Arminius

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For the Dutch Protestant theologian, see Jacobus Arminius.
Arminius
Chieftain of the Cherusci
Herrmann-von-Vorne.JPG
Born 18/17 BC
Birthplace Magna Germania
Died AD 21 (age 40)
Place of death Germania

Arminius (18/17 BC – AD 21), also known as Armin or Hermann (Arminius being a Latinization, similar to Brennus), was a chieftain of the Germanic Cherusci who defeated a Roman army in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. Arminius's influence held an allied coalition of Germanic tribes together in opposition to the Romans but after defeats by the Roman general Germanicus, nephew of the Emperor Tiberius, his influence waned, and Arminius was assassinated on the orders of rival Germanic chiefs.[1] Arminius's victory against the Roman legions in the Teutoburg forest had a far-reaching effect on the subsequent history of both the ancient Germanic peoples and on the Roman Empire. The Romans were to make no more concerted attempts to conquer and permanently hold Germania beyond the river Rhine.

Biography[edit]

Arminius, born in 18 or 17 BC, was son of the Cheruscan chief Segimerus (German: Segimer) and trained as a Roman military commander. He had lived in Rome as a hostage in his youth, where he had received a military education, and obtained Roman citizenship as well as the status of equestrian (petty noble) before returning to Germania and driving the Romans out.

"Arminius" is probably a Latinized variant of the Proto-Germanic *erminaz (Irmin) meaning "great" (cf. Herminones). During the Reformation but especially during 19th century German nationalism, Arminius was used as a symbol of the German-speaking people and their fight against Rome.[2] It was during this period that the name "Hermann" (meaning "soldier", "army man" or "warrior") came into use as the German equivalent of Arminius; the religious reformer Martin Luther is thought to have been the first to equate the two names.[3]

Battle of the Teutoburg Forest[edit]

Around the year 4 AD, Arminius assumed command of a Cheruscan detachment of Roman auxiliary forces, probably while fighting in the Pannonian wars on the Balkan peninsula. He returned to northern Germania in 7 or 8 AD, where the Roman Empire had established secure control of the territories just east of the Rhine, along the Lippe and Main rivers, and was now seeking to extend its hegemony eastward to the Weser and Elbe rivers, under Publius Quinctilius Varus, a high-ranking administrative official appointed by Augustus as governor. Arminius began plotting to unite various Germanic tribes to thwart Roman efforts to incorporate their lands into the empire.

In the fall of 9 AD, the 25-year-old Arminius brought to Varus a report of rebellion in northern Germany. He persuaded Varus to divert the three legions under his command (composed of the 17th, 18th and 19th legions, plus three cavalry detachments and six cohorts of auxiliaries) from the march to winter quarters to suppress the rebellion. Varus and his legions marched right into the trap Arminius had set for them near Kalkriese, the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. Arminius's tribe, the Cherusci, and their allies the Marsi, Chatti, Bructeri, Chauci, and Sicambri ambushed and annihilated Varus's entire army, totaling over 20,000 men. Recent archaeological finds show the long-debated location of the three-day battle was almost certainly near Kalkriese Hill, about 20 km north of Osnabrück. When defeat was certain, Varus committed suicide by falling on his sword. Arminius's success in destroying three entire legions and driving the Romans out of Germany was one of the most devastating defeats Rome suffered in its history, and a high point of Germanic power for centuries. Roman attempts to reconquer Germany failed, although they did manage to break Arminius's alliance.

Roman retaliation, inter-tribal conflicts, and death[edit]

Between 14 and 16 AD, Germanicus launched punitive operations into Germany, twice defeating Arminius: first in the Battle of the Weser River; and later near the Wall of the Angrivarii. Arminius also faced opposition from his father-in-law and other pro-Roman Germanic leaders.[4] In AD 15 Roman troops managed to recapture one of the three legionary eagles lost in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. In AD 16, a second eagle was retrieved[5] Tiberius denied the request of Germanicus to launch an additional campaign for A.D. 17, however, having decided the frontier with Germania would stand at the Rhine river. Instead, he offered Germanicus the honor of a triumph for his two victories. The third Roman eagle was recovered in AD 41 by Publius Gabinius under the emperor Claudius.[6]

With the end of the Roman threat, a war broke out between Arminius and Marbod, king of the Marcomanni. It ended with Marbod fleeing to Ravenna and Roman protection, but Arminius failed to break into the "natural fortification" of Bohemia, and the war ended in stalemate.

In 19 AD, Germanicus died in Antioch under circumstances which led many to believe he had been poisoned by his opponents. Arminius suffered death two years later, in 21 AD, murdered by opponents within his own tribe who felt he was becoming too powerful.[7] Tiberius allegedly had refused an earlier offer from a Chatti nobleman to poison Arminius: "It was not by secret treachery but openly and by arms that the people of Rome avenged themselves on their enemies."[8]

Roman attempts to reconquer Germany failed, although the Romans inflicted several defeats on the Germans.

