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The Quadi were a Suebian Germanic tribe who lived approximately in the area of modern Moravia in the time of the Roman Empire. The only known information about the Germanic tribe the Romans called the 'Quadi' comes through reports of the Romans themselves, whose empire had its border on the River Danube just to the south of the Quadi. They associated the Quadi with their neighbours the Marcomanni, and described both groups as having entered the region after the Celtic Boii had left it deserted. The Quadi are thought to have been an important part of the Suebian group who crossed the Rhine with the Vandals and Alans in the 406 Crossing of the Rhine, and later founded a kingdom in northwestern Iberia.
1st century BC/AD
In the 1st century BC, according to Roman written sources, the more numerous Marcomanni, whose name simply means the "men of the borderlands" moved themselves from settlements elsewhere into a hilly area in the Hercynian forest known as Baiohaemum, which is generally considered to have been the same as, or near to, modern Bohemia. It is said that the Quadi also lived in the same general region, and were also Suebian Germans, like the Marcomanni.
The Quadi lived in what is now Moravia, western Slovakia and Lower Austria where they had displaced Celtic cultures and were first noticed by Romans in 8–6 BC, briefly documented by Tacitus in his Germania. They came to be part of the Marcomannic confederation that fought the future emperor Tiberius in 6 AD.
There may be an earlier reference to the Quadi in the Geography of Strabo (7.1.3). In a parenthetical expression, often removed from the main text, he mentions a branch of the Suevi called the Koldouoi, transliterated to Latin Coldui (Strabo wrote in Greek). Part of their range is Bohemia, the domain of Maroboduus. The emendment of Coldui to Coadui (Quadi) is generally considered correct.
Tacitus (Germania 42) mentions the Quadi in the same breath as the Marcomanni, alike in warlike spirit, alike governed by "kings" of their own noble stock, "descended from the noble line of Maroboduus and Tudrus". (Marobduus ruled the Marcomanni and their alliance generally, so the "Tudric" line were apparently kings among the Quadi.) The royal powers of both tribes were also alike, according to Tacitus, in being supported by Roman silver.
In The Annals, Tacitus writes that Maroboduus was deposed by the exile Catualda around 18 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 divided his realm between themselves as Roman client kings.
Their neighbours for the next 350 years or more were the Marcomanni to the west, Buri to the north, Sarmatian Iazgyians and Asding Vandals arriving to the east somewhat later, and the Roman Empire to the south, across the Danube. Tacitus (Germania 43) writes:
- Behind them [the Quadi and Marcomanii] the Marsigni, Gotini, Osi, and Buri, close in the rear of the Marcomanni and Quadi. Of these, the Marsigni and Buri, in their language and manner of life, resemble the Suevi. The Gotini and Osi are proved by their respective Gallic and Pannonian tongues, as well as by the fact of their enduring tribute, not to be Germans. Tribute is imposed on them as aliens, partly by the Sarmatæ, partly by the Quadi. The Gotini, to complete their degradation, actually work iron mines. All these nations occupy but little of the plain country, dwelling in forests and on mountain-tops.
These Gotini, or Cotini, are also mentioned in other Roman sources and appear to have been a remnant of an older Celtic population.
2nd century AD
In the later 2nd century AD, Marcus Aurelius fought them in the Marcomannic Wars, for which our source is an abridgement of lost books of Dio Cassius' history. The troubles began in late 166 when the Langobardi (the Lombards) and Obii (otherwise unknown, but possibly the Ubii) crossed the Danube into Roman Moesia. They must have done so with the consent of the Quadi, through whose territory they had to cross. Presumably, the Quadi wished to avoid trouble themselves by allowing these tribes to pass through into Roman territory. This invasion was apparently thrown back into Quadi territory without too much difficulty as far as the Romans were concerned, but the incursion marked the start of a long series of attempts to cross the border.
A few years later, the Marcomanni and Quadi, with assistance from other tribes that had crossed the Danube, overwhelmed a Roman army, passed over the plain at the head of the Adriatic, and put the town of Aquileia in northern Italy under siege. After initial Roman losses, the Marcomanni were defeated in 171, and Marcus Aurelius managed to make peace with some of the tribes along the Danube, including the Quadi. But in 172, he launched a major attack into the territory of the Marcomanni, and then turned on the Quadi, who had been aiding Marcomanni refugees. In a major battle in that year, his troops were almost defeated, until a sudden rainstorm allowed them to defeat the Quadi. The Quadi were ultimately eliminated as a direct threat in 174. Marcus' planned counteroffensive across the Danube was prevented in 175, however, by insurrection within the Empire.
Though Marcus Aurelius successfully suppressed the revolt, it was not until 178 that he was able to pursue the Quadi over the Danube into Bohemia. He executed a successful and decisive battle against them in 179 at Laugaricio Trenčín - Slovakia under the command of legate and procurator Marcus Valerius Maximianus of Poetovio Pannonia (modern-day Ptuj, Slovenia). He was planning to advance the Roman border east and north to the Carpathian Mountains and Bohemia when he became ill and died in 180.
