Sunday, 10 October 2010

Romans in Germany

Germania BookThis old emperor rarely ventures outside of Rome, and usually confines himself to the new lingua franca of English. But he couldn't ignore the publication of an exciting new study by German publisher WBG, which traces Roman knowledge of deepest Germany.

It is well known that the Roman advance stalled on the Rhine, more or less. After a couple of punitive expeditions had reached as far as the River Elbe, the Roman frontier settled down along the line now known as the Obergermanisch-Raetischer Limes, which runs through the modern west German states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse, Baden-W├╝rttemberg and Bavaria. It is generally agreed that the Romans had few dealings farther east.

Ptolemy's map

But the second century AD Geography of Ptolemy contains lists of placenames purporting to exist in Roman-era Germany. These have never raised much interest in the English-speaking world, which has been more intrigued by Ptolemy's Scottish placenames. So the new book promises to renew much overdue interest.

German magazine Der Spiegel has hailed the new book as the Google Earth of Antiquity! "Now a team of researchers have cracked the code, revealing that half of Germany's cities are 1,000 years older than previously thought." They may be a little premature in their claims -- only the book reviews will reveal how successful the authors have been in assigning Ptolemy's placenames to actual settlements.

WBG Article here.


  1. The book looks like something I may get from the library. I am a member of the WBG but I'm not sure this one will prove wotth its money; I'll wait for more - and better - reviews. The Spiegel article is full of generalisations, misinformation and platitudes.

  2. As I suspected, Gabriele -- it's just an advertising piece in Der Spiegel to encourage sales.