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Roman Ruins and the Birthplace of Karl Marx
Trier is the oldest city in Germany. Situated on the Moselle (Mosel) River, not far from Luxembourg, the city is a treasure trove of Roman ruins. Known as the “Rome of the North,” Trier served as the key city of the Roman northern territories.
Trier’s original Latin name, Augusta Treverorum, reflects its founding in 16 B.C.E. by the Roman emperor Augustus. But the area had been occupied by the Celts for many centuries before the Romans arrived. Trier was an important location for the Celto-Germanic Treveri tribe (reflected in the city’s French name: Trèves), which had a shrine on a spot that is now in Trier.
Augusta Treverorum served as the capital of the Roman northern territories of the Western Roman Empire for over 400 years. For a time, it was the capital of the Roman province of Gallia Belgica and was later known as Treveris. The city was the main center of Christianity north of the Alps, and was the residence of at least eight Roman emperors over time. As Roman power ebbed, the Franks took over the city in 459. Later the territory became part of Charlemagne’s empire. In the twelth century, Trier became an important center for the bishops and archbishops, who were also electors in the Holy Roman Empire.
At various times, Trier and its surrounding territory were caught in a tug-of-war between French and German forces. As a result of the Napoleonic Wars, Trier became French in 1794. But with the final defeat of the French in 1815, Trier became German once again, within the Kingdom of Prussia. It has remained part of the German nation ever since. Like many German cities, Trier also suffered damage during World War II. Today the city is located in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz). The city celebrated its 2,000th birthday in 1984!
Trier is a very walkable town, with most of its key sights located within easy walking distance of the old city center. But there is also a special tourist mini-train (called the Römer Express) that takes visitors on a 35-minute tour of Trier’s Altstadt (old town). The city (pop. 103,000) is easily reached by rail or auto (via either the A64 or A602 autobahn). Trier caters to tourists by offering a good selection of hotels and restaurants. Located only about six miles (10 km) from the German-Luxembourg border, Trier is also a good place from which to take a day-trip to Luxembourg City.
Trier is best known for its Roman past and its many archaeological and architectural attractions, but it is also the birthplace of Karl Marx.