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Maroboduus (d. AD 37) was a king of the Marcomanni, who were a Germanic Suebian people. He spent part of his youth in Rome, and returning, found his people under pressure from invasions by the Roman empire between the Rhine and Elbe. He led them into the forests of Bohemia, near to the Quadi who already lived nearby, and established a large alliance.


The name "Maroboduus" can be broken down into two Celtic elements, m?ro- meaning "great" (cf. Welsh mawr, Irish mór), and bodwos meaning "raven" (cf. Irish badhbh).[1];[2];[3]


Maroboduus was born into a noble family of the Marcomanni. As a young man, he lived in Italy and enjoyed the favour of the Emperor Augustus.[4] The Marcomanni had been beaten utterly by the Romans in 10 BC. About 9 BC, Maroboduus returned to Germania and became ruler of his people. To deal with the threat of Roman expansion into the Rhine-Danube basin, he led the Marcomanni to the area later known as Bohemia to be outside the range of the Roman influence. There, he took the title of king and organized a confederation of several neighboring Germanic tribes.[5] He was the first documented ruler of Bohemia with a government.[6]

Augustus planned in 6 AD to destroy the kingdom of Maroboduus, which he considered to be too dangerous for the Romans. The future emperor Tiberius commanded 12 legions to attack the Marcomanni, but the outbreak of a revolt in Illyria, and the need for troops there, forced Tiberius to conclude a treaty with Maroboduus and to recognize him as king.[7]

War with Arminius and death

His rivalry with Arminius, the Cheruscan leader who inflicted the devastating defeat at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest on the Romans under Publius Quinctilius Varus in 9 AD, prevented a concerted attack on Roman territory across the Rhine in the north (by Arminius) and in the Danube basin in the south (by Maroboduus).

However, according to the first-century AD historian Marcus Velleius Paterculus, Arminius sent Varus's head to Maroboduus, but the king of the Marcomanni sent it to Augustus.[8] In the revenge war of Tiberius and Germanicus against the Cherusci, Maroboduus stayed neutral.

In 17 AD, war broke out between Arminius and Maroboduus, and after an indecisive battle, Maroboduus withdrew into the hilly forests of Bohemia, in 18 AD.[9] In the next year, Catualda, a young Marcomannic nobleman living in exile among the Gutones, returned, perhaps by a subversive Roman intervention, and defeated Maroboduus.[10] The deposed king had to flee to Italy, and Tiberius detained him 18 years in Ravenna. There, Maroboduus died in 37 AD.[11] Catualda was, in turn, defeated by the Hermunduri Vibilius, after which the realm was ruled by the Quadian Vannius. Vannius was himself also deposed by Vibilius, in coordination with his nephews Vangio and Sido, who then ruled as Roman client kings.[12][13]


  1. ^ Elston, Charles Sidney (1934). The earliest relations between Celts and Germans. Methuen & co., ltd. p. 119.
  2. ^ Abdale, Jason R. (2016-05-31). Four Days in September: The Battle of Teutoburg. Pen and Sword. p. 29. ISBN 9781473860872.
  3. ^ Gregor, Douglas Bartlett (1980-01-01). Celtic: A Comparative Study of the Six Celtic Languages, Irish, Gaelic, Manx, Welsh, Cornish, Breton Seen Against the Background of Their History, Literature, and Destiny. Oleander Press. p. 14. ISBN 9780900891410.
  4. ^ Strabo 7, 1, 3, p. 290
  5. ^ 7, 1, 3, p. 290; Marcus Velleius Paterculus, Compendium of Roman History 2, 108
  6. ^ "Maroboduus". Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. 20 March 2016. Retrieved 2020. Maroboduus, (died AD 37, Ravenna, Italy), king of the Marcomanni who organized the first confederation of German tribes.
  7. ^ Velleius Paterculus, Compendium of Roman History 2, 109, 5; Cassius Dio, Roman History 55, 28, 6-7
  8. ^ Velleius Paterculus, Compendium of Roman History 2, 119: "caput eius abscisum latumque ad Maroboduum et ab eo missum ad Caesarem"
  9. ^ Tacitus, Annals 2, 44-46
  10. ^ Tacitus, The Annals 2.62
  11. ^ Tacitus, The Annals 2.63
  12. ^ Tacitus, Book 12, 27-31: Text in Latin and English at Sacred Texts
  13. ^ Germania, UNRV History

Further reading

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