Reprint from RUNESTONE #21, Spring 1998

Arminius and the Cherusci
by Hnikar

When the mead horn is filled at Sumbel, and the heroes of our Folk are honored, the name of Arminius, or Hermann, is seldom neglected. The victory he gained in Teutoburger Wald demonstrated a courage, a fierce will to be free and unfettered, untamed, that even today it inspires us to raise our horns before our gods and hail him. And to seek to emulate his virtues. Tacitus, writing nearly a century after the battle, wrote, "To this day the tribes sing of him".

And yet, for a millenium and a half, he appears to have largely been forgotten. Only with his rediscovery by classical scholars did his deeds again inspire our Folk. After centuries of Christian historical obscurantism, by the 19th Century people throughout Europe, and everywhere our Folk lived, were being drawn by a longing to know their own history, their own ancestors and heroes- just as we today seek to know our own faith. Huge memorials were raised to him.

It has been said that history is written by the victors, but of the battle of Teutoburger Wald it has just as truly been noted that were it not for the accounts of the vanquished, we would likely know nothing of it. So completely were the deeds of Arminius forgotten that Delbruck was inspired to suggest that his name survived in legend. In his Geschichte der Kriegskunst In Rahmen der Politischen Geschichte he disputes the generally agreed upon idea that the name Arminius is a Latinization of Hermann. That, in fact, we do not know his German name. He points out that in the Niebelungenlied, Siegfried's father was named Sigemund, and that Arminius' father was named Sigimer, and presents a number of parallels to suggest that perhaps the German name of Arminius was Siegfried.

There are some clear weaknesses in Delbruck's suggestion, not least of which is the origin of the name Arminius if it is not simply a Latinized form of a Germanic name. Normally if a Roman name was adopted, it was a pre-existing name, taken either by adoption or by the client-patron relationship. Arminius is not a Roman name. Additionally, as Markus Wolff pointed out in the article "The Irminsul" in Vor Tru #57, the god-names Hirmin and Irmin are attested, so perhaps Arminius/Hermann has a similar etymological origin.

Whatever the case, today, although Asatruar and scholars recall him, most people one encounters have little or no knowledge of him. Those who remember anything are often rather like the kid who, asked a question, replies, "Oh yeah, we studied that but I already took the test so I don't remember". Who, then, was Arminius?

When Sigimer's son was born around 18 BCE, the Cherusci laid claim to an extensive area. As was commonly the case in later Germanic history, as among the Saxons, Franks and Allemanni, one should think of the Cherusci as a tribal confederation. Their culture was robust and warlike, and they had extensive dealings with the Romans. While he spoke of the time after the Roman expansion across the Rhine, Dio Cassius' words are true for the years of Arminius' childhood. "[T]he barbarians soon accomodated themselves to Roman customs, came to the market centers, and carried on peaceful relations with them. Nonetheless, they still could not forget the customs of their ancestors, their local habits, their uninhibited life-style, and their armed power."

Indeed, while the modern Cult of the Victim has sought to present a simplistic view of the events which followed strictly in the light of resistance to Roman aggression, in truth raids were often made across the Rhine into Roman territory. Just as Caesar spoke of the German raids on the Celts of Gaul prior to the Roman conquest there, these quests for glory and wealth continued. In 29 BCE and in 17 BCE, while the infant Arminius enjoyed the freedom of German children, significant raids across the Rhine into Roman territory were made by Germans.

