Both parks and how they are connected I have shown you before, but I have not taken my camera to the site of the Roman remains just outside the deer park until Wednesday afternoon, when sun, blue sky and birdsong beckoned me to leave my desk and go out for a nice long walk.
Any of my readers who are even remotely familiar with European history will know that the Romans were, at some time or other, almost everywhere - and my hometown is no exception.
While we do not have impressive ruins such as amphitheatres or baths and the like, we have our very own villa rustica - or at least we know where it once was.
In the 2nd century, a villa rustica was built on top of a long sloping hill rising up from the fertile Neckar (river) valley in what today is the edge of Hoheneck (literally "High Corner"), a part of Ludwigsburg. Wikipedia defines a villa rustica as "a villa set in the open countryside, often as the hub of a large agricultural estate (latifundium). The adjective rusticum was used to distinguish it from an urban or resort villa. The villa rustica would thus serve both as a residence of the landowner and his family (and retainers) and also as a farm management centre. It would often comprise separate buildings to accommodate farm labourers and sheds and barns for animals and crops."
What today is known as the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg was inhabited by Celtic tribes. The Roman occupation started in earnest in the first half of the first century, gradually expanding north-eastwards from the river Danube. 200 years later, in the year 260, some of the Germanic tribes living north of the frontier wall broke through that frontier and put an end to the Roman era in Wuerttemberg.
For a long time, the remains of the villa were used as a very convenient self-service quarry by anyone who needed building materials. The place's history slipped into oblivion. It would take around 1.800 years until, early on in the 20th century, some digging took place and the villa was rediscovered. The digging was not completed, though, and for the sake of preservation of the few remaining walls, they were covered again. In 1986, a more thorough digging was done, and finally, in 1991/1992, it was decided to turn the site into an open-air museum, open 24/7 all year round.
Today, the "museum" is a bit neglected, I'm afraid; the original idea was to offer a glimpse into daily life on a Roman farm by showing in small sample fields what sort of crop was planted and harvested in those days, and in a small walled garden, what herbs were used for culinary and medicinal purposes.
Still, the site shows the original outline of the buildings, along with a few Roman artefacts, such as this altar stone:
The inscription reads: DEO MERCVRIO CVLTORI RIPANVS EX IVSS(u) E(ius) L(ibens) L(aetus) M(e)R(ito), which means more or less "To the God Mercurius, carer of the field, Ripanus has gladly had this altar erected and paid for it." It is assumed that Ripanus was a wealthy landowner (some sort of gentleman farmer) who donated this altar, hoping for more of Mercurius' blessings for his land.
Horses played an important role in working the land, not just in the military part of Roman life, as this stone relief of horse goddess Epona shows:
As I said, the field-and-garden part of the museum is somewhat neglected, but the entire site has such a quiet and peaceful atmosphere to it, in spite of the busy playground on one side of it and the residential area on the other. Is it the closeness to the deer park with its large old trees and leafy paths, or the fact that the site is so little known that hardly anyone finds their way there? I don't know; I just know that I am glad I went there on Wednesday, read all the information provided on the signs and took these pictures to take home with me.
From there, I walked through the deer park, taking a route home different to the one I had set out on.
I came across some interesting creatures - not just deer, mind you! - there, but, once again, that will have to wait for another post.