Archaeologia/Volume 13/A Description of what is called a Roman Camp in Westphalia

Archaeologia Volume 13  (1800) 
A Description of what is called a Roman Camp in Westphalia by Theodore Augustus Mann




I. A Description of what is called a Roman Camp in Westphalia, by the Abbé Mann, in a Letter addressed to the President.

Read April 7, 1796.

My Lord,

THE signal favour I received, in January 1793, from the learned Society of Antiquaries (over which your Lordship so worthily presides), of being admitted an honorary member of that illustrious body, has constantly made me wish to meet with an occasion that might enable me to express my gratitude by some communication worthy of its notice.

The enclosed paper may probably not be worthy the notice of the Society of Antiquaries, though I have not yet found the subject of it mentioned by any author: but it will answer my aim in sending it, if it be accepted as a mark of my sincere gratitude and profound respect for that learned body; and also, as it gives me an occasion of testifying those sentiments to your Lordship, for the great politeness you were pleased to shew me when last in London.

I am,
My Lord,
Your Lordship's,
Most obedient,
and most humble Servant,

Ratisbon, Feb. 21, 1796.


P. S. Though but slowly recovering from a long and dangerous illness, I am obliged to leave this place for Austria in the beginning of April.

THIS Roman Camp, as it is called in the country about it, is situated on a high plain adjoining to a hamlet, called in the maps Barrum or Barnum, near the eastern limit of the duchy of Cleves, belonging to the king of Prussia. It is about 2 English miles W. by S. of the city of Dorsten on the river Lippe, which falls into the Rhine at Wefsl; and about a mile south of the said river, and 1/8 of a mile from the high road leading from Dorsten to Duisbourg.

The ground called the Camp is about half a mile in breadth and a mile in length, being the North-eastern corner of a very extensive heath, which continues without interruption towards the South-west, near twelve miles as far as Sterkerad and Dinslagen, and with several interruptions Westward almost to Wesel. The whole is fand intermixed with pebbles and covered with heath; there are also many bogs and marshes on it.

The particular spot called the Camp and part of the heath to the West of it, is a perfect level, entirely dry, and lightly covered with heath; and the ground under the heath is almost white with spathic pebbles of a great variety of sizes and shapes, but mostly round or oval: here and there a few are found resembling agate and porphyry; but the white predominate so as to make the ground look as it would do soon after a fall of large hail-stones.

The elevation of this plain with respect to the adjacent country, is so considerable, as to take in the whole horizon at the distance of twenty to thirty miles. The city of Wesel is distinctly seen at twenty miles distance, and Xanten at twenty-six miles distance. By conjecture, it may be 200 feet above the level of the river Lippe.

What is called the Camp is an oblong square, bounded on the South and East sides, and on part of the North, by cultivated grounds: on the rest of the North side is a slight appearance of a Vallum, and it is the only one discernible. To the Westward, no separation can be discerned from the rest of the level heath.

Within this compass of ground are seen twenty-eight or thirty Tumuli or Barrows, confusedly placed, so as to make it not easy to count them; but all perfectly distinct and round, two excepted, of which below. They are from six to twelve feet in height, and respectively as many yards, at least, in diameter. They are all covered with the same heath and white pebbles as the surrounding plain, and of the same apparent antiquity. One of them has been cut through, and another dug into from the summit, probably for the sake of exploring their contents: the excavations are in part filled up; but what remained open, shewed nothing but a mixture of pebbles, sand, and calcareous earth. Within this supposed Camp we found several pieces of granite: one of ten or twelve pounds weight; another of about three pounds weight, and one or two others lesser. It may be observed, that fragments of granite are not uncommon in several parts of Westphalia: the streets of Paderborn are paved with them.

