Both parks and how they are connected I have shown you before, but I have not taken my camera to the site of the Roman remains just outside the deer park until Wednesday afternoon, when sun, blue sky and birdsong beckoned me to leave my desk and go out for a nice long walk.
Any of my readers who are even remotely familiar with European history will know that the Romans were, at some time or other, almost everywhere - and my hometown is no exception.
While we do not have impressive ruins such as amphitheatres or baths and the like, we have our very own villa rustica - or at least we know where it once was.
In the 2nd century, a villa rustica was built on top of a long sloping hill rising up from the fertile Neckar (river) valley in what today is the edge of Hoheneck (literally "High Corner"), a part of Ludwigsburg. Wikipedia defines a villa rustica as "a villa set in the open countryside, often as the hub of a large agricultural estate (latifundium). The adjective rusticum was used to distinguish it from an urban or resort villa. The villa rustica would thus serve both as a residence of the landowner and his family (and retainers) and also as a farm management centre. It would often comprise separate buildings to accommodate farm labourers and sheds and barns for animals and crops."
What today is known as the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg was inhabited by Celtic tribes. The Roman occupation started in earnest in the first half of the first century, gradually expanding north-eastwards from the river Danube. 200 years later, in the year 260, some of the Germanic tribes living north of the frontier wall broke through that frontier and put an end to the Roman era in Wuerttemberg.
For a long time, the remains of the villa were used as a very convenient self-service quarry by anyone who needed building materials. The place's history slipped into oblivion. It would take around 1.800 years until, early on in the 20th century, some digging took place and the villa was rediscovered. The digging was not completed, though, and for the sake of preservation of the few remaining walls, they were covered again. In 1986, a more thorough digging was done, and finally, in 1991/1992, it was decided to turn the site into an open-air museum, open 24/7 all year round.
Today, the "museum" is a bit neglected, I'm afraid; the original idea was to offer a glimpse into daily life on a Roman farm by showing in small sample fields what sort of crop was planted and harvested in those days, and in a small walled garden, what herbs were used for culinary and medicinal purposes.
Still, the site shows the original outline of the buildings, along with a few Roman artefacts, such as this altar stone:
The inscription reads: DEO MERCVRIO CVLTORI RIPANVS EX IVSS(u) E(ius) L(ibens) L(aetus) M(e)R(ito), which means more or less "To the God Mercurius, carer of the field, Ripanus has gladly had this altar erected and paid for it." It is assumed that Ripanus was a wealthy landowner (some sort of gentleman farmer) who donated this altar, hoping for more of Mercurius' blessings for his land.
Horses played an important role in working the land, not just in the military part of Roman life, as this stone relief of horse goddess Epona shows:
As I said, the field-and-garden part of the museum is somewhat neglected, but the entire site has such a quiet and peaceful atmosphere to it, in spite of the busy playground on one side of it and the residential area on the other. Is it the closeness to the deer park with its large old trees and leafy paths, or the fact that the site is so little known that hardly anyone finds their way there? I don't know; I just know that I am glad I went there on Wednesday, read all the information provided on the signs and took these pictures to take home with me.
From there, I walked through the deer park, taking a route home different to the one I had set out on.
I came across some interesting creatures - not just deer, mind you! - there, but, once again, that will have to wait for another post.
Hmmmmmm. A spam comment above.......Sorry.ReplyDelete
I enjoyed this post, Meike, and am interested in Roman ruins. I'm sorry I didn't know this museum existed but perhaps it did not in 1973. In '98 we visited Vinlandia on the English/Scottish border and found it very interesting. Have you ever read any of Rosemary Sutcliff's books set in Roman times? They are fascinating stories, meant for young adults but enjoyable by anyone, I think, who likes history and good stories. The Eagle of the Ninth is a favorite of mine.
I hope this museum will have more care (probably means more funding) in the future.
Most of the many spam comments I get every day (usually somewhere between 10 and 20) never make it to the site but get filtered, but that one somehow did. Well, it is gone now!Delete
You are right, the museum did not exist in 1973, as I said in the post: "...and finally, in 1991/1992, it was decided to turn the site into an open-air museum".
Oh yes, I loved reading Rosemary Sutcliff's books when I was a teenager! I borrowed them from the school library where my Mum worked. "The Eagle of the Ninth" and several others were great!
You must know that for someone from America something as old as Roman Ruins is an amazing thing and you can just casually stroll over to see them!ReplyDelete
One thing, those Romans sure knew how to build something. Guess I don't have to tell you that! Love the dappled sunlight on the outlines of the buildings.
What creatures? Can't wait to see!
You have your share of ancient things, too, don't you, but the Romans never made it across the big pond, they left that to the Vikings :-)Delete
The creatures are nothing exotic, Kay; I suppose I'll write that post tomorrow morning (my time).
Roman history is fascinating -- i've seen big, impressive ruins, but i like the idea of a small place, with just hints of how average country people would have lived and worked around the big estate.ReplyDelete
Me too, and it is fascinating to learn how much they already knew in terms of technology, medicine, agriculture, husbandry etc. etc., a lot of which was lost during the following centuries and only rediscovered many years later.Delete
I like the idea of this museum, even if as you say it seems a bit neglected now. Thanks for showing us around :) It's the kind of place I love to visit when touristing myself. Back in 1983 (how can it be 30 years ago?!) I spent a couple of days in Trier and wandered around lots of Roman remains...ReplyDelete
The Roman ruins in Trier I have yet to see; the famous Porta Nigra comes to mind, but I have not been anywhere near Trier yet.Delete
I was brought up not far from many Roman sites (including the Roman city now called Chester). That has not made me blasé but has made me appreciate new ones I come across even more. I have never heard of (or more likely forgotten that I ever knew about) villa rustica so that alone was very interesting.ReplyDelete
Talking of the disappearing Basil some towns in New Zealand grow herbs in their towns for the population to use. There is a tacit understanding that you take just what you need and then there is more than plenty for everyone and still beautiful greenery in the flower beds.
I've read about Chester's Roman past and find it fascinating, it is one place I'd love to visit, but it's too far from Yorkshire for me to go there while I'm with my family - and of course, when I am in England, it is to see the family more than anyhting.Delete
Good to know people are kind enough in NZ to leave some herbs for others and not take everything.
What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee, http://EN.WahooArt.com/A55A04/w.nsf/OPRA/BRUE-8LT475.ReplyDelete
The image can be seen at wahooart.com who can supply you with a canvas print of it.
What thought-provoking photo? What unusual wall painting? Please do not leave comments if you have not really read the blog; otherwise your comments will be reported as spam.Delete