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Dutch archaeologists discover the location of Caesar’s battle and massacre on the Tencteri and Usipetes tribes

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Republication from the VU University of Amsterdam

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Hundreds of skulls and other bones, considered to belong to the massacred Germanics were found in the excavated location (credit: VU University of Amsterdam).

VU archaeologists discover location of historic battle fought by Caesar in Dutch river area

Earliest known battle on Dutch soil.

At a press conference held on Friday 11 December in the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam, archaeologist Nico Roymans from the VU Amsterdam announced a discovery that is truly unique for Dutch archaeology: the location where the Roman general and statesman Julius Caesar massacred two Germanic tribes in the year 55 BC. The location of this battle, which Caesar wrote about in detail in Book IV of his De Bello Gallico, was unknown to date. It is the earliest known battle on Dutch soil. The conclusions are based on a combination of historical, archaeological, and geochemical data.

Skeletal remains, swords and spearheads
It is the first time that the presence of Caesar and his troops in Dutch territory has been explicitly proven. The finds from this battle include large numbers of skeletal remains, swords, spearheads, and a helmet. The two Germanic tribes, the Tencteri and the Usipetes, originated in the area east of the Rhine and had explicitly appealed to Caesar for asylum. Caesar rejected this request for asylum and ordered his troops to destroy the tribes by violent means. Nowadays, we would label such action genocide.
During the press conference, Roymans described in detail the discoveries made in Kessel (North Brabant) and their historical significance. He also showed weapons and skeletal remains from this battle.

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ROMA INVICTA (Part II): THE BATTLE OF THE SABIS (57 BC)

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RomanWithout wasting any time, the legionaries of Legio X crossed again the river Sabis to help Caesar’s men against the Nervii. Reenactment of imperial era legionaries by the Polish Historical Association Legio XXI Rapax, photo by Cezary Wyszynski.

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By Periklis Deligiannis
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CONTINUED FROM PART I

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Caesar marched with his six oldest legions towards the river Sabis sending first a body of cavalry to find a safe location where he would establish his camp. The newly founded XIII and XIV Legions followed at a distance, protecting the Roman supply convoy.
The Roman cavalry corps had crossed the river Sabis to its right bank along with bodies of light infantry and skirmishers in order to oversee the Belgae. However, the Celts suddenly dashed from the forest, screaming war cries and brandishing their swords. Soon they repelled the terrified Caesarian cavalrymen and crossed the river swimming. When they reached its left bank they began ascending speedily the hillside, heading towards the top of the hill where the Roman soldiers were working on the construction of the camp. Caesar found himself in a very difficult situation since he had to act instantly to rescue his unorganized and unarmed legionaries. He had to give orders to sound the bucinae, to raise the red vexillia calling the legionaries to hurry for battle, to gather his men who were cutting trees, etc., all this ‘in just a moment’ as he characteristically writes in his memoirs.
Fortunately for the Romans, Caesar had ordered his officers not to leave their soldiers until the construction was completed; thereby they were able to quickly gather their legionaries. The Romans were additionally helped by the high level of their military training and discipline. When the more isolated legionaries realized the danger of the stormy attack of the Belgians, acted with characteristic collectedness. They did not search for their units; on the contrary they grabbed their arms and armour and ran to the nearest Roman vexillium (war standard) that was lifted up. Thus in an incredibly short time, a battle line was formed. It was a typical manifestation of the robust organization and discipline of the Roman army, one of the many features that made it an unconquerable (invictus) killing  machine.

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ROMA INVICTA (Part I): Preparations and primary Operations of Caesar’s First war on the Belgae

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Romans

Reenactment of Roman legionaries at English Heritage Festival in 2011 (photo by Lichfield Lore). The picture could very well represent legionaries ready for combat in the dense forest of Belgica, but the problem is that the depicted legionaries are of the Imperial era.
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By Periklis Deligiannis

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In 58 BC the campaign of Julius Caesar for the subjugation of Gaul was going on. That year he overwhelmingly defeated the Germanic Suebi (Swebi) who also intended to conquer Gaul under their king Ariovistus. In the next year, the Roman general turned against the threatening Belgae. Many Gauls felt relieved by the destruction of the Suebi who had been threatening their homeland. Others understood that Caesar intended to turn their country into a Roman province.
The Belgae were a large conglomerate of Celtisized peoples mainly of the Northwestern pre-Celtic ethno-linguistic group (pre-Teutonic Germani) as it seems, whom the Germans had expelled from their cradle (in the east of the Rhine), thereby they settled in northeastern Gaul, mostly between the rivers Seine, Marne and the Rhine. However the Belgae included some Celtic proper and Germanic tribes and clans.
After their settlement in Gaul they had almost completely adopted La Tene culture (typical Celtic). Caesar in his ‘De Bello Gallico’ describes them as the most warlike and brave among the Gauls. The Belgians were additionally strengthened due to their long wars against the Germans. The majority of them were fanatically anti-Roman and their leaders and nobles supposedly kept their morals intact without succumbing to the Roman bribe attempts. The Belgae tribes were united in a tribal confederation on the basis of their common origins and culture.
The Belgae realized that Caesar would campaign against them and thus their leaders started to exchange hostages in order to further strengthen the bonds of their union.

