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Marbod , Latin Maroboduus , (* around 30 BC; † 37 in Ravenna ) was the most important Marcomannic ruler. In the year 8 BC Marbod became king of the Marcomanni , a Suebian tribe who settled in the Maing area.


Early years

Marbod came from a noble family of Marcomanni and is described as strong and brave. “He had a bold spirit and was more of a barbarian origin than his intellectual abilities.” He lived as a “youth” in Rome and received “benefits” from Emperor Augustus there . The exact circumstances of his stay in Rome are not known, the benefits of Augustus presumably consisted in the granting of citizenship, combined with military training.

The Marbodian Empire in Bohemia

Marbod was able to return home to Germania with Roman permission or even at the instigation of the Romans . The marcomanni were 10 BC. Defeated in the course of the Drusus campaigns (12 to 8 BC) and defeated in 8 BC. Was forced to surrender by the later Emperor Tiberius . Marbod then took over the leadership of the tribe on his own initiative and probably without Roman consent, moved east with him and occupied Bohemia and northern Moravia , which the Boians had abandoned . With this measure he consolidated his rule and saved the Marcomanni from the end of their political independence - because it was precisely at that time that Tiberius carried out forced relocations to destroy the power of the Sueb tribes. In addition, the formation of an independent tribal identity of the Marcomanni was greatly encouraged by this emigration. "That the rebellious tribe of Germania turned their backs on it could well have been in the Roman interest."

In sparsely populated Bohemia, Marbod peacefully made the remains of the Celts living there and the Germanic tribes who had immigrated earlier into subjects. He assumed the title of king and gathered around the Marcomanni, partly through warlike activities against neighboring peoples, a powerful tribal union ruled by him, the u. a. Hermunduren , Semnonen and Lugier , later also the Lombards belonged. Its sphere of influence bordered on the Danube in the south, on the Roman province of Pannonia and the Vistula in the east, on the Baltic Sea in the north and on the Elbe in the west .

King Marbod, who for the first time in Germanic history established a larger, relatively centrally managed ruling complex, commanded an army trained according to Roman tactics and discipline with a maximum of 70,000 foot troops and 4,000 cavalry troops. Since Marbod's power was based primarily on his large military following, he is considered an army king in research .

Based on the Roman model, he had a fortified royal seat built called Marobudum , which has not yet been precisely located. According to the propaganda of the time, the Roman sources exaggerate the strength and discipline of Marbod's troops and claim that they were threatened with invasion. This was also intended to legitimize Augustus' later plan of attack on the Marcomanni Empire.

Roman-Germanic War

In the beginning the relations between Rome and the Marbod empire were rather good: "The king [...] ostentatiously cultivated his good connections to Augustus, sent embassies and opened his country to Roman trade." 5 AD Marbod's empire extended to the middle Elbe and encompassed the Semnones there, “exactly that tribe that Tiberius did not want to submit. [...] The difficulties (of the Romans) on the Elbe clearly stemmed from the fact that the Elbe Germans found support in the Marcomann King. ”On the eastern bank of the Elbe, an increasing number of Elbe Germanic troops, dependent on Marbod, gathered.

Therefore Augustus ordered the Marbodian Empire to be subjugated as the last great power bloc in Germania. In the spring of 6 AD Tiberius marched with six to seven legions from Carnuntum on the Danube through the Marchtal to Bohemia. “From the west, Gaius Sentius Saturninus fought his way with two or three legions along the Main and later through the Hercynian Forest to the passes of the Bohemian Forest. In addition, Germanic auxiliary troops and cavalry added. About 70,000 men, two fifths of the Roman army, were involved in this […] pincer movement against Marbod. ”However, shortly before the two army groups were united, the Pannonian uprising broke out. It spread to all of Illyria and endangered Macedonia and Italy . Tiberius and his legions immediately turned south into the rebellion areas.

Armistice with the Romans

Tiberius had to conclude a peace treaty with the Marcomanni, in which the Romans recognized the status quo and the royal title of Marbod. “The official recognition of his royal title must have been accompanied by a rich stream of valuable gifts and trade privileges.” The Romans claimed they had forced Marbod to peace, and Marbod (later boasted): “Attacked by twelve legions led by Tiberius keep the fame of the Teutons intact. ' For the Romans it was crucial that Marbod stayed away from the Pannonian uprising.

