Veleda: A Formidable Force Against the Romans

Legends of formidable women leading armies to glory are woven into history. Veleda, however, transcends the loss of her people, her story enduring time due to unique talents and the vulnerability of a Roman Emperor. Tacitus, the renowned Roman writer, immortalized this barbarian prophetess.

The Revolt of Batavi

Veleda, the Prophetess. ( Source )

Between 69 and 70 AD, Germania Inferior, now southern Netherlands and northern Rhineland, became a battleground during the Revolt of Batavi. A small but potent Germanic tribe, Batavi, sparked an uprising against the Roman Empire. Supported by Celts from Gallia Belgica, the revolt gained momentum. Veleda, a mysterious prophetess, endorsed the rebels, her visions fortifying the warriors. According to her, the Batavi tribe was destined to triumph.

Gaius Julius Civilis, leader of the Batavi, a Romanized figure with military prowess, initially succeeded. However, as chaos ensued, Quintus Petillius Ceralis emerged victorious in 77 AD, marking a dark chapter in Roman history.

In Search of Veleda’s Origins

Rembrandt’s portrayal of the Batavians’ Conspiracy under Claudius Civilis (1661-1662). ( Source )

Veleda’s name, rooted in Celtic origins, aligns with ancient Celtic prophet titles. Residing near the Lippe River, she was revered in Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, mediating conflicts before becoming an icon of the Batavian revolt. Descriptions of Veleda are scarce, shrouding her in mystery.

Tacitus recounts Civilis’ gesture, fulfilling a vow with symbolic hair-cutting and offering prisoners as targets for his son. Munius Lupercus, a Roman legate, was sent with gifts to Veleda. Despite her accurate prophecy, Lupercus met an untimely death on the way, adding to Veleda’s mystique.

The Woman Friend of Gods

Laurent-HonorĂ© Marqueste’s sculpture titled ‘Velleda,’ with a focus on the details. ( Source )

Veleda persisted until 77 AD, witnessing the defeat of Batavian troops by the Romans. A Greek epigram near Rome describes her prophetic talents, hinting at her travels post-77 AD. While her death precedes Tacitus’ book in 89 AD, her legend captivated the Romans, elevating her status with Celtic roots.

Veleda’s allure remains a historical enigma – a woman, a prophetess, and a secret weapon against the Romans.


In the tapestry of history, Veleda stands as a symbol of resilience and mystery. Her clairvoyance, intertwined with the Revolt of Batavi, adds a layer of intrigue to an era marked by conflict and upheaval.

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