NETHERLANDS. The Netherlands first became known to the Romans through the campaigns of Julius Caesar. He found the country peopled partly by tribes of Gallo-Celtic, partly by tribes of Germanic stock, the river Rhine forming roughly the line of demarcation between the races. The Gallo-Celtic tribes bore the general appellation of Belgae, and among these the Nervii, inhabiting the district between the Scheldt and the Sambre were at the date of Caesar's invasion, 57 B.C., the most warlike and important. To the north of the Meuse, and more especially in the low-lying ground enclosed between the Waal and the Rhine (insula Batavorum) lived the Batavi. Beyond these were found the Frisians (q.v.), who gave their name to the territory between the Rhine and the Ems.
Julius Caesar, after a severe struggle with the Nervii and their confederates, was successful in bringing the Belgic tribes into sub jection to Rome. Under Augustus, 15 B.C., the conquered territory was formed into an imperial province, Gallia Belgica, and the frontier was strongly fortified. The Batavians were first brought under Roman rule in the governorship of Drusus, 53 B.C. They were not incorporated in the empire, but were ranked as allies. In 69 they revolted under a native leader, known only under his Roman name of Claudius Civilis. After the rising, they returned to their position of socii. Their land became a recruiting ground for the Roman armies and they were henceforth faithful in their steady allegiance to Rome.
When at the end of the 3rd century the Franks (q.v.) began to swarm over the Rhine into the Roman lands, the names of the old tribes had disappeared. The branch of the Franks—who were a confederacy, not a people—which gradually overspread Gallia Belgica, bore the name of Salii, from their position on the river Saale. In the days of their great king Clovis (481-511) they were in possession of the whole of the southern and central Nether lands. The strip of coast between the mouths of the Scheldt and Ems remained, however, in the hands of the Frisians (q.v.), and the Saxons (q.v.) had occupied a portion of the districts known later as Gelderland, Overyssel and Drente.
The conversion of the Franks tended to facilitate fusion be tween them and the Gallo-Roman population, and to accentuate the enmity between the Franks and the heathen Frisians and Saxons. In the south of the Netherlands bishoprics were set up at Cambrai, Tournai, Arras, Therouanne and Liege. In the north progress was much slower and success was due rather to the arms of the Carolingian kings than to missionary efforts. Towards the end of the century, Charlemagne, himself a Netherlander by de scent and ancestral possessions, after a severe struggle thoroughly subdued the Frisians and Saxons, and compelled them to embrace Christianity.