"The History of Claudius Civilis and Paulus Julius"

The twelve paintings depicting the history of the Batavian revolt, led by the two brothers Claudius Civilis and Paulus Julius, in Ximenez's house must have been a version of the twelve panels of the same subject by Otto van Veen; the latter were acquired by the States General at The Hague in 1613 (now Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam). The paintings are linked to Otto van Veen's 1612 emblem book The War of the Batavians with the Romans (Batavorum cum Romanis bellum. De Batavische oft oude Hollandtsche oorloghe teghen de Romeynen), of which the States General also purchased twelve copies the year it came out.

As told by Tacitus in books four and five of his Histories, Claudius Civilis became the main leader of the Batavian revolt after his brother Julius Paulus had been executed by the Romans. At the turn of the seventeenth century, the Batavian theme played a key role in the formation of a new Dutch identity. Following Justus Lipsius's reading of Tacitus, Van Veen's emblem book and the painted series connect the incident in Roman history with contemporary occurrences, casting the Habsburgs and the Dutch in the roles of the Romans and Batavians, respectively. Both the engraved and the painted images foreground the peace negotiations and final reconciliation between the Batavians and the Romans.

Ximenez possessed copies of Lipsius's Politica (1589) and Monita et exempla politica (1605), where Tacitus's narrative is explicitly related to contemporary events, as well as of Hugo Grotius's 1610 Treatise of the Antiquity of the Batavian Republic ("Tractaet vande oudtheyt van de Batavische nu Hollandsche republique") in which the sovereignty of the new Dutch republic is defended. The fact that Van Veen's painted series was acquired by both the States General and by one of Antwerp's wealthiest merchants, who had friends and commercial contacts in Amsterdam and The Hague, suggests that Van Veen's own reading of Tacitus resonated with an audience across national borders that hoped for a Europe at peace.

Christine Göttler, University of Bern


Dlugaiczyk, Martina. Der Waffenstillstand (1609-1621) als Medienereignis. Politische Bildpropaganda in den Niederlanden. Niederlande-Studien 39. Munich: Waxmann, 2005. 234-242.

Grotius, Hugo. The Antiquity of the Batavian Republic. With the Notes by Petrus Scriverius. Ed. and trans. Jan Waszinsk. Assen: Van Gorcum, 2000.

Morford, Mark. "Theatrum Hodiernae Vitae: Lipsius, Vaenius and the Rebellion of Civilis." Recreating Ancient History: Episodes from the Greek & Roman Past in the Arts & Literature of the Early Modern Period. Eds. Karl Enenkel, Jan L. de Jong, and Janine de Landtsheer. Leiden: Brill, 2001. 57-74.

Otto van Veen, Peace Negotiations between Claudius Civilis and Cerealis, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Image: © Rijksmuseum.