The aim of this dissertation is to better understand Roman grand strategy by analyzing imperial policy in a single province, Lower Germany, and during a particular time period, from the reign of Augustus to that of Hadrian. Despite the local—and, hence, limited— approach, this method lends itself to broader conclusions. On the one hand, examining closely the development and defense of this area— the edge of the Roman Empire’s military territory on the European continent’s northwest— helps to compare and contrast policies carried out in other frontier provinces. Hence, one can scrutinize, confirm, or modify broad, general theses of imperial defense and grand strategy, such as that of Edward Luttwak. On the other hand, Germania Inferior, despite the small extension of its territory, had an outsized military and strategic importance. Emperors often visited the province, and its troops played crucial roles in the conquest and upkeep of Britain and in the later reinforcement of the Danube garrisons. As such, an analysis of Lower German defense—and of troop movements in and out of the province— is inevitably linked with the broader study of Roman grand strategy proper.
Since Roman Lower Germany was heavily militarized, the purely military component of grand strategy, which included constant campaigns of limited scope beyond the Rhine, became intertwined with a political component. The Rhine armies and its commanders became essential players in the dangerous game of imperial politics. The diplomatic component played a role insofar as there were alliances—often shifting, sometimes broken— with tribes and kingdoms beyond the empire’s borders. And, as Lower Germany became further integrated into the Roman imperial structure over time, the area’s economy developed considerably, even if it remained mostly a peripheral province.
For both emperors and legates, ruling Lower Germany involved the complex issue of incorporating the allied, native Batavians into the Roman imperial structure. The extraordinary status of this remarkable, warrior people— at once fiercely loyal to the emperor as the core of his personal bodyguard and partially independent from Rome in their distant domains—sheds light on the Romans’ practice of grand strategy. This applies especially in terms of the simultaneous use of both direct and indirect rule, even within a single province.