Antique Cologne (part 4)
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Antique Cologne (part 1)

Cologne … Many have heard of this German city on the Rhine, a major center of medieval European culture. Well-known Cologne Cathedral – an unsurpassed monument of Gothic architecture. His spiers, like gigantic petrified conifers, rush into the sky to a half meter height. The story of the building is unusual. It began to be built in 1248. In the middle of the XV century, work ceased, and only in the XIX century the construction was completed.

But few people know that a more ancient structure, on the site of which a magnificent cathedral was built, existed from the 9th century. It was built in the Carolingian era, here already in the period of early Christianity (IV – VI centuries) there was a church, and it, in turn, was built on the foundations of an ancient temple. So, gradually unraveling the complex tangle of the cathedral’s history, we will come to the ancient Cologne. Like other cities in Europe – Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Trier, Bonn – it traces its history from the time of the Roman Empire.

The name of the city is Roman. “Cologne” – means “colony”, a settlement of Roman citizens, primarily soldiers, in lands far from Rome. “Colony – Cologne” – the abbreviated name of the city, spread in the early Middle Ages. The Romans called it the “Colony of Claudia Ara Agrippinensium.” This meant that the colony was founded by Emperor Claudius in the place where his predecessor, commander Mark Vipsaniy Agrippa, friend and son-in-law of Emperor Augustus, founded a settlement with an altar. Similar “altars of the world” were altars in honor of the Roman gods. These are the first centers of Roman civilization in the conquered territory.

Once upon a time, a German tribe of Eburons lived in this corner of the Rhine land, but it was destroyed by Julius Caesar in the conquests in 53 BC. Fifteen years later, Agrippa resettled the Ubiya tribe here from the other side of the Rhine. They and the newly arrived Romans formed the basis of the population of the Claudia Colony.

Caesar’s sword was one of the city’s most precious relics. We learn about this by reading the colorful “Biography of the Twelve Caesars” by the Roman historian Suetonius. In April 69 AD, a fierce struggle broke out between two pretenders to the imperial throne – Oton and Vitellius. The unsuccessful Oton was forced to commit suicide. Vitellius, who was in the Colony, donated the sword of a fallen rival to the temple of the war god Mars. He himself was proclaimed emperor: “… the soldiers, regardless of the day or the hour, one evening suddenly pulled him out of the bedroom, greeted him with the emperor and carried him to the most crowded villages. In his hands he held the sword of the divine Julius from the sanctuary of Mars, filed by someone at the first congratulations. ”

What was antique Cologne? The answer was given by excavations. Like most cities of “colonial” origin, it is planned according to the type of Roman military camp. It was based on two streets intersecting at right angles – “Cardo Maximus” and “Decumanus Maximus”. The first went from north to south, the second from east to west. It is curious that this layout is still visible in modern Cologne. The city had a powerful defensive wall with 9 gates and 22 towers. In the center was the Praetorium, the building where the city’s highest magistrates met. There were temples in honor of the Roman gods – Jupiter, Juno and Minerva, revered in the Roman Capitol, Mapes, Mercury. There were luxurious public baths (baths) and an amphitheater, not yet found by archaeologists, but undoubtedly existed – images of circus performances and gladiator fights were found on the works of Cologne masters. In addition, a wonderful monument was found – a large mask made of burnt clay. Such grotesque masks, painted with red paint, were worn by actors, speaking at cult games in honor of local gods. On the outskirts of the city crowded quarters of artisans – glassblowers, potters, sculptors, wood and bone carvers, jewelers, painters.

Numerous roads connected the Claudia Colony with the territory of neighboring Germanic tribes. She maintained lively relations with other cities – the forerunners of modern Trier, Mainz, Bonn. Behind the city wall, as well as along the Roman Via Appia, there were “cities of the dead” – cemeteries and necropolises. It was forbidden to bury in the city, and the roads made it possible for the living to “communicate” with the dead – their faces looked from the tombstones to travelers. Epitaphs resurrected forgotten names.

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