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The Limes

A model drawing of the Rhine side of the Gelduba Roman fort (Krefeld-Gellep)

The Limes was the border fortification of the Roman Empire. At the time of its greatest expansion, it ran through more than 20 countries and was 7,500 kilometres long in total. Depending on the conditions on the ground, the limes sections looked very different.

In the north, the rivers Rhine, Main and Danube formed the border of the Roman Empire. They were protected by a chain of forts and legionary camps. Sections of the Lower Germanic Limes, the Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes and parts of the Danube Limes ran through what is now Germany. 

The Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2005, and applications have been submitted for the other two sections to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List as transnational World Heritage Sites. Due to their unique value, all parts of the Roman Limes are to become, in the long run, components of the World Heritage Site, ‘Frontiers of the Roman Empire’. In addition to the Upper Germanic-Raetian Limes, the Hadrian's Wall in England and the Antonine Wall in Scotland are already included.

UNESCO World Heritage

The transnational World Heritage Site, ‘Frontiers of the Roman Empire’ refers to the borders at the time of the greatest expansion of the empire in the 2nd century A.D.

Back then, there were over 7500 kilometres of frontiers at and around the Mediterranean in more than 20 countries on three continents. 

In addition to the actual border sections, the World Heritage Site also includes military installations of other periods along the border, such as legionary camps, forts or towers, but also civilian buildings associated with them.

An aerial view of the planted fort Ruffenhofen as part of the Upper Germanic-Rhaetian Limes.
The gravestone of a Roman horseman in the Roman-Germanic Museum in Cologne, dating: 2nd half of the 1st century AD.
World Heritage Site Lower German Limes

The Lower Germanic Limes was one of the most important borders of the Roman Empire. It stretched for 400 kilometres from Remagen in Rhineland-Palatinate to Katwijk (Netherlands) on the North Sea and existed for 450 years. 

A system of numerous forts, watchtowers and legionary camps secured this river border. They gave rise to important cities and diverse cultural landscapes that still characterise North Rhine-Westphalia today. 

The eminent archaeological monuments and sites of the ‘Wet Limes’ are popular and much visited places.