A large Roman fort believed to have played a key role in the successful invasion of Britain in AD 43 has been discovered off the Dutch coast, according to reports. Watchman.
Arjen Bosman, the archaeologist responsible for the finds, said the evidence suggests that the complex at Velsen (or Flevum, in Latin) was the northernmost castle in the empire built to keep the Germanic tribe known as the Chauci at bay as well. Roman forces prepared to cross from Boulogne, France, to the shores of southern England.
The fortified camp appears to have been established by Emperor Caligula (12-41 AD) in preparation for his failed attempt to seize Britannia around AD 40, but was successfully developed and exploited by his successor, Emperor Claudius, for his conquest in AD. 43
“We know for sure that Caligula was in Holland, where there are marks on wooden wine barrels with the emperor’s initials burned, indicating that it came from the imperial court,” Bosmann noted.
“What Caligula did was make preparations for the invasion of England – to get the same kind of military action as Julius Caesar, but to invade and stay there. He couldn’t finish the job because he was killed in AD 41 and Claudius took charge of where he started in AD 43,” he explained archaeologist.
The first evidence of a Roman castle in Velsen was discovered in 1945 by students who found pottery shards in an abandoned German trench.
In 1997, Bosman’s discovery of Roman trenches in three locations, a wall and a gate was considered sufficient evidence that the area became a protected archaeological site.
However, at the time, the fort found was thought to be small, a theory supplemented by the 1972 discovery of an earlier fort, known as Felsen 1, which is believed to have operated from AD 15-30.
The presence of the two forts within a few hundred meters of each other led investigators to believe for decades that they were likely just castles, smaller military camps of only an acre or two.
A new understanding was only reached in November of this year, by incorporating the ruins of the last fortress of Veslen, which was recorded in the 1960s and 1970s, but not recognized at the time as Roman.
“It’s not an acre or two like Fort Felsen I, but at least 11 hectares,” Bosmann said. “We always thought it was the same size, but that’s not true. It was a Legion Castle and that’s something else entirely.”
At the site, “a lot of military equipment, many weapons, long knives and arrows” were found, indicating that “several thousand men occupied this fortress”.
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