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Ethnic Identity and Imperial Power

Ethnic Identity and Imperial Power: The Batavians in the Early Roman Empire

Nico Roymans
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 292
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  • Book Info
    Ethnic Identity and Imperial Power
    Book Description:

    This study explores the theme of Batavian ethnicity and ethnogenesis in the context of the Early Roman Empire, starting with the current view of ethnicity as a culturally determined, subjective construct shaped through interaction with an ethnic 'other'. The study analyses literary, epigraphic and archaeological sources relating to the Batavian image and self-image against the background of the specific integration of the Batavian community into the Roman world. The Batavian society was exploited by the Roman authorities for the recruitment of auxiliary soldiers. As a result it developed into a full-blown military community. The study's main conclusion is that Rome exerted a profound influence on the formation of the Batavians both as a political entity and as an ethnic group. The combination of an explicit theoretical framework and a clear presentation of empirical data makes this book an indispensable work for all those interested in ethnicity and ethnogenesis in the context of the Roman Empire.Amsterdam Archaeological Studies is a series devoted to the study of past human societies from the prehistory up into modern times, primarily based on the study of archaeological remains. The series will include excavation reports of modern fieldwork; studies of categories of material culture; and synthesising studies with broader images of past societies, thereby contributing to the theoretical and methodological debates in archaeology.This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0535-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-X)
    (pp. XI-XII)
    Nico Roymans
  4. 1 Research aims, central concepts and perspectives
    (pp. 1-8)

    The primary aim of this study is to arrive at a model of Batavian ethnogenesis in the specific context of the Germanic frontier of the Roman empire. This implies both the reconstruction of ethnogenetic processes and their political context, and an attempt at reconstructing the image and self-image of the Batavian community. With this study I hope to make a contribution to the broader discussion of ethnicity and ethnogenesis in antiquity. My approach is a ‘historical-anthropological’ one, employing concepts and insights from both the social and the historical sciences, as well as a micro/macro-perspective that analyses local developments against a...

  5. 2 Social change in the Late Iron Age Lower Rhine region
    (pp. 9-22)

    In recent decades the study of Late Iron Age societies in Gaul and the Rhineland has been at the fore-front of discussion in both academic and popular archaeology. The primary focus has been the major social changes that occurred during that period, leading to more complex societies with a more highly developed social hierarchy and the first moves toward urbanisation. The most notable archaeological evidence is the appearance of major fortified settlements oroppida, a rapid rise in the use of coins and the emergence of collective sanctuaries. Such changes are usually regarded as diagnostic of the La Tène cultural...

  6. 3 Caesar’s conquest and the ethnic reshuffling of the Lower Rhine frontier zone
    (pp. 23-30)

    The creation of a Batavian polity needs to be understood not just in the context of social developments in the Late Iron Age Lower Rhineland – as revealed by the archaeological record⁸² – but also against the specific historical backdrop of Caesar’s conquest and its direct consequences for the region. We are confronted here with the harshest side of Roman imperialism, which included large-scale plundering, mass enslavement and even genocide. I wish to focus in this chapter on fundamental changes in the tribal map of the Lower Rhine region in the second half of the 1stcentury BC. Two key questions arise:...

  7. 4 The gold triskeles coinages of the Eburones
    (pp. 31-54)

    Central to this chapter are gold staters of the Scheers 31 type, with a triskeles or whorl on the obverse and a horse facing left on the reverse. This coinage is interesting for several reasons:

    1. It represents the most northerly Late La Tène gold emission on the European continent. Pre-Roman coin circulation was a peripheral phenomenon in the Lower Rhine region, which raises the question as to what factors determined the slow acceptance of coins in this area.

    2. The relatively late date and limited distribution of the coinage offers various possibilities for historical interpretation. Several scholars have ascribed...

  8. 5 Roman frontier politics and the formation of a Batavian polity
    (pp. 55-66)

    I emphasised in my opening chapter the need, when studying Batavian ethnogenesis, to distinguish between the formation of the Batavians as a socio-political entity and their genesis as an ethnic group. This latter topic will be discussed in chapters 10 and 11. Central to the present chapter is the formation of the Batavians as a political community. I rely for the most part on historical sources. My investigation centres on the period from the mid-1stcentury BC until the Augustan era. This will involve some anticipation of the discussion of the political organisation of the later, pre-Flaviancivitas Batavorum, which...

