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Lupia (Lippe)


Map of the Roman camps along the river Lippe. Design Jona Lendering. Lupia: river in Germany, modern Lippe.

The Roman geographer Pomponius Mela knows only two rivers on the east bank of the Rhine: the Main and the Lippe, or, as the ancients called it, Lupia. These were the main routes when the Romans invaded Germania. After the campaigns of Drusus (between 15 and 9 BCE), the Lippe valley was more or less conquered -the Sugambrians who lived there had been deported- and archaeologists have found several Roman military settlements.

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The Lippe empties itself in the Rhine. Photo Jona Lendering. The first photo shows is the place where the modern Lippe empties itself in the Rhine. The modern city Wesel is to the right. To the left is the location of Xanten, which more or less occupies the site of an ancient fortress called Vetera. From there, the Romans could easily set out and invade the country of Germanic tribes like the Sugambri.
 

The Lippe near Holsterhausen. Photo Jona Lendering. The second photo shows the river near the Roman fortress discovered at Holsterhausen. Since Antiquity, the landscape has changed considerably. The river changed its course and today, there are canals. Yet, vegetation seems to have remained more or less the same. Roman horror stories about fierce Germanic barbarians living in endless forests are exactly that: horror stories. The ancients believed that on the edges of the earth, there were large forests, but there is no evidence to confirm this. German forests are, in Roman sources, just topical.
The Lippe near Haltern. Photo Jona Lendering. This is the Lippe near Haltern, the best-known of all Roman fortresses along the river. It can dendrochronologically be dated to 5 BCE, and was occupied until 9. In that year, the Roman general Quinctilius Varus lost the battle in what is called the Teutoburg Forest.
Model of Haltern's river port. Westfälisches Römermuseum, Haltern. Photo Marco Prins. The river port and wharfs of Haltern have been excavated. This is a model in the Westfälisches Römermuseum in Haltern, which is -without exaggeration- among the nicest museums on ancient Rome in the world.
The Lippe near Beckinghausen. Photo Jona Lendering. Next stop: Beckinghausen. The trees to the right are on top of a Roman river port that must have been part of the military complex at Oberaden. Dendrochronology shows that this large fortress was founded in 11; it is mentioned by Cassius Dio, who calls the site Elison (Roman History, 54.32.4).
The Lippe near Kesseler. Photo Jona Lendering. A little upstream is Kesseler, where the remains of a Roman bridge have been discovered. Even today, there's a lock. This part of the Lippe valley belonged to the tribe of the Bructeri. In 70, during the Batavian revolt, they obtained a Roman ship, which they towed upstream to give it to their prophetess Veleda.
The Lippe near Anreppen. Photo Jona Lendering. Finally, Anreppen. To the left is the site of the most easterly permanent Roman fortress we know of. It was a large military base that was used until the battle in the Teutoburg Forest. The river is still navigable and it is possible to proceed further, in the direction of modern Paderborn.

The Roman road along the river continued after Anreppen, and maybe the missing easternmost settlement will one day be discovered. One clue for the location is the Roman supply base at Hedemünden, at the beginning of the river Weser. This proves that there must have been at least one big Roman fortress downstream - perhaps east of Anreppen, in the direction of Hameln and Minden (where a Roman millstone has been excavated in 2008).
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2004
Revision: 5 Dec. 2008
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