Important sites at Marktbreit, Waldgirmes and Kalefeld

Roads extended well beyond the Limes into Free Germany and outlying watchtowers were built upon high vantage points. These moves indicate that although provision was made for defence in depth, the military stance of the Romans was inherently expansionist. Fairly recent archaeological ‘digs’ have shown that tentative Roman colonization penetrated deep into Germania magna, usually along river valleys. For instance, in the 1980s, a large legionary timber fortress of the early Augustan period was discovered at Marktbreit on the river Main, about 60 km beyond the outermost Limes (Fig. 5). In the 1990s a fortified trading post was discovered at Waldgirmes on the river Lahn, 100 km east of Koblenz and the Rhine. Built in the Augustan period, its small but unique forum is the oldest stone-based building in Germania magna. The layout and rich finds indicate that the Romans intended the settlement to act as a nucleus for a colonial town. This budding township was apparently destroyed and abandoned after the Varian calamity.

It has usually been assumed that Roman military activities in Germania magna east of the Rhein were limited as a consequence of the Varian disaster. This view has been dramatically modified by the recent discovery of a Roman battlefield at Kalefeld, a small village roughly midway between the Rhein and the Elbe. Here, in 2008, on a hilltop of the rainy Harz mountains, more than six hundred Roman artifacts were found: they ranged from catapult (ballista) bolts, axes, spears and arrowheads to nails from the soles of legionaries’ sandals. Unlike the Kalkriese battle site, no equipment was found, indicating that it was a Roman victory. The Roman force numbered about one thousand men and was apparently heading south toward Mogontiacum (Mainz) when confronted by hostile Germans. Dating of the event has been tentatively associated with the name of bellicose Maximinus Thrax, the first non-Roman to become Emperor (AD 235-38). It is now broadly accepted that the Romans conducted substantial military campaigns in Germania magna before and during the fateful third century AD.