Julius Caesar battlefield unearthed in southern Netherlands

Archaeologists claim to have proved that Julius Caesar set foot on what is now Dutch soil, destroying two Germanic tribes in a battle that left about 150,000 people dead.

The tribes were massacred in the fighting with the Roman general in 55BC, on a battle site now in Kessel, in the southern province of Brabant.

Skeletons, spearheads, swords and a helmet have been unearthed at the site over the past three decades. But now carbon dating as well as other historical and geochemical analysis have proved the items dated to the 1st century BC, the VU University in Amsterdam said.

“It is the first time the presence of Caesar and his troops on Dutch soil has been explicitly shown,” said Nico Roymans, an archaeologist at the institution.

The two tribes, the Tencteri and the Usipetes, came from an area east of the Rhine and had asked Caesar for asylum. But the Roman general refused and ordered his eight legions and cavalry to destroy them, the university said.

Caesar wrote about the battle in his account of the Gallic wars, Commentarii de Bello Gallico, but the exact location had until now remained a mystery. He said he wiped out the tribes, which would have meant more than 400,000 dead, but the university said the toll was likely to be 150,000 to 200,000.

  • This article was amended on 12 December 2015. It originally used a photo of a statue of Julius Caesar’s great-nephew Julius Caesar Augustus. This has been corrected. It was further amended on 14 December 2015. It mistakenly described Caesar as an emperor and said the items dated back to the 1st century, when they dated back to the 1st century BC. These errors have been corrected.

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