, everyday dishes were given a special Roman touch," the archaeologist reports with a smile. Olive oil and sheep's cheese seasoned with garlic were also served, Weindl continues.

Grain porridge and fish sauce: Roman-Bavarian food culture

"Those who could afford it dined on imported dates, figs and even oysters." On special occasions, the table was set with terra sigillata tableware, a glazed, reddish-glossy, fine ceramic. This was accompanied by water with vinegar during service: "That's what people understood by a refreshing sour soda back then."

The Romans, on the other hand, were initially unable to get used to beer, which was popular with the Germanic and Celtic peoples. "Barley was something for animals for the Romans, but nothing they would have brewed a drink from," says Weindl. Over time, however, the occupiers acquired a taste for it and adopted beer drinking from the so-called barbarians.

Integration Machine Army: Multiculturalism in Bavaria

In general, things were surprisingly multicultural in 1st century Künzing. The Roman auxiliary soldiers came from Germania, today's Bulgaria, from Portugal and even from Syria. The army functioned as an "integration machinery", as Weindl calls it.

The soldiers learned Latin, reading and writing and spread Roman culture." Evidence of all this can be found in the military diplomas of which the museum is particularly proud. They were handed out to the soldiers after 25 years of service and attested to their newly acquired status as free Roman citizens.

Finally, Weindl leads the group to the highlight of the Quintana Museum, the reconstruction of a wooden amphitheatre located outside the museum. The existence of this amphitheatre was proven during an excavation. It was possibly erected on the occasion of an imperial visit to show gladiator fights or animal hatches. It is possible that the soldiers and veterans in Künzing also organised gladiator games for the local population.

Dr. Roman Weindl: Asambasilika in Osterhofen-Altenmarkt

... by Roman Weindl

Asam Basilica in Osterhofen-Altenmarkt
The basilica is famous and one of the most beautiful baroque churches in the world. In Aldersbach you can visit the Cistercian monastery. There you can enjoy concerts and readings or look at changing exhibitions on the history of art and culture in Bavaria.
landkreis-deggendorf.de (only in German)

Restaurant in the "Hotel Bayerischer Löwe" and "Das Asam"
If you want to eat well, I recommend the "Hotel Bayerischer Löwe" in Osterhofen or "Das Asam" in Aldersbach. Both restaurants offer upscale regional cuisine.
hotel-bayr-loewe.de (only in German) | das-asam.de (only in German)

Nature Reserve Isarmündung
Where we live, the Isar flows into the Danube, and it's very beautiful there. At the entrance to the Isar estuary nature reserve there is an interesting visitor centre where you can find out about the local flora and fauna. For example, the rare Danube barge snail still lives here. In the Quintana Museum we show a reconstruction of a lady with a magnificent headdress from the Neolithic period, decorated with about 400 shells of these snails. Personally, I am fascinated by how long people have lived from and with the river.
infozentrum-isarmuendung.de (only in German)

Roman museums on the Bavarian Danube Limes

  • Museum Quintana - Archaeology in Künzing: Archaeological finds from Künzing, Roman amphitheatre.
    museum-quintana.de/content (only in German)
  • Archaeological Museum of the City of Kelheim: Archaeological finds from Kelheim from the time of the Neanderthals to the early Middle Ages.
    archaeologisches-museum-kelheim.de (only in German)
  • Historical Museum Regensburg with document Legion Camp Wall, art and cultural history from the Stone Age to the 19th century. Original parts of the Roman legionary camp in the old town of Regensburg with permanent exhibition.
    Historisches Museum (only in German) | document Legionslagermauer (only in German)
  • Gäuboden museum Straubing. Museum on the history of Straubing and the Gäuboden. With open-air museum Sorviodurum Roman Park.
    gaeubodenmuseum.de (only in German)
  • Roman Museum Kastell Boiotro - Passau. Finds from the Roman period from the beginnings to late antiquity.
    stadtarchaeologie.de (only in German)

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