Details of the inauguration of the Roman monument on 21 May 1989
Roman monument on the Rhine dam near Schwarzrheindorf / Gensem
On the occasion of the unveiling on 21 May 1989
The city of Bonn traces its 2000th anniversary, which it celebrates in 1989, back to its Roman past. Specifically, it links it to the Roman general N. C. Drusus, who is said to have set up camp in Bonn around 11 BC and also built a bridge across the Rhine, from BONNA (Bonn) to GESONIA (Gensem, district of Schwarzrheindorf).
This, at least, was reported around 115 AD by the Roman writer A. L. Florus, whose historiographical works, of course, do not find undivided applause everywhere. However, Bonn's Roman past goes back further. For already around 53 BC the famous G. J. Caesar traced the borders of the Roman Empire to the Rhine; since then, the right bank of the Rhine has also belonged to the secured Roman military area. Today's Bonn-Beuel area remains Roman until the Franks take possession of it 450 to 500 years later.
While the city of Bonn celebrates its 2000th anniversary with a year-long cycle of events, the Denkmal- und Geschichtsverein Bonn-Rechtsrheinisch e. V. (Bonn-Rhine Monument and History Society) is highlighting this extraordinary anniversary clearly and permanently for the future: in the form of a Roman monument, it is setting a "sign of remembrance".
II. Idea and statement of the monument
If indeed "the mighty personality of G. J. Caesar stands at the beginning of the Roman epoch of the Rhineland" (Ennen/Höroldt, Vom Römerkastell zur Bundeshauptstadt), then nothing could be more obvious than to refer to him also in a monument.
We know from Caesar himself that he repeatedly made advances across the Rhine into free Germania and, among other things, built two fixed (wooden) bridges for this purpose. Until the 20th century, the assumption persisted that Bonn had been the starting point for the war campaigns on the right bank of the Rhine and thus for Caesar's bridge-building. In recent decades, however, the assumption has been strengthened that the bridges were built in the Neuwied Basin. Recently, however, experts have again come out in favour of Bonn.
In 1898, during the construction of the Bonn-Beuel Rhine Bridge (today Kennedy Bridge), a statue of Caesar was erected on the Bonn side, a seated figure on an archway above the stairway leading down to the Rhine promenade (today Opera area). Its inscription designated Caesar as the first person to build a bridge in Bonn (primus imposuit pontem flumini). The work was probably carried out by Brasche to a design by Bruno Möhring, the bridge's design architect. This statue of Caesar is thus a piece of Bonn tradition.
After the Rhine bridge was blown up, the sculpture, quite damaged, initially ended up in the municipal building yard, where it was finally located by the Bonn-Rechtsrheinisch e. V. Monument and History Society. After thorough restoration, including the addition of the completely lost head section, it was able to be relocated to the garden courtyard of the Mehlemsche Haus in September 1982 in accordance with a resolution of the Beuel district council, the restoration of which had been completed in 1979.
However, this installation was deliberately intended to be provisional until a place could be found where the statue could develop a better effect. This - the current location - then arose as if by magic, when the association in view of the 2000-year anniversary thought about the Roman origins of the right side of the Rhine. In the course of the city-wide campaign of the Bonn history associations "in each place a historical deed! (which in turn had been initiated by the association), the text flyer 1989 - copy 2010
the idea was obvious a) to erect a monument in memory of the "2000 years of Bonn on both sides of the Rhine" and b) to integrate the statue of Caesar into it.
III. form and shape of the monument
The sculpture, carved from yellow sandstone, depicts a life-size Roman commander in a ruler's pose, seated on a military chair, holding an engineering plan for bridge construction. On the back is the inscription:
C. IVL. CAESAR FLVMINI PONTEM PRIMVS IMPOSVIT A. A. CHR. N. LV.
(G[ajus]. Jul[ius] Caesar was the first to build a bridge over the river in 55 BC).
The statue, 1.65 meters high, is one part of the monument, which in turn consists of two parts. The other part is a plinth pillar on which the statue rests, also made of yellow sandstone, 2.25 meters high. Thus, the entire monument reaches a height of almost four meters. The idea and justification of the monument, as well as the place of its erection, came from Carl J. Bachem, the managing director of the Monument and History Society; he also planned the entire design.
The stonemasonry work - a gift from the Bonn Stonemasons' Guild to the 2000-year-old Bonn - was carried out by Hermann Büchel (Ückesdorf), Wolfgang Naundorf (Beuel) and Nobis & Lancier (Poppelsdorf). The material costs were covered by the city of Bonn.
