The Batavian Revolt was an uprising against the Roman Empire between 69-70 CE by a small but strong German tribe, the Batavi.
This tribe inhabited Batavia on the delta of the river Rhine. The rebellion was joined by Celtic tribes and other Germanic tribes as well.
The Batavi and their allies successfully inflicted the destruction of two Roman legions during the start of the revolt.
This initial achievement ended in defeat and submission to Roman rule again under humiliating conditions.
Even though the Batavi cohorts had played a significant role in the Roman conquest of Britain, they initiated this uprising from sheer dissatisfaction and unfair treatment in the Roman Empire.
The leaders of both parties involved in this revolt played a crucial role in plotting the course of action.
Some of the key leaders and commanders during the Batavian Revolt are discussed hereafter.
Where did the Batavians come from?
The Batavians inhabited a large island between the great rivers in the Netherlands, Waal, and Rhine. The island was a relatively emerging country and therefore saved from exploitation by the Roman Empire.
Why were the Batavi men significant in the empire?
The Batavians lived in a comparatively poor country with vast but unfertile lands. This meant that they could not contribute much to the empire’s resources. Therefore, the Batavians supplied men to the imperial army. Due to their solid and skilled nature, they constituted almost 4% of the total auxilia.
Why did Batavia become Jakarta?
Batavia was known by its original Dutch name until Indonesia achieved full independence in 1949 AD. After the Indonesian nationalists declared independence during the Japanese occupation, the city was renamed Jakarta.
10. Munius Lupercus
Munius Lupercus was a Roman military officer in the army of Lower Germany. He was the commander of the winter camp of his legion and the remains of another unit.
During the Batavian Revolt, as soon as the initial attacks by the Batavi seemed successful, Lupercus was ordered to attack the insurgents.
He led the troops to the island of Batavia for a powerful attack. Still, He had to withdraw to Castra Vetera due to the betrayal by a large part of their German auxiliaries.
When the Batavians took the city of Vetera, Lupercus and his troops had to surrender due to food scarcity.
He managed to escape the massacre of the retreating forces but was held and sent as a gift to the seer, Veleda.
It is believed that he was either murdered by the seeress or killed in an ambush, as no trace of him was found after this encounter.
9. Julius Tutor
Julius Tutor belonged to the Celtic tribe of Treviri, who inhabited the lower valley of Moselle from as much as 150 CE.
He was a Roman auxiliary commander placed by the emperor Vitellius on the west bank of Rhine.
The Batavian leader Julius Civilis called for Tutor and other leaders of the Gallic tribe to join the rebellion as the empire was significantly weak during that period.
Tutor accepted the invitation along with two other Gallic leaders. The trio, Julius Tutor, Julius Classicus, and Julius Sabinus, had a different vision of the revolt than the Batavi.
They wanted to establish a whole new Roman Empire in Gaul, an Imperium Galliarum. Following their initial success in the rebellion, they were subsequently defeated by the Roman army.
Tutor was defeated in further battle, which led to Classicus and Civilis falling back in panic. Julius Tutor fled with his associate Classicus in a ship after the rebellion halted.
8. Marcus Hordeonius Flaccus
Marcus Hordeonius Flaccus was a member of the Roman Senate during the first century AD.
Along with being a senator, he also held office in the imperial service as the suffect consul from March to April 47 AD. During the Batavian Revolt, he was the commander of the Rhine army.
During the initial period of the revolt, Flaccus had already sent soldiers of the Eight legion Augusta to the main Roman base on the island of the Batavians.
Vitellus ordered the re-deployment of troops from the Rhine borders to Italy to assist him against the rebellion of Vespasian.
Flaccus declined the order on hearing the possible uprising of the Batavians against the Roman Empire. The possible uprising did come to life when Vitellus ordered forced recruitment of the Batavi troops.
As a result of Flaccus’s dilemma to side with any of the revolting parties, he appeared significantly inactive in the containment of the revolt. This tarnished his reputation in the army as a commander.