  9. 6 The Lower Rhine triquetrum coinages and the formation of a Batavian polity
    (pp. 67-102)

    In chapter 5 I presented an historical model of the genesis of the Batavians in the Dutch river delta. My central hypothesis is that the formation of a Batavian identity group had its roots in the Caesarian frontier organization: it emerged from a process of integration between a relatively small immigrant group from the east bank of the Middle Rhine and local indigenous groups. Tacitus describes the Batavians as a branch of the Chatti who had split off in order to settle in the Rhine delta. This move can be dated to the period between Caesar’s departure from Gaul (51...

  10. 7 Kessel/Lith. A Late Iron Age central place in the Rhine/Meuse delta
    (pp. 103-162)

    This chapter discusses an important complex of dredge finds retrieved by dredging personnel and amateur archaeologists during large-scale sand and gravel extraction at Kessel/Lith in recent decades. As is often the case with dredge finds, we have scant information about the specific archaeological contexts and we know only a very small part of the find complex. As a result, the finds have received little attention in the literature to date.²⁵⁰ Nevertheless, I propose to discuss the Kessel/Lith finds at some length in this chapter because their quantity and richness lends them considerable scientific importance. The Kessel/Lith site compels us to...

  11. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 163-194)
  12. 8 The political and institutional structure of the pre-Flavian civitas Batavorum
    (pp. 195-210)

    This chapter deals with the political, institutional and territorial structure of the pre-Flaviancivitas Batavorumin its relation to the Roman empire. It is a subject worthy of attention because the development of a Batavian identity group cannot be understood without reference to the political context. It is by no means straightforward, however. Historians and archaeologists are deeply divided about how the Batavian civitas³⁹⁶ was organised in a political and institutional sense and how it fitted within the Roman system of government. The discussion centres around three concepts: frontier, municipalisation and provincialisation. Provincialisation refers to the region’s integration into a...

  13. 9 Foederis Romani monumenta. Public memorials of the alliance with Rome
    (pp. 211-220)

    In chapter 5 I argued on the basis of historical sources that the Batavian ethnogenesis was closely bound up with Caesarian frontier politics, and I proposed the following historical reconstruction. At the time of the Gallic and subsequent Civil Wars, a treaty existed between Caesar and the leader of a Chatti dominated group of east -bank Germans, who – probably in the 40s BC - were allocated land in the Rhine/Meuse delta. The new Batavian polity arose when the dominant core of migrants from across the Rhine merged with indigenous groups. From the outset, then, the Batavian community’s existence was closely...

  14. 10 Image and self-image of the Batavians
    (pp. 221-234)

    In chapter one of this book I outlined the essentials of ethnicity, defining ethnic identity as the temporary resultant of a process of developing collective self-images, attitudes and conduct that takes place in a context of interaction between those directly involved and outsiders. Ethnic identities are by definition subjective, dynamic and situational constructs, which makes their relationship to material culture problematic. Unlike many other kinds of cultural identity, unless combined with textual data, they are in principle archaeologically intangible. The purpose of this chapter is to elaborate on and apply these general principles in the specific case of the Batavians....

  15. 11 Hercules and the construction of a Batavian identity in the context of the Roman empire
    (pp. 235-250)

    When studying romanisation processes, archaeologists have until recently focused their attention on socio-economic and political aspects of the integration of groups into the Roman empire. In the past decade, however, the scope has broadened to include ideological dimensions of the integration process. Several recent studies have pointed to the significance of foundation myths in the creation and perpetuation of collective identities within the context of the empire. Ethnic group identity is based to a significant extent on the notion of a common past. Almost every community in antiquity had its foundation myth. Although these stories often served to legitimise the...

  16. 12 Conclusion and epilogue
    (pp. 251-260)

    In this study I have attempted to sketch a picture of Batavian ethnogenesis in the context of the Roman frontier. My starting point was the current view in the social and historical sciences of ethnicity as a culturally determined, subjective construct that is shaped through interaction with an ethnic ‘other’. This study sought to analyse literary, epigraphic and archaeological sources relating to the Batavian image and self-image against the background of the specific integration of the Batavian community into the Roman empire. The study’s main conclusion is that we can demonstrate that Rome exerted a profound influence on the formation...

    (pp. 261-261)
    (pp. 261-274)
  19. General index
    (pp. 275-278)