Legacy[edit]

Arminius had married a princess named Thusnelda, whose name is preserved only by Strabo. She was captured by the Romans while pregnant, so her son Thumelicus, grew up in Roman captivity. Tacitus tells us he had an unusual story, which the historian promises to tell, but is lost to us.

Rome[edit]

This Roman sculpture of a young man is sometimes identified as Arminius.[9]

In the accounts of his Roman enemies, Arminius is highly regarded for his military leadership skills and as a defender of the liberty of his people. Based on these records, the story of Arminius was revived in the sixteenth century with the recovery of the histories of Tacitus, who wrote in his Annales II, 88:

Arminius, without doubt Germania's liberator, who challenged the Roman people not in its beginnings like other kings and leaders, but in the peak of its empire; in battles with changing success, undefeated in the war.

Arminius was not the only reason for Rome's change of policy towards Germania. Politics also played a factor; emperors could rarely trust a large army to a potential rival, though Augustus had enough family members to wage his wars. Also, Augustus, in his 30-year reign, had annexed many territories still at the beginning of the process of Romanization.

Tiberius, successor of Augustus, decided that Germania was a far less developed land, possessing few villages, with only a small food surplus, and therefore was not currently important to Rome. It would require a commitment too burdensome for the imperial finances and for excessive expenditure of military force for a new achievement.

Modern scholars have pointed out that the Rhine was a more practical boundary for the Roman Empire than any other river in Germania. Armies on the Rhine could be supplied from the Mediterranean sea via the Rhône, Saône and Mosel, with a brief area of portage. Armies on the Elbe, however, would have to have been supplied by extensive overland routes or by ships travelling the hazardous Atlantic. Economically, the Rhine already had towns and sizable villages at the time of the Gallic conquest. The Rhine was significantly more accessible from Rome and better equipped to supply sizeable garrisons than the regions beyond.[10]

Rome would control Germania by appointing client kings, which was cheaper than military campaigns.

Rome chose no longer to rule directly in Germania east of the Rhine and north of the Danube; Rome preferred to exert indirect influence through client kings, so Italicus, nephew of Arminius, was appointed king of the Cherusci; Vangio and Sido became vassal princes of the powerful Suebi, etc.[11]

Old Norse sagas[edit]

In the early 19th century, attempts were made to show that the story of Arminius and his victory may have lived on in the Old Norse sagas,[12] in the form of the dragon slayer Sigurd of the Völsunga saga and the Nibelungenlied. An Icelandic account[13][14] states that Sigurd "slew the dragon" in the Gnitaheidr—today the suburb Knetterheide of the city of Bad Salzuflen, located at a strategic site on the Werre river which could very well have been the point of departure of Varus's legions on their way to their doom in the Teutoburg Forest. Also one of the foremost Scandinavian scholars of the 19th century, Guðbrandur Vigfússon,[15] identifies Sigurd as Arminius. This educated guess was also picked up by Otto Höfler, who was a prominent National Socialist academic in World War II.[16]

Martin Luther[edit]

In Germany, Arminius was rechristened "Hermann" by Martin Luther and he became an emblem of the revival of German nationalism fueled by the wars of Napoleon in the 19th century.

Another theory regarding Arminius's Latin name is that it is based on the Latin word armenium a vivid blue, ultramarine pigment made from a stone. Thus, Arminius would have been called "blue eyes," and his brother Flavus "the blond" – as references to the stereotype physical features which the Romans assigned to their Germanic neighbors.[17] In that case, the theory goes, "Arminius" does not necessarily have anything to do with the word and god name "irmin", and his Germanic name could thus have been anything — Siegfried, for instance. Proponents of that theory argue that his father (Segimerus, the modern form of which is "Siegmar") also bore a name with the stem "sieg," or "victorious".

German nationalism[edit]

The Hermannsdenkmal Monument.

In 1808, Heinrich von Kleist's published, but never performed, the play Die Hermannsschlacht.[18] It became unperformable after Napoleon's victory at Wagram aroused anti-Napoleonic German sentiment and pride among its readers.

The play has been revived repeatedly at moments propitious for raw expressions of National Romanticism and was especially popular during the Third Reich.[19]

In 1839, construction was started on a massive statue of Arminius, known as the Hermannsdenkmal, on a hill near Detmold in the Teutoburg Forest; it was finally completed and dedicated during the early years of the Second German Empire in the wake of the German victory over France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870– 1871. The monument has been a major tourist attraction ever since, as has The Hermann Heights Monument, a similar statue erected in the United States in 1897.

The Hermann Heights monument was erected by the Sons of Hermann, a fraternal organization formed by German Americans in New York City in 1840 and named for Hermann the Cheruscan that during the nineteenth century flourished in American cities with large populations of German origin. Hermann, Missouri, a town on the Missouri River founded in the 1830s and incorporated in 1845, was also named for Arminius.

The German Bundesliga football-club DSC Arminia Bielefeld is named after Arminius.