A monument that refers to the Rhine as the link between the Roman military areas on both sides should sensibly also be located on the Rhine itself. If it can also serve as a reminder of the "historical problems" of the first Bonn-Beuel bridges, then its location should, if possible, also mark the original bridge site. Already in prehistoric times, a road coming from the Siegerland ran along the Sieg and reached the Rhine on the flood-free low terrace via Vilich (Stiftsstraße) near Schwarzrheindorf.
Right here there must have been a ford in primeval times, the only one in the entire Bonn area. Small islands and numerous shallows provided the necessary conditions for crossing the river. No other place would have been geologically and technically more suitable for the construction of a fixed bridge. Opposite the Bonn Roman camp on the right bank of the Rhine was a very early settlement, which lives on today in Gensem/Schwarzrheindorf. The double church is the chapel of the former Carolingian royal castle, which in turn follows a Roman base (whose shape and function are still not precisely known, despite a large number of archaeological finds).
The Gensem/Schwarzrheindorfer Arnoldstraße continues in a straight line in Bonn's Augustusring. Until the Middle Ages, the only Rhine ferry in our region operated here. Even many centuries later, the names of both streets were still a reminder of this, as they were both called "Fährgasse". The monument now stands on this axis, approximately halfway between the double church and the riverbed - on the flood embankment that has crossed the medieval route since 1926. This point, in addition still topographically emphasized, is without doubt not only historically the optimal location, but besides topographically the ideal place to make the monument visible from afar.
V. A memorial as a sign of remembrance
The Roman monument is intended to fulfil a fivefold commemorative function:
- It is supposed to remind of the important Rhine ford between Bonn and Gensem, which already existed in prehistoric times and was intensified in Roman times.
- It is intended as a reminder that the Rhine was conquered by Caesar as a Roman border area more than 2000 years ago (around 55/53 B.C.); the right bank of the Rhine has also been Roman military territory ever since.
- It is supposed to refer to the first - although scientifically still disputed - written mention of Bonn and Gensem on the right bank of the Rhine by Florus, which proves that both sides of the Rhine were already connected 2000 years ago.
- It is intended to draw attention to the fact that it has been disputed among historians for centuries who built Bonn's first fixed bridge over the Rhine (Drusus around 11 B.C. or Caesar as early as 53 B.C., or neither at all).
- In the future, it will also bear witness to the fact that the city of Bonn (which has been united with Beuel since 1969) celebrated its 2000th anniversary in 1989, on both sides of the Rhine.
VI. Textual information on the monument
Information about the monument, its foundation and erection is given in two ways:
Carved into the stone pedestal are the words: > 2000 years of Bonn < On an adjacent lectern is a slab with the following text: Around 53 BC, the Roman general Gajus Julius Caesar advances to the Middle and Lower Rhine. The area of Bonn on the left bank of the Rhine becomes part of the Roman Empire for about 500 years. The right bank of the Rhine is also part of the secured Roman military terrain.
As Caesar himself reports, he twice built solid bridges over the Rhine. But he does not name the exact places. When the predecessor of the Kennedy Bridge was built in 1898, it was believed that Caesar had built one of the bridges in Bonn. Therefore, this statue of Caesar was erected at the bridge ramp on the Bonn side. On its backside you can still find the inscription of that time:
C. IVL. CAESAR G[ajus]. Jul[ius] Caesar
FLVMINI PONTEM PRIMVS struck first
IMPOSVIT a bridge over the river
A. A. CHR. N. LV. in the year before Chr[isti's birth] 55.
After the destruction of the bridge in 1945, the statue was temporarily moved to the park of the Mehlemschen Haus on the Rheinaustraße in Beuel in 1983, close to its former location. According to the report of the Roman writer L. A. Florus, a bridge was built in the Bonn area around 11 BC by the general Drusus. It can be assumed that this happened in the area of the east-west connection between the Siegerland and the Maas region, which had already been used in prehistoric times. This ran exactly at this point.
This monument, erected on the occasion of the 2000th anniversary of the city of Bonn on May 21, 1989 by the Denkmal- und Geschichtsverein Bonn-Rechtsrheinisch e. V. with the support of the Bonn stonemasons' guild and the city of Bonn, is intended to commemorate the connection between the two banks of Bonn since the times of G. J. Caesar.