Subsequently, in the year 69 AD, he was murdered by his troops when trying to celebrate the triumph of Vespasian.
7. Claudius Labeo
Claudius Labeo was a member of the Batavian tribe who served the Roman Empire during the revolt. He was a military leader and the prefect of the Batavian ala of auxiliaries.
Labeo and Julius Civilis had been native town rivals for a long time. Labeo was sympathetic towards his people and the revolt regardless of this rivalry.
When Roman commander Marcus Hordeonius Flaccus sent an army against the rebels comprising two legions and three auxiliary units, Labeo’s Batavian cavalry was also a part of the troop.
Labeo’s unit proved defective as they switched sides in the blink of an eye on reaching the Roman base on the island of the Batavians.
This defect was a prime reason for the successful defeat of the Roman army at that point.
Despite the success, Civilis remained ungrateful of his tribe member and sent him to exile among the Frisii. Labeo escaped and offered to serve the new Roman general Gaius Dillius Vocula.
Labeo was given a small military unit and carried the troops on unimportant and irregular campaigns.
Civilis directed a significant amount of effort in re-capturing and dislodging him. However, it is unknown as to what happened to Labeo at the end of the revolt.
6. Julius Sabinus
Julius Sabinus was a noble Gaul belonging to the Lingones. He was a Roman officer and claimed to be a descent of Julius Caesar based on his great-grandmother being the emperor’s mistress during the Gallic war.
He was among the Gallic leaders approached by Julius Civilis during the revolt to side with their tribe in the rebellion.
He shared the same vision as two of his associates and wished to build a whole empire in Gaul.
Sabinus took advantage of the already weakened Roman Empire due to both Vespasian and Batavian rebellions. He initiated an uprising in the province of Gallia Belgica.
This failed greatly as the troops were defeated by the Sequani tribe, who remained faithful to the empire.
The defeat was followed by the fall of the Batavian revolt shortly. Subsequently, Sabinus faked his death and went into hiding with only a few people informed of his whereabouts.
His secret was uncovered sometime later, and Sabinus and his wife were taken to Rome for questioning.
Emperor Vespasian did not listen to the plea of the aristocrat and his wife, and they were both executed in 78 AD.
5. Julius Classicus
Julius Classicus was a military commander of the Roman auxiliaries and belonged to the Treviri tribe. He was primarily in command of the Treviran cavalry regiment.
After being invited to join the Batavian’s side by their leader Julius Civilis during the revolt, Classicus and two other Gaulish leaders sided with the revolting party.
They had further vision than the Batavians and wanted to establish a new Roman Empire in Gaul.
Afraid of betrayal by the forces, Classicus read an oath of allegiance to the legions stationed in Germany, commanding them to swear loyalty to their new emperor Julius Sabinus.
Soon after the starting victories achieved by their alliance with the Batavians, Classicus and his associates were defeated in battle by the Roman army. He spent the period after the defeat mostly in inactivity and isolation.
Classicus and Civilis made one final attempt at raising panic and chaos by alleging that Vespasian had died. This went in vain, and Civilis surrendered after a series of humiliating defeats in the battle.
Julius Classicus, however, fled with one of his associates, Julius Tutor, via a ship after the rebellion ended.
Brinno was the leader of the Canninefates tribe who inhabited the Rhine delta in Western Batavia. He came from an elite German family and is believed to have worked with the Romans for years before the uprising.
Brinno was chosen as the leader of the tribe due to his father’s hostility towards the Romans for a long time.
In 69 AD, when the revolt began, he played a reasonable role in contributing to the initial victories of the rebellion.
His first attack was the Roman winter camps by the sea, which he successfully took down with the assistance of the Frisii tribe.
The two Roman auxiliary units that Brinno attacked were unprepared for the strike, which was the key reason behind their instant defeat.
Brinno even threatened to advance his troops towards the Roman forts in the region, which resulted in the Romans burning some forts down in fear of not defending the rebellion troops.
The known achievements of Brinno during the revolt are limited to the ones already mentioned.
It is unclear as to what happened to the appreciable warrior after the rebellion halted and the Batavians and their allies surrendered.