After the suppression of the uprising in Pannonia in 8 AD, Tiberius had sent a large part of the auxiliary troops back to their home bases, but the fighting in Dalmatia continued until 9 AD. The most likely consequence after the removal of this danger would have been a resumption of the campaign against Marbod. But in the meantime Publius Quinctilius Varus had set out with three legions from the Lower Rhine to march on the Weser. The news of his defeat reached Tiberius shortly before the crossing to Italy.

Arminius offered Marbod an alliance against the Romans after the Varus Battle in 9 AD and therefore sent him the head of Varus, which the Marcomanni ruler, however, had Augustus extradited and thus rejected a Germanic coalition. Even so, Rome never recognized Marbod as an officially allied client ruler. To revenge for the disastrous defeat of the Romans, Tiberius and Germanicus waged war in Germania over the next few years against the coalition of Arminius ( Germanicus campaigns ), in which Marbod was neutral. Therefore Rome refused him military support after his war against the Cheruscans under Arminius in 17 AD .

Germanic decisive battle

This inner-Germanic conflict, which broke out in 17 AD, was to decide which of the two power blocs would rule the Elbe-Germanic area in the future. From the representation of Tacitus, which was shaped by Roman moral concepts, it is not clear which side appeared as the aggressor. After Germanicus and his legions had been recalled from Germania, Arminius opposed an excessive expansion of the Marbodian empire. The fact that the Cheruscan prince reviled Marbod as a “traitor to the fatherland” who ingratiated himself with the Romans should hardly correspond to the historical truth with the national-patriotic attitude assumed by him. So the actual motives of the opponents remain in the dark. Tacitus paints Arminius as the shining fighter for freedom and contrasts him with Marbod as the embodiment of arbitrary rule; this characteristic reflects domestic Roman ideas of the Senate about freedom against the tyranny of an individual rather than real conditions among Germanic tribes.

Before the decisive battle between the opposing Germanic power blocs, the armed forces of Arminius were reinforced by the influx of Semnones and Lombards, who had fallen from Marbod. With these, Arminius would have had the preponderance if his uncle Inguiomer and his followers had not defected to Marbod and thus restored roughly a balance between the strength of the enemy armies. So even if the Marbod's armed forces were no longer their old maximum strength, they will undoubtedly have been tens of thousands of men. The naturally rather vague estimate of 50,000 men seems realistic. While the battle could not be considered a victory by either side, Marbod shied away from renewing the fight. So he exposed himself to the charge of having left the field to the opponent. Arminius probably reinforced the impression of an opposing defeat by propaganda; in any case, Marbod had to return to its heartland due to the weakening of its army strength through numerous desertions.

Disintegration of the Marbodian Empire and exile

The unsuccessful fight against Arminius, subversive Roman interventions - Emperor Tiberius sought to weaken the Germanic tribes by promoting internal disputes - and the opposition of the clan nobility led to the disintegration of the tribal union and the overthrow of Marbods in 18 AD. Catualda , who had fled to the Gotons , now returned with a larger force and bribed other Marcomann nobles for his support. So Catualda was able to conquer the royal seat and the fortress of Marbod. He sought his salvation by fleeing over the Danube to Noricum to the Romans, but Tiberius did not give him military support for a return. Instead, the monarch called Marbod in a senate speech as a greater threat than once Pyrrhus and Antiochus III. for Rome, as long as the marcomann still ruled his people. With this excessive exaggeration of its dangerousness, Tiberius probably wanted to sell Marbod's fall as a success of his non-military Germanic policy. But the emperor was ready to offer a safe escort back to the border or a worthy asylum in Italy. Marbod chose the latter and was arrested in Ravenna , where he died 18 years later. A memorial plaque for Marbod was placed in the Walhalla near Regensburg .


Based on the contemporary reports of the geographer Strabo ( Geographika 7, 1, 3 p. 290C) and the Roman historian Velleius Paterculus ( Historia Romana 2, 108–110; 2, 129) as well as later representations in particular by the Roman annalist Tacitus ( Annals 2, 44 –46; 2, 62–63; 2, 88) the source situation for the creation of a biographical sketch of Marbod is presented relatively well.

