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Maroboduus (born c. in 30 BC, died in AD 37), whose German name was Marbod, was a Romanized king of the Germanic Suebi, who under pressure from the wars of the Cherusci and Romans, and losing the Suevic Semnones and Langobardi from his kingdom, moved with the Marcomanni into the forests of Bohemia, near to the Quadi.
The name "Maroboduus" can be broken down into two Celtic elements, māro- meaning "great" (cf. Welsh mawr, Irish mór), and bodwos meaning "raven" (cf. Irish badhbh). As there was extensive mingling of Germanic tribes and Celts in this period, a Germanic or mixed Germanic-Celtic tribe led by a man with a Celtic name would be nothing unusual.
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. 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 a king and organized a confederation of several neighboring Germanic tribes. He was the first documented ruler of Bohemia.
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 twelve 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.
War with Arminius and death
Rivalry between him and 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 1st century AD historian Marcus Velleius Paterculus, Arminius sent Varus's head to Maroboduus, but the king of the Marcomanni sent it to Augustus. 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. 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. The deposed king had to flee to Italy, and Tiberius detained him 18 years in Ravenna. There, Maroboduus died in 37 AD. 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.
- Strabo 7, 1, 3, p. 290
- 7, 1, 3, p. 290; Marcus Velleius Paterculus, Compendium of Roman History 2, 108
- Velleius Paterculus, Compendium of Roman History 2, 109, 5; Cassius Dio, Roman History 55, 28, 6-7
- Velleius Paterculus, Compendium of Roman History 2, 119: "caput eius abscisum latumque ad Maroboduum et ab eo missum ad Caesarem"
- Tacitus, Annals 2, 44-46
- Tacitus, The Annals 2.62
- Tacitus, The Annals 2.63
- Peter Kehne: Marbod. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde, vol. 19 (2001), p. 258-262.
- Tacitus, Annals, Book 1 & Book 2.