From 58 to 50 BC Gaius Julius Caesar conquered the whole of Gaul. In the year 55 BC he and his legions also paid a visit to the south of this country. We know this from ‘the report of the Gallic war’, which Caesar wrote for the senate of Rome. Because he happened to write down something about his short stay in this country, this ended the prehistoric period of the Netherlands. However, this lightning visit was not the beginning of the Roman Period in this country, for having sorted things out, he left again. In real terms, it meant that a large part of the native population had been killed by Caesar.
After Caesar’s legions had left, the Germanic tribe of the Batavians occupied the vacant areas. They were Caesar’s allies and protected for him part of the area conquered by the Romans, against other Germanic tribes. At that time the south of the Netherlands was part of the Roman province of Gallia Belgica.
It was not until the year 12 BC that the Romans actually settled in this country. Drusus, Emperor Augustus’ stepson, arrived with a great army at the ‘island of the Batavians’. From here he wanted to fight the Germanic tribes in Germany. This is the beginning of the Roman Period of the Netherlands. The oldest wooden forts in the Netherlands date from this period.
In AD 47, Emperor Claudius made an end to the not always successful Roman conquests in Germania. He decreed that the River Rhine was to be the northern border of the Roman Empire, which made the Netherlands part of the military border region: the Limes. A belt of military forts was lain along the River Rhine.
Later on, about AD 100, the Netherlands became part of the province of Germania Inferior.
The capital was Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensis, present-day Cologne. The Dutch town of Nijmegen served as army town for several Roman legions.
400 years of Roman influences
The Romans stayed here for about four centuries. Initially, they were an occupying force. Every now and then the native population revolted against the Romans. The best known uprising is the one of the Batavians, led by Julius Civilis in the year AD 69. During the greater part of the Roman occupation, however, the relationship between Romans and the local population was very good. Consequently, people in the Netherlands became acquainted with the Greek-Roman culture.
For the Romans in the Netherlands life was quite different from their lifestyle in Italy. To them this area was just a wasteland at the edges of the earth. A place where the uncivilised Germanic and Celtic tribes lived. What is more, they were in fact forever situated in a military zone. And of course, there was the cold weather. Silk togas are fine in sunny Rome but highly unpractical in our wet climate. In this country it was more a provincial Roman culture with Celtic and Germanic adaptations and influences.
Alphen aan den Rijn:
Through archaeological finds we know that there once was a Roman army camp in what is now the centre of Alphen aan den Rijn. This camp was called Albanianae. Presumably, it was the camp of a cohort (a subdivision of the legion), consisting of about 500 soldiers. Probably, this division consisted of foot soldiers and cavalrymen. Archaeologists think that Albanianae was built around AD 40. This was during the time that the emperor Claudius wanted to start his conquest of Britain from this area. Also, in the nearby town of Zwammerdam was another army camp, called Nigrum Pullum. It is, among other things, because of these facts that Archeon is situated in Alphen aan den Rijn.
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