Written by Michel Gybels for Time Travel Rome

Nijmegen is by far the most important location of Roman Netherlands. This is where the Roman era of the Netherlands began with the arrival of two legions in 19 BCE. The Romans also built here the first, oldest and biggest city of the Netherlands, Ulpia Noviomagus. Nijmegen played an important role as a military, administrative, economic and logistic center in the direct hinterland of the Limes.

Ulpia Noviomagus History

In the long period of five centuries of Roman times the appearance of Nijmegen changed drastically several times. At first sight, this makes the story of Nijmegen somewhat confusing – everywhere there are remains from various periods – but this is precisely why it is so special and interesting. Moreover, there is still a lot of information hidden in the ground, waiting to be discovered.

The Valkhof hill has played an important role in Roman Nijmegen in two periods. In the early Roman period, from about 12 BC, Oppidum Batavorum was situated here, the capital of the district of the Batavians. The name literally means ‘fortified place of the Batavians’. In the year 70, the Batavian rebel leader Julius Civilis set fire to the town. After that, a completely new capital arose in Nijmegen-West (Noviomagus).

Roman city of Ulpia Noviamagus. Photo by Michel Gybels.

Noviomagus in Nijmegen-West ceased to exist around 300 of our era and the population concentrated again around the Valkhof. To this end, the Romans built a stone fort or castellum at the Valkhof. This late-Roman castellum probably also served as accommodation for the emerging Frankish elite in the 5th and 6th centuries. It marks the gradual transition from the Roman empire to the Frankish empire – and eventually the empire of Charlemagne, who converted the castellum on the Valkhof into one of his palaces.

Nijmegen-West (Ulpia Noviomagus)

Ulpia Noviomagus is by far the oldest and largest Roman city in the Netherlands. The population in the second century AD is estimated at 5,000 to 7,000. In the urban life, the multicultural s