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Cannabaudes or Cannabas († 271) was a third-century leader of the Gothic tribe of the Tervings, who died in a battle against the Roman emperor Aurelian.


In the third century many Germanic peoples invaded the Roman Empire and plundered the border regions. Among these, the Goths were the biggest people crossing the Roman borders and devastating the Balkan peninsula and also the coasts of the Black Sea and even the Aegean Sea. Especially while emperor Aurelian, the magister equitum of emperor Claudius Gothicus, who had died of the plague, was fighting the dead emperor’s brother and rightful heir Quintillus and later the Vandals and Juthungi in Italy, Tervings under their leader Cannabaudes devastated the provinces of the lower Danube and sacked some cities.

On his march to the East to reintegrate the Palmyrene Empire to the Roman Empire, Aurelian drove them out of his empire and, unlike others before him, followed them over the Danube. It came to a battle, and Cannabaudes died along with 5,000 of his men.

For this victory Aurelian received the surname Gothicus Maximus.[1] At his triumph after his victory over the Palmyrene Empire, he carried with him Gothic women, dressed as Amazons, and a chariot, carried by four stags, that is said to have belonged to Cannabaudes.

Despite his victory over Cannabaudes, Aurelian abandoned the province of Dacia, which was populated by barbaric tribes such as the Goths.

So, Aurelian had averted the Gothic menace for a century. On one hand, they were frightened off, on the other hand they were busy with the vacant lands in Dacia.

How powerful Cannabaudes was, is not sure. While some historians call him a king of the Goths,[2] others believe that he was only one more powerful leader among many.[3]

The only ancient source mentioning his name is the Historia Augusta,[4] which is not always reliable for this time. Nevertheless, Cannabaudes is seen as a historic person by most historians. Some historians want to identify Cannabaudes with Cniva,[5] the Gothic leader who defeated and killed emperor Decius at the Battle of Abrittus twenty years earlier, others think he might rather be his son.[6]

In the altered form of his name, Cannabas, Herwig Wolfram assumes a cacography of the name Cannabaudes, to make it sound like cannabis.[7]


  1. ^ CIL XII 5549; ILS 8925.
  2. ^ Goltz 2008, 461; Watson 1998, 54f.; Wolfram ³1990, 106; ²2005, 34.
  3. ^ Burns 1984, S. 31; Heather 1996, S. 44.
  4. ^ HA Aurelian 22,2.
  5. ^ Groag 1903, 1378; Wolfram ³1990, 46; 2001, 36.
  6. ^ Barnes 1978, 70.
  7. ^ Wolfram ³1990, 394; 2005, 108.

Ancient sources[edit]

  • Historia Augusta, vita Aureliani.

Modern literature[edit]

  • Wolf von Barloewen: Geschichte der Germanen bis 376 n.Chr., in: Wolf von Barloewen [ed.]: Abriss der Geschichte antiker Randkulturen, Oldenbourg, Munich 1961.
  • Timothy Barnes: The Sources of the Historia Augusta, Ed. Latomus, Brüssel 1978.
  • Thomas Burns: A History of the Ostrogoths, Indiana Univ.Press, Bloomington 1984.
  • Thomas Gerhardt, Udo Hartmann: Fasti, Die germanischen Herrscher, in: Klaus-Peter Johne [ed.]: Die Zeit der Soldatenkaiser, Berlin 2008, p. 1192-1198.
  • Andreas Goltz: Die Völker an der mittleren und nordöstlichen Reichsgrenze, in: Klaus-Peter Johne [ed.]: Die Zeit der Soldatenkaiser, Berlin 2008, p. 449-464.
  • Edmund Groag: Domitius [36] Aurelian, Realencyclopädie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft V 1, Stuttgart 1903, p. 1347-1419.
  • Udo Hartmann: Claudius Gothicus und Aurelian, in: Klaus-Peter Johne [ed.]: Die Zeit der Soldatenkaiser, Berlin 2008, p. 297-324.
  • Peter Heather: The Goths, Blackwell, Oxford, Cambridge/Massachusetts 1996.
  • Michael Kulikowski: Rome’s Gothic Wars, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge u.a. 2007.
  • Bruno Rappaport: Die Einfälle der Goten in das Römische Reich bis auf Constantin, Hirschfeld, Leipzig 1899.
  • Alaric Watson: Aurelian and the third Century, London, New York 1998.
  • Herwig Wolfram: Die Goten, Beck, Munich ³1990.
  • Herwig Wolfram: Kniva, Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde 17, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, New York 2001, p. 34-37.
  • Herwig Wolfram: Die Goten und ihre Geschichte, Beck, Munich ²2005.
  • Herwig Wolfram: Gotische Studien, Beck, Munich 2005.

See also[edit]