Alphen aan den Rijn ( pronunciation (help·info)) is a town and municipality in the western Netherlands, in the province of South Holland, between Leiden and Utrecht. The town is situated on the banks of the river Oude Rijn (Old Rhine), where the river Gouwe branches off. The municipality had a population of 72,128 in 2008, and covers an area of 57.68 km² (22.27 mile²) of which 2.61 km² (1.01 mile²) is water. It also contains the remnants of a Roman castellum.
The municipality of Alphen aan den Rijn also includes the communities of Aarlanderveen and Zwammerdam. The town is located in what is called the 'Green Heart' of the Netherlands, which is a somewhat less densely populated center area of the Randstad.
The name "Alphen" is probably derived from the name of the Roman castellum Albanianae, meaning "settlement at the white water".
The area around Alphen aan den Rijn has been inhabited for 2000 years. In the Roman era, the Oude Rijn was the main branch of the Rhine River and formed the north border of the Roman Empire. Since the rule of Emperor Claudius (41-54 CE), divisions of the Roman army were stationed here. Consequently, several Roman fortifications were located along the Oude Rijn, including castellum Albanianae in the centre of Alphen. The Romans had also built the first bridge over the Oude Rijn. Alphen was therefore an important commercial site in the area until Germanic raids ended that in 240 CE.
After recurring problems with flooding, especially in Utrecht and Leiden, the Oude Rijn was dammed at Wijk bij Duurstede in 1122, thereby making the Lek River the main branch of the Rhine. The Oude Rijn has not flooded since. During the Middle Ages, Alphen was a fiefdom called Alphen en Rietveld.
In the 17th century, Alphen became prominent again as a hub for commerce. The Oude Rijn was used for boat traffic; there are still portions along the river where the towpath is present.
The current municipality was formed in 1918 through the amalgamation of the smaller municipalities of Alphen, Aarlanderveen, and Oudshoorn. In 1964, the municipality of Zwammerdam was added as well.
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