Talk:Batavi (Germanic tribe)

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Germanic, not Celtic![edit]

Shame to see 'savage and barbarous nations' in the description of the Tribes in the Rhine area. I dont know where to begin attacking that statement!! The Batavi were very Germanic and not Celtic. Archaeological and Historical evidence shows a group with a solid, well defined social structure, that could continue being used under Roman Overlordship. The many Roman artifacts in this area can be found in Nijmegan (mostly 2nd cent as the AD69 revolt distroyed eariler Roman bulidings). The name Batavi was also used extensivly to encorage dutch soldgers fighting with spain, to remind them of a Free Holland. I have written 'The Causes of the Batavian Revolt AD69-70' as my dissertation subject for my archaeology degree a few years back-i beleve its the only work on this subject written in English.--User:Elguid 6:08, 5 May 2005 (UTC)

I agree that the Batavii were clearly Germanic, indeed the horse guard that Julius Caesar recruited among the Batavii were known as the Germani! --Nantonos 02:43, 3 September 2005 (UTC)
I'm no expert here, to have stated that the Batavii were a Celtic group under the control of a Germanic group, the Chatti. Quite simply, here's why: Tacitus locates the island the Batavii inhabited at the mouth of the Rhine "on the extremity of the coast of Gaul". Caesar puts them at the mouth of the Meuse/Maas. Dio Cassius mentions "some Celts who were practised in swimming fully armed" that I thought were generally identified as Batavii, and Batavii were among the garrisons along Hadrian's Wall. The most extensive description of Batavii is in connection with the uprising of Gaius Julius Civilis: is he considered Germanic? I'm sorry to see a "disputed" tag: if this is one of those football-fan nationalist history issues, I'll just be removing Batavii from my watchlist now, and let you all sort it out. --Wetman 03:25, 3 September 2005 (UTC)
Wetman, reasoned discussion works best if you try to concentrate on the facts rather than searching for undesirable motives. No, its not one of those football-fan nationalist history issues (I could of course have asked you the same, but chose instead to ask what your facts were. Better that way, no?) so instead of leaving in a huff, consider it might be one of those historical accuracy and verifiable sources issues instead. Thank you for pointing to the reasons that led you to believe they were Celtic. Since the previous text was Germanic or possibly Celtic presumably you felt hat it was 100% certain that they were Celtic?
You seem to use the east-bank west-bank dividing line, without noting that Germans were settled from east to west bank after the Gallic wars, as buffers. The Ubii are a case in point. It would be odd for Caesar's equites Germani and Augustus's Germani corpores custodes to have been Celtic, no? --Nantonos 14:32, 3 September 2005 (UTC)
The Batavians, while they dwelt on the other side of the Rhine, formed a part of the tribe of the Chatti. Driven out by a domestic revolution, they took possession of an uninhabited district on the extremity of the coast of Gaul, and also of a neighbouring island, surrounded by the ocean in front, and by the river Rhine in the rear and on either side.
Tacitus, Histories Book IV Chapter 12: The Batavians
They had also at home a select body of cavalry, who practised with special devotion the art of swimming, so that they could stem the stream of the Rhine with their arms and horses, without breaking the order of their squadrons.
Tacitus, Histories Book IV Chapter 12: The Batavians
Of all these nations, the Batavians are the most signal in bravery. They inhabit not much territory upon the Rhine, but possess an island in it. They were formerly part of the Cattans, and by means of feuds at home removed to these dwellings; whence they might become a portion of the Roman empire.
Tacitus, Germania Chapter 29: Batavians and Mattiacians
Moreover the Hercynian Forest attends for a while its native Cattans, then suddenly forsakes them. This people are distinguished with bodies more hardy and robust, compact limbs, stern countenances, and greater vigour of spirit. For Germans, they are men of much sense and address
Tacitus, Germania Chapter 30: The Cattans

So the Cattans (Chatti) were Germans, and the Batavians were part of the Chatti who now lived somewhere else because of a feud. I have not found a single source that says that they were Celts subdued by the Chatti.

