Imperial German Bodyguard (Roman)
The Roman Imperial German Bodyguard (Latin: Germani corporis custodes or Germani corpore custodes, in the literary sources also called the numerus Batavorum or cohors Germanorum) was a personal, imperial guards unit for the Roman emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty (30 BC - AD 68). Although the Praetorians may be considered the Roman Emperor's main bodyguard, the German Bodyguards were a unit of more personal guards recruited from distant parts of the Empire, so they had no political or personal connections with Rome or the provinces.
The members of the German Bodyguard were recruited from the West Germanic-speaking tribes resident in, or on the borders of, the Roman province of Germania Inferior, with most recruits drawn from the Batavi but also from neighbouring tribes of the Rhine delta region, including the Frisii, Baetasii and Ubii. Little is known about their organisation; from inscriptions it is known that there existed, as in all Roman cavalry units, the officer rank of decurion. The exact size of the unit, which was at least partially mounted, is also unknown, but is described in ancient sources as a cohort, which in this period normally implied a strength of ca. 500 men, or less precisely as a numerus, whose size could vary. Under the Emperor Caligula, the Bodyguard may have consisted of 500 to 1,000 men.
The Bodyguard was disbanded briefly after the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, and was finally dissolved by Galba in 68 because of its loyalty to Nero (ruled 54-68), whom he had overthrown. The decision caused deep offence to the Batavi, and contributed to the outbreak of the Revolt of the Batavi in the following year. Their indirect successors were the Equites singulares Augusti which were, likewise, mainly recruited from the Germani. They were apparently so similar to the Julio-Claudians' earlier German Bodyguard that they were given the same nickname, the "Batavi".
- National Museum of Rome, Baths of Diocletian, Rome. Inscription: AE 1952, 148: Indus / Neronis Claudi / Caesaris Aug(usti) / corpor(is) custos / dec(uria) Secundi / natione Batavus / vix(it) ann(os) XXXVI h(ic) s(itus) e(st) / posuit / Eumenes frater / et heres eius ex collegio / Germanorum "Indus, bodyguard of Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus, of the Second Decuria, of the Batavian nation, [who] lived 36 years, is buried here. [The gravestone] was erected by his brother and heir, Eumenes, from the collegium of the Germans".
- Suetonius, Caligula 58, 3 and inscriptions, e. g. AE 1952, 148.
- CIL VI 4340, 4342, 4343, 4437, 21068; AE (1976) 750, (1923) 73
- Suetonius, Caligula 43.
- Suetonius, Galba 12.
- Webster, Graham (1985). The Roman Imperial Army of the First and Second Centuries A.D., Black, London/Oklahoma, p. 101. ISBN 0-8061-3000-8.
- Caesar, de bello Gallico 7, 13, 1.
- Roymans, Nico (2000). Germania inferior (ed. Newald and Schalles), Walter de Gruyter, Berlin. ISBN 3-11-016969-X. p. 97(English)
- CIL VI 8802, 8803, 8804, 8807; AE (1952) 146, 147, 148, 149, (1968) 32
- CIL VI 4342, VI 4343
- CIL VI 8808
- CIL VI 8809
- Roymans (2000), p. 258.
- Suetonius, Galba 12: multisque experimentis fidelissimam.
- Tacitus, Annals 15, 58: Germanis, quibus fidebat princeps quasi externis.
- Tacitus Hist. II.5
- Fuhrmann, Christopher J. (2012). Policing the Roman Empire: Soldiers, Administration, and Public Order, OUP, New York, pp 128/129. ISBN 978-0-19-973784-0
- Michael P. Speidel: Germani Corporis Custodes. In: Germania 62, 1984, pp. 31–34 (not evaluated). (German)
- Oliver Stoll: Leibwache. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde. 2. Aufl. Bd. 18. Berlin: Walter de Gruyer, 2001, p. 232-233 ISBN 3-11-016950-9