In 12 BCE, the Roman Emperor Augustus ordered his legions across the Rhine, as far as the Elbe. Commanded by his nephew Drusus, they secured the alliance of the Batavians (who had seperated from the Chatti after a civil war) and the Frisians, who provided auxiliary troops. The Batavians earned great fame in subsequent service. In 11 BCE, Drusus advanced to the Weser, defeated the Usipetes, and in 10 BCE he attacked the Chatti. In 9 BCE an altar to Roma et Augustus, the cult of the Emperor, was established at the tribal capital of the Ubii (later Cologne), and he attacked the Marcomanni, advanced through the territory of the Cherusci, and reached the Elbe. One wonders what the young Arminius made of all this. His later life shows both a fascination with the majesty of Rome's warriors and a disillusionment. Drusus died of an accident and was replaced by his older brother, the future Emperor Tiberius, until he was recalled to Rome in 7 BCE. Small scale operations continued as Rome established itself, although for the most part withdrawing to winter camps each season. In 4 BCE, Tiberius returned, advancing again to the Elbe and sending some troops to explore even Jutland. It was his intention to subdue the powerful Marcomanni, a branch of the Suebi or Suevi confederation, but trouble in Illyricum intervened and Maroboduus, the leader of the Marcomanni, agreed to an alliance with Rome.

The young Arminius and his brother Flavus joined the auxiliary forces of Rome, with the former apparently commanding Cheruscans. Little is known of his service to Rome, but Arminius earned Roman citizenship and gained equestrian rank. In the years immediately prior to the uprising he had served under Tiberius in Pannonia. Whereas German soldiers had had the reputation of being fierce but undisciplined troops, clearly Arminius learned a great deal during his service. Above all, he evidently learned to hate Rome.

Publius Quinctilius Varus had married the grand-niece of Augustus. By most accounts he had enjoyed a successful time as governor of Syria, though he was accused by some of becoming wealthy at the expense of the province. (This is a typical accusation of Roman enemies, like charges of sexual misconduct, so it needs to be taken with a grain of salt). Appointed legate of Germania, it is said that he was arrogant and treated the proud Germans like subjugated enemies, imposing harsh taxes and outlandish legal methods (by German standards).

Whether due to Varus in particular or because of a general opposition to Roman ways, Arminius acted. The sources give some conflicting details and scholars will quibble forever about precisely what happened, but it seems that Arminius gave Varus to understand that he was a loyal ally. Arminius was entertained in the Roman camp on the Visurgis as a guest. Dio Cassius says a complex rebellion was planned in which a portion of the Germans put on a show of rebellion while Arminius pretended to march with Varus as an ally to subdue the rebels, only to fall on him when the time and place were right. Elsewhere we hear that the Romans were simply withdrawing to their winter quarters. There are further contradictions on the length of the battle, however it is clear that the Thunderer was about. A violent storm raged around the marching Romans. Delbruck estimates their number at 18,000 to 30,000, loaded with supply wagons, women, children, servants. The column was spread through the forest for many miles. No precautions had been taken, it seems, no special security.

The odd thing is that Varus had in fact been warned. Segestes, a Cherusci, bore a great grudge against Arminius, and informed Varus of the intent to attack. Arminius had taken Segestes' daughter, Thusnelda, as wife, although she had been promised to another man- while Tacitus called it "stealing" she proved it to be otherwise in subsequent years by her loyalty to her husband. He advised that Varus arrest him, Arminius and others so that the ringleaders would be in check, then sort out the loyal from the rebellious. Apparently Arminius was a persuasive man because Varus did not heed the warning or the advice.

The storm with howling winds and rain made the ground treacherously slippery. Treetops tumbled to the ground. The Germans made probing attacks on the column, and the Romans erected a camp for better defense. It was on this first day that Arminius and his allies deserted the column and joined in the attacks. In the camp that night, Varus ordered the burning of all superfluous baggage.

In close order the next day the Romans marched onward. Progress under the circumstances was slow and the harrying attacks of the Germans took their toll. Toward the end of the day, the column came once again upon a wooded area in the Teutoburger Wald near the modern Bielefeld in Westphalia. There, the Germans waited- trees had been felled to block the path, and so once again the Romans pitched a camp.

The morning brought another raging storm and a battle. In the unfamiliar forest, disoriented further by howling winds and lashing rain, unable to stand or to manuever in the muddy morass, the Romans were easy targets for the Germans who descended from the heights. What an omen it must have seemed to the Germans as the thunder roared above the clash of weapons. Wounded and disgraced, Varus committed suicide. Around him three legions of the mightiest power on Earth were falling into the morass, slain. Others retired to the camp for a final stand. The body of Varus was burned and buried, then an unconditional surrender was made. Some escaped to Aliso to tell the tale of the massacre. Of the three Eagle standards of the legions- XVII, XVIII, and XIX- two were captured. The standardbearer with the third plunged with his standard into a swamp. As one German cut out the tongue of a Roman, he cursed, "Now, snake, your hissing is finished".

