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Model of Fort Rainau. Photo Marco Prins.
Model of Fort Rainau.
Rainau: town in Germany, known for its Roman auxiliary fort..


Rainau-Buch was an ancient Roman infantry fort (castellum) along the limes of the province of Raetia (map). It is remarkable because it was exactly square, while most forts are rectangular. The ancient name of the settlement is not recorded. Below, a panorama of the area as it looks today (and a satellite photo)., the online home of Ancient Warfare magazine
South gate. Photo Marco Prins.
South gate. 

The fort was probably used by the Cohors III Thracum Veterana, the Third battalion of Thracian Veterans. The area has not been excavated, but using a georadar, archaeologists found out that the fort had the normal buildings: a principia (headquarters) in the center, a praetorium (commander's mansion), six barracks for six centuries of soldiers, stables, et cetera. Among the finds were military objects and coins. As always, there was a bathhouse outside the fort and a civil settlement in the neighborhood. The bathhouse was to the northeast, on the slope of the hill on which the fort was constructed, and near a little river (now an artificial lake; satellite photo).
Third-century helmet from Rainai. Limesmuseum Aalen (Germany). Photo Marco Prins.
Third-century helmet from Rainai.

The village (vicus) was to the south and east of the fort. It must have been a considerable settlement. The five hundred soldiers must have had their families over there, there must have been pubs and shops. Two thousand inhabitants is not a bad guess.

Fort and town were built in c.150 and evacuated in c.260, when the Alamans occupied the triangle between the Rhine and Danube.


In the neighborhood of the fort of Rainau-Buch, the remains of several other Roman buildings are visible. For instance, there is the ruin of a monumental gate in the limes wall near the modern village of Rainau-Dalkingen, about a kilometer north of the fort. Originally, it was a wooden construction, but it was rebuilt several times.
Modern reconstuction of an ancient Roman watch tower, Rainau-Schwabsberg (Germany). Photo Marco Prins.
Reconstructed watchtower, Rainau-Schwabsberg.

In the final phase, at the beginning of the third century, it must have had a façade like the stage of a theater, with rather plumb columns. In the upper part of the gate, there must have been a bronze statue of an emperor, perhaps Caracalla, who defeated the Germanic tribe of the Alamans in 213, and may have started his campaign from Dalkingen. Twenty years later, the Alamans stroke back, and the gate was burned down.


A wooden watchtower has been rebuilt near Rainau-Schwabsberg, a bit west of the gate at Dalkingen. You can easily see it from the road that leads from Aalen to Ellwangen. In front of the tower is a low palisade. The original tower was erected in the mid-second century, was made of wood, and had three floors.
Coins from Rainau-Buch. Limes Museum, Aalen (Germany). Photo Marco Prins.
The Dalkingen Gate. Design Jona Lendering.
Drawing of the Dalkingen Gate. Design Jona Lendering.
Watchtower at Rainau-Schwabsberg. Photo Marco Prins.
Coins from Rainau-Buch. The Dalkingen Gate. Drawing of the Dalkingen Gate Watchtower at Rainau-Schwabsberg.
Reconstruction of a Roman watchtower. Limes Museum, Aalen (Germany). Photo Marco Prins.
Reconstruction of a watchtower.
The upper level probably served as armory. From the balcony, fire and smoke signals could be given to forts in the neighborhood, like Rainau-Buch. The middle level was used a sleeping room and contained the entrance; and downstairs was a cellar.

The first stone towers were probably erected in the early third century. On the picture above to the right, you can see the remains of the successor of the wooden tower above. In fact you can see the foundation of two towers: the upper one stands on the remains of an older foundation.

To the southwest of Rainau was the limes fort of Aalen, which has a nice Limes Museum that supplements the monuments near Rainau. Both sides are part of the Limesstraße.
© Jona Lendering for
Livius.Org, 2005
Revision: 5 Dec. 2008
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