Infobox World Heritage Site
WHS = Frontiers of the Roman Empire
State Party = GER and
Type = Cultural
Criteria = ii, iii, iv| ID = 430
Region = Europe and North America
Year = 1987
Session = 11th
Extension = 2005; 2008
Link = http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/430
A limes (or the Limes Romanus) was a
borderdefense or delimiting system of Ancient Rome. It marked the boundaries of the Roman Empire.
The Latin noun "limes" had a number of different meanings: a path or balk delimiting fields, a boundary line or marker, any road or path, any channel, such as a stream channel, or any distinction or difference. In Latin, the plural form of "limes" is "limites". The word limes, hence, was utilized by Latin writers to denote a marked or fortified frontier. This latter sense has been adapted and extended by modern historians concerned with the frontiers of the
Roman Empire; e.g., Hadrian's wall in north Englandis sometimes styled the "Limes Britannicus", the frontier of the Roman province of Arabiafacing the desert is called the "Limes Arabicus", and so forth.
The most notable examples of Roman "limites" are:
Hadrian's Wall[Stephen Johnson (2004) "Hadrian's Wall", Sterling Publishing Company, Inc, 128 pages, ISBN 0713488409] [ [http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=18177 C.Michael Hogan (2007) "Hadrian's Wall", ed. A. Burnham, The Megalithic Portal] ] - "Limes Britannicus" ( UNESCOWorld Heritage "ID 430bis-001")
Antonine Wall- ( UNESCOWorld Heritage Site] . [ [http://whc.unesco.org/en/newproperties/ UNESCO World Heritage Centre. New Inscribed Properties] ] [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/tayside_and_central/7494680.stm "Wall gains World Heritage status'"] BBC News. Retrieved 8 July 2008.]
*Upper Germanic & Rhaetian "Limes" (
UNESCOWorld Heritage "ID 430bis-002"), part of the " Limes Germanicus"
Limes Arabicus", the frontier of the Roman province of Arabia Petraeafacing the desert
Limes Tripolitanus", the frontier in modern Libya facing the Sahara
A mediaeval "limes" is the "
Limes Saxoniae" in Holstein.
Etymology and sentiment
The stem of "limes": "limit"-, which can be seen in the genitive case, "limitis", marks it as the ancestor of an entire group of important words in many languages; for example, English limit and eliminate, "remove over the border." Modern languages have multiplied its abstract formulations. For example, from "limit"- comes the abbreviation lim, used in
mathematicsto designate the limit of a sequence or a function: see limit (mathematics). In metaphysics, material objects are limited by matter and therefore are delimited from each other. In ethics, men must know their limitations and are wise if they do.
An etymology was given in some detail by
Julius Pokorny, "Indogermanisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch". According to him it comes from Indo-European [http://www.indoeuropean.nl/cgi-bin/startq.cgi?flags=endnnnl&root=leiden&basename=%5Cdata%5Cie%5Cpokorny el-, elei-, lei-] , "to bow, bend; elbow."
The sense is that a limit bends across one in some way. The "limes" was a cross-path or a cross-wall, which the Romans meant to throw across the path of invaders to hinder them. It is a defensive strategy. The Romans never built "limites" where they considered themselves free to attack. As the emperor had ordered the army to stay within the "limites" except for punitive expeditions, they were as much a mental barrier as material. The groups of Germanic warriors harrying the limes during summer used the concept to full advantage, knowing that they could concentrate and supply themselves outside the "limes" without fear of preemptive strikes.
In a few cases they were wrong. The limit concept engendered a sentiment among the soldiers that they were being provoked by the Germanic raiders and were held back from just retaliation by a weak and incompetent administration; i.e., they were being sold out. They therefore mutinied. The best remedy for a mutiny was an expedition across the "limes". Toward the later empire, the soldiers assassinated emperors who preferred diplomacy and put their own most popular officers into the vacant office.
Roman writers and subsequent authors who depended on them presented the "limes" as some sort of sacred border beyond which human beings did not transgress, and if they did, it was evidence that they had passed the bounds of reason and civilization. To cross the border was the mark of a savage. They wrote of the Alemanni disrespecting it as though they had passed the final limitation of character and had committed themselves to perdition. The Alemanni, on the other hand, never regarded the border as legitimate in the first place. The Romans were foreigners changing native place names and intruding on native homes and families (see under
Alemanni), only to be tolerated at all because they were willing to pay cash for the privilege and offered the blandishments of civilized life.
According to Pokorny, Latin "limen", "threshold", is related to "limes", being the stone over which one enters or leaves the house, and some have gone so far as to view the frontier as a [http://www.otal.umd.edu/~paulette/Dissertation/outside_in/getin/etylimen.html threshold] . The Merriam-Webster dictionaries take this view, as does J. B. Hofmann in "Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Griechischen" under leimon. "The White Latin Dictionary" denies any connection, deriving "limen" from *ligmen, as in lien from [http://www.bartleby.com/61/roots/IE272.html *leig-] "tie". The threshold ties together the doorway. The
American Heritage Dictionaryrefuses to go further than Latin [http://www.bartleby.com/61/40/L0174000.html limes] .
* [http://www.limesstrasse.de/ Official website of the "Verein Deutsche Limes-Straße" (in German)]
* [http://www.livius.org/li-ln/limes/limes.html Livius.org: Limes]
* [http://www.livius.org/li-ln/limes/tripolitanus.html Livius.org: Limes Tripolitanus]
* [http://www.antikefan.de/Themen/militaer/roemer/anlagen.html Antikefan: Roman Limes] (German)
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