Batavians

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{land, century, early}
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{island, water, area}
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{water, park, boat}
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The Batavi were an ancient Germanic tribe, originally part of the Chatti,[1] reported by Tacitus to have lived around the Rhine delta, in the area that is currently the Netherlands, "an uninhabited district on the extremity of the coast of Gaul, and also of a neighbouring island, surrounded by the ocean in front, and by the river Rhine in the rear and on either side" (Tacitus, Historiae iv). This led to the Latin name of insula Batavorum for the area.[2] The same name is applied to several military units, originally raised among the Batavi. The tribal name, probably a derivation from batawjō ("good island", from Germanic bat- "good, excellent" and awjō "island, land near water"), refers to the region's fertility, today known as the fruitbasket of the Netherlands (the Betuwe).

Finds of wooden tablets show that at least some were literate.

Contents

Location

The Batavi were mentioned by Julius Caesar in his commentary Commentarii de Bello Gallico, as living on an island formed by the Rhine River after it splits, one arm being the Waal the other the Lower Rhine/Old Rhine. The strategic position, to wit the high bank of the Waal—which offered an unimpeded view far into Germania Transrhenana (Germania Beyond the Rhine)--was recognized first by Drusus, who built a massive fortress (castra) and a headquarters (praetorium) in imperial style. The latter was in use until the Batavian revolt.

Archeological evidence suggests they lived in small villages, composed of 6 to 12 houses in the very fertile lands between the rivers, and lived by agriculture and cattle-raising . Finds of horse skeletons in graves suggest a strong equestrian preoccupation. On the south bank of the Waal (in what is now Nijmegen) a Roman administrative center was built, called Oppidum Batavorum. An Oppidum was a fortified warehouse, where a tribe's treasures were stored and guarded. This centre was razed during the Batavian Revolt.

The Batavi (the name is believed to derive from a West Germanic root also present in "better" (possibly meaning "superior men")) moved into the Betuwe in the late 1st century BC. The previous inhabitants of the area were Celtic-speaking Gauls, as evidenced by the two Latinised Celtic names for their chief town: Batavodurum and Noviomagus (Nijmegen, Neth).[3] It is unclear whether the existing inhabitants were simply subjugated with the Batavi forming a ruling elite, or the existing inhabitants simply displaced. For this reason it is also uncertain whether the Batavi remained Germanic-speaking or adopted the Belgic Gallic tongue of the indigenes.

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