Aliso (Roman Fort and Vicus) was a military and civilian settlement in ancient Germany, built by Augustus (near actual Haltern) when he wanted to create the Roman province of Germania.
No Roman fortress on Germany's soil gained so much fame and is still as mysterious as the Roman camp "Aliso". This Roman fortification seems inseparable from the occupation efforts of the Romans east of the Rhine river. Especially during the event of the Varus defeat at Teutoburg, this camp took on a supporting role.
The legionary fortress Aliso was named after the river at which it was built, the Elison. To be specific Cassius Dio reports about the construction of a legionary fortress at the river Elison: "Drusus accordingly conceived a scorn of them in his turn and fortified a stronghold against them at the point where the Lupia and the Eliso unite, and also another among the Chatti on the bank of the Rhine." (Cassius Dio, Roman History, 54.32.4).
The Roman province of Germania extended from the Rhine river & Danube river as far north as the Wadden sea and as far east as the Elbe river and Aliso was the administrative capital.
The initial foundation of the Marching Camp is suggested by Cassius Dio , during the Germania's occupation campaign of the year 11 BC by Drusus. The foundation of the legionary Fort could have happened some years later, following the close of the nearby Camp of Oberaden (near actual Oberaden): at 8 BC. The creation of a small civilian settlement (called "Vicus") probably happened following the campaigns of Marcus Vinicius of 1 AD.
The end of the Aliso Fort was almost certainly after the Teutoburg battle in 9 AD, but archaeological evidences suggest that the civilian "Vicus" survived until 16 AD. Additionally it seems that the Roman Castrum was rebuilt and used for a couple of years by Germanicus around 12 AD.
The Roman Aliso corresponds to a series of Roman military camps in Haltern am See, Germany's Recklinghausen region. They constitute a set of 6 different sites built by the Roman army at the time of the Emperor Augustus, as part of the project of occupation of Germania and its transformation into the Roman province.
The complex represents the administrative center of the new roman province of Germania. It is located along the Lippe River on its northern shore at a distance of about 70 km from Castra Vetera and 130 km from Anreppen. Modern scholars believe that the six sites so far discovered had:
- a military function, with the aim of controlling the important Lippe river.
- the administrative center of the new province of Germany as well as an important commercial square, flanked by large and small Roman burial sites.
The prominent site at Haltern on the Lippe river was discovered more than a hundred years ago with excavations still in progress. Excavations began in 1899 with discoveries proving important for the history of the Augustan age. Military presence: a number fortifications were found along with evidence of longer occupation, namely a main street flanked by large and small Roman burial sites. The interior setup and number of officer's buildings in the main camp suggest that it had some sort of administrative function as well as being the winter quarters of a legion. Grane, Thomas
The most important of the six sites is the one related to the Fort (of nearly 20 hectares), that successfully resisted the attacks after the Varus defeat and so stopped the possible invasion of Roman Gallia.
Aliso had a small port on the Lippe river, that connected the fortifications with Castra Vetera (the main base of the Roman Classis Germanica): it was the easternmost location that could be easily reached by big Roman ships inside central Germania (and this was an important factor in the growth of the Fort & Vicus). Indeed the river Lippe has been used as an infrastructure in Roman times. For the Romans the river was a gateway to Magna Germania, running from the river Rhine to the region around Paderborn. The watercourse was used for transport of supplies, so along the banks of the Lippe many former Roman camps can be found.
In the last 200 years many of these camps have been identified, above all this Aliso camp which is likely to be the former headquarter of the imperial prince Tiberius. The distance between the camps is about a one-day walk of the troops, which is almost 30 km (20 mi). Today’s identified Roman camps are: Olfen, Xanten, Haltern/Aliso, Oberaden, Holsterhausen, Anreppen and Beckinghausen.
The legionary base of Aliso and the "Vicus": administrative seat of the new province of Germany
The first archaeological research was done in 1901, by the archaeologists Friedrich Koepp, Friedrich Philippi and Carl Schuchhardt.
The first investigation started from the double moat present around the camp, where both ditches were 6 meters wide and deep 2.5 meters deep. Inside the ditches there was an embankment and a palisade that enclosed an area of 16.3 hectares, then expanded along the east side of the field for another 2 acres of surface. The area of the new rectangular field with beveled corners now measures more than 18.3 hectares (560 x 380 m). It also had 4 wide doors, between 7 and 10 meters high.
The subsequent excavations that occurred before the First World War revealed: all four main roads in the field, namely Via Principalis, Via Praetoria, Via Decumana and Via Quintana. The first was 30 meters wide, the second 45 meters, while the other two were wide up to 20 meters. Parallel to the palisade ran Via Sagularis.
Some buildings were later investigated, such as the Principia administrative center, the commander building (Praetorium), the Tribune and Centurion dwellings, the Military Shops (Contubernium), the Military Hospital (Valetudinarium), the Warehouses and the Laboratories of a potter.
This fortification was part of a series of strong auxiliary and legionnaires castra along the Lippe river, from the Rhine until Anreppen. But Aliso, however, also covered the role of administrative center of the new Roman province of Germany. The area of the fortifications suggests that 6-7 cohorts (of Legio XIX) could be accommodated, as well as a few "Auxilia" contingents on horseback, possibly placed in the nearby fort of Annaber.
The Romans believed that the countryside along the river Lippe was a safe possession of their empire. This is suggested by the fact that they built tombs in this area. These tombs were evidently built for a resident population who wanted to honor their deaths for generations. In the XX century were discovered numerous tombs of the Augustan era on a 500-foot long and 45 meters wide strip, along the south-east corner of the Roman castrum and near the "Canaba" Vicus. Indeed Aliso played an important role in the administration of the subjected territories, because the camp had too many large houses not for military use. Probably the "Vicus" in 9 AD -when Aliso was attacked by Arminius- had a population of nearly one thousand inhabitants, with many women and children.
It is likely that at least some civil servants, responsible for tax and similar activities, lived in Aliso. Furthermore, the Auxilia troops were mainly Gallo-Romance soldiers with their families, who settled in the Aliso Canaba/Vicus and probably remained in the area after the Roman withdrawal in 16 AD
- Grane, Thomas. The Roman empire and Southern Scandinavia - a northern connection University of Copenhagen. Copenhagen, 2009 ()
- Siegmar von Schnurbein: Die römischen Militäranlagen bei Haltern. Bericht über die Forschungen seit 1899 (= Bodenaltertümer Westfalens. Heft 14) Aschendorff, Münster 1974 (2. Aufl. Münster 1981, ISBN 3-402-05117-6).
- Rudolf Aßkamp: Haltern. In: 2000 Jahre Römer in Westfalen. Mainz 1989, ISBN 3-8053-1100-1
- Johann-Sebastian Kühlborn: Der augusteische Militärstützpunkt Haltern. In: Johann-Sebastian Kühlborn (Hrsg.), Germaniam pacavi. Germanien habe ich befriedet. Münster 1995
- Johann-Sebastian Kühlborn: Das augusteische Hauptlager von Haltern.In. Krieg und Frieden. Kelten, Römer, Germanen. Primus-Verlag, Darmstadt 2007
- Jacob Schneider: Die römischen Militärstrassen an der Lippe und das Castell Aliso : nach eigenen Localforschungen dargestellt. Düsseldorf, 1878 (Digital of Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Düsseldorf)
- Germania (Roman province)
- Magna Germania
- Castra Vetera