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Roman Nijmegen


Nijmegen is the oldest city in the Netherlands — according to Nijmegen. Others have proposed themselves as challengers....

Nijmegen the Netherlands is a Roman town. It was an important garrison and market at the northern border of the empire.

Old Nijmegen stands on what could only be called a hill* on the southern bank of the River Waal, the largest branch of the mighty Rhine (Rijn) just as it enters the Netherlands and splits — as rivers do, when they go delta.

At least, the Waal is the largest branch now. The courses of even great rivers change in historic timeframes when flowing across delta sediment.

The smaller Nederrijn, the other branch of the initial split, flows more northward. Arnhem, Nijmegen, and the first split in the Rijn form a small and almost-equilateral triangle.

The hilly land at Nijmegen, a mass of soil and rock pushed southbound at the front of a glacier during an ice age, stands about 30 meters above sea-level and naturally constitutes a fairly steady southern boundary to the river flow. However farther away the water was, it could never have been closer than it is today.

In any case — wherever they were — the "great rivers" constituted a border. The Romans, after cursory expeditions further northward, established the northern extent of the empire along the Rhine and its branches in the mid-first century. North of the rivers, there was no Rome after AD 47 — although trade and various transactions pertained, and indeed a bridge crossed for such purposes.

Nijmegen, high above the river, gave the Romans a view over the plain to the north.

Their settlement here had something to do with a symbiotic relationship with Batavians. The Batavians, here first, were a Germanic people who lived mostly in peace with Roman newcomers. Germanic folk held the land on the other, northern side of the rivers; and they also coexisted with Romans in Nijmegen, each keeping a separate municipality on the same bit of high ground. (The Batavian settlement was on the hill that is now Valkhof park — within the area that would be enclosed in city walls, in the Middle Ages. They lived very close together, the Romans and Batavians.)

The Batavians revolted once, in AD 69-70, when much of Rome was in mourning (or whatever their condition — [nearer to Rome, at least]) after the death of the emperor Nero.

When the Romans returned in numbers, they crushed the rebellion. In AD 71, they stationed the famed/infamous Tenth Legion here, nearby the Batavian settlement.

After the attempted and crushed rebellion, the two peoples resumed a symbiotic relationship.

Nijmegen remained important until late in the Roman empire.*


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* The hills of Nijmegen are composed of "terminal moraine" material — sand, rock, and everything else that southward-flowing ice-age glaciers could move.


Return to "could only be called a hill"...


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* On the other hand ...

The late Albert Delahaye, a former archivist for the city of Nijmegen, developed the idea that The Netherlands could not have been populated between AD 200 and 800. He said it was flooded due to a heightened sea level....

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Return to "late in the Roman empire" ...