On the orders of Arminius, the body of Varus was dug up and the head was sent to Maroboduus of the Marcomanni. Whether intended as an invitation to join the uprising, or a threat, or both, Maroboduus remained nuetral in the war which followed. He sent the head of the fallen Varus to Augustus so that it might be buried.

Suetonius reports that the aging Augustus, worshipper of Mars Ultor, would thereafter mutter on occasion, "Quinctili Vare, legiones redde!" (Quinctilius Varus, return me my legions!). The battle had the effect of stopping the expansion of Rome into Germania, with tremendous consequences for European history. As such, it is considered one of the most decisive battles in history. Arminius, only 27, proved his understanding of strategic requirements and a mastery of tactics. Understanding that a frontal assault on the Romans and a straight-forward rebellion would be futile, he lulled the Romans into complacency and then, when the conditions were right, he annihilated them.

In the years which immediately followed, a vigilant Roman presence on the Rhine prevented the Germans from exploiting their victory. But the story does not end there for Arminius or for the Cherusci. Segestes, the unhappy father-in-law of Arminius, had been drawn into the battle with his tribe due to the near unanimous will of the Cherusci to fight Rome. Still, his grudge against Arminius festered.

In 14 CE, Augustus died, and was succeeded by Tiberius. The following year, the son of Drusus and nephew of Tiberius, Germanicus commenced operations against the Chatti (his son, Gaius, nicknamed "Little Boots"- Caligula- was raised in the frontier camps...though nothing he was likely to have experienced was any worse than a horrible, and horribly false, movie made about him a few years ago!). His general, Aulus Caecina Severus, meanwhile attacked the Marsi. The Cherusci thought to aid the Chatti but Caecina's manuevers kept them in check. Tacitus wrote, "Germanicus completely surprised the Chatti. Helpless women, children, and old people were at once slaughtered or captured."

One of the ploys used to intervene in the affairs of others throughout history, particularly Roman history, has been to receive an appeal for help from someone more directly involved. Political justification had its place then even as it has now. In this case, it was Segestes who asked for Roman intervention, as he was besieged by Arminius. His envoy was his son, Segimundus, who in the year of the uprising had taken off the insignia of his Roman priesthood at the Ubian altar in order to join the Cheruscan uprising. Nonetheless, of course, he was well recieved by the Romans. Germanicus then rescued Segestes from the siege.

In the party of Segestes was Thusnelda, the pregnant wife of Arminius, and daughter of Segestes. She remained loyal to her husband and would not beg the Romans for special treatment. A son was born to her- Thumelicus- and raised at Ravenna. It seems that husband and wife were never to see one another again.

And so, the war was renewed.

The speeches inserted by classical authors in their texts were a means of expressing the issues involved as they perceived them. But while they are not actually the words of those to whom the authors attribute them, their value lies just where the author thought it to be. Tacitus tells of a speech given by the thirty-three year old Arminius to the Cherusci. "My fighting has been open, not treacherous", he said, "and it has been against armed men and not pregnant women. The groves of Germany still display the Roman Eagles and standards which I hung there in honor of the gods of our fathers." He continues, "Let Segestes live on the conquered bank, and make his son a Roman priest again- with a human being to worship!...If you prefer your country, your parents, and the old ways to settlement under tyrants abroad, then do not follow Segestes to shameful slavery- follow Arminius to glory and freedom!" How much of this speech is derived from Tacitus' love of the old freedoms of the Republic, how much by his position in the Senatorial party? Doubtless, much. And yet it is likely that he was not off the mark much in presenting Arminius as a kindred spirit in this regard. In his youth, Arminius had watched the disciplined might of Rome march into the lands of his people. When he was able, he went to join them, to stand by their sides on the battlefield. Quickly he would have learned, through the Roman views of the barbarians, of his identity. Some, like his brother Flavus, sought to become Roman. Arminius came to realize the value of his identity, of his ancestry, and of the old ways of his people (any tribal identities would've been broadened by the Roman catagorization of the Germans together). And of "the gods of our fathers", the ancestral gods we again honor today.

