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Agri Decumates: Map


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The Roman Empire in CE 120 and Germania, with some Germanic tribes mentioned by Tacitus in CE 98
Map showing the location of the Limes, fortifications which secured the region of Agri decumates
Expansion of the Alemanni and sites of Roman-Alemannic battles, 3rd to 6th century
Agri Decumates a province of the Roman Empire covering the Black Forestmarker area between the Mainmarker river and the sources of Danube and Rhinemarker rivers, presently in Southwestern Germanymarker (modern Wurttemberg, Baden and Hohenzollern) . It bordered the militarily important provinces of Raetia and Upper Germania. The only ancient reference to the name comes from Tacitus' book Germania..

The meaning of Decumates is lost and has been the subject of much contention. According to the English Classicist Michael Grant, the word probably refers to an ancient Celtic term indicating the political division of the area into "ten cantons."

According to Tacitus, the region had originally been populated by the Celtic tribe of the Helvetii but soon Germanic Suebi settled there before migrating, around 9 BCE, to Boiohaemum (modern day Bohemia). After the Suebi left, the area was again inhabited by Gauls. Later on, the region was to become part of the Roman Empire.

Under the Flavian emperors, 69-96 CE, the area was settled and colonized. A network of roads eased legionary communications and improved protection from invading tribes using the re-entrant to penetrate into the Gaulish provinces. Frontier fortifications (limes) were constructed along a line running Rheinbrohl—Arnsburg—Inheiden—Schierenhof—Gunzenhausen—Pförring.

The major places of Roman settlement were Sumolecenna, Civitas Aurelia Aquensis, Lopodunum and Arae Flaviae, modern day Rottenburg am Neckarmarker, Baden-Badenmarker, Ladenburgmarker and Rottweilmarker respectively.

The region flourished during the next two centuries in spite of periods of unrest: around 185/186, a revolt against Roman authority took place, mainly directed against the presence of the Roman military in Argentoratum (modern-day Strasbourgmarker).

The Romans controlled the province until the latter half of the 3rd century, when it was evacuated by the emperor Gallienus (259-260) in the face of invading Alamanni and the secession of much of the Western Roman Empire under the "usurper and ruler" Postumus.

The area may have been briefly reoccupied by the Emperor Aurelian (270-275 CE), during the Roman resurgence of the late 3rd century CE under the so-called "military" emperors. Even if this did occur, the re-establishment of Roman rule was brief. After the death of Emperor Probus (282), the area was finally given up and left to the Alamanni. The territory has since remained inhabited by people of Germanic descent continuously to the present day. However, Roman settlements were not immediately abandoned. There is evidence of continuity of the Roman way life well into the 5th century, much as Roman patterns continued in neighboring Gaul long after the Western Empire's collapse.

J. G. F. Hind has suggested that the inhabitants of the agri decumates are to be found from the later third to the fifth centuries in the decem pagi— also "ten cantons"— transferred west of the Rhine, to the region between that river and the Saarmarker, between Mainzmarker and Metzmarker.


  1. Grant, Michael. A Guide to the Ancient World: A Dictionary of Classical Place Names. page 17. Barnes and Noble, 1997 (ISBN 0-7607-4134-4)
  2. Grant, Ibid. page 17
  3. Compare Old Irish dechmad. Hind, J. G. F., "Whatever Happened to the 'Agri Decumates'?" Britannia 15, 1984, p. 188.
  4. Who would give their name to the present German region of Swabia, circa Stuttgart; and where a descendant of their tribal dialect of Old High German is still spoken.
  5. Grant, Ibid. page 17
  6. Bunson, Matthew, A Dictionary of the Roman Empire, page 339, Oxford University Press, 1991 ISBN 0-19-510233-9
  7. D. Geuenich, Geschichte der Alemannen, p. 23
  8. Grant, Ibid. page 17
  9. Hind, Ibid." page 189ff.


  • Bunson, Matthew, A Dictionary of the Roman Empire, Oxford University Press, 1991, ISBN 0-19-510233-9
  • "Agri Decumates." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 22 Oct. 2006
  • Geuenich, Dieter, Geschichte der Alemannen, Stuttgart, 1997, ISBN 3-17-012095-6
  • Grant, Michael, A Guide to the Ancient World: A Dictionary of Classical Place Names, Barnes & Noble, 1997, ISBN 0-7607-4134-4
  • Strayer, Joseph R. (ed.), Dictionary of the Middle Ages, vol. 1, New York, 1982, ISBN 0-684-18276-9
  • Reallexikon der germanischen Altertumskunde, vol. 5, Berlin, 1984, ISBN 3-11-009635-8
  • Syme, Ronald, Tacitus, vol. 1, Oxford, 1958, repr. 1985, ISBN 0-19-814327-3

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