Albaniana (Roman fort)
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Albaniana was the name of a Roman fort (castellum) in modern-day Alphen aan den Rijn, Netherlands. The Tabula Peutingeriana situates it in between the castella of Matilo and Nigrum Pullum. It was part of the Lower Germanic Limes and separated the Roman Empire from tribal country to the north.
The origin of Alphen aan den Rijn can be dated back to approximately 2,000 years ago. The town that now consists of over 70,000 inhabitants was once only a fraction of that. It was a Roman colony, named a castellum. The name Castellum Albaniana means ‘colony by the white waters’. These white waters likely refer to the Old Rhine, where the army camp was situated.
A dendrochronological dating of the wood enables us to say that the fort was built after the state visit of Caligula to Germania Inferior in AD 40-41. The wooden building was meant to protect the ‘limes’; the Roman border consisting of the Rijn. Caligula built this fort with the idea of crossing over to Great Britain; this was not accomplished during his reign, although his successor Claudius succeeded. The building was an isolated outpost, few colonies were located nearby. The complex was exclusively made of wood. It had wooden outer walls and wooden watchtowers. Outside the walls canals were dug. This wall was approximately a hundred and twenty meters long and eighty meters wide. During the Revolt of the Batavi (between AD 69 and 70) the wall was demolished by the Cananefates; this was later rebuilt after the rebellion had been quelled. Around 160 AD, the wooden wall had been replaced by a brick wall. It was around this time that a new entrance gate was built, carrying an inscription referring to Emperor Septimius Severus. The reason for this was that Emperor Severus himself had given the order to repair the damages inflicted on the wall. During its glory days, the army camp consisted of approximately four hundred soldiers. All of which brought their families with them.
Similar to the other Limes-forts, the Albaniana included a camp village known as a vicus. East of the fort merchants, craftsmen and prostitutes from inside and outside the Roman Empire offer their goods and services. For the soldiers and their families this was prime ground for shopping and entertainment. Needless to say the vicus formed a meeting ground of cultures, where it was inevitable that the Germans and Romans mutually influenced each other.
After the second centuryEdit
In the middle of the third century, presumably 270 AD, the castellum and vicus were vacated. German tribes crossed the Rhine and invaded the Roman Empire. Soldiers from the different forts could no longer withstand the enemy. German tribes plundered the castella. In medieval times the forts were used as quarries, after which the remains disappeared underground. These remnants were only rediscovered in the twentieth century. By then most of the area had been built upon, causing much to remain lost.
In 2001 extensive archaeological research started in the centre of Alphen aan den Rijn. Many findings were done here. Remnants of the castellum, the canabae located close by and cemeteries were discovered. Pieces of two elongated buildings that may have served as storage were found. Within the castellum barracks were found, with wooden floors. Furthermore, military and personal objects belonging to the soldiers were identified, such as writing utensils, a mirror, and over eight hundred coins dating from the reign of Roman Emperors Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero (between 14-68 AD). In addition, leftover food had been preserved, making it possible to research the farming techniques and eating habits of the soldiers. Foundations were exhumed, providing us with knowledge on building techniques used by the ancients Romans. In Albaniana stamps of the ‘Classis Germanica’, a Roman military fleet, were found. A number of these discovered artifacts can currently be found in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden.
The village of Alphen aan den Rijn has not completely forgotten its history. A great theatre and cinema, named ‘castellum’ as well, can be found where the camp used to be located. A stone engraved with Roman inscriptions lies near the water on the Rijnplein in Alphen aan den Rijn. Furthermore, a historical park named Archeon can be found in Alphen aan den Rijn. There the early history of the village can be admired, as this has been recreated and re-enacted.
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