Ceuclum – Roman military village and agriculture area nearby the Maas
Period 0 – 500
It is around the year 0. The Roman Empire expands more and more towards the north, until the seemingly unbeatable army was called to a halt at the Rhine. From this moment on this river marked the northern border of the great Roman Empire. Above the river lay the lands of barbarians, the land below the river was considered to be part of the ‘civilized’ world..
The few habitants in the region were going to notice a lot of the influence the Romans had on the northern border area. Romans chose their defensive locations very carefully. A place should, for example, lie strategically, have a good sight on the surrounding area or have an important defensive position. The small plateau on the edge of the Maas, near a fordable place in the river met with many of the Roman demands for the establishment of a military fortress. The fortress they built was named Ceuclum. This Roman name was derived from the Celtic word Keukja, which means ‘bend in the river’. This early settlement was destroyed during the Batavian rebellion in 69 A.D., when the Batavians broke through the Roman defence and destroyed the hinterland.
The northern Rhine border had to be monitored heavily against intruders from the outside. ‘Barbarian’ people like the Batavians and Frisian could attack again and penetrate into the heart of the Empire: Rome. To not let it get that far, the Romans thought of a defence system with multiple lines. This border, including the lines of defence, is called the limes in Latin. The Rijn was the first line of defence, with fortresses and strengthened roads to lead soldiers behind it. These were followed by another line with fortresses, roads and bridges and a system of fields and farmlands to feed and equip the soldiers. Ceuclum was located in the second line of defence.
After the destruction in 69 A.D. a new fortress was built on the same spot. The new fortress was bigger and stronger and sprouted a separate civil settlement next to it. This caused more activity in the area of the fortress and the first farms were set up in the vicinity. There are suppositions that a Roman villa, a large farm where people both lived and worked, was located close to Haps. These farmlands made sure that the soldiers in the fortress and the people in the civil settlement had enough food at their disposal. The whole area was in the service of the fortress.
More information about this and the previous fortress can be found under the heading ‘castellum’.
The area of Cuijk today must have been an active place with agriculture, fishery and craftsmen in order to support the Roman castellum. There were also busy roads and a huge bridge. This bridge was built in the 4th century A.D. to extend the Grote Heerbaan from Maastricht in the direction of Nijmegen. More about this bridge you can be found under the heading ‘The Roman Bridge’.