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Eth. BA´TAVI or BATA´VI (Βατουοί, Βατάουοι), for the Romans seem to have pronounced the name both ways (Juv. 8.51; Lucan 1.431), a people who are first mentioned by Caesar (Caes. Gal. 4.10). The name is also written Vatavi in some MSS. of Caesar; and there are other varieties of the name. The Batavi were a branch, or part of the Chatti, a German people, who left their home in consequence of domestic broils, and occupied an island in the Rhine, where they became included in the Roman Empire, though they paid the Romans no taxes, and knew not what it was to be ground by the Publicani: they were only used as soldiers. (Tac. Germ. 1.29, Hist. 4.12.) They occupied this island in Caesar's time, B.C. 55, but we do not know how long they had been there. The Batavi were good horsemen, and were employed as cavalry by the Romans in their campaigns on the Lower Rhine, and in Britain (Tac. Hist. 4.12), and also as infantry (Agric. 36). In the time of Vitellius (A.D. 69) Claudius Civilis, a Batavian chief, who, or one of his ancestors, as we may infer from his name, had obtained the title of a Roman citizen, rose in arms against the Romans. After a desperate struggle he was defeated, and the Batavi were reduced to submission. (Tac. Hist. 4.12-37; 54--79, 5.14--26.) But as we learn from the passage of Tacitus already cited (Germ. 29), they remained free from the visits of the Roman tax. gatherer; and they had the sounding title of brothers and friends of the Roman people. Batavian cavalry are mentioned as employed by the emperor Hadrian, and they swam the Danube in full armour (D. C. 69.9; and note in the edition of Reimarus, p. 1482). During the Roman occupation of Britain, Batavi were often stationed in the island.

The Batavi were employed in the Roman armies as late as the middle of the fourth century of the Christian aera; and they are mentioned on one occasion as being in garrison at Sirmium in Pannonia. (Zosim. 3.35.)

The Batavi were men of large size (Tac. Hist. 4.14, 5.18), with light or red hair (Martial, 14.176; Auricomus Batavus, Sil. 3.608).

The Batavi were included within the limits of Gallia, as Gallia is defined by Caesar (Caes. Gal. 4.10), who makes the Rhine its eastern boundary from its source in the Alps to its outlet in the Ocean. The names of the places within the limits of their settlement appear to show that this country was originally Gallic. The Batavi occupied an island (Insula Batavorum, Caesar, Caes. Gal. 4.10). Caesar was informed, for he only knew it by hearsay, that the Mosa received a branch from the Rhine; this branch was called Vahalis, or Vacalus, according to some of the best MSS. of Caesar, now the Waal. The meaning of the passage of Caesar, in which he describes the “Insula Batavorum,” appears to be [p. 1.382]that the island of the Batavi was formed by the Waal, or the branch from the Rhine, the Mosa, and the main stream of the Rhine, so that the Ocean would bound the island on the west; but this is not what he says, according to some texts (see Schneider's Caesar, iv. p. 326). Tacitus (Tac. Ann. 2.6) describes the Rhine as dividing into two streams at the point where the Batavian territory begins (apud principium agri Batavi), and continuing its rapid course, under the same name, to the Ocean. The stream on the Gallic side, which is wider and less rapid, receives from the natives the name Vahalis, which name is soon changed to that of Mosa, by the outlet of which river it enters the same Ocean as the Rhine.--We may infer from this passage that Tacitus conceived the island as formed by the main branch of the Rhine, by the other branch called the Vahalis, which flows into the Mosa, by the course of the Mosa to the sea, after it had received the Vahalis, and by the Ocean on the west. And the interpretation, which is the true meaning of his words, is confirmed by another passage (Hist. 4.12), in which he says that the Ocean was the western boundary of the island (a fronte). Pliny (4.15) makes the Insula Batavorum nearly 100 M. P. in length, which is about the distance from the fort of Schenkenschanz, where the first separation of the Rhine takes place, to the mouth of the Maas. This fort was built on the site of a fort named Herispick, which place, as we learn from a writer of the ninth century, was at that time the point of separation of the Rhine and Waal, which are described as surrounding the “Provincia Batua.” (Walckenaer, Géog. &c., vol. i. p. 493.) The result of all these authorities appears to be that the island was formed by the bifurcation of the Rhine, the northern branch of which enters the sea at Katwyck, a few miles north of Leyden, by the Waal, and the course of the Maas after it has received the Waal, and by the sea. The Waal seems to have undergone considerable changes, and the place of its junction with the Maas may have varied. Walckenaer, following Oudendorp's text, endeavours to explain the passage in Caesar, who, according to that text, says that the “Mosa . . . . having received a portion of the Rhine, which is called Vahalis, and makes the Insula Batavorum, flows into the Ocean, and it is not further from the Ocean than lxxx. M.P., that it passes into the Rhenus.” But Walckenaer's attempt is a failure, and he helps it out by slightly altering Oudendorp's text, which he professed to follow. Though Caesar's text is uncertain, it is hardly uncertain what he means to say.

The first writer who calls this island Batavia is Zosimus (3.6); and he says that in the time of Constantius (A.D. 358), this island, which was once Roman, was in the possession of the Salii, who were Franks. Batavia was no doubt the .genuine name, which is preserved in Betuwe, the name of a district at the bifurcation of the Rhine and the Waal. The Canninefates, or Canninefates (Plin. Nat. 4.15; Tac. Hist. 4.15), a people of the same race as the Batavi, also occupied the island, and as the Batavi seem to have been in the eastern part, it is supposed that the Canninefates occupied the western part. The Canninefates were subdued by Tiberius in the reign of Augustus. (Vell. 2.105.) The chief place was Lugdunum (Leyden). This name, Lugdunum, is Celtic as well as Batavodurum, the other chief town of the island, which confirms the supposition that the Celtic nation originally extended as far north as the mouth and lower course of the Rhine; and Tacitus (Tac. Hist. 4.12) states this distinctly. In the time of Nero (Tac. Ann. 10.20) the Roman commander Corbulo, who was in the island, employed his soldiers who had nothing to do, in digging a canal to unite the Rhine and the Maas. It was 23 M. P. in length, or 170 stadia according to Dio Cassius (9.30). It ran from Lugdunum past Delft to the Maas below Rotterdam, and entered the Maas at or near Vlaandingen. A Roman road ran from Leyden through Trajectum (Utrecht) to Burginatio, apparently a word that contains the Teutonic element, burg; and the site of Burginatio seems to be that of Schenken-schanz.


hide References (12 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (12):
    • Caesar, Gallic War, 4.10
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.6
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 4.12
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 4.14
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 4.54
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 4.15
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 4.37
    • Tacitus, Historiae, 5.18
    • Tacitus, Germania, 1.29
    • Lucan, Civil War, 1.431
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 4.15
    • Martial, Epigrammata, 14.176
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