Urbs opulentissima - Trier’s First Period of Glory

(AD 70 to 269)

  • The Trier gold coin hoard found in 1993 comprises around 2,570 aurei and is by far the largest gold coin find from the Roman imperial period. Photo:  Trier Landesmuseum, Thomas Zühmer.
    The Trier gold coin hoard found in 1993 comprises around 2,570 aurei and is by far the largest gold coin find from the Roman imperial period. Photo: Trier Landesmuseum, Thomas Zühmer.
  • Still Trier’s landmark: The Porta Nigra, the north gate of the ancient city wall.
    Still Trier’s landmark: The Porta Nigra, the north gate of the ancient city wall.
  • The Roman Amphitheater is used today for open-air concerts, opera performances, and reenactment gladiator fights.
    The Roman Amphitheater is used today for open-air concerts, opera performances, and reenactment gladiator fights.
  • The fights 1800 years ago were always bloody. Picture: Trier Landesmuseum, Lambert Dahm.
    The fights 1800 years ago were always bloody. Picture: Trier Landesmuseum, Lambert Dahm.
  • Reconstruction of the "Barbara Baths". Trier Landesmuseum, Lambert Dahm.
    Reconstruction of the "Barbara Baths". Trier Landesmuseum, Lambert Dahm.
  • This mosaic from a Trier villa urbana shows a chariot driver named Polydus, who was possibly cheered on as he raced with his quadriga in the Trier Circus. Photo: Trier Landesmuseum,  Thomas Zühmer.
    This mosaic from a Trier villa urbana shows a chariot driver named Polydus, who was possibly cheered on as he raced with his quadriga in the Trier Circus. Photo: Trier Landesmuseum, Thomas Zühmer.
back
forward

As early as AD 44, the geography Pomponius Mela described Trier as “urbs opulentissima” (exceedingly wealthy city). At the latest, beginning in the 2nd century AD, this designation appears to have been fitting. In this era, some of the grand structures were erected for which Trier owes its status as a UNESCO World Heritage city.

In AD 144, the now third Moselle bridge was erected at the same place as the previous bridges. The piers of this bridge, constructed of massive basalt lava blocks, have proven to be decidedly substantial: several thousand cars cross the “Roman Bridge” daily; it is and remains the shortest connecting from downtown to Trier-West.

With the so-called “Barbara Baths”, Trier had a bathing and leisure center whose dimensions were surpassed only by the Baths of Trajan in Rome. The baths were furnished with, among other things, heated swimming pools.

After AD 160, the city built a wall about 4 mi/6.4 kilometers long and over 26 feet/8 meters high. The Porta Nigra, then the north city gate, still bears witness today to the impressive dimensions of the Trier fortifications.  

During approximately the same time, the Amphitheater was built, an oval with a capacity for over 18,000 spectators, for the popular as well as gruesome games of Antiquity: gladiator combats and animal hunts and fights.

A further monumental structure from the 2nd century AD was the circus, of which no remains are visible today. The seating capacity for this horse and chariot racing track is estimated to have been up to 50,000.

The 2nd and 3rd centuries AD were for Augusta Treverorum an era of almost uninterrupted peaceful development, one of economic and cultural flowering. The city had an extensive temple district. Aqueducts from the Ruwer Valley, among others, ensured a supply of fresh water for the city. Administratively, the city was a part of the province of Gallia Belgica. The most significant and powerful man in the city was the financial procurator, responsible for the incoming taxes not only in Belgica but also in the two Germanic provinces. 

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

next epoch "Emperor and Christians –Residence of the Western Roman Empire"

return to overview