Initial settlement by the Romans

Grave goods © Archäologisches Schaufenster

(from 1st century B.C. to the 5th century A.D.)

More than 5000 years ago, peasants formed a permanent settlement at a shallow Rhine crossing near today's Speyer. Archeological finds out of the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages bear witness to this settlement--long before written sources existed.


Grave goods © Archäologisches SchaufensterCaesar's campaigns into Gaul required a secure border along the Rhine, thus motivating the founding of a city in the year 10 B.C. It was an encampment for an infantry company of 500 men and served as the base camp for the conquest of the right side of the Rhine. The Romans called the settlement NOVIOMAGUS, a word that can be found in inscriptions that also bear the name NEMETUM. The latter designates what we might today call the county seat of Nemeter (Civitas Nemetum), a name belonging to a Germanic clan that had resided on the left bank of the Rhine since the time of Caesar Augustus.

Located in the middle of the Rhine valley, the settlement grew into what began to look more and more like a city with a marketplace, broad streets lined with arcades, public facilities, apartment buildings, temples and a theater. It appears that it was the seat of a regional administrative center. Significant finds from this period - among them, the oldest wine bottle in Germany - can be viewed in the Historical Museum of the Palatinate. 

During the storms that characterized the great migration, the settlement was destroyed repeatedly until finally, the entire Rhine boundary was disbanded at the start of the 5th century as a result of Germanic invasions. This mass migration even effected a change in the name of the city: the antique NOVIOMAGUS/NEMETUM turned into the SPIRA of the Middle Ages.

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