di Martina Bertola
Here comes a new edition of the Romeinen Week organized by Romeinen Nu (Romans Now), nine days, from the 28th of April to the 6th of May, dedicated to the history of the Ancient Rome in The Netherlands.
During the Roman Empire, The Netherlands played an important role as the frontline of the Limes, the Roman border. This period is not broadly known to the Dutch public, so the private foundation Romeinen Nu works, through different initiatives, to spread the knowledge about it. The most important appointment of the year is, in fact, the Romeinen Week.
We asked Paul van der Hejden, director of the foundation, to tell us what this initiative is about.
What is the Romeinenweek?
The Romeinenweek (Week of the Romans) is in fact not a week, but precisely nine days as it also includes two weekends. Over this period, more than 100 participants in the whole country organize all sorts of events: exhibitions, lectures, festivals, guided tours, bike rides, et cetera. All these events focus on the Roman times in the Netherlands.
Why is this initiative so important?
The idea arose in 2012, initially as a trip along the Roman border (Limes) to promote a Roman festival in Nijmegen. We found out that the attention for the Roman heritage in the Netherlands was very fragmented. Therefore we proposed to bundle all the activities. Although our activities cover the whole country, it was initially intended to give more publicity to the Roman limes. This Limes – the Roman border – will be nominated for the UNESCO list of World Heritage in 2020. There’s something peculiar about this part of the Limes because it’s fully underground. We don’t have ramparts and fortresses like Hadrian’s Wall in England, for example. At least, we don’t have them anymore. All we have here is the river Rhine, which still flows in his Roman riverbed and an enormous amount of archaeological remains which are pretty unique: because of the wet soil in the Netherlands, also organic materials are often well preserved. So archaeologists found leather shoes and even nearly complete wooden ships.
In general, history in the Netherlands is too much focused on the last five centuries, from William of Orange onwards. We’re trying to give the Roman period a place in the historical consciousness of the people.
How many different associations join?
More than 100 institutions participate: all the museums with a Roman collection (Het Valkhof and Rijksmuseum van Oudheden are the largest), but also heritage associations and commercial heritage and touristic companies.
How many visitors usually join? And which feedback you get from them?
Last year, approximately 30.000 visitors joined our activities, although it’s hard to count visitors.
Which is one of the news of this year?
This year we organize a ‘Night of the Romans’ in Museum Het Valkhof in Nijmegen. We’ll present Romans in a different, interactive way, with performing arts, a Bacchanal, lectures, music et cetera. We try to show that Roman times are not only important but also fun!