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TO BE A FRANK: ON THE ETHNIC EVOLUTION OF THE EARLY FRANKS, ESPECIALLY OF MODERN NETHERLANDS and BELGIUM

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A reconstruction of a sword, its scabbard and warrior’s belt of a Merovingian nobleman. Note the common Nordic elements with the cultures of Anglo-Saxon Britain and early Vendel Scandinavia.
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By Periklis Deligiannis
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Wikipedia Commons is the source of all the maps in this article.
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The early Franks were not a single tribe but a tribal union (or ‘loose’ federation or confederation) of smaller Germanic tribes emerging in the beginning of the 3rd century AD in the regions north and east of the Rhine. The first members of the Frankish confederation included the Sugambri (or Sicambri), Chamavi, Salii, Chattuarii (Chasuarii), Tubantes (Tuihantii), Ampsivarii, and probably the Bructeri. In the 20th century historiography the Salii (Salians) were believed to have been originally a confederation of Frankish tribes living near the sea (this is the meaning of ‘Salian’), mostly in modern Netherlands. This was definitely the case for the later Salii, being one of the two lesser tribal unions within the greater Frankish union. The other one was the Ripuarii (Ripuarian) Franks, meaning the tribes living by the river, i.e. the Rhine, in the Frankish hinterland, mostly in modern Germany. But the earlier Salii were rather not a confederation but a compact tribe which became the core people for the formation of the Salian Frankish confederation. Their cradle was possibly the region of Salland or Salaland in modern Eastern Netherlands.

HamalandSalland

Hamaland (map on the left) and Salland (on the right) in modern Netherlands were the cradles of two founding members of the Frankish federation, the Chamavi and the Salii  respectively. Betuwe in the map on the left, was the northern region of the land of the Batavi  tribe, another member of the Frankish federation, added to it later. It seems that the Batavi of Betuwe were already incorporated to the Chamavi when the federation was founded, while the rest of the tribe were a part of the Roman province Germania Inferior, south of the Rhine (see map below). In the 4th century, these ‘Roman’ Batavi (renowned auxiliaries of Rome) too were incorporated to the Frankish confederation.

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MASSALIA (MARSEILLE): FORGOTTEN ANCIENT SEA POWER – PART II

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 By  Periklis    DeligiannisAntibes

Antibes  during  the  Renaissance,  the  ancient  Greek  Antipolis,  the  third  largest  Massaliot  colony.  The  ancient  Greek  city  covered  about  the  same  area.

CONTINUED  FROM  PART  I

       The  Gauls  (Celts)  gradually  extended  their  territory  in  modern  South  France  at  the  expense  of    the  Ligurians,  the  Iberians  and  the  Wasconians  (ancestors  of  the  Basques),  either  by  conquest  or  by  the  direct  adoption  of  the  La  Tene  culture  by  the  aforementioned  natives  and  thence  their  upcoming  Celtisization.  At  first,  the  Massaliots  did  not  clash  with  the  newcomers.  As  we  have  seen,  the  two  peoples  were  familiar  to  each  other  due  to  their  trade  and  the  beneficial  effect  of  Massalia.  Now  they  had  territorial  contact  also.  Besides  their  common  commercial  interests,  they  had  common  geopolitical  as  well,  since  they  both  ruled  Ligurian subjects.  In  the  early  4th  century,  the  entire  Gaul  had  become  a  Massaliot  zone  of  commercial  and  cultural  influence.  For  this  reason,  the  Massalialiots  had  very  little  or  no  regard  for  the  control  of  the  Iberian  Peninsula  and  the  Columns  of  Hercules  (modern  Gibraltar)  which  they  had  left  to  the  Carthaginians.  After  all,  the  Carthaginian  power  prevented  them  from  this  aim.  The  only  interesting  for  both  peoples  beyond  the  Pillars  of  Hercules,  was  the  tin  of  the  Cassiteridae  islands  (probably  the  Isles  of  Scilly  in  Cornwall),  which  however  the  Massaliots  acquired  without  problems  via  the  commercial  roads  of  Gaul.  In  contrast,  the  Carthaginians  had  to  undertake  the  long  and  dangerous  sea  voyage  from  the  Mediterranean  to  Britain  via  the  Atlantic,  because  the  roads  of  Gaul  remained  forever  closed  to  them  due  to  the  Massaliot  influence  in  the  land.  Because  of  this  situation,  there  was  an  unofficial  agreement  between  Massalia  and  Carthage,  whereby  Gaul  was  a  Massaliot  zone  and  the  Iberian  Peninsula  was  a  Punic  zone.  Later  the  agreement  became  official,  when  the  two  sides  fixed  the  boundary  between  the  two  zones  in  the  River  Iber  (modern  Ebro  in  Aragon,  Spain).

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