Cambodunum – Kempten

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An artist’s rendition of the stone layers of an inside wall in the kleine Therme.

 

Kempten, in the Allgäu region, is one of Germany’s oldest cities. Earliest mention appears to be by the ancient Greek geographer Strabo, who called it Kambodunon and wrote that it was a town of the Celtic Estiones. When the Romans  invaded in 15 BCE, they built a classical Roman city on the plateau overlooking the current modern town. Cambodunum‘s buildings were initially made of wood, and after a fire destroyed the town in 69 CE, it was rebuilt in stone, and it is these remains which the visitor sees at the Cambodunum Archaeology Park (g).

 

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Above, the remains of the Temple District (top). The population of Cambodunum consisted not only of Romans but of assimilated (“romanized”) locals and immigrants, and each group had their own set of gods to worship. In Cambodunum, the temples of local gods and Roman gods existed side by side. The low stone walls define the excavated walls and foundations, as for example the Forum in what is now a large lawn.

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The kleine Therme (“small bathhouse” — I was unable to figure out it there was a large one as well, possibly reburied for conservation purposes or lost to centuries of urban construction) is on display inside a protective building. It was built for the town’s chief magistrate, his staff and guests, and featured hot and cold baths, a steam room, and latrines. When Rome abandoned its transmontane colonies and eventually went down itself with the invading hordes, it unfortunately took its knowledge of its infrastructure maintenance with it. In a 2007 interview for Salon, historian Katherine Ashenburg explains why the following centuries of life in Europe were filthy ones.

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Random piles of building stones within the park. Not everything can by reconstructed.

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