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Colonia Agrippina!

posted Dec 7, 2011, 12:21 PM by Gordon Doherty   [ updated Jan 27, 2015, 3:38 AM ]
I'm not long back from a sightseeing and calorie-laden weekend in Cologne. Xmas markets = constant eating and drinking apparently (it's a hard life!)
The festivities and some of the eye-catching parts of the modern city make it a lovely tourist destination, but on top of that the place is riddled with a history that stretches way back into antiquity. 
Colonia Agrippina
The modern German city of Köln was founded by the Ubii, a Germanic tribe, in 38 BC on a sweet spot on the banks of the Rhine. Then, in 50 AD, along came the Romans and the town was renamed as the 'Colony of Claudius and Altar of the Agrippiner', or Colonia Agrippina in short. It became a Roman frontier stronghold for centuries and during this reign (see the pic opposite showing the impressive layout of the town and the bridgehead on the eastern banks of the Rhine), the Romans must have surely considered themselves invincible and destined to dominate the known world for eternity.
However, something I saw on my first day in the city underlined, rather poignantly, how far from the truth this belief was...
Cathedral and Roman North Gate
I was at the awesome cathedral, a structure that dominates the skyline, over six hundred years in construction and standing defiantly despite two world wars having raged around it. As I marvelled at the cathedral, my gaze traced the ornate carvings all the way down from the spires. Then, as my eyes came to ground level, they fell upon the Roman North Gate of old Colonia Agrippina (see pic).
The gargantuan cathedral seemed to be trying to swallow this tiny, crumbling piece of history. It set me thinking: after the Romans came, the Ubii and those Germanic tribes who had inhabited the surrounding lands must have looked on at some tumbling ruin or landmark of their own, doubtless dwarfed by Roman architecture in a similiar fashion.
I stood there for some time, just trying to get a measure of the phases of history that must have come and gone like this not only here, but the world over; each era seemingly eternal at its height, then cold and distant as it tumbled into memory, just like the North Gate.
"Study the past, if you would divine the future" - Confucius