If you are interested in ancient history, Mainz, ancient Mogontiacum, is one of the most interesting places to visit. It was founded by Drusus, who used it as his base to conquer the valley of the river Main; after his death, the soldiers erected a cenotaph for their former general (photo). For about a century, there were two, sometimes even three, legions in Mainz. Only in the second century, the garrison was reduced to one legion, XXII Primigenia, which was still in Mainz in the early fifth century.
While the fortress decreased in importance, the civil settlement expanded. Although the town has always been occupied and excavation is difficult, archaeologists have identified a bridge across the Rhine (photo), a Jupiter Column with an interesting inscription, a temple of Isis and Cybele, and a theater.
The most impressive monument is, in my view, the collection of ten reliefs that is known as the Mainz Pedestals (photo). It may not be what you have in mind when you think about classical art. And it is true, the human body has been rendered better by other sculptors: the heads, arms, and legs of the figures on the pedestals are not well-proportioned. However, this monument was certainly made by a great artist who compensated his lack of anatomical knowledge by something that, lacking a better expression, I call “power”. They are far more interesting than those nude statues you see in an Italian or Greek museum.
It comes as no surprise that Mainz has several museums dedicated to ancient history, more than any other city north of the Alps. More about Mainz’ museums tomorrow.