The infrastructures of late antiquity were of fundamental importance to the politico-military, ecclesiastical and economic organization of the so-called “Germanic” kingdoms that succeeded the Roman Empire.
The research project (B-1-3) comprises several projects dealing with Roman roads, fortifications and fiscal properties within this transition period: The doctoral thesis by Christian Barthel on “Law and Border Policy in the Late Roman Cyrenaica” (submitted in 2015) traced the link between infrastructures and the military reforms of the emperor Anastasius I documented by Libyan inscriptions. Mateusz Fafinski joined the group with a dissertation project on “Via Britannica. The continuity and change of Roman infrastructure in Britain from the end of the 4th to the 9th century”.
A conference on “Nutzung und Umnutzung von Grundbesitz, Gebäuden und Infrastrukturen im römischen Imperium und Danach”, organized by Cosima Möller and Stefan Esders, set the frame for exploring the transformation of infrastructures in a comparative perspective which also includes Anglo-Saxon Britain. The group’s main regional focus, however, was what would become Frankish Bavaria and Visigothic Spain during the 6th and 7th centuries.
Reorganizing Roman infrastructures in the Northern Alpine
region (4th–9th century)
The late Roman state regulated the execution of important tasks by enlisting its citizens to personally perform work and other services without pay. Many of these munera publica were directly related to the needs of the army and of border defense and thus connected with available infrastructures (fiscal estates, roads, waterways). Studying the former province Raetia secunda on the base of a variety of written sources and archeological evidence (the latter collected during an excursion with research students to Bavaria), the group investigated how munera and infrastructures were integrated as substructures in new political, military and ecclesiastical functional contexts. Unique insight is provided by the “Staffelsee Urbar”, a manorial register commissioned shortly after 800 by Charlemagne, which allows for tracing backward the use of roads (Via Claudia, Via Raetia) linking Augsburg as provincial capital of Raetia Secunda with Italy, from the Frankish into the late Roman period. With the establishment of Augsburg as the capital of the Frankish duchy of Bavaria shortly after 530, the Roman defense system, once developed to protect Rome’s Northern frontier, became transformed into one guarding the Frankish frontier that expanded southward. Within this process, a 4th century Roman fortification situated on Lake Staffelsee’s island fell out of use and came to form the base of a newly founded 7th century monastery. The Staffelsee Urbar illustrates the rise of a manorial economy centered around this monastery which absorbed public functions such as the maintenance of Roman roads, the organization of transport services (paraveredus, angariae) and the furnishing of recruits for the army, while it also harbored a textile workhouse for women (gynaeceum) and collected grain supply in form of the annona. By the same token new economic and social patterns evolved, as former munera publica became attached to allotments of lands given to peasants of both free and unfree status. These results will be published in Stefan Esders’ monograph on “Das Staffelseer Urbar und die Neustrukturierung des nordalpinen Grenzgebietes im Frühmittelalter” to be completed in early 2018. Already published studies deal with spatial organization (duchies, pagi) and the uses of late Roman military law in the formation process of the duchy of Bavaria (Esders 2016, published open access).
Public roads, mobility, and law in Visigothic Spain
Studies carried out by Stefan Esders on the continuation and reuse of road systems in post-Roman Spain exploit the legal texts known as the Leges Visigothorum. An article on mobility and infrastructures in Visigothic Spain argues that many Visigothic regulations on these matters can only be understood as intertextual references to Justinian’s Code and Digest which were available in Spain following Justinian’s reconquest of Southern Spain around 550.
Stefan Esders, “Reisende soll man nicht aufhalten? Über Infrastrukturen sowie erwünschte und unerwünschte Mobilität im westgotischen Spanien” in: Ignacio Czeguhn, Yolanda Quesada, José A. Pérez Juan and Cosima Möller (Eds.), Wasser – Wege – Wissen auf der iberischen Halbinsel vom Römischen Imperium bis zur muselmanischen Herrschaft,, 2016
Another article (in press), based on a paper given at the second German-Spanish conference “Wasser – Wege – Wissen auf der iberischen Halbinsel”, illustrates how the notion that Spain even under Visigothic rule still belonged to the Roman Empire was propagated through the suspension of the rule of prescription in Roman law. A third paper to be delivered at the third German-Spanish Topoi conference in Granada in March 2017 will deal with the transmarine connections of Visigothic Spain in the mid-7th century.
Late Roman fortifications harbouring early medieval monasteries
The common early medieval practice of founding monasteries in late Roman fortifications is based on their convenient location with facilities as well as fiscal possessions and income massed in the vicinity of fortresses connected by road networks. Comparing selected monastic foundations based on relevant written sources and archeological evidence, Stephan Ridder (postdoc) extracted relevant information from the Life of St. Magnus of Füssen, which clearly attests to the transformation of fiscal structures in the process of the foundation of a monastery in the Roman fortification of Füssen (Foetes), situated next to the Via Claudia. The results of his research have been integrated in the revised version of his 2014 doctoral thesis on “Verteidigung und Verkehr. Zur Transformation spätantiker Organisationsstrukturen im Kontext der Formierung des frühmittelalterlichen Dukats Bayern”.