Smetius Collection

Smetius Collection

The Smetius Collection was a 17th century collection of Roman provincial antiquities around the Dutch city of Nijmegen. Put together by Johannes Smetius (1591-1651) and his son Johannes Smetius junior (1636-1704), both clergy at Nijmegen, the collection was instrumental in settling the debate about the exact location of the Batavians.

History of the Collection

Johannes Smetius senior was called to Nijmegen as a minister in 1618. Interested in history, he begun collecting Roman antiquities which were frequently discovered in and around the city. In 1644 he published Oppidum Batavorum seu Noviomagum, in which he used his collection to argue that Tacitus' description of the Batavian fortress was Nijmegen.

In 1678 Johannes Smetius junior published a catalogue of the collection under the title Antiquitates Neomagenses. This book is currently on sale, recently translated to Dutch, under the title Nijmeegse Oudheden (Antiquities from Nijmegen).

The two publications made the collection famous and it's major importance in the scholarly debate about Roman activities in the Netherlands was recognized. The books also shed some light on the size of the collection, which encompassed over 10,000 Roman coins and about 4500 other Roman antiquities.

Eventually the collection was sold to Johann Wilhelm, Elector Palatine and moved to Düsseldorf. Only the few pieces that were donated to the city of Nijmegen are left of the collection, as the sold majority dispersed over time and it's contents are now untraceable.

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