top of page
  • Writer's picturetimeless travels

Romans along the Rhine

An archaeological voyage of discovery at the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities in Leiden

In the new family exhibition Romans along the Rhine at the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden (the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities), you can discover how people lived along the Dutch Rhine two thousand years ago. At the time, the river formed the limes, the northern border of the Roman Empire. And anyone who thinks that only soldiers lived in fortresses here is mistaken. There were the women and children of the soldiers and also their servants who lived in the villages along the border, and some even in the forts too. And there were merchants and craftsmen who did business with the army. All their stories are now being told together in one exhibition for the first time.

Silver dagger and belt, 15-30 BCE. Image: © Rijksmuseum van Oudheden

Romans along the Rhine tells the story of soldiers and families, their building and cooking skills, games, entertainment and brotherhood. Almost all of the objects in the exhibition, more than three hundred, are archaeological finds from Dutch provinces through which the Roman border crossed: South Holland, Utrecht and Gelderland. They were excavated near Roman forts and the surrounding villages. Many of them can now be seen for the first time. There are swords, helmets, but also women's jewellery, wooden toys, baby bottles, plates with incised soldiers' names, statues of deities and the bronze diploma of a soldier.

Above, clockwise from top left: Gravestone of Salvia Fledimella, from the Vechten Collection, 1st century BCE; Children's toys found at the Valkenburg Fort, 1st-2nd century BCE; Silver plated ornamental fittings from the Vechten Collection, 3rd century BCE; Equestrian mask in bronze, from the Leiden Collection, 1st-2nd century BCE. Images: © Rijksmuseum van Oudheden

One of the women along the limes was a servant called Salvia Fledimella. Her former boss, Sextus Salvius, had a valuable tombstone erected for her after her death - one of the masterpieces in the exhibition. Other stand out pieces include a striking bronze equestrian helmet with an eagle's head, leather children's shoes from Vechten and the finds from the tomb of 'the man of Velsen'. This murdered soldier of the auxiliaries was buried in a well, fully equipped with a silver dagger and belt.

For the enthusiast, extra attention is given in the exhibition to two hundred years of archaeological research in the Netherlands along the Roman border.

Showing until: 28 February 2021

Rijksmuseum van Oudheden,

Rapenburg 28,


the Netherlands

All visitors are required to book a start time, which you can do via email at:


Don't miss a smaller exhibition Saqqara - Living in a City of the Dead, about the museum's archaeological excavations in Egypt which is on until 22 November 2020.


bottom of page