The Cherusci responded to the call with warlike gusto, as did those of many other tribes. Germanicus sent a detachment under Lucius Stertinius against the Bructeri, where in the midst of a campaign of terror he also recovered the Eagle of the XIX Legion. A recon mission headed by Caecina was then sent to the Teutoburger Wald to ensure a safe approach, followed by the army of Germanicus. The bones of the Romans slaughtered six years prior littered the forest. Tacitus writes, "On the open ground were the whitening bones, scattered where men had fled, heaped where they had stood and fought. Fragments of spears and of horses limbs lay there- also human heads, fastened to tree trunks. In groves nearby were the outlandish altars at which the Germans had massacred the Roman colonels and senior company-commanders". Which of these had Arminius known from his Roma service?

As an augur, Germanicus should not have handled the objects of the dead, yet he helped to bury the fallen.

Germanicus pursued, or was led by, Arminius deep into the wilderness. Finally he sent his cavalry against the Germans. Arminius proved his merit as a commander once again, using the classic tactic of withdrawing in order to draw the enemy into position, then using hidden troops to envelope him. It was only by bringing up his regular forces that Germanicus was able to avert disaster, and the battle broke off without a victor.

The season was late so the Romans made their way out towards their winter quarters. A force led by Caecina, however, found itself cut-off while seeking to cross a swamp over which a narrow causeway had been built in earlier years by Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus. Again the leadership of Arminius was telling- by forced marches and the use of short-cuts he had placed his warriors upon the gently sloping woods overlooking the bog. Assessing the situation correctly, Caecina erected a camp there in order to repair the old causeway while fending off Arminius. Even so, attacks upon the heavily armed Romans, slipping in the mud, by the experienced marsh-fighters took their toll. Were it not for the fall of night, the faltering Romans may have been overwhelmed.

The Germans showed further ingenuity by diverting streams from the surrounding hills onto the low ground, making the repair of the causeway all the more difficult.

The mood of the Romans was somber. They had just been to the site of a great Roman defeat at the hands of these very warriors they now faced. The sounds of "savage shouting and triumphant songs" in the night, the heavy scent of the marshy rot about them- what an alien and terrifying place this wild land must have seemed to them. In Caecina's dream that night, blood-drenched Varus rose from the marsh and called to him, extending his hand. Caecina, for four decades a Roman warrior, for four decades part of the conquering legions of Mars, brushed the hand aside.

Black night parted for the dawn. The Romans on the flanks had withdrawn from the demons of their fears, and this gave Arminius a clear approach. The battle surrounded Caecina, whose horse was slain beneath him. Victory neared again, but the Germans let it from their grasp again, as they turned prematurely to looting. The Romans were able to battle their way onto firm, open ground where they set up hasty defenses.

Terror reigned among the Romans that night, who felt themselves defeated, and greed ruled among the Germans, who were certain of victory. A horse broke loose in the Roman camp, and many Romans fled in terror from an imagined attack, only to be stopped by Caecina blocking their way. The Germans quarreled. Arminius wanted victory and glory, and wished to let the Romans make their way back into the swamp, because there was no other escape. He understood the tactical advantage given him in the marsh, and also that the terror-striken Romans, given a step toward escape and then attacked, would be difficult for Caecina to control. His uncle, Inguiomerus, however, wanted to capture prisoners and undamaged loot, and therefore urged that the camp be surrounded and attacked. With the next dawn, his plan was tried. Given a chance at battle on firm ground, and time to prepare, the Romans were ready. Horns and bugles filled the morning air, and the startled Germans found not cowering opponents but a fierce battle. The momentum had shifted, the Germans were defeated. For this, Caecina was awarded a triumph. Arminius made his escape and awaited another day.