In popular culture[edit]

  • In Jules Verne's 1879 novel "The Begum's Fortune", written with a strongly anti-German bias, one of brutish bodyguards employed by the book's German villain is called "Arminius".
  • At the end of G. A. Henty's 1887 historical novel about Hannibal and the Second Punic War, "The Young Carthaginian," the main fictional character, Malchus, a cousin of Hannibal, decides to settle with the tribes north of the Alps and becomes an ancestor of Arminius.
  • The Irish Black metal band Primordial recently referred to Arminius in a song off their To The Nameless Dead album named "Heathen Tribes" with the line "Arminius stood tall in Teutoborg" in relation to the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.
  • The German heavy metal band Rebellion has released a conceptual album about Arminius called Arminius - Furor Teutonicus.
  • The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest is the subject of the song "Teutoburg (Ambush of Varus)", included in the album Caligvla by the Canadian death metal band Ex Deo.
  • Arminius appeared in the historical battle (Battle of Teutoburg Forest) in the videogame Total War: Rome 2. At the first cutscene he appears as scout commanding the Germanic Auxilia cavalry. And then Rallying the tribesmen against the Romans. Saying " Rome may have raised me, Trained me. But my loyalty lies to my people ". He is not seen through the battle. He appears in the ending cutscene, killing Varus himself without mercy. In the game he is depicted as a Barbarian Vexillarius ( Wearing a Wolf skin and a Roman cavalry mask).

See also[edit]

Other references[edit]

  1. ^ Tacitus, Annals 2.22 ff.; Suetonius, Caligula 1.4; Dio 57.18.1; on Arminius' assassination, Tac. Ann. 2.88;
  2. ^ W. Bradford Smith (2004). "German Pagan Antiquity in Lutheran Historical Thought". The Journal of the Historical Society 4 (3): 351–74. doi:10.1111/j.1529-921X.2004.00104.x. 
  3. ^ Herbert W. Benario (April 2004). "Arminius into Hermann: History into Legend". Greece and Rome 51 (1): 83–94. doi:10.1093/gr/51.1.83. 
  4. ^ Tac. Ann. 1.54-59.
  5. ^ Tac. Ann. 1.60.4, 2.25.2
  6. ^ Dio 60.8.7.
  7. ^ Tacitus, The Annals 2.88
  8. ^ Tac. Ann. 2.87-88.
  9. ^ "Arminius". Encyclopædia Britannica. 
  10. ^ Peter Heather, (2006), The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians
  11. ^ Tacitus, Book 12 [verse 27 to 31]
  12. ^ A. Giesebrecht (1837). "Ueber den Ursprung der Siegfriedsage". Germania (2). 
  13. ^ unknown (1387). Nikulas Bergsson, Arnamagnæan Collection manuscript 194, 8yo. 
  14. ^ Simek, R. (1990). "Altnordische Kosmographie: Studien und Quellen zu Weltbild und Weltbeschreibung in Norwegen und in Island vom 12. bis zum 14. Jahrhundert". Berlin/New York. 
  15. ^ G. Vigfusson, F. York Powell (1886). "Grimm centenary; Sigfred-Arminivs, and other papers". Oxford Clarendon Press. 
  16. ^ O. Höfler, "Siegfried Arminius und die Symbolik," Heidelberg (1961), 60–64,and also in Siegfried, Arminius und der Nibelungenhort (Vienna 1978);F.G. Gentry, W. McConnell, W. Wunderlich (eds.), The Nibelungen Tradition. An Encyclopedia (New York–London 2002), article "Sigurd".
  17. ^ "Arminius: The Original Siegfried". Retrieved 2006-09-06. 
  18. ^ Heinrich von Kleist: Die Herrmannsschlacht. Ein Drama [1808] (Frankfurt am Main and Basel: Stroemfeld-Roter Stern, 2001).
  19. ^ Reeve, William C (2004). "Die Hermannsschlacht". The Literary Encyclopedia. The Literary Dictionary Company. Retrieved 2006-09-06. 

External links[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Andreas Dörner, Politischer Mythos und symbolische Politik. Der Hermannmythos: Zur Entstehung des Nationalbewußtseins der Deutschen (Reinbek: Rowohlt, 1996).
  • Gesa von Essen, Hermannsschlachten. Germanen- und Römerbilder in der Literatur des 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts (Göttingen: Wallstein, 1998).
  • Richard Kuehnemund, Arminius or the Rise of a National Symbol in Literature. From Hutten to Grabbe (New York: AMS Press, 1966).
  • Herfried Münkler / Hans Grünberger: Arminius/ Hermann als nationales Symbol im Diskurs der deutschen Humanisten 1500-1570, In: Herfried Münkler / Hans Grünberger / Kathrin Mayer, Nationenbildung. Die Nationalisierung Europas im Diskurs humanistischer Intellektueller. Italien und Deutschland (Berlin: Akademie, 1998), pp. 263–308.
  • Martina Wagner-Egelhaaf (Ed.), Hermanns Schlachten. Zur Literaturgeschichte eines nationalen Mythos (Bielefeld: Aisthesis, 2008).
  • Reinhard Wolters, Die Schlacht im Teutoburger Wald: Arminius, Varus und das roemische Germanien (München: Verlag C.H. Beck, 2008).