4. The Roman Occupation in Retreat
In the course of the third century AD, the Alemanni intensified their encroachment on the limes. As a result of this external pressure and of internal political turmoil, the frontier was pulled back to the Danube and the Iller. Alemanni began to settle in south-west Germany from this time onward. During this early period, we often find them in the vicinity of Roman settlements, although they avoided the Roman houses entirely. The Alemanni may have found it convenient to locate their settlements nearby, since the surrounding farmland had already been cleared and prepared for cultivation.
There is evidence in Hechingen-Stein that the Alemanni walled up the entrances to the main building and constructed their own wooden houses immediately to the north.
When the Roman settlers retreated, much of their technical and cultural knowledge was lost. Although the Alemanni were superb artisans and far excelled the Romans in metalworking, they lacked all knowledge of statecraft and civic organisation with all of its advantages. While continuing to use the Roman roads, they were not able to maintain them.
When the emperor Charlemagne wanted to construct the cathedral at Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) ca. 800 AD, impressed as he was by the Roman buildings in Italy, he had to have ancient columns imported from Ravenna, since there were no longer stonemasons in Franconia capable of carving them.
Little has been preserved during the intervening centuries. A few monuments, such as the Porta Nigra in Trier or the corner tower of the city wall at Cologne, are all that remain to remind us of the flowering of Roman culture nearly 2000 years ago.