Speyer, also known in English as Spires, is a town in today's German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, located beside the Rhine river. Though Celtic settlements in the area, specifically of the tribes of the Mediomatrici, date back more than 4000 years, the actual city of Speyer was founded by the Romans in 10 BC when they established the first Roman military camp, probably with about 500 legionnaires of the Legio XIII Gemina. In the next 350 years several roman legions were stationed in Speyer, as for example the Legio Vindicum, the 4th, the 14th and the 18th. Speyer is one of Germany's oldest cities.
The first known names of Speyer were Noviomagus and Civitas Nemetum. The first often considered wrongly from Latin actually derives from old Celtic language meaning new market and the latter after the Teutonic tribe of the Nemeti who settled in the area at that time. The name Noviomagus Nemetum indicates the Speyer's status as the Nemetes' tribal capital. Though Cesar ("Germani suas copias constituerunt") and Tacitus both refer to the Nemeti several times as a Germanic tribe, however, the Nemeti were a Celtic tribe considering the gods they worshipped.
Today's name for Germany undoubtedly derives from the Germanic tribes in the area, though in many languages the Germans are called differently: Romanian: nemţi/neamţ, Hungarian: német(ek), Russian: немцы (nyemtsy), Polish: Niemcy or Němci in Czech. This obviously refers to the Nemteti.
Around the year 500 the name Spira first appeared in written documents and this is the name that is still used in French (Spire), Italian (Spira), and Spanish (Espira).
In 150 AD the Greek geographer Ptolemy mentions the town Speyer as Noviomagus on his world map. In 346 AD a bishop in Speyer is first mentioned. In 1030 the emperor Conrad II starts the construction of Speyer Cathedral, today one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and in 1076, the German emperor Henry IV embarks from his favourite town Speyer for Canossa. In 1084 the first Jewish community established in Speyer. In 1294 the bishop loses most of his previous rights and from now on Speyer is a Free Imperial Town of the Holy Roman Empire.
Between 1527 and 1689 Speyer is the seat of the Imperial Chamber Court. In 1526 at the Diet of Speyer interim toleration of Lutheran teaching and worship is decreed. In 1529, at the Diet of Speyer the Lutheran states of the empire protest against the anti-Reformation resolutions (19 April 1529 Protestation at Speyer, hence the term Protestantism).
After the Battle of Noerdlingen ended in favour for the Catholics on September 6th 1634 the French entered the war and the 30-years war and the most bloodiest chapter in European history began. In 1635, Marshal of France Urbain de Maillé-Brézé, together with Jacques Nompar de Caumont, duc de La Force, conquers Heidelberg and Speyer at the head of the French Armies. Finally in 1689, the town is heavily damaged, almost completely destroyed, again by French troops.
Between 1792 and 1814 Speyer is under French jurisdiction. In 1816, Speyer becomes the seat of administration of the Palatinate and of the government of the Rhine District of Bavaria (later called the Bavarian Palatinate), and remains so until the end of World War II. Between 1883 and 1904, the Memorial Church is built in remembrance of the Protestation of 1529.