There is an air of reverence and mysticism about the Roman castle of Mainz. Soldiers in battle gear walk around a huge bonfire, placing weapons and gifts at its feet. Laments fill the air, and the fire throws eerie shadows onto a cenotaph ...
We can only guess what the elaborate annual memorial services held in Roman times in honour of general Drusus entailed. All that has remained of his cenotaph is a 20 m high masonry block on the grounds of the citadel of Mainz.
Nero Claudius Drusus was a step son of Emperor Augustus. In 13 BCE, Augustus sent Drusus and Tiberius, another one of his step sons, to Germany to help defend the frontier and to expand the Roman Empire beyond the Rhine.
The same year, Drusus established a military base opposite the mouth of the Main river around which the city of Mogontiacum eventually developed. Under his command, Roman armies launched major campaigns, venturing along the Main river and eventually reaching the Elbe river further north.
The Roman historian Cassius Dio describes the successful general as "… a youth, possessed of so many and such high virtues, as only a mortal human nature could encompass and favour and be able to develop with industry and application".
Drusus died in an accident on his way back from one of his conquests in the Elbe area in 9 BCE. In honour of the general, the soldiers stationed at Mogontiacum erected a splendid cenotaph known today as Drususstein. His body was however buried in Rome in the mausoleum of Emperor Augustus.
In the Middle Ages, the Cenotaph of Drusus was extended to serve as a watchtower. It is likely that it already served as a lookout in Roman times after the citadel was constructed.
Cenotaph of Drusus
Cenotaph of Drusus
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