Circumitus: Batavis, Boiodurum


(The name actually refers to the bicycle route and is not, apparently, what the Romans called it.)

This posting hails from the other side of Bavaria, a “detour” onto the Roman road which follows the Danube and also the boundary separating the Roman Empire (in this case, the province of Raetia) from the Germanic Marcomanni to the north. This border is known as the Limes, and covered the lands on all sides of the Mediterranean Sea, in one form or another.


The Roman Museum in Passau is built on the site of one of the fortified structures from the Roman period, Boiodurum. This name, like many Roman sites in Germany is apparently of Celtic origin. There were people settled on Passau’s peninsula long before even the official founding date of Rome, but according to archaeological finds they were gone, or least no longer present in sufficient numbers (discontinuity), by the time the Romans arrived; no signs of destruction or conflict have been found either. This brings me to something I have been thinking about ever since I started looking at early European history: the way some history texts tell it, the reader can get the impression that the Romans simply arrived one day –  cutting through virgin land with their swords and putting down roads to get to their provincial capitals which had also just appeared out of thin air. Just as there had been settlements here before, and some infrastructure (mule paths over the Alps), there surely must have been some Roman presence here long before as well, even if only in the form of tradesmen or scouts. Polybius made remarks about the Raetians over a century before the transalpine road plans went into effect.


The museum found a creative way to present the Tabula Peutingeriana in a large enough size to actually read it.

There were plenty of Roman soldiers in this “three rivers” area, but other people as well, judging from excavation finds. Below is a type of “diploma” awarded to a Roman soldier after completing his 25-year service (if he survived that long). He got some money and a little set of engraved dog tags, threaded together with wire like a spiral notebook, according him privilege wherever he went. Did Claudius Paternus Clementianus of Epfach possess one of these? Probably.



Part of a roof tile found in the ruins of the Roman Boiodurum fortress at Passau, delightfully marred by a paw print before it was dry.

In Passau one may find a little light shed on the continuity of the place after the Romans withdrew. Roman troops at Boiodurum were among the last to stick it out along the Limes, after other frontier posts had already fallen. Eugippius says that a small group set out for Rome to collect the soldiers’ last pay but were killed by Barbarians, unbeknownst to those remaining and waiting for their return. Eugippius’ biography of St. Severinus mentions “people” – probably both Romans and Romanized Raetians – holing up together in Batavis (the fortified Roman settlement in Passau, on the hill where, not coincidentally, the Cathedral now stands) and defeating the invaders before being urged to leave for safety at Lauriacum (Enns). Eugippus also mentions St. Severinus founding a small monastery at “Boiotro”, most certainly using the existing Boiodurum fortress walls.


A last sign of the Roman Empire’s long march toward being the Holy Roman Empire: not St. Severinus, but the Holy Bishop Valentin of Noricum (Roman province of Salzburg), who came to Raetia as a missionary. The silver box below his image is said to hold his relics. My understanding of the “Dark Ages” seems to have been a little wrong until now – it was certainly chaotic, violent,  in flux, and certainly dark to live in — but not completely shrouded in misty Unknown. The information is there, you just have to look for it.

This entry was posted in archaeology, assimilation, Bavaria, culture, Germany, history, Roman roads, travel. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Circumitus: Batavis, Boiodurum

  1. ellroon says:

    So amazing to live where so much happened so long ago. Thanks for the history lesson, this is fascinating!

  2. paschberg says:

    There ist also a controversial hypothesis of „phantom time” on dark age, which says that some 600 years did not really happen. Scientist thinks it is humbug.
    Some thing is obvious. When a civilization comes to an end this must have an impact on written history. In small scale similar things happened at the end of Austrian empire. If you look for historic documents in archives you will find a large hole in evidence between 1918 and 1945. As the scale of collapse in this example was just local this was not the end of written history. But no one could say the time between 1918 and 1945 is phantom time 😉

  3. kcosumano says:

    I have heard of that “missing 600 year” theory which I think is, as the Germans say, “quatsch”. Actually I was surprised to read that it was thought up by a Bavarian!

  4. paschberg says:

    Another funny theory not directly from Bavaria, but I knew only this book an thought that it came up there: Paul Müller Murnaus Hollow-Earth-Book

    However, I am glad, that the Inventors of “phantom time” and “hollow earth” are not people I would first associate with Bavaria….. Of course Ludwig II is somehow inevitable….. But allways first Wilhelm Bauer crosses my mind.

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