Assessment in research

According to Tacitus' accusation of "betrayal", some modern researchers see Marbod anachronistically as an inactive ruler in the liberation of Germania because he did not support Arminius after the Varus Battle. Of course, the question arises as to how Marbod could have benefited from such an alliance with the Cheruscans. On the other hand, some historians stylize him as an integrating figure of the Germanic peoples and see his fall as the end of the first “state formation” of this people. His characterization as a pragmatic politician, who first saved the Marcomanni from dissolution through his decision to withdraw from the Roman sphere of influence and later prevented a renewed subjugation of his people through clever tactics, comes closer to reality. With this limited and consistently pursued goal, he was successful for a long time.

Literary reception

As an opponent of Arminius, Marbod is one of the main characters in the Arminius novel (2 vols., 1689/90) by Daniel Casper von Lohenstein . In one of the long prehistory of the novel (Part I, Book 7), which is actually located in ancient history, the English Civil War is told in encrypted form . This was a topical and particularly sensitive topic during the author's lifetime.


Web links


  1. ^ Velleius , Historia Romana 2, 108, 2.
  2. Strabon , Geographika 7, 1, 3, p. 290C.
  3. So Peter Kehne , Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde (RGA), Vol. 19, p. 258f .; otherwise Arthur Stone , RE, Vol. XIV, 2, Sp. 1908. Even Ralph-Peter Märtin believes that he "(joined) with the blessing and support of Rome to the top of Marcomanni." ( The Varus Battle , S 130.)
  4. ^ Strabo, Geographika 7, 1, 3f .; Velleius Paterculus, Historia Romana 2, 108, 1f.
  5. ^ Ralf-Peter Märtin : Province of Germania. Marbod. In: The Varus Battle. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2010, p. 130.
  6. Strabon, Geographika 7, 1, 3; Velleius Paterculus, Historia Romana 2, 108; Tacitus , Annals 2, 44; 2.63; among others
  7. Strabon, Geographika 7, 1, 3; Velleius Paterculus, Historia Romana 2, 108, 2; 2, 109, 2f .; Tacitus, Annals 2, 45, 1.
  8. ^ Velleius Paterculus, Historia Romana 2, 109, 2.
  9. Strabon, Geographika 7, 1, 3; Tacitus, Annals 2, 62, 2; Claudius Ptolemy 2, 11, 14.
  10. ^ Velleius Paterculus, Historia Romana 2, 109; among others
  11. Märtin: Die Varusschlacht , p. 130.
  12. Märtin, Die Varusschlacht , p. 131, cites this: Dieter Timpe : Römisch-Germanische Treffen , p. 203 (see lit.).
  13. ^ Velleius Paterculus, Historia Romana 2, 107; 2, 109, 1f.
  14. Märtin, Die Varusschlacht , p. 131. With reference to: Velleius Paterculus, Historia Romana 2, 109, 5.
  15. ^ Velleius Paterculus, Historia Romana 2, 110; Cassius Dio , Roman History 55, 28, 7–30, 1.
  16. Cassius Dio, Römische Geschichte 55, 28, 6f .; Tacitus, Annals 2, 45, 3.
  17. Peter Kehne: Marbod , RGA, Vol. 19, p. 260. With regard to: Tacitus, Annalen 2, 45, 3; 2, 46, 2.
  18. Tacitus, Annalen 2, 26, 3.
  19. Tacitus, Annalen 2, 46, 2. in: Märtin, Die Varusschlacht , p. 132.
  20. Märtin assumes that Arminius was involved with a Cheruscan contingent in the suppression of the uprising and came back here. He refers to: Timpe, Roman-Germanic encounters , p. 45.
  21. see Märtin, Die Varusschlacht , p. 159.
  22. ^ Velleius Paterculus, Historia Romana 2, 119, 5.
  23. Tacitus, Annals 2, 44, 2; 2, 46, 5.
  24. Tacitus, Annalen 2, 44 ff.
  25. Tacitus, Annalen 2, 44, 2.
  26. Kehne, RGA, Vol. 19, pp. 260 f.
  27. ^ Tacitus, Annalen 2, 45, 1.
  28. ^ Tacitus, Annals 2, 46, 4.
  29. Tacitus, Annals 2, 46, 5.
  30. Tacitus, Annalen 2, 62, 1-63, 4; Velleius Paterculus, Historia Romana 2, 129, 3; among others
  31. Kehne, RGA, Vol. 19, pp. 261f.