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Belginum

Belginum was a small settlement along the road through the hills between Trier in the southwest to Bingen and Mainz on the Rhine, in the east. The road still exists on exactly the same place: the ancient houses, which were remarkably long, were found on both sides of what is nowadays called the Hunsrückhöhenstrasse or B50. Although it was really just a small town, no less than four temples have been identified (one for Epona). It also had a water pump that was remarkably advanced.

Belginum is also mentioned on the Peutinger Map, which is odd, because there was nothing over there that might be of interest to the traveller. Unless, of course, it still has to be excavated, and I would not be surprised if one day, a bathhouse were discovered.

The cemetery dates back to the age of the Celtic migrations: the oldest funeral mound is from about 400 BCE. The cremation tombs are more recent, and so are the rectangular “grave gardens”, which date back to 200 BCE to 150 CE: from the La Tène Period to the High Empire. Some funeral towers date back to this same period; one of these survives. In the fourth century, there were inhumations.

So, a Celtic settlement that became romanized. But we know more about it. At the beginning of the first century, the northern slope was briefly occupied by a Roman fort. Because Belginum is not of great strategic importance, it is usually assumed that the soldiers were construction workers, who built the road.

It is an interesting site. Most of our information about Antiquity comes from the cities and the large sanctuaries, because they are easier to identify than small hamlets like Belginum. Yet, most inhabitants of the Roman Empire must have lived on the countryside. I am therefore happy that there is a beautiful museum on the site.

The large room in which everything is shown, is remarkably open, with large windows, so that you can always see the green plain. There are nice drawings of what it must have looked like, and you can see many objects, with good explanations. In a second room, there was a small exhibition about woman’s dress.

In short, a museum as it must be, well worth a visit when you travel from Trier to Mainz. What I didn’t like, though, is that all that photography was forbidden. There is just no argument for this type of measure. As long as you do not use flash light in front of ancient frescos, you cannot damage anything, and there is no copyright on objects that were made so long ago. At the same time, photos shown by tourists are the best ambassador of a museum, while students need photos to study objects a second time. There ought to be a law against museums obstructing study.

This museum was visited in 2011.

This page was last modified on 27 March 2014.