Waal (Latin Vahalis, Vacalis): main distribuary branch of the Rhine.
The land between the two distribuaries was, in Antiquity, called "the island of the Batavians" and is still called Betuwe. The two branches were well known: the Roman poet Virgil calls the Rhine bicornis, "with two horns".note[Virgil, Aeneid 8.727.]The banks of the Waal were inhabited by the Batavians, who had a great reputation as horsemen, and were specialized in crossing rivers on horseback. Their capital, situated on the south bank, was Batavadorum (later Noviomagus), which was connected to the sanctuary at Elst on the north bank. Near the bridge was also the Hunerberg legionary base.
The Waal, which the historian Tacitus describes as "wider and gentler" than the Lower and Kromme Rhine,note[Tacitus, Annals 2.6.] flows to the west for about 95 kilometer as the crow flies; here, it is joined by the Meuse.note[The historian Tacitus is correct on this point, but the geographer Ptolemy appears to have been unaware of this: Geography 2.8.] Their common estuary is now called Haringvliet, and was in Antiquity known as Helinium.
The real length of the Waal is considerably more than 95 kilometer, because it has many bends. It has even been argued that the many meanders are behind the name of the river: Vahalis might be derived from a Germanic word wôh, "crooked". However, since most river names in the Netherlands are pre-Germanic, this explanation is almost certainly incorrect.