Full Version: Roman Presence at Burg Hornberg Site?
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Burg Hornberg sits above the town of Neckarzimmern along the Neckar River not too far from Bad Wimpfen. Burg Hornberg is one of the oldest castles in the Neckar Valley. In the course of taking a self-guided tour, one learns that the site was originally occupied by a Roman watchtower. Since visiting a number of years ago, I've been very curious about the Roman presence on the site and along that stretch of the Neckar.

Unfortunately, I've been unable to discover much on my own. In fact, I've only ever found one written reference to it. In the book "Burg Hornberg Rüstzeugschau 1980" there is a one sentence mention that new limes research concluded that a Roman watchtower had occupied the site. No reference is cited. At a guess, I think the watchtower was likely built sometime between A.D. 85 and 90. I originally thought A.D. 90 was more likely because Luttwak in "The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire" notes that circa A.D. 90 a series of forts and watchtowers were constructed throughout the region, including a cohort fort at Wimpfen (pages 92-93). However, the website for the city of Bad Wimpfen reflects that the Roman presence there dates to A.D. 85 in the form of an oak beam, so now I'm a bit confused.

Is anyone here familiar with the research that concluded a watchtower occupied the site of the present day Burg Hornberg? Have artifacts been found or has there been an archaeological investigation? And also can someone please confirm when the Romans first appeared in the area?

An additional question to those previously asked. Assuming a watch tower occupied the site, I am curious as to how it would look given the area/region, position on a hillside and time period. Could someone please provide a graphic example of such a structure or point me toward where I could see one? Also, how many soldiers would man such a structure at a given time?

Thank You

I do not know very much about it, but I understand (from [amazon]Barbara Levick, Vespasian[/amazon]) that the Roman presence on the east bank of the Rhine dates back to Vespasian's reign, so a date like 85 is not impossible. The oldest watchtowers were made entirely of wood, like these pictures:
[Image: tower_s.JPG][Image: rainau-schwabsberg_watchtower1_s.JPG]
(They are from Vechten and Rainau.) I know this is not much, but I hope it helps.
Thank you, Jona. The images are certainly helpful as they give me a better idea of what these structures looked like.

How many soldiers would man such a watch tower? I'm guessing they would have been detached from a larger formation at a nearby fort. How often would the group serving at a watch tower be rotated back to its parent formation?


If I recall correctly, six men, and they are indeed assumed to be from a nearby unit. About rotation, I do not know, but as the archaeologists believe that there were kitchens inside these towers, I do not exclude the possibility that they had to stay there for some time.
Thank you for the information, Jona. It's appreciated.


Well, folks
-- a couple of days off, feeling bored, so why not revive an old thread, much to the dismay of fellow forum-users ?! :wink:
Not quite so. I read this topic only just after I got registered to that forum in April this year and my computer went down for a couple of weeks since then. So therefore please do pardon my undue delay.
Why am I answering these postings ?
Mainly because I was raised in that area.
I've been to Burg Hornberg many times, I know of this statement, saying that there was a roman watchtower on this location.
But I have yet to see a positive proof for that.
The more I learned about roman military buildings and castles, the more I've grown to doubt that statement.
On which asumption is this based ??
Traces of a building clearly dateable ?? Coinage ?? Other finds ?? :?:
Remains/traces of a roman building .
Not that anyone really knows of such a thing in/close to this place.
We have ruins from a roman farm some distance farther to the east.
And that's about it. This doesn't help the case of a watchtower so far.
Since I have no specific information how this coinage is to be dated, we have to discuss the purpose of such a building, because the romans simply did not put buildings there, where they weren't needed.
No sense -- no building.
A watchtower ?
Why should it have been needed especially HERE ??
Guarding a frontier ?? :?:
Well, before about 85-90 A.D. the frontier the LIMES was running on the other bank of the river Neckar, with Bad Wimpfen being regarded as the northmost military garrison of that line. No evidence has been found so far to justify the assumption, that at that time roman buildings were existing further northward on the left bank at all.
And why should they build a tower for that on the "wrong" bank ?! :?:
(There ARE a lot of sites more suitable for such a task on the LEFT bank of the river. But: No finds -- no valid assumptions.)
After about 90 A.D. the Romans established the so-called "Odenwald-Limes" -- but about 3 km further to the east, the watchtowers on it supposed to face eastward to serve their purpose, a thing that a watchtower on the Hornberg site could not do.
In later times the Limes was running at least 3 kms further to the east with garrisons at Neckarburken,Duttenberg, Bad Friedrichshall-Kochendorf and Bad Wimpfen. The nearest watchtower that actually existed on the limes was about 5 kms away from the Hornberg site, right in the middle between Neckarburken and Kochendorf.
And from about 153 A.D. on it was moved even farther east.
Guarding the shipping on the Neckar ?? :?:
Whereas the Neckar seems to have been used extensively for shipping
during the 2nd century, there has been no evidence that the Neckar was used as a means of transporting troops or supply under August or Tiberius.
And no signs of roman regards in that part of Germany before Vespasian/Titus for sure. Without roman military posts in Ludwigshafen-Rheingönnheim/Ladenburg or Heidelberg on one side and Heilbronn-Böckingen or Bad Wimpfen an "isolated" watchtower "further forward" would make no sense.
There are claims that the "mons Piri" fortress that Ammianus mentions in Res Gestae XVIII-II might have been a bit further forward than even Lopodunum. Some say it lays under the castle of Sinsheim-Steinsberg. (Well I have my doubts.)
To cut it short: no late roman traces here to justify the assumption of a building at that time at that place.
You see -- nothing really justifies the assumption of a watchtower there.
But the coinage ??
How come I assume that this statement was based on
the presence of coinage that inspired someone to "postulate" a watchtower there ?? :?:
As K.-J. Gilles occasionally mentions in his book "Late Roman Hilltop Settlements in the Eifel and the Hunsrück", Trier 1985 and Otto Pieper does so too in "Burgenkunde" 3rd Ed. 1912, 1993, that collections of roman coins can also be attributed to the private property of medieval castle owners. This may lead to an inaccurate dating of a place.
Arrow And with most of the past owners of the Hornberg being mostly very well educated men (don't get fooled by the image Götz von Berlichingen has gained in public !) capable of reading and writing Latin and Greek it is most likely that this coins were part of a personal collection there.
A coup of promotion ?! At least not intentionally, I think. A lot of other medieval castle sites have similar claims, too but also fail to justify them after close scrutiny. :!:
After all the Hornberg is still a very interesting place to visit or be ---- with exceptionally good wines. (So they ARE living up to a Roman tradition in a way. Salute ! Bibendum ! :wink: .) :!:
So, that would be a statement against the case of a watchtower at this place. I'm internally relieved now. :wink:
Any other opinions ?


Siggi K.