As to everyone living in Gaul being Celtic and not Germanic:-

The Treverians and Nervians aspire passionately to the reputation of being descended from the Germans; since by the glory of this original, they would escape all imputation of resembling the Gauls in person and effeminacy. Such as dwell upon the bank of the Rhine, the Vangiones, the Tribocians, and the Nemetes, are without doubt all Germans. The Ubians are ashamed of their original; though they have a particular honour to boast, that of having merited an establishment as a Roman colony, and still delight to be called Agrippinensians, after the name of their founder: they indeed formerly came from beyond the Rhine, and, for the many proofs of their fidelity, were settled upon the very bank of the river; not to be there confined or guarded themselves, but to guard and defend that boundary against the rest of the Germans.
Tacitus, Germania Chapter 28: The Germans in general

OK, swimming troops from Cassius Dio:

The barbarians thought that Romans would not be able to cross it without a bridge, and consequently bivouacked in rather careless fashion on the opposite bank; but he sent across a detachment of Germans, who were accustomed to swim easily in full armour across the most turbulent streams. [...] Thence the Britons retired to the river Thames at a point near where it empties into the ocean and at flood-tide forms a lake. This they easily crossed because they knew where the firm ground and the easy passages in this region were to be found; but the Romans in attempting to follow them were not so successful. However, the Germans swam across again and some others got over by a bridge a little way up-stream, after which they assailed the barbarians from several sides at once and cut down many of them.
Cassius Dio, Roman History Book 60:20*.html

Perhaps, though, you got this from the part-translation, part-commentary Roman Britain, by Edward Conybeare (1903), here which seems to use rather patchy and ancient (Cymbeline, rather than Cynobellinus) translations, and switches between Ptolemy and Dio Cassius and perhaps other authors without clearly stating where he gets which information.

Maybe someone has, and can read, the Greek original to be sure? Its not online, seemingly. A useful comparison of source manuscripts is

Dont trust any Roman writer when they say Celtic because as im sure you know, Celtic is the Greek word for 'non greek' (Keotli)this was adopted by the Romans to mean non Roman (therefore uncivilised). In the case of the Batavi, they may be called celtic because they were under the spheres of Roman influence. and was easyer for the Roman reading public to understand. they where a germanic tribe, there is no doubt of that archaeologically speaking. See Roymans (many) Carrol 2001, Dyson 1975, Westerwield (many)Enklevoort (many)and me! of course. they probably migrated from a larger tribe (sorry i dont rember the nmame) that where in this area around 200 B.C. after the revolt we can see a rapid Romanisation of this tribe-hense the use of their horsemanship in Britain and use in the Praetorian. Interestingly the leader of the Auxillarys in Briton was the same general (cerials) that suppesessed their revolt.

Interesting to note that football was mentioned. i was at NEC Nijmegan to watch them a while back and i saw a few Batavii Flags.

In fact the 'Roman writers':
  • differentiated Greeks, Germans, Celts, Scythians, etc
  • didn't say 'Celtic' in this instance
"In the case of the Batavi, they may be called celtic because they were under the spheres of Roman influence" well, as mentioned above, the actual quote does not call them Celtic. "they where a germanic tribe, there is no doubt of that archaeologically speaking" - right, agreed. The larger tribe that they were a member of is the Chatti (Cattans) as mentioned above.
I'm not sure what your '200 BC' refers to - the revolt was 69 AD, yes? --Nantonos 01:01, 6 September 2005 (UTC)

i strongly suggest you READ the books ive pointed out to you before contiuing this discussion.

Thanks for your partial references to books, which may or may not put forward the view you propose that "Keotli)this was adopted by the Romans to mean non Roman (therefore uncivilised)". However, your attempt to use those boks to explain why "the Roman writers" called the Batasvii Celtic is pointless since, as already explained above, the roman writers called them Germanic instead! Try to at least read the preceeding discussion before commenting further :) --Nantonos 14:22, 8 October 2005 (UTC)

What happens to the Batavians? What is their history after the rebelion?