These tumuli seem to indicate that the ground whereon they are placed, was rather part of, or adjoining to, a field of battle, than a camp; because it is probable that they were raised over distinguished slain, and because it was not usual with ancient nations to bury within their camps or habitations. Being now destitute of books and all literary aid, it is not possible for me at present to make any researches concerning the æra of these tumuli, or the occasion that gave birth to them. I can only observe, as far as memory prompts, that no part of North Germany was more frequented by the Romans than the banks of the river Lippe (olim Luppia), near to which these tumuli are placed. The different sources of this river, as also those of the Ems (ol. Amisia), are in the Teutoburgian mountains (ol. Saltus Teutoburgiensis), so famous for the defeat of Quinctilius Varus with the loss of his legions and eagles, under Augustus Cæsar, near Dethmold (ol. Teutoburgum); and that of Drusus, near Lippspring (ol. Fontes Luppiæ). The Ara Drusi is near this last named place, and the vestiges of the Ara Drusi or Castrum Alisonis are still very visible near the junction of the Elsen (ol. Aliso), with the Lippe, on a high heath four miles West of the city of Paderborn. The station of the German general Arminius (ol. Arx Arminii) was on the other side of the Teutoburgian mountains, at Hinnenborg, between Dryburg and Höxter. Germanicus warred a long while in these parts, and Tiberius Cæsar wintered at the Luppiæ Fontes, as may be seen in Tacitus; who says, that to render so frequented a road more easy and practicable for the Roman armies, Aggeres et Pontes longi were constructed over the wild heaths and marshes from the Rhine at Xanten and Wesel (Luppiæ Ostium) to the Castrum Alisonis. From these and many other well-known facts in the Roman history, it is easy to conceive, that the whole extent of the

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banks of the river Lippe, must have been the scene of many bloody battles in their long wars with the Sicambri, Marsi, Angrivarii, Cherusci, Bructeri, &c. The principal feats of the Sicambri were in and round the Teutoburgian forest, which extended from Billefeldt and Dethmold, on the North, through the whole principality of Paderborn, towards the South, as far as Stadberg on the Dymel (ol. Eresbergum), famous for the temple of the Saxon god Irmensul, destroyed by Charlemagne. It is a semi-circular chain of mountains of considerable height, now for the most part bare, but formerly covered with wood, as its ancient name of Saltus Teutoburgiensis indicates, and as the description of it by Tacitus clearly proves.

But to return to the pretended camp near Dorsten: contiguous to it, on the North side, where the appearance of a Vallum is seen, there is another oblong square, lesser than the preceding one, being a plain slightly inclining to the North towards the river Lippe. It has more the appearance of having been a camp than the other, as the ground on the West, North, and East, of it has been distinctly dug from it to the adjoining declivity; which on the North and West sides is considerably steep. On this last side, and close to it, is a deep gully, rendered impassible by springs and boggy ground.

This last extent of ground is covered with the same sort of heath and pebbles as the former, but is destitute of all appearance of barrows, unless an annular ridge or bourlet in the North East corner, and a small square ridge near it, be the remains of such. The ground without that corner is likewise boggy. Close to this North side, the declivity becomes considerable, and the ground is cultivated down to the Lippe, except here and there a small wood or clump of trees, intermixed with very tall broom.

The annexed sketch (Pl. I.) may serve to give a slight idea of these grounds and tumuli; which also may be illustrated by the following remarks.

The Tumulus [a] is greatest of all, both in height and diameter, being about twelve feet high, and near twenty yards in diameter.

The Tumulus [b] is little less, either in height or diameter, than the preceding one, and being more insulated, is the most conspicuous of them all, especially when seen from the North.

The Tumulus [c] is lesser in diameter, but nearly equal in height to the two former: it is from this that the cities of Wesel and Xanten were seen to the greatest advantage.

The Tumulus [d] has been cut through the middle to a considerable depth, but is now in part filled up.

The Tumulus [e] has been excavated from the summit, and also in part filled up.

The Tumuli [f] and [g] are of a different form from all the rest, being nearly as represented in the sketch.

The Tumulus [h] is a considerable way on the plain westward of the rest. This and the Tumulus [e] are the only ones that can be seen from the high road; the rest being covered from view by hedges surrounding the fields which lie between them and the road.

[i] is an excavation in the plain apparently not ancient.

[k] is an annular ridge or bourlet of earth about two feet above the plain, but within lower than the plain: the whole covered with heath and pebbles like the rest of the plain.

[l] is a small square ridge of earth, about a foot higher than the plain, and hollow within. It is covered with heath and pebbles like the former; which shew that both are ancient.

[m] the excavation from the inclining plain is here not angular, but round.

This description was taken on the spot, Oct. 17 and 25, 1794, by