Station: [24] Late Antique Batavis

The artefacts on display here are associated with the fortified town of Batavis, which was located on the north bank of the Inn, in the Raetian part of Passau. The fortified town developed in the third century after repeated Germanic attacks had plunged the Roman Empire into a deep crisis. In AD 277, the Roman emperor Probus managed to drive the enemy tribes out of Raetia. With this, the old frontier along the Danube was restored. The reign of the emperor Diocletian, only a few years later, marks the beginning of what historians call late Antiquity. Diocletian initiated reforms that ensured the existence of the Roman Empire for another century. As part of these reforms, the territories of the provinces of Raetia and Noricum were redrawn. Raetia was divided into a western Alpine province called Raetia Prima and a north-eastern province, Raetia Secunda. Noricum was also split into two administrative territories. The northern part, Noricum Ripense, was a true frontier province, and it included the part of Passau now known as Innstadt. The frontier defences along the Danube were also re-organized as part of Diocletian’s reforms. The units stationed along the frontier were reduced in terms of troop numbers, mainly for financial reasons. The frontier was manned by a part of the army known as “limitanei”. A mobile and rapidly deployable field army, the “comitatenses”, operated from the hinterland and also secured the Alpine passes. Both soldiers and civilians lived in the fortified town of Batavis, as the separation of military and civilian settlements had been abolished as part of the reforms. The military finds shown include parts of weapons such as spearheads. Archaeologists also found belt buckles and fibulae known as crossbow brooches, which were mostly worn by soldiers. These can be seen to the right of the door to the next room. Other finds include women’s jewellery and pins that would have been worn by the town’s civilian population. The existence of a bonecarver’s workshop can be assumed because of several finds of raw materials, bracelets and spindle whorls. You can see these in the first two cases left of the door to the next room. Not only Romans lived and worked in Batavis. The case to the left of the entrance holds two combs and an iron fibula. These would have belonged to Germanic residents of the town. The small volume of finds shows that the Germans were a minority here. This marks an interesting difference between Batavis and nearby Regensburg, where the majority of excavated artefacts are Germanic. The archaeological evidence corresponds with entries in the biography of Saint Severinus written by Eugippius. Severinus was a Roman legate and Christian missionary, who was active in Noricum Ripense and the eastern part of Raetia Secunda between AD 467 and his death in 482. When it became apparent that Batavis could not be held by military force, he organized the retreat of the Roman population to Lauriacum, which today is Enns in Austria.