Questions about the words "Germania" and "Gallia". I think that this definitions were created artificially by the Romans without knowing anything of the Peoples living here, if they spoke Celtic or Germanic. The name Chariovaldi is clearly Germanic: Hariwald, "the one who rules the army", but I 'm not sure of Batavia's Germanic etymology. The word for Island (ēġland in OE. ) is probably *aujō from *aʒwjō (Cf. English Etymology, T.F. Hoad, OUP ) and it did not change in ouwe in Old Low German but in Old High German. People here are supposed to speak a Low German language. In Low German, we find (It depends on the "dialects" ) og, och, o and ei....Moreover this word is always latinized in Augia (Cf. Oye-plage, Ile d'Yeu, the Channel Islands ). We should have something like *Bataugia. It seems to be more the Indo-European root av- meaning "stream, water" that exists in Germanic: OE ea, Gothic aχwa, but also in slavic (river Ava in Ukraine ) and in Celtic ( river Aff (former Ava ) in Britanny, city of Eu (Auvae, Awae fluvium ) in Normandy. Latin aqua. Why did the batavi give a Celtic name to their cities: Bataviadurum or Noviomagus? Was Celtic fashionable or the language of commerce and trade before the Roman domination? Nortmannus (talk) 08:13, 21 November 2008 (UTC)

falsely regarded as eponymous ancestors[edit]

Hi Rex_Germanus, you've editted Batavians a while ago. This sentence "The Batavians became regarded as the eponymous ancestors of the Dutch people." became "The Batavians falsely became regarded as the eponymous ancestors of the Dutch people.", can you explain why you added falsely? Even with the Migration Period, as far as I know there is no mentioning of the Belgae or Batavii moving out of the area. Thanks. ShotokanTuning 08:31, 3 January 2007 (UTC)

Sure, the Batavians were a relatively small group of people, living around the rhine. There are indeed no records of them leaving (although the men hired for the roman army often never returned) but they were simply too small to be regarded the sole ancestor of the Dutch. As the migration period progressed new, more powerfull and less romanized peoples (the batavians never fully gained controll of the Low Countries) entered the Low COuntries, the Franks quickly made it their new homeland, conquered the Frisians in the North and the Saxons on the North West and never gave up their dominant position again. Hence they are regarded as the main ancestors of the Dutch. The Batavians quite possibly might have contributed, but only margininally compared to others. Early modern Dutchmen however read about the heroic revolt of the Batavians against the all powerful Romans and saw a link to their own fight against Spain ... Rex 10:44, 3 January 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for your explanation. The Franks were a gathering of Germanic tribes including Chatti. The Batavii once were a part of the Chatti. The Franks moved west from central Germany and the Southern Netherlands, settling in northern Gaul. It seems logical the people in the conquered areas would be called Franks (a Germanic federation) no matter how many Batavii or Belgae lived there. This becomes more evident with the Frisians, who were ‘conquered’ much later and their name and people never disappeared. Since the Batavians build the first settlements and never stopped living there, while the Franks (gathering of various tribes) just moved in what are now various different countries (The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and France). The Franks added tribes to their gathering as they went. It’s not illogical to call Batavians ancestors of the Dutch people, better words would be that they are an important part of the ancestry. This also goes for the Belgae in Belgium. Naming only Batavians as ancestors is obviously not true, like they did at the time of war against Spain, this makes it easy to say it’s entirely false. Do you agree we explain "falsely", as that they were only a part of the ancestry of the Dutch people?ShotokanTuning 14:51, 3 January 2007 (UTC)
Yes, I agree. The thing is that untill the 1960 it was taught to children that the Batavians were the sole Dutch ancestors, that the reason of the "falsely" comment really.Rex 14:58, 3 January 2007 (UTC)
Thanks a lot for the information. It's was nice to discuss this with you. May I paste this at the talk page Talk:Batavians? ShotokanTuning 15:26, 3 January 2007 (UTC)
Of course.Rex 15:59, 3 January 2007 (UTC)
Small addition to the 1960 note of Rex;the original idea that the Batavii were the origin of the Dutch was a typical post-medieval era idea. With the start of nation states in the 18th century a common (proud) ancestry became more important, and at that time the Batavii were pulled forward as the ancestor tribe. And indeed the romanticised history has been taught as truth in Dutch schools untill fairly recently (of course actual history is much messier ;-) Arnoutf 23:27, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