He hadn't long to wait. In 16 CE, Germanicus came again for battle. The Angrivarii rose as he made his way toward the Cherusci, and Lucius Stertinus was put into his accustomed role of killing and burning. At the Weser, the Romans and the Germans faced one another across the river. Here a meeting of brothers, seperated by war and by their response to Rome, took place- Flavus on the Roman side, an eye missing from his sword-service to Rome; and Arminius on the other, commanding men of many tribes at the peak of his prowess. Flavus spoke of the greatness of Rome, of Roman wealth, of Roman harshness toward its enemies and mercy for those who submitted. Arminius spoke of patriotism, freedom, family, and "the national gods of Germany". Clearly, he percieved the Germans as a people united by a faith. The brothers nearly came to blows as the discussion became heated. Arminius shouted threats and insults in the Latin he had learned in the Roman army, thus letting the Romans know of his utter contempt. It was Lucius Stertinus who restrained Flavus.

Batavians under Chariovalda were sent across the river against the Cherusci and their allies, there to die for Rome at the hands of their kinsmen.

Germanicus had by now an advantage similar to the one wasted by Varus. He had an informer. He knew that Arminius planned a night attack upon his camp and due to the vigilance of the Romans based on this knowledge, the Germans withdrew without casting a spear. He knew, too, that Arminius planned to bring battle in a forest sacred to Donar. To Donar, who had roared in triumphant thunder-claps in the Teutoburger Wald, was offered a Roman army.

Idistaviso, the Romans were to call the battle. A level plain, with a forest behind it. This forest, however, was clear between the tree trunks, little to entangle and hamper movement. The forest sloped upward- in the heights were the Cherusci, beneath them their allies. Here, Arminius seemed to lose control of his troops- impetuously the Cherusci fell upon the Romans, who simply outflanked the Germans with their cavalry and began to roll them up from all sides. Eight eagles flew toward the forest, and Germanicus presented these symbols of Rome as omens of victory. Arminius smeared his face with his own blood- his skin colored red like the Romans honoring Mars in triumphal processions- and battled his way free again into the wilds of his homeland. Others were speared in the river or became sport for the bowmen when they climbed into the trees.

Tacitus tells of a further battle, in which Arminius- wounded or weary- did not fight vigorously, and tells of a great defeat for the Cherusci. He says, "Germanicus, who had torn off his helmet so as to be recognized, ordered his men to kill and kill. No prisoners were wanted. Only the total destruction of the tribe would end the war". Elsewhere it is written that Arminius was fought to a stalemate at times, but never beaten. Given later developments, it is safe to say that Tacitus embellished the account somewhat. Sympathetic as he might have been to Arminius' fight against tyranny for the old ways, he was still a loyal Roman who would have wanted to believe that some retribution was made for the Teutoburger Wald. It would seem rather that the Germans withdrew from an inconclusive series of fights.

Whatever the case, Germanicus was recalled by Tiberius. Tiberius said, "...the Cherusci and other rebellious tribes, now that we have duly punished them, can be left to their own internal disturbances." Indeed, very shortly Arminius and Maroboduus were at one another. Maroboduus of the Marcomanni led the Suebian confederation. Two Suebian peoples, however, sided with Arminius- the Semnones and the Lombards. Arminius' uncle, Inguiomerus, and a number of Cherusci went over to Maroboduus. Arminius was victorious. Maroboduus called upon Rome's aid, and was refused since he had offered no aid in the earlier battles. Had Germanicus enjoyed the sort of victory claimed by Tacitus, Arminius would've had a hard time raising a force able to defeat Maroboduus, who had lost nothing in the preceding conflict. Had Rome thought itself capable of inflicting such a defeat, Maroboduus' call offered the ideal political pretext to put an end to Arminius' aspirations. It must have been galling to Rome to see Arminius still the preeminant power in Germania. With the defeat of Maroboduus, too, the prospect that the still young Arminius would present a greater threat loomed large. How safe was the Rhine frontier? Could a great German confederation arise? And support had been given Segestes a few years before with much less cause than the claims of Maroboduus, a longtime friend of Rome, which were rejected. In the end the results were similar. Segestes enjoyed a comfortable exile in Gaul, Maroboduus in Ravenna. Arminius roamed the forests free.

