The Treveri and the Romans – The City’s Founding

(5000 BC – AD 70)

  • The bridge across the Moselle marks Trier’s beginnings. At first, the bridge was made completely of wood. This reconstruction shows the bridge in the 2nd century AD. Picture: Trier Landesmuseum, Lambert Dahm.
    The bridge across the Moselle marks Trier’s beginnings. At first, the bridge was made completely of wood. This reconstruction shows the bridge in the 2nd century AD. Picture: Trier Landesmuseum, Lambert Dahm.
  • The Roman Bridge today: The piers of the ancient structure are still stable.
    The Roman Bridge today: The piers of the ancient structure are still stable.
  • The grid network of streets in the ancient city, marked in the paving on Viehmarkt Square, ran in north-south and east-west directions. Photo: Stadtgeschichte
    The grid network of streets in the ancient city, marked in the paving on Viehmarkt Square, ran in north-south and east-west directions. Photo: Stadtgeschichte
  • For Trier’s 2020th birthday, a bronze plaque was set into the paving of Viehmarkt Square honoring the city’s founder, the “divine Augustus” (Divo Augusto).
    For Trier’s 2020th birthday, a bronze plaque was set into the paving of Viehmarkt Square honoring the city’s founder, the “divine Augustus” (Divo Augusto).
  • This piece of wood is a slice from a pile of the first Trier Moselle bridge and has been dated to 17 BC with the aid of dendrochronology (reading the annual growth rings).
    This piece of wood is a slice from a pile of the first Trier Moselle bridge and has been dated to 17 BC with the aid of dendrochronology (reading the annual growth rings).
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Trier. The name of Germany’s oldest city derives from the Celtic tribe of the Treveri, whose territory extended from the Meuse to the Rhine in the first centuries before the Christian era. The Treveri fortified places were mostly located on high plateaus, but Celtic farms and graves have also been discovered during excavations in and around Trier. Sporadic settlement in the Trier valley go back much further and can be archaeologically documented as far back as the New Stone Age about 7,000 years ago.

When the Roman military commander Julius Caesar conquered Gaul in 50 BC, he also fought and conquered the Treveri. This tribe later rebelled again unsuccessfully against the foreign rulers. To defend against this uprising, the Romans temporarily erected a military camp on Petrisberg Mountain near Trier in 30 BC. The remains are the earliest testimony to the Roman presence in the present-day area of the city.

After decades of civil war, Emperor Augustus pacified the Roman Empire and promoted infrastructure in the new provinces. The beginnings of Trier are thus closely linked to this policy: In the course of constructing a highway system, the Romans erected a wooden bridge across the Moselle in 17 BC. The bridge was the inception of the city located on the east bank. Its ancient name Augusta Treverorum (the Augustus city of the Treveri) suggests a founding by the emperor, who was in Gaul from 16 BC to 13 BC. This period also marks the beginning of an uninterrupted urban settlement up to the present day.

Augusta Treverorum, rapidly growing in the following decades, received a grid network of streets. The center of public life was the forum, located in the eastern extension of the Moselle crossing. The city advanced to being a new capital of the Treveri, who, after a last, bloody failed uprising in AD 70, finally surrendered to Roman dominance and adapted to the Roman language and culture.

Text: Ralph Kießling
Literature: Gabriele Clemens/Lukas Clemens: Geschichte der Stadt Trier, Munich, 2007

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