Another small edition, if the Batavians hadn't (succesfully) rebelled against the Romans, and would have remained the swampdwelling fish eaters they were for most of their history, it's highly likely all but a few Dutch people would be aware of their existence.Rex 00:04, 7 January 2007 (UTC)

Even without reference to that rebellion (wich wasn't so succesfull after all) the Romans wrote quite a lot about the Batavians. They really liked them I guess. Krastain 10:38, 6 August 2007 (UTC)

I came here with the same remark Batavian < Chatti < Franks, but that point has already been made. I still think the text can be clarified. At least it could be noted that the besides Batavians (Bataven) more frankish tribes lived in the area. The south of Limburg + adjacent Belgian and German provinces ( Aachen region, but also the Caroligians probably orginated in what now is the Liege province) is a Frankish heartland even. Also, in the list of Dutch tribes I mis Saxons, though later conquered by the Franks, they were most definitely not either Franks or Frisians. And of course the Celts weren't probably all immediately buried, but were absorbed into the populace, so a Celtic bloodline is probably also still there. 09:35, 21 February 2007 (UTC)

Merge batavian rebellion back in?[edit]

In the Batavian_rebellion piece are several inaccuracies: this batavians article seems to be more generally monitored and hopefully someone with more of an understanding of the rebellion than me can take a look at it; perhaps it should be merged back into this article?

I've searched for references on why the Batavians didn't have to pay taxes but I haven't found any and if anyone can reference material on why they were exempt I think that would make a valuable contribution in our understanding of the Roman Empire. They could field keen horsemen with locally bred horses; and the Betuwe area of the Rhine delta at the time flooded annually so the alluvium must have made the land a dependable source of crops, horses and cattle for the legions of Germania_Inferior. It might have paid not to tax them.

In reference to the discussion on whether the Batavians are falsely seen as ancestors I think very interesting also is the discussion about the influence on Dutch literature, propaganda and nationalism of the Batavians ref [1] (in Dutch). To call the republic formed after the French revolutionary invasion the 'Bataafse Republiek' is a fine example of both early European nationalism and propaganda. Wikimam 19:15, 26 March 2007 (UTC)

Which Drusus?[edit]

Forgive my ignorance, but the reference to Drusus building a fortress is ambigous, and I don't know which Drusus it should resolve to. None of the articles that are listed in the disambiguation page tells about fortress building on a bank of the Waal, or building anything at all in Germania. Rootmoose (talk) 23:57, 16 January 2009 (UTC)

Nero Claudius Drusus--Joostik (talk) 15:21, 10 April 2011 (UTC)

Proposed title change[edit]

Why is this article called "Batavians"? The normal Latin name for this tribe was the "Batavi" and this should be used. Batavians is confusing, as it could refer to the inhabitants of South Netherlands in later ages. EraNavigator (talk) 01:40, 14 March 2009 (UTC)

Good point. Should be moved, I'd say. Trigaranus (talk) 15:02, 15 March 2009 (UTC)
I think we are supposed to use English words [not Latin] for page title names, sowever one translates the Latin Batavi into English, is what it should be. A disambiguation system can be setup if it can be confused. Goldenrowley (talk) 23:42, 15 March 2009 (UTC)

Generally agreed, yes; but ancient tribal names are usually in their original form (Helvetii, Boii, Suebi, Heruli, Hermunduri, etc. etc.). In that last link, the Batavians sort of stand out negatively. Trigaranus (talk) 19:12, 16 March 2009 (UTC)

But on the other hand, this is not a strict rule, since we do speak of Saxons, Franks, Goths and Burgundians, not of Saxones, Franci, Gothi and Burgundiones. Iblardi (talk) 19:54, 16 March 2009 (UTC)
I'd vote for whatever is more commonly used in English texts for each of those Latin tribes.Goldenrowley (talk) 02:13, 19 March 2009 (UTC)

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Conflicting Derivations and Meanings of Batavi in Article[edit]