Veleda was the seeress to the Bructeri, a Germanic tribe, and received recognition during the Batavian revolution. She correctly predicted the initial victories of the rebelling party and gained prominence.
Germanic people considered women divine and looked up to the prophetess as a form of the living goddess.
In the late first century, Veleda was regarded as a deity by plenty of tribes in Central Germany and was a celebrated figure.
The seeress was an inhabitant of a tower near the Lippe River. It is unclear as to why she participated in the revolt itself. Whether she merely prophesized the success or fully incited it is another mystery.
The Roman commander Munius Lupercus was sent to Veleda as a gift by the Batavians following their victories in the start.
Later, when a praetorian trireme was captured, it was rowed up to the Lippe River as an offering to her again.
After the fall of the rebellion, Veleda was left at liberty for a couple of years. In 77 AD, the Romans either captured her and held her hostage or offered her asylum.
Her prophecy power was reluctantly criticized, and she was held in by the then-Governor of Germania Inferior Rutilius Gallicus.
However, it is evident that she had been deceased for quite some time before 98 AD when Roman historian Tacitus wrote his Germania.
2. Quintus Petillius Cerialis
Quintus Petillius Cerialis Caesius Rufus was a powerful Roman general and administrator who destroyed and halted the Batavian Revolt.
Cerialis was the son-in-law of Vespasian and sided with him in the ongoing rebellion he was leading against Vitellius. He was even captured by Vitellius during the civil wars but managed an escape.
He was one of the cavalry leaders who successfully conquered the empire for Vespasian.
After this success, he was positioned in the province of German Inferior to control the ongoing local revolt by the Batavi.
Cerialis played a crucial role in crushing the rebellion led by Julius Civilis after successfully destroying two Roman legions and heading towards more destruction.
In turn, he received his first consulate as an honor by Vespasian. Subsequently, in 71 AD, he was appointed as Roman Britain’s Governor. In 74 AD, after he left Britain, he was a consul for a second time.
Roman historian Tacitus described Cerialis as a “bold soldier rather than a careful general.”
1. Gaius Julius Civilis
Gaius Julius Civilis was the leader of the Revolt of the Batavian. As per his nomen, he was a Roman citizen of descent to either Caesar Augustus or Caligula.
Before the Batavian Revolt, Civilis had been arrested twice and had barely escaped execution in charge of rebellion.
After the death of emperor Nero, he took advantage of the turbulence that the empire was facing.
Under the pretense of siding with Vespasian on his rebellion against Vitellius, Civilis initiated his own revolt through the inhabitants of his native country.
The Batavians were strong army men who were obliged to supply a large number of soldiers to the imperial army but were exempt from tribute.
The oppression and discrimination led to the rebellion, which was joined by several other Germanic tribes. After successful combat and victory over two Roman legions, Civilis had the upper hand in the revolt.
The rebellion then started going downhill after the arrival of Roman General Quintus Petillius Cerialis.
After the successful end of the civil war, Vespasian ordered Civilis to lay down his arms. Civilis’s refusal forced him to take strong measures to suppress and halt the revolt.
Civilis was finally defeated at the city of Augusta Treverorum and Castra Vetera and had to withdraw to the island of Batavia.
He reached a point of negotiation with Cerialis and agreed to maintain an amicable relationship with the empire.
After this robust revolt, Civilis is nowhere to be seen in the pages of history. Not much is known about this hereditary prince of Batavia after the rebellion that he initiated came to an end.
The Batavian Revolt provided prominence to many leaders who contributed considerably.
This rebellion started with a local tribe and was joined by numerous other tribes due to oppression in the Roman Empire.
Julius Civilis played a significant role in initiating the rebellion by inducing the inhabitants of his native land to object and revolt.
Due to the ongoing civil wars, the relatively weakened empire was advantageous for the rebels.
Leaders and commanders of both the rebelling group and the imperial army managed to go down in history.
This revolt was a short-lived yet powerful one among the numerous uprisings in Ancient Rome.