Roman supply camp from Drusus' campaigns in Germany discovered

In 1890, archaeologists discovered a bronze Roman military helmet near Olfen, a spectacular find which led them to hope that a Roman camp might be nearby. The river Lippe, which runs through the area, was a natural defense which provided an excellent site for military camps, and several other camps were known which extended in a chain across the country. 
Photo: DPL

Olfen is a small town, not far from M√ľnster near the Ruhr Valley, and the find of the helmet in 1890 has led archaeologists to the area ever since to look for the camp, the ‘missing link’ in the chain.  It was known from literary sources that Olfen was strategically important for the legions during Drusus’ campaigns in Germania. Drusus, a Roman General, waged a long and bloody war against the tribes that inhabited what is now western Germany. But, until recently, archaeologists had not been able to locate the camp, used from 11 to 7 B.C. as a base to control the river crossing.
This year, volunteers discovered pottery sherds from the Roman period in the area, causing the Westphalia-Lippe Municipal Association (LWL) to initiate aerial photography to search for traces of building works. At the same time, archaeologists and volunteers field-walked, looking for artefacts which could confirm the location of the camp.

They found convincing evidence including coins, pottery and fibulae, but were also able to trace a moat surrounding the camp and the remains of a wooden wall that could have protected 1,000 legionaries from attack within an area the size of  seven football fields.
Photo: DPL

The camp was relatively small in comparison to other Roman military establishments in the area and this factor,  along with the construction of its wood and earthen wall and location on the Lippe River, suggest that it may have functioned as a supply depot.

“It’s a sensational discovery for Roman research in Westphalia,” LWL Director Wolfgang Kirsch said in a statement. LWL is also responsible for five other Roman military ruins along the Lippe and finds from Olfen, including the bronze helmet and latest material, will join artefacts from the other sites on display in the Roman Museum in Haltern.

LWL's chief archaeologist Dr. Michael Rind said “The monument has up to this point been allowed to lie in the ground widely undisturbed for over 2,000 years – an absolute rarity, and from an archaeological point of view, absolutely ideal.

“Our primary concern is to protect and preserve this monument for the future – and not, to completely excavate it as soon as possible,” Rind said in a statement. “The exploration of the camp will probably take several decades to complete.”

Around 2,000 years ago, the region now known as Westphalia became the focus of Roman campaigns aimed at expanding territory and Roman troops marched up the Lippe river.  The campaign to make Germany into a Roman province failed in the year 9 AD when Publius Quinctilius Varus was defeated in the Teutoburg Forest. An alliance of Germanic tribes led by Arminius of the Cherusci ambushed and annihilated three Roman legions, along with their auxiliaries, in the forest.


  1. I ve heard that when the emperor Augustus heard he walked about his palce shouting P Quintillius Varus ! give me back my Legions!! Varus was just a political appointment totally useless as a military commander like crassus who died horribly at the hands of the Pathians who poured moltern gold down his throat . kevin atkins

  2. True about Varus. However, he did think the German soldiers were horible. He hagood reason, General Drusus had a very easy time crushing them. In reality the Germans showed huge acts of cowardice after being defeated by Drusus. Varus thought that the Germans were not as valiant as the Celts. Right and wrong. They are valiant if they outnumber and ambush. Even then, accounts are written that the Germans did not attack the Roman infantry until they succumbed to huge volleys.

    After, the Romans did go into east Rhine under Geramanicus and others and ussually caused much damage. None were as good as Drusus, feared by the Germans almost in a godlike manner.


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