The article includes two different derivations and meanings for the word Batavi. (1) From the opening section; no source:— The tribal name, probably a derivation from batawjō ("good island", from Germanic bat- "good, excellent" and awjō "island, land near water"), refers to the region's fertility, today known as the fruitbasket of the Netherlands (the Betuwe). (2) From the Location section; no source:— The Batavi (the name is believed to derive from a West Germanic root also present in "better" (possibly meaning "superior men")) moved into the Betuwe in the late 1st century BC. Citations are needed for these derivations and meanings. In the meantime, I am pleased to add another version to the discussion. (3) From An American Doctor's Odyssey by Victor G. Heiser (New York: Norton, 1936, p. 462):— The 17th century Dutch colonists "clung intrepidly to the home they had erected" in Batavia, which "ironically enough means 'Fair Meadows'" despite the heat and the insect life of the tidal flats. Dr. Heiser's report from Java is rather close to "good island." PlaysInPeoria (talk) 04:52, 2 March 2013 (UTC)

I do not see how (3) is a relevant source for this article, and I do not see how (1) and (2) are in conflict. I am presuming that the "Germanic bat-" proposal is based upon the existence of words like "better" in more recent Germanic languages. Better means "more good". Anyway, no problem asking for sources indeed. I think the name Batavia is mentioned already by Caesar in a period when the area was probably not yet Germanic speaking.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 09:22, 2 March 2013 (UTC)
*bataz is a Proto-Germanic word meaning "good" and our word "better" does indeed derive from its comparative *batizô. *awjō means "island" and is found in Swedish ö, Norwegian øy, Icelandic/Old Norse ey, as well as the first part of island itself (the s is unetymological) and in certain northern Dutch and German place names with -oog. CodeCat (talk) 14:22, 2 March 2013 (UTC)
I suppose that the third source (3) is only relevant in the sense that the author (Victor G. Heiser) picked up the meaning of "Batavia" (as "Fair Meadows") from the Dutch residents of the Netherlands East Indies. Heiser does not provide a more explicit etymology of Batavia in his book.
My observation on the second source (2) was predicated on the stated meaning of "Batavi" as "superior men," which is radically different from "good island." PlaysInPeoria (talk) 23:28, 11 March 2013 (UTC)

I thought it would be interesting to get a Dutch point of view on this question. In the Dutch-language article "Betuwe" the traditional Dutch interpretation (goede grond, "good ground, land") is reiterated. This is similar in nature ("land" but not "island") to source (1) as found in the English-language articles "Batavi (Germanic tribe)" and "Betuwe." Ironically, this interpretation (goede grond) is rejected in the Dutch-language article in favor of another explanation; that is, the name may derive from the Batavians; that is, "Batavia." Here is the paragraph in question from the Dutch-language article:—

Over de herkomst van de naam Betuwe bestaat discussie. Zo wordt wel gesteld dat het woord Betuwe oorspronkelijk 'goede grond' betekent. Dat staat dan tegenover de Veluwe: 'slechte grond'. Die verklaring is echter door wetenschappers verworpen. Een andere verklaring zou kunnen zijn dat de naam afgeleid is van de Bataven, die in dit gebied hun kernland zouden hebben gehad. De naam Beethoven zou afgeleid zijn van Betuwe.

In summary, then, the name of the Dutch region, Betuwe, derived from the Latin name of that region, Batavia, which itself had Germanic roots. Does that mean that "Betuwe" actually means "Batavia"? The Dutch seem to distinguish Betuwe, a modern region, from Batavia, an historic region. Taking on the role of devil's advocate for the nonce, if Betuwe is simply a relatively modern derivation of Batavia, then I wonder whether the correct root word is actually awjō; that is, perhaps awjō is simply folk etymology caused by a back-formation from Betuwe. PlaysInPeoria (talk) 23:28, 11 March 2013 (UTC)

