The Gallo-Roman Museum is an archaeological museum located in Tongeren in the Belgian province of Limburg. It is dedicated to the prehistorical times and Roman age of the region in South West Flanders. The museum was established in 1954 and received its modern building in 1994. It was awarded the European Museum of the Year prize in 2011.
The permanent exhibition begins with a display of the Neanderthals who were the first people living in the region some 500,000 years ago. The first floor features the following cultures of hunter-gatherers (15000 BC) and several waves of farmers (5300 BC). The third floor is dedicated to the Gallo-Roman culture located in Tongeren. The exhibition closes with the first signs of Christianity.
In the summer of 57 BC the troops of Julius Caesar invaded the country of the rivers Scheldt and Meuse in northern Gaul (Gallia Belgica). They made treaties and alliances with some local groups and with the leaders of the Eburones, Ambiorix and Catuvolcus. In 54 BC Caesar’s troops urgently needed more food, a situation which led to the local tribes to be forced to hand over part of their harvest to the Roman army. Unlike other tribes, the Eburones were reluctant to do so and Ambiorix decided to strike the invaders. He attacked the Roman camp but without success. He then requested a parley with the Roman commanders Sabinus and Cotta Ambiorix. Telling them he was a friend of Rome, he advised them to flee as a large Germanic force was preparing to cross the Rhine. Trusting Ambiorix, Sabinus and Cotta’s troops left the next morning. A short distance from their camp, the Roman troops were ambushed and massacred by the Eburones. Six thousands Roman soldiers were killed.
Caesar came storming back to the region, sending waves of troops to put down all the Belgic tribes. The Roman campaigns against the Belgae took a few years, but eventually the tribes were slaughtered or driven out and their fields burnt. The Eburones disappeared from history after this genocidal event. According to the writer Florus, Ambiorix and his men succeeded in crossing the Rhine and disappeared without a trace.
In 10 BC the Romans founded Tongeren. Atuatuca Tungrorum was the first city in the region and was strategically situated in a fertile agricultural zone on the road between Boulogne, Bavay (France) and Cologne (Germany).
Tongeren became the centre of the district of the Tungri, or the civitas Tungronum, an area dominating what is today eastern Belgium. The city would develop into a real Roman town (municipium) with typical public and private buildings and streets, surrounded by a monumental city wall.
The Forum, the beating heart of the city
The temple complex, the place to honour the gods
Only a small fragment now remains of the great Roman temple, once 130m x 55m on a podium that was 2.75m high. The temple has recently been partially reconstructed over the remaining foundations.
The town houses, designed and decorated in Roman style
The storage of grain kept in gigantic storage place
Humble and ostentatious graves
The city walls
Luxurious life in Roman country villas
From the middle of the 3rd century AD, the period of the Pax Romana was disturbed by the first barbarian invasions. The town of Atuatuca was taken and pillaged by the Franks around 275-76 and the Romans army built a series of forts along the road linking Cologne to the North Sea. The region increasingly took on a military character and by 310 AD Atuatuca became a military base. The Germanic newcomers were allowed to establish themselves in the region and were enrolled in the military. In 350 AD the city became the centre of a Christian diocese under the influence of Saint Servatius. However, the seat of the bishop was later moved to Maastricht. At the beginning of the 5th century AD, large groups of Germanic tribes broke through the defences. With the Roman army falling back, Tongeren declined and was later abandoned.
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