My “research” into a background story for a Batavian Roman character.
Mostly notes, bookmarks and tidbits lumped on one big pile. I might organise this better into multiple pages, but it’s very much a work in progress!


    It started with just only trying to find a name, but that depended upon the historical period: upon attaining roman citizenship, “provincials” usually took the family name or nomen from the current emperor or imperial dynasty, and the cognomen of their promotor or supporter into roman civil life. I wanted a name from around the Batavian Revolt (69 AD, or 823 AUC), which also saw the Year of the Four Emperors. So citizens who earned their name before that were often called “Julius” or “Claudius”, and after that often “Flavius”. See also the examples of historical batavian characters below.
    So, a Batavian name then, because that’s where I live: that is, technically in the area of the Canninefates, but coming from a smaller tribe practically similar to the Batavians, and treated the same, they might often have introduced themselves as Batavian to the average Roman, as that name was (in)famous among the Romans for being the fiercest (and most sought after) warriors of the Roman Empire (in fact, the Imperial German bodyguard was mostly comprised of Batavians, and as a client/subject kingdom they were uniquely exempt from regular taxes and tribute, as “they furnished to the Empire naught but men and arms” (Tacitus). That is, an estimated 50% percent of the male population enlisted in the roman legion as auxilaries when they came of age (or, while only 0.05% of the empire’s population, they provided about 4% of it’s auxilia).
    Most likely then, our persona would have earned his citizenship through service in the legions as an auxiliary, or, in the case of descendence from the local nobility, would have been a commander, leading one of these units as an officer (and more likely to have been quite romanised).
    What follows is a list of Batavian historical characters I’ve found, where I will have a look at the name, and in what time-period they lived, and hopefully infer some common themes on which I can base my roman name.
    This is not complete information as I’ve only, quite haphazardly, copy-pasted the few bits that I felt were relevant, or I thought were interesting. I’ve put it under a button, to hopefully reduce the picture-heavy load of this page. Below that, I might paste some more information on the Batavian Revolt, it’s consequences and how the area changed afterwards, and perhaps draw a little map of the local area, to flesh out the background of our character.

Flavius Cerialis

    I came across Flavius Cerialis in an Instagram post by @roman.military.history. (go follow, he makes nice posts!). Which is what put me on the path on trying to collect as many historical Batavian figures as I could find, and see what I could borrow from their stories in constructing a fictional character whith as rich a background as necessary.

    The accompanying text:

    So, what do we learn from him?
    First, some quick googling led me to his collection of letters found in Vindolanda, where he lived and served around 100AD, with the Cohors IX Batavorum.

    The website also provides a nice summary to the history of his name, and a pretty good summary of the naming practice in general).

    So in short, he or his father earned the name Flavius after 70AD, when the rule of Flavius Vespasianus began. Cerialis is the same cognomen as Petillius Cerialis, the general who ended the Batavian Revolt in 70AD, and governed britain in the early 70s. A decent gamble might by that either Flavius Cerialis or his father remained loyal to Rome during the revolt, was granted citizenship in return, with Petillius Cerialis acting as his patron. He also wasn’t the only “Flavian” in Vindolanda, with among others Flavius Genialis and Flavius Conianus (but being named after a cool general has it’s merits, in terms of a backstory.)
    Other names found there include C. Aelius Brocchus, and Claudius Karus, apparently (possibly) belonging to before the Batavian Revolt (and not necessarily Batavians!).
    Another Claudian name is found through the correspondence of his wife, Sulpicia Lepidina, who recieved a nice birthday invitation from Claudia Severa (wife of the above C. Aelius Brocchus), while they were at Vindolanda (which also happens to probably be the oldest written birthday invitation found to date! Fun facts).

    In terms of creating our backstory, Flavius Vespasianus ruled from 70 to 79, followed by his son Titus (T. Flavius Vespasianus) from 79 to 81 (who died of fever), and then his other son Domitianus (Titus Flavius D., to keep it simple), untill he was assasinated (probably came as a relieve, the tyrant), ending the Flavian dynasty and ushering in the (Nervan-)Antonine dynasty, starting with Nerva, going through the Five Good Emperors, untill that one ended with Commodus (who we all know from the movie “Gladiator”). That would probably be a good setting for our character (and Flavius Cerialis’ record is from 100AD, so at the beginning of the Five Good Emperors period and generally regarded as the Peak of the Roman Empire (though personally, I think the Republic died as the last good Romans did (let’s see later on if we find some Batavian citizens from that period (i.e. Augustus’ bodyguard))) and probably a good setting for our persona to witness, and to serve in the Legions. Nerva lasted only two years (natural causes), and Trajanus ruled from 98AD ’till 117AD and was followed by Hadrianus ’till 138AD (you know, the guy who build a wall, though that was probably the last thing he expected to be remembered for). All in all, if you are going to serve and fight for an emperor, from Trajan untill Marcus Aurelius wasn’t a bad time to be doing it (and you get to role-play/re-enact early imperial legion, which has the fanciest helmets!). Auxiliaries probably enlisting for 25 years, it might be okay to start there (I wanted a background w/ the Batavian revolt, but a time where you can remember it is also interesting?)

Gaius Julius Civilis

    The most famous Batavian indeed, as leader of the Batavian Revolt around the Year of the Four Emperors, i.e. 69AD.
    His nomen, as you can see, comes as C. Julius; obviously recieved before the revolt, and could have happened under either Augustus (officially also Gaius Julius Ceasar, but that was very confusing) (27BC-14AD), Tiberius Julius Ceasar or Caligula (also actually called Gaius Julius Ceasar, conveniently: don’t try to call him caligula to his face (37AD-41AD).
    After that we had Tiberius Claudius Ceasar! (and after that, Tiberius Claudius Nero, untill our Batavian Revolt)).

    The Civilis part requires some more searching.

    – About his brother.
    – Earned by his ancestors? But his brother hadn’t one (yet).
    – Nobility. The Cananefate Brinno (no roman name? Romanised?)
    – His career..
    – The Gallic Julii rebels (Tutor, Sabinus, Classicus, Vindex: all good cognomina?).

    As a sidenote the German prophetess Veleda, who was almost regarded as a true and living goddess walking the earth, predicted Civilis’ succes, and the fall of the Roman Empire.

    Another side-note: he is referred to as the “one-eyed Claudius Civilis” in art, a nice link to the god Wodan, and to confusing but plausible naming.

    In the end, the revolt was ended by Q. Petillius Cerialis (who we recognise from the Batavian name above! Hmmm, interesting plot-twist in our backstory!).