3rd and 4th centuries
The wars of Marcus Aurelius appeared to have been successful in that the Quadi remained quiet for several generations, though sources become scarcer and of poorer quality during the third century. In the 4th century, the emperor Valentinianus spent much of his reign defending the Danube frontier against a mixed horde of Sarmatians, Goths, and Quadi under their king Gabinius, because a quadi king was slain at a treaty table by the Roman Marcellinus, son of the praefect of Gaul, Maximinus. Valentinian died in 375 after having received a deputation of Quadi to discuss a treaty. The insolent behavior of the proud barbarians so enraged the emperor, apparently, that he died of a stroke.
After the 4th century
After about 400, the old cremation burials typical of Suebians like the Quadi disappear from the archaeological record, and the names of the distinct tribes disappeared from the written record. They and other Suebian groups apparently reformed into several new groups. During the same period the Pannonian region was affected by the Gothic armies of Radagaisus and possibly also that of Alaric.
According to historians such as Herwig Wolfram:
- The Marcomanni and the Quadi gave up their special names after crossing the Danube, in fact both the emigrants and the groups remaining in Pannonia became Suebi again. The Pannonian Suebi became subjects of the Huns. After the battle at the Nadao they set up their kingdom, and when it fell, they came, successively under Herulian and Longobard rule, south of the Danube under Gothic rule, and eventually again under Longobard rule.
One group identified as Suebi crossed the Rhine in 406, together with Hasdingi and Silingi Vandals, and Alans, all neighbours of the Quadi, and therefore it is thought that these Suebi included a significant Quadi component. Jerome explicitly lists the Quadi amongst those peoples. His list is sometimes seen as being deliberately classical and literary, not necessarily accurate, but on the other hand the Quadi appear at the start of the list along with the other Pannonian groups, and he goes out of his way to say that even Pannonian citizens, from within the empire, were among the moving people.
After crossing the Pyrenees in 409, these migrating Suebi established themselves in the Roman province of Gallaecia (modern Galicia and northern Portugal), where they were considered foederati, and founded the Suebi kingdom of Gallaecia. There, Hermeric swore fealty to the emperor in 410. Bracara Augusta, the modern city of Braga in Portugal, previously the capital of Roman Gallaecia, now became the capital of the Suebic kingdom in Gallaecia.
Some other Suevi, had already formed into a new confederation known as the Alamanni, who moved into the area of modern "Suebia" in southwestern Germany, a territory that the Romans had previously had some control of, and referred to as the Agri Decumates. They formed a buffer zone on the Roman border on the Rhine, around which the migrating groups needed to pass.
In the area of the Danube and Pannonia, "Suevi" was later also the name given to one of the successor kingdoms which arose after the collapse of the empire of Attila the Hun, in whose empire they had apparently been subsumed. This region, right on the edge of Roman influence, remained a melting pot of different peoples including, Vandals, Alans, and East Germanic peoples such as the Goths, Scirii and Herules. At first the area of the Quadi was ruled by the Herules. It is likely that the Quadi were a significant component of these new groups, including ones which coalesced later, such as the Bavarians and Lombards.
The Lombards were a major Suebian group who had influenced the region in the past, and they then moved more decisively into the region from the north, probably absorbing many other Suebian and non-Suebian groups along the way, before moving into Italy. They destroyed the kingdom of the Herules and replaced them as a new power in the area.
In the Merovingian period, a new Suebian entity formed close to the Quadi homelands, the Bavarians, whose name references some type of ancestral connection to Bohemia. The "Upper German" dialects of German are today found along the old Danubian frontier of the Roman empire, although eventually replaced by a Slavic language in Moravia and Slovakia, and probably descend from the languages of the southern Suebi such as the Quadi. The western area, inhabited by the Alemanni in late classical times, is home to Alemannic dialects. Dialects of Bavaria and Austria are in the related linguistically Bavarian group, which is geographically closer to the Quadi homeland.
The first mention of the Bavarians comes in the context of the Danubian kingdoms after Attila when Jordanes, the historian of the Goths, reported (Getica 280) that after the Battle of Bolia, the Ostrogoths attacked the Suebi by crossing the Danube when frozen, and went into a high Alpine area held by the confederates of the Suebi at this time, the Alemanni. (He said that several streams start in this area which enter the Danube with a loud sound.) The region held by these Suebi was described as having Bavarians to the west, Franks to the West, Burgundians to the south, and Thuringians to the north. The text seems to indicate that these Suevi had moved into the Alamannic area but that these specific Suevi were seen as distinct from both Alamanni and Bavarians.
- List of ancient Germanic peoples
- Migrations period
- Timeline of Germanic kingdoms in the Iberian Peninsula
- History of Portugal
- History of Spain
- 5 Dio, 72(71).3.2., 8.1.; Rubin, Z. H. (1979) "Weather Miracles under Marcus Aurelius," Athenaeum 57: 362–80; Guey, J. (1948) "Encore la 'pluie miraculeuse'," Rev. Phil. 22: 16–62; Olli, S. (1990) "A Note on the Establishment of the Date of the Rain Miracle under Marcus Aurelius," Arctos 24: 107; Israelovwich, I. (2008) "The Rain Miracle of Marcus Aurelius: (Re-)Construction of Consensus," Greece & Rome 55 (1): 85.
- The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples pp.160-1.