150,000 fled for their lives, but were slaughtered by Julius Caesar army, bones reveal
A cache of bones and artifacts buried at a site near to where the Waal and Meuse rivers meet testify to a genocidal slaughter of tragic proportions. As recorded by Julius Caesar himself, a bloody battle took place in 55 BC resulting in the genocide of between 150,000 and 200,000 Germanic tribespeople, including women and children, in what is now Netherlands.
Archaeologists from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam , working with three decades’ worth of archaeological finds as well as historical and geochemical data, have formed conclusions about the dark events that took place thousands of years ago between Julius Caesar and two Germanic tribes, the Tencteri and Usipetes, reports PastHorizons. These finds place Julius Caesar on Dutch soil for the first time in historical record.
A People Betrayed and Destroyed
In Book IV of his De Bello Gallico, Roman Dictator Julius Caesar chronicled in detail the events leading to the mass killings, said to be the earliest known battle on Dutch soil.
The two Germanic tribes, arriving from the east of the Rhine in the spring of the year, had appealed to the Caesar for asylum, after having been driven from their lands by another tribe, the Suebi. The Roman leader refused their request, but instead suggested they share land with another tribe who were also enemies with the Suebi.
Map of the site, and red indicating the movements and encampments of the Romans and tribes. Credit: VU University Amsterdam
The Tencteri and Usipetes are said to have petitioned for a three-day truce to consider the offer, but Julius Caesar abruptly ordered his men to destroy the tribes “violently,” reveals IBTimes .
In what is described as Caesar at his “ absolute worst ,” he sent his eight legions and cavalry to pursue the fleeing tribes. The legions surrounded them and cut them all down—men, women, and children.
“I sent the cavalry behind to them.
“The Germans heard screams behind him, and when they saw that their wives and children were slain, they threw down their weapons and ran headlong away from the camp.
“When they had come to the point where the Meuse and Rhine rivers flow together, they saw no good in further flights.
“A large number of them were slain, and the rest fell into the river, where they died overwhelmed by anxiety, fatigue and strength of the current.” — Caesar, De Bello Gallico Book 4, 14-15
Replica of a Roman rider helmet iron from the middle of the 1st century BC. Credit: VU University Amsterdam
It is with seeming pride that the Roman leader reported he eradicated virtually the entire population, an amount that archaeologists now put at 150,000 to 200,000 people, and declare a genocide.
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Archaeological Finds Reveal Killings, and Ritual
The skull of a woman killed by Caesar's army. The hole reveals lethal trauma probably caused by a missile. Credit: VU University Amsterdam.
Spearheads, 20 iron swords, a helmet, belt buckles and other metal artifacts dating to the Iron Age, as well as many bones, have all been discovered at Brabant Kessel since 1975. This is the first time, however, that experts have been able to connect the site with the history of Caesar’s massacre during the Gallic Wars.
Skeletal remain of men, women, and children were found at the site, broken up and damaged. Marks and holes in the bones indicate injuries by spear, sword and missile. Radiocarbon dating on the remains date to the Late Iron Age, and strontium analysis on tooth enamel reveal the dead were not native to the Dutch river area, reports PastHorizons.
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Jaw bones and teeth found at the site indicate the dead were not native to the area. Credit: VU University Amsterdam
It is of particular interest that some of the swords were found to be deliberately destroyed or bent, indicating to researchers that ritual was involved.
Some of the swords and weapon fragments from the Late Iron Age, from Kessel. Weapons were found bent, indicating some sort of ritual. Credit: VU University Amsterdam
Nico Roymans, archaeologist at the institution VU University in Amsterdam said at a press conference at the Allard Pierson Museum, “Though Caesar did not explicitly intend […] to destroy Germanic tribes, he must have realized that his actions de facto resulted in at least the partial destruction of this ethnic groups.”
“This explains why Caesar in his war reports, without any shame, gives detailed descriptions of the use of mass violence against Gallic and Germanic peoples who resisted the Roman conquest.”
Featured Image: Human bones dating to the Late Iron Age. Credit: VU University Amsterdam
By: Liz Leafloor