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Review: Edge of Empire. Rome’s Frontier on the Lower Rhine

Jona Lendering and Arjen Bosman

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Edge of Empire. Rome's Frontier on the Lower Rhine

The book “Edge of Empire. Rome’s Frontier on the Lower Rhine” by Jon Lendering and Arjen Bosman is an impressive work that focuses on the Roman era covering today’s north-eastern France, Belgium and the Netherlands. In the Roman Empire, these territories were the provinces of Gallia Belgica and Germania Inferior.

In the beginning, it is worth introducing Jona Lendering, a Dutch historian who is especially interested in antiquity and the history of the Roman state. One of his greatest achievements is the creation of a powerful ancient knowledge base – Livius.org – a website he has been creating since 1996. Lendering has numerous publications, which, however, often appear only in Dutch. Thanks to the Karwansaray publishing house, one of his most interesting works has been translated into English, which deals with areas close to the author. It is worth mentioning that the archaeologist Arjen Bosman also took part in the creation of the book, which only adds credibility to the work.

What impresses at first glance is a beautiful edition. The book has a hardcover with a beautiful print and colour. The item is enriched with numerous graphics, photos and maps that add colour to the content.

Moving on to the content, it should be noted once again that the authors of the items are eminent historians and researchers who have appropriate knowledge about the region in question. The so-called “lower Rhine” has numerous traces of the presence of the Romans. Despite the sometimes insufficient number of written sources, archaeology helps to interpret the course of events at the border. It should be noted that the authors focus not only on the fate of the province and the north-eastern border as such; the reader receives a wide compendium of information about the early contacts of the Romans with the areas of the Lower Rhine, through Caesar’s invasion of Gaul and Germania, the rivalry of Romans and German at the turn of the eras, the consolidation of Roman power in this area during the reign of Claudius, or even participation in the appointment of the Roman throne by Vitellius. We observe the gradual romanization of the Batavian population, which, on the one hand, accompanies the Roman legions in the fights, and on the other, rebels (e.g. on the initiative of Julius Civilis). With the crisis of the Empire in the West, a federation of West Germanic tribes – the Franks – comes to the territories and form their impressive state over time.

The book does not lack side topics, individual characters or economic and social matters. The content is sometimes separated with boxes for additional information. The entire material is enriched with numerous quotations from ancient texts that are subjected to critical analysis.

The actual content of the book has 170 pages and is divided into 12 subsequent chapters. At the beginning, of course, we will find a brief introduction from the authors; at the end, a summary. At the back of the book, apart from the bibliography, index and footnotes, we find additions: the listed rulers of the areas discussed until the 6th century; legions stationed until 274; and a plan for a six-day tour of the former province of Germania Inferior.

As a minus, I can mention the fact that the footnotes are at the end of the publication and the font is too small.

Overall, I am really happy to be able to read and watch such a wonderful piece. Certainly, the work put into the publication will return with positive opinions, and the content will be of interest to enthusiasts who are looking for an interesting collection of information about the areas of the “lower Rhine” during the times of ancient Romans.

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