Mainz Roman ships

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Reconstruction of a Navis lusoria in the Museum of Ancient Shipping , Mainz

1981/82 were in Mainz , the well-preserved remains of several ships during construction work near the Rhine river late Roman period found the so-called Mainzer Roman ships . There were two different types of warship in the late Roman Rhine fleet and other types of ships .

Thanks to the special significance of these finds, two of the five ships found were reconstructed in the Museum of Ancient Shipping and have since been exhibited there - together with the original finds .

Historical background

Archaeological finds suggest that immediately after the establishment of the legionary camp on Kästrich 13/12 BC. A part of the Rhine fleet was also stationed in Mogontiacum . Shipping on the Rhine as an important factor in the significantly increasing long-distance and inland trade is likely to have quickly established itself, as the tombstone of Blussus from (approx.) 50 shows. Under Emperor Julian , in the course of defense efforts in the 2nd half of the 4th century along the Rhine border, the Rhine fleet was again upgraded in Mogontiacum. After the attack on the city on New Year's Eve 407 by vandals , Suebi and Alans , the Rhine fleet virtually ceased to exist. The ships that were no longer used then rotted in the shallow water on the banks of the Rhine and were later covered with debris.

Roman port and quay facilities in stone or wood construction were found at the so-called Dimesser Ort, today's customs and inland port , as well as in the area of ​​today's fire and even further up the Rhine (Kappelhof, Dagobertstrasse). In the 2nd half of the 4th century there was a naval port of the Rhine fleet at the height of the current fire. With the Germanic incursions at the beginning of the 5th century, the ships stationed there were no longer used and rotted on the then bank of the Rhine.


In 1981/82 the remains of several ships from the late Roman period were found in Mainz during construction work near the fire and thus near the Roman war port on the banks of the Rhine . There are a total of five ships used for military purposes from the late 4th century AD. Other remains of other ships were also found, including a. a barge for the transport of goods ( Navis actuaria ). The military ships, of which two different types could be distinguished, were on the one hand narrow, fast rowing boats with one row of oars on each side ( Navis lusoria ). If necessary, these could also be sailed. The second type was a bit more compact and was probably a patrol boat to control the Rhine border.

Further finds in Holzstrasse / Kappelhofgasse

In April 1982 the remains of two barges from the 1st century AD were found during the conversion work from the Hof zum Homberg to the Kolpinghaus Mainz. They were originally 20 m long, 3.70 m wide and had a side wall height of 90 cm inside, so-called flat ships, which were used as inland ships for heavy goods traffic. You are now also in the Museum of Ancient Shipping. The name of the restaurant Zum Römerschiff on the ground floor of the Kolping House in Holzstrasse is a reminder of this find.

Restoration and exhibition

The finds of the Roman ships in Mainz in 1981/82 generated a considerable international response due to their great importance. It quickly became clear that the finds had to be preserved, researched and presented in an appropriate manner. For example, the Roman-Germanic Central Museum added its own research area “Ancient Shipping” and in 1994 the Museum for Ancient Shipping opened in the former wholesale market hall at the Südbahnhof as a branch of the Roman-Germanic Central Museum . Since then, the finds have been presented here in the original and in the form of true-to-original replicas in 1: 1 format. In this context, the museum also provides information on ancient shipbuilding in general, construction technology and Roman naval systems in the Germanic provinces and throughout the empire.


in alphabetical order by authors / editors

  • Ronald Bockius: The late Roman shipwrecks from Mainz . Schnell & Steiner, Regensburg 2006. ISBN 3-7954-1965-4
  • Ronald Bockius: The late Roman shipwrecks from Mainz. Investigations of ship archaeological and technological history of late antique ship finds from the northern Upper Rhine = monographs of the Roman-Germanic Central Museum Mainz . Volume 67. Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum Mainz, Mainz 2006. ISBN 978-3-7954-1965-3
  • Ronald Bockius, Stephan Pelgen, Marion Witteyer: Forays through the Roman city of Mainz . Zabern, Mainz 2003.
  • Olaf Höckmann: Late Roman ship finds in Mainz . In: Archäologisches Korrespondenzblatt 12/1982, p. 231 ff.
  • Ernst-Rainer Hoenes : On the cultural state responsibility for the ship finds in Mainz . In: G. Rupprecht (ed.): The Mainz Roman ships - reports on discovery, excavation and salvage . Krach, Mainz 1982, pp. 130-133. ISBN 978-3-87439-078-1
  • Barbara Pferdehirt : The Museum of Ancient Shipping. A research report by the Roman-Germanic Central Museum . Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Mainz 1995, ISBN 3-88467-033-6
  • Gerd Rupprecht (ed.): The Mainz Roman ships - reports on discovery, excavation and salvage . Krach, Mainz 1982. ISBN 3-87439-078-0 .

See also

Web links

Commons : Mainzer Römerschiffe  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Coordinates: 50 ° 0 ′ 7.02 "  N , 8 ° 16 ′ 28.27"  E