*awjō can't be a back-formation because it is related to *ahwō "water", which in turn has other Indo-European cognates such as Latin aqua. It is also found in many other Germanic names (many German place names in -au, Scandinavian ones in -ö/ø(y)), the most notable being classical Latin Sca(n)dinavia < *Skadin-awjō "damaged/dangerous island", which also gave rise to Old Norse Skáney > Swedish Skåne, later Latin Scania. Latin Batavia is pretty much a direct representation of the Germanic word *Batawjō, since the Germanic ō was pronounced rather open and more a-like in first instance (the Latin name Rōma was borrowed into Germanic as *Rūmō, with ū rather than ō because of this difference). And I think there are older attestations of forms like Batu(w)a, Batawa or Betuwa in old Dutch documents, which leave little doubt about the origin of Betuwe. So as far as I can see, there can't really be much doubt about the Germanic form of the name. Whether it indeed means "good island" is another matter, but that is what the two parts of the word mean, and it is a very fitting name for such a fertile place. So, the name of the Batavians is derived from their home place, not the other way around. CodeCat (talk) 00:46, 12 March 2013 (UTC)
Thank you, CodeCat. I appreciate your detailed explanation of the linguistic origins of Batavia / Betuwe. I presume that you would completely reject the second derivation in the article (reiterated above), which states that "Batavi" means "superior men." PlaysInPeoria (talk) 18:45, 12 March 2013 (UTC)
It has occurred to me that we do not know whether "Batavi" is what the Batavi called themselves, or a name they were called by their neighboring tribes. (The example of Lakota versus Sioux comes to mind.) This musing is not significant in the context of this discussion.
Further, we do not know whether the region now known as Betuwe was the ancestral home of the Batavi, or a place to which they later migrated. If the former, then the Batavi (and their identity as such) must have developed centuries before the arrival of the Romans—which is supported by the archaeological evidence cited in the article, but not by the writings of Tacitus.
If the latter—which may be more accurate, given the migration patterns in Europe—then we might assume that the place from which they originally migrated, their true ancestral home, was indeed a "good land." If true, then this would make the fact that the Betuwe is a fertile place an interesting coincidence.
There is another option, of course. When the Batavi separated from Chatti, they may have taken the name "Batavi" from their new homeland, which may have been the region now known at Betuwe. PlaysInPeoria (talk) 18:45, 12 March 2013 (UTC)
This is not a forum for proposing new ideas of our own. Please try to find published sources about these things. As far as I can see, the third option is what all the classical sources can agree upon. I know of no modern sources which give any strong argument against it either.--Andrew Lancaster (talk) 19:49, 12 March 2013 (UTC)
I don't know of any sources that mention what the Batavi called themselves. I am guessing maybe something like *Batawiskôz (> Dutch Betuws "Betuwan") or *Batawjawarjôz (> Dutch Betuwers "Betuwans"), but that is just conjecture and unsourced. The Latin name Batavi itself could easily be a back-formation from Batavia. The latter is borrowed from Germanic, but by coincidence it happens to end in -ia which was a common suffix to form the names of countries and regions in Latin. So Latin speakers could easily have produced -us/plural -i from the region's name by analogy with other names they already knew. CodeCat (talk) 20:17, 12 March 2013 (UTC)


It would be nice to have a better map. The one currently in the article shows the distribution of ancient tribes over present-day topography, including polders etc. While this is okay to get an idea of where they lived in modern terms, the Frisians really didn't occupy Flevoland, for instance. If anyone has such a map, please add it to the article. Radioflux (talk) 11:05, 11 April 2013 (UTC)

Incorrect use of "eponymous"[edit]

I removed the word "eponymous" from the sentence, "... the Batavians came to be regarded as their eponymous ancestors." While it is true that the Dutch came to regard the ancient Batavians as their ancestors, the ancestors were not eponymous.

The adjective eponymous means "of, relating to, or being the person or thing for whom or which something is named; of, relating to, or being an eponym." An eponym is "one for whom or which something is or is believed to be named." More explicitly, as noted in Webster's Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition, an eponym is "The person, real or mythical, from whom a family, race, city, or nation is supposed to have taken its name (as, Hellen is the eponym of the Hellenes)."

An inherent aspect of an eponym is the relationship of the names. Thus, the Batavi cannot be the eponym of the Dutch (or Netherlanders), as the names are not related. That said, the Batavi can be the eponym of the 17th- and subsequent-century "Batavians," as the Northern Netherlanders (Dutch) once called themselves. However, no groundwork was laid in the article for such a statement. PlaysInPeoria (talk) 17:26, 15 May 2013 (UTC)