This book focuses on an area stretching from the north-eastern corner of France across Belgium and into the Netherlands, the Roman provinces of Belgica and Germania Inferior. This was part of the north-eastern border of the Roman Empire, but Roman influence continued across the frontier, while the sea routes to Britannia were also important, so the two provinces were a major part of the Roman world.
The authors attempt to paint a complete picture of life on the Roman frontier, using our historical sources to examine the main events in the area, and archaeology to provide more detail and a picture of day to day life. This area was affected by a series of major events early in its Roman history, starting with the arrival of Julius Caesar. The failed Roman invasions of Germany, including the defeat of Varus and Claudius's decision to use the Rhine as a permanent border confirmed that the region would become a border zone. The Batavian revolt showed its military potential and it was the power base of at least one successful claimant to the Imperial Throne, Vitellius.
Day-to-day life, the economic system in the area, religious beliefs and the impact of migration into the Empire are poorly served in the historical sources, but an increasing amount of archaeological research has been done in the Low Countries, and so the authors are able to provide interesting coverage of these topics.
I was particularly interested in the section on the decline of the Roman Empire. This area didn't suffer as much as the rest of Gaul, as the Franks were already firmed in place in the area. When the Rhine frontier was breached in the winter of 406-407 the Franks were able to defend their lands, which became the foundation of the future Frankish kingdom. The fate of tribes on the 'other' side of the border is also examined, with climate change playing a part in the story of the coastal tribes.
This is an excellent history of one small part of the vast Roman Empire, painting a fascinating picture of life in a place that was both an integral part of Roman civilisation and at the same time on the far edge of that world.
1 - Preconceptions
2 - War on the Edge of the World
3 - Romanization Begins
4 - The Other Side of the Rhine
5 - A Turning Point
6 - Chauki and Frisians
7 - Romanization
8 - The Batavian Revolt
9 - A Frontier Zone in Peacetime
10 - From Gold to Iron to Rust
11 - Militarization
12 - Transformation
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Author: Jona Lendering and Arjen Bosman