Zinnlegion © Mules of Marius

The Romans

The Romans

The Roman period accompanies the entire length of the holiday route. The world empire of the Roman emperors is palpably present everywhere. They called themselves imperatores (rulers), caesares (successors of Caesar) or augusti (noble ones). The Danubius formed the natural boundary, the limes, of the Roman Empire to the north. Beyond it, in the Barbaricum, lived the free Germanic tribes. In contrast to the “walled limes”, which met the Danube near Eining and just before Kelheim, the Danubius was known as the “wet limes”.

Like a pearl necklace

The Roman Danube provinces of Raetia, Noricum and Pannonia were established shortly after the birth of Christ, under Emperor Augustus. Raetia encompassed Upper and Lower Bavaria, and Noricum, the territory of today’s Austria south of the Danubius. The Inn river formed the inner-Roman customs border between these two provinces. To the east, they were adjoined by Pannonia, an area corresponding to the portion of modern-day Hungary that lies on the right bank of the Danube. Roman harbour towns and forts lined the Danubian limes like a string of pearls. The great majority of the towns on the Route of Emperors and Kings are of Roman origin. Regensburg (Castra Regina), Lorch (Lauriacum) near Enns, and Carnuntum were ancient cities with mighty defence walls, temples, paved squares, theatres and arenas. Outside the fort walls civil settlements with markets and trading districts developed, the name for which derives from the brothels and taverns which one tended to encounter there: canabae (from which the modern German word Kneipe, or bar, derives). With over 20,000 inhabitants, Aquincum, today’s Budapest, represented the largest town on the Roman Danube. Its luxurious hot springs resorts and thermal baths were famous throughout the Roman Empire.

Enns Römermuseum © Huemer
Enns Römermuseum © Huemer
Römerabteilung © Museum Quintana Künzing
Römerabteilung © Museum Quintana Künzing
The river border 'ripa'

Upriver, the river border was simply called ripa (bank). The Roman Danube fleet, which in imperial times set itself the ambitious task of having every mile of river patrolled by guard-ships at least once a day, was active here. Forts and watchtowers were positioned along the bank of the Danube at precisely calculated intervals, thus enabling rapid communication between the garrisons. Some of these defensive constructions have been preserved up to the present. Like all historical sites, their location is indicated by road signs. These extensive fortifications existed for good reason, for the Germanic tribes to the north of the Danube mobilised their forces time and again.

In the footsteps of Roman emperors

Under Emperor Caracalla (211–217), the limes road that ran continuously along the entire length of the Danube was completed. It represents the ancient precursor, so to speak, of the Route of Emperors and Kings.

Anyone wishing to trace the footsteps of Roman imperatores is definitely on the right track on the Route of Emperors and Kings. Well-preserved constructions, such as the Roman walls in Mautern, Tulln, and Carnuntum, await the visitor. Archaeological sites like those in Künzing, Lorch, Vienna and Budapest make the forts stand tall again in the mind’s eye, and the well-equipped modern museums in Künzing, Passau, Linz, Mautern and Petronell (Carnuntum) deepen these vivid impressions.

Römermuseum © Stadt Passau
Römermuseum © Stadt Passau
Weinbau Gmeiner © WGD Donau OÖ Peter Podpera
The Romans and the wine

There’s one legacy of Roman times which offers pure delight for the eye, nose and palate all along the Danube trail, till it pleasurably trickles down one’s throat: wine. During the Roman period and the Middle Ages, wine was grown throughout the Danube Valley, also in Bavaria – a fact still attested to by a number of small winegrowing areas to the east of Regensburg, on the southern slopes near Donaustauf, Wörth and Wiesent. These areas rest on Roman foundations, and serve up the famous Baierwein. The Baierwein Museum in Bach an der Donau tells the 2000-year-old story of winegrowing. The cultivation of the vine enjoyed greater success in the Wachau region and in the Vienna Basin, which are still among the classic winegrowing areas today. It was certainly Roman winemakers who created Grüner Veltliner, the Viennese table wine.

The roman Transdanube Travel Story

As part of the Transdanube Travel Stories INTERREG project, a story entitled “The Danube Adventure – Legions on the Way to the Danubius – The River that Attracted Cultures” was written.

Impressions and route information from Regensburg to Serbia along the Danube can be seen and read here.


German Limes Road
The German Limes Road connects over 90 towns and communities, as well as numerous organizations. Travelers on the Limes Road pass through very different natural landscapes, just like on the more than 900 km long bike path, and encounter not only Roman monuments but also many sights from other eras. Since 2018, the German Limes Road also runs along the Danube Limes between Neustadt/Bad Gögging and Passau. Since then, the German Limes Road is also a member of the ARGE Road of Emperors and Kings and vice versa.

Blogposts on the Romans

Deutsche Limesstraße
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