No one driving towards Velsertunnel would stop and think about it, but there was once a huge Roman army camp here. New research on ancient fossils shows it’s real campwhich can accommodate thousands of soldiers. This makes Castra Flevum – in Latin for Velsen – the northernmost Roman army fortress of this kind in mainland Europe. The Romans built such large encampments only when they went out with several legions at the same time or in places considered strategically important by the army command.
It was already known that the Romans built smaller forts near Velsen. Several hundred soldiers camped in such a fortress. The fact of a much larger army camp at present-day Velsen is made clear by the discovery of a V-shaped trench, with a straight trench at the tip of Velsen. “It’s a real broken ankle for intruders,” says Arjen Bosman, who conducted the archaeological research on behalf of the NWO research funder and Noord-Holland County. “When opponents fell, it was difficult for them to get out.” Together with the bank, defensive trenches form an area in which the castra fits.
Bosman: Archaeologists have previously discovered a notable number of fragments of Roman helmets, spearheads, and sheaths of swords and daggers in the nearby waters. This suddenly falls into place now. The new discoveries will soon be published in a series from the Huis van Hilde Museum of Archeology in Castricum.
Saskia Stevens, an expert in Roman history at Utrecht University, looks forward to this post. “Very special, such a discovery as Northern Lime.” Limes is the northern border of the Roman Empire, which ran through Holland along the Rhine two thousand years ago. Thus the picture of the early Roman period in Holland became more complete.
Roman expert Jonah Lendering is also enthusiastic. “We already knew that this area was important to the Romans, but now we see more clearly how important it was.”
Felsen was a short journey north of the Rhine for the Romans in AD 39-47. The goal was to expand the Roman Empire and subdue the Chauken, a Germanic tribe. Bosman: A great military force there also had to ensure peace on the sides of the Roman Empire, while the emperors were busy invading England. This conquest was successful, and the subjugation of Chukin was not in the end.
Roman soldiers built their forts themselves, and no local contractor was involved. In addition to military exercises, they maintained ships, weapons and equipment. There was plenty of food and drink. Many products were taken or imported from southern regions through military logistics, such as olive oil from southern Spain, wine from southern France, and pottery from the Rhineland.
In AD 47, the forces at Felsen received an imperial order to withdraw beyond the Rhine. There, too, the Romans eventually lost their power over the centuries, after which they withdrew behind the Alps. In 476, the last Western Roman emperor was deposed by Odoacer, commander of Germanic mercenaries in the Roman army. The symbolic end of an empire that included all of the Mediterranean, much of the Middle East, the Balkans, and Western Europe.
Finds in Velsen have a long history, which began in 1945. At that time, students found all kinds of pieces in a German anti-tank trench, after which the research showed that they were of Roman origin.
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