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Battle of the Idistavis Field
Part of: Roman-Germanic Wars
date 16 AD
place to Tacitus near the Weser
output roman victory
Parties to the conflict

Roman Empire

( Cherusci )


Nero Claudius Germanicus


Troop strength
according to Tacitus

8 legions, Gallic and Germanic auxilia


Idistaviso is the name of a plain ( Latin campus ) on which, according to Tacitus Germanicus , a Germanic combat group under Arminius encountered in a first open field battle in AD 16 . The battle is considered the largest of the Germanicus campaigns (14 to 16 AD) and the Augustan German Wars. The site of the battle is suspected in research at Evesen, a district of Bückeburg in Lower Saxony , or more abstractly on the right bank of the Weser before and after the Porta Westfalica .

The course of the battle

The depiction of the battle is clear, but opinions differ as to how intelligible it is. According to Hans Delbrück , this battle never took place at all. According to Tacitus, the following Roman units took part in the battle:

The description of Tacitus of the Germanic peoples who fled from the plain into the forest while others were driven in the opposite direction at the same time gives the impression that the Germanic peoples were encircled by a combined joint operation of Roman infantry and cavalry. The Teutons were slaughtered over a distance of 15 kilometers for hours.

The encirclement by the horsemen of Stertinius, like the apparent encirclement, was not effective, since the vast majority of the Teutons escaped and were able to regroup at the Angrivarian Wall . The explanation lies in the fact that the Germanic peoples, when they noticed the unfavorable course of the battle for them, withdrew in time in the crowd and changed position to the attacking wall. Those scattered and left behind - possibly several hundred - then fell victim to Roman weapons. It is not known how high the losses of the Romans and Teutons were. Tacitus describes in the annals that an area of ​​10,000 feet ("decem milia passuum") was littered with corpses and weapons of the Teutons. The Germanic tribes' losses were not decisive for the war, nor had they permanently discouraged them.

Discussion of the location and the name

In addition to the historical aspects of the battle in the context of the Roman-Germanic conflicts in the decade after the Clades Variana , the question of the location of the historical event and of the meaning and etymology of the place name in research since the 19th century has given rise to numerous contributions and interpretations . The field is said to have been between the Weser and a range of hills. Where exactly this may have been can no longer be determined with absolute certainty. Theodor Mommsen (1904) suspected the battlefield in the area of Bückeburg , Hans Dobbertin (1983) more specifically near the Bückeburg district of Evesen .

Idistaviso is a Germanic two-part name composite made up of the elements Idista and viso . The first link Idis (t) -a- has been the subject of extensive discussion in research by Jacob Grimm since the 19th century and with a spread of the interpretation from the designation as valkyrie-like female beings in a mythological context (Grimm) to interpretation by Hans Kuhn as evidence of a non-Germanic place name in connection with his theory of the so-called northwest block . The second link is transparent. Comparative evidence such as Old High German wisa , Middle High German wise , Middle Low German wese to the Indo-European word root * u̯ei̯s- “sprießen” make the meaning “ meadow ” clear. After Robert Nedoma - is Idistaviso the West Germanic output o a feminine nominative singular ON strain of proto-Germanic * -one before and therefore compares with the personal names Strubilo and the toponym Aliso . Today the name is simply interpreted as "Idis places meadow".

Jakob Grimm shaped a path of interpretation in research (which has been followed by many from the contemporary Karl Viktor Müllenhoff to the present, for example with Rudolf Simek ) by evaluating the handwritten form "Idis t aviso" as a prescription and developing the form "Idis i aviso" sought to improve ( conjecture ). Thus, Grimm was able to put the first link Idisia à la longue as evidence from the other (later handed down) Germanic names and vocabulary (Onomastikum) such as Old High German itis for woman, virgin (or “venerable woman”), Old Saxon idis for woman and Old English ides for virgin, woman . He linked this evidence with the then enormous new manuscript discovery of the Idisi of the First Merseburg Magic and interpreted the place name as nympharum pratum as the “level of Idisi” or as a simple “women's meadow”. The special plausibility and sustainability of Grimm's investigations and assumptions was also based on the fact that the Idisi, if not Valkyrie-like, nevertheless influenced the outcome of the event in the first Merseburg saying like the Valkyries of Nordic mythology and Idistaviso is a historically documented battle site acts.




  1. a b Tacitus, Annalen 2, 16 .
  2. ^ Tacitus, Annals 2, 17 .
  3. CIL 3, 4551
  4. ^ Robert Nedoma:  Idistaviso. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde (RGA). 2nd Edition. Volume 15, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2000, ISBN 3-11-016649-6 , pp. 323-324.
  5. See Idisiaviso. In: Rudolf Simek : Lexicon of Germanic Mythology ; see. Hermann ReichertMrs. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde (RGA). 2nd Edition. Volume 9, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1995, ISBN 3-11-014642-8 , pp. 477, 496.
  6. Scheungraber, Grünzweig: The old Germanic toponyms as well as ungermanic toponyms of Germania. Fassbaender, Vienna 2014, p. 191.