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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

War between Hermann and Marbod



The chief of the Marcomanni, named Marbod, was a man of unusual capacity and energy. It seems that he was educated as a Roman, but under what circumstances is not stated. This rendered him a more dangerous enemy, though it also made him an object of suspicion, and perhaps jealousy, to the other German chieftains. Nevertheless, he succeeded in uniting nearly all the independent tribes east of the Elbe under his command, and in organizing a standing army of 70,000 foot and 4,000 horse, which, disciplined like the Roman legions, might be considered a match for an equal number. His success created so much anxiety in Rome, that in the next year after Tiberius returned from his successes in Germany, Augustus determined to send a force of twelve legions against Marbod. Precisely at this time, a great insurrection broke out in Dalmatia and Pannonia, and when it was suppressed, after a struggle of three years, the Romans found it prudent to offer peace to Marbod, and he to accept it.

By this time, the territory between the Rhine and the Weser had been fifteen years, and that between the Weser and the Elbe four years, under Roman government. The tribes inhabiting the first of these two regions had been much weakened, both by the part some of them had taken in the Gallic insurrections, and by the revolt of all against Rome, during the first three or four years of the Christian Era. But those

who inhabited the region between the Weser and the Elbe, the chief of whom were the Cherusci, were still powerful, and unsubdued in spirit.

While Augustus was occupied in putting down the insurrection in Dalmatia and Pannonia, with a prospect, as it seemed, of having to fight the Marcomanni afterwards, his representative in Germany was Quinctilius Varus, a man of despotic and relentless character. Tiberius, in spite of his later vices as Emperor, was prudent and conciliatory in his conquests; but Varus soon turned the respect of the Germans for the Roman power into the fiercest hate. He applied, in a more brutal form, the same measures which had been forced upon the Gauls. He overturned, at one blow, all the native forms of law, introduced heavy taxes, which were collected by force, punished with shameful death crimes which the people considered trivial, and decided all matters in Roman courts and in a language which was not yet understood.

[Sidenote: 8 B. C.]

This violent and reckless policy, which Varus enforced with a hand of iron, produced an effect the reverse of what he anticipated. The German tribes with hardly an exception, determined to make another effort to regain their independence; but they had been taught wisdom by seventy years of conflict with the Roman power. Up to this time, each tribe had acted for itself, without concert with its neighbors. They saw, now, that no single tribe could cope successfully with Rome: it was necessary that all should be united as one people: and they only waited until such a union could be secretly established, before rising to throw off the unendurable yoke which Varus had laid upon them.



(9--21 A. D.)

The Cherusci. --Hermann's Early Life. --His Return to Germany. --Enmity of Segestes. --Secret Union of the Tribes. --The Revolt. --Destruction of Varus and his Legions. --Terror in Rome. --The Battle-Field and Monument. --Dissensions. --First March of Germanicus. --Second March and Battle with Hermann. --Defeat of Caecina. --Third Expedition of Germanicus. --Battles on the Weser. --His Retreat. --Views of Tiberius. --War between Hermann and Marbod. --Murder of Hermann. --His Character. --Tacitus.

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