A chieftain of the Chatti, Adgandes, offered to poison Arminius, but Tiberius refused such underhanded trickery. Nonetheless, envy and distrust of Arminius grew, due to his growing power- perhaps wielded too harshly in order to unite the Germanic tribes. Men with a vision, idealists, are often blinded to humanity. He succumbed to the treachery of kinsmen. Dead at the age of 37, yet alive still in our hearts. He drinks of the mead we offer him at sumbel, at the side of the gods he honors to this day.
 

By 47 CE, the Cherusci were so reduced by internal fueding and endless warfare with the Chatti that they asked the Roman Emperor Claudius to appoint a king over them. From Rome, there arrived a warrior, horseman, and prodigious drinker. On his mother's side he was Chatti- his mother was the daughter of Actumerus, chief of the Chatti (any relation to Adgantes?). On his father's side he was not merely Cherusci. His grandfather was Sigimer, father of Arminius. His father was Flavus. Thus Italicus became king of the Cherusci. One learns of history that the story never ends- he was expelled some years later in repeated in-fighting, and restored by the Lombards.

By the time Tacitus wrote the Germania in 98 CE, he described the Cherusci thus: "[T]he Cherusci have been left free from attack to enjoy a prolonged peace, too secure and enervating- a pleasant but perilous indulgence among powerful aggressors, where there can be no true peace. When force decides everything, forebearance and righteousness are qualities attributed only to the strong; and so the Cherusci, once known as "good, honest people", now hear themselves called lazy fools...." The fame of Arminius' deeds will last for eternity.

Tacitus tells of a speech given by the thirty-three year old Arminius to the Cherusci: "My fighting has been open, not treacherous", he said, "and it has been against armed men and not pregnant women. The groves of Germany still display the Roman Eagles and standards which I hung there in honor of the Gods of our fathers." He continues, "Let Segestes live on the conquered bank, and make his son a Roman priest again - with a human being to worship!...If you prefer your country, your parents, and the old ways to settlement under tyrants abroad, then do not follow Segestes to shameful slavery- follow Arminius to glory and freedom!"

How much of this speech is derived from Tacitus' love of the old freedoms of the Republic, how much by his position in the Senatorial party? Doubtless, much. And yet it is likely that he was not far off the mark in presenting Arminius as a kindred spirit in this regard. In his youth, Arminius had watched the disciplined might of Rome march into Germania. When he was able, he went to join his people, to stand by their sides on the battlefield. Some, like his brother Flavus, sought to become Roman. Arminius, on the other hand, came to realize the value of his ancestry, and of the old ways of his people - and of "the Gods of our fathers", the ancestral Gods we Asatruar honor today.

The Cherusci responded to the call with warlike gusto, as did many other tribes. Germanicus sent a detachment under Lucius Stertinius against the Bructeri, where in the midst of a campaign of terror, he also recovered the Eagle of the XIX Legion. A reconnaissance mission headed by Caecina was then sent to the Teutoburger Wald to ensure a safe approach, followed by the army of Germanicus. The bones of the Romans slaughtered six years earlier littered the forest. Tacitus writes, "On the open ground were the whitening bones, scattered where men had fled, heaped where they had stood and fought. Fragments of spears and of horses' limbs lay there - also human heads, fastened to tree trunks. In groves nearby were the outlandish altars at which the Germans had massacred the Roman colonels and senior company commanders."

As an augur, Germanicus should not have handled the objects of the dead, yet he helped to bury the fallen.

Germanicus pursued Arminius deep into the wilderness. Finally he sent his cavalry against the Germans. Arminius proved his merit as a commander once again, using the classic tactic of withdrawing in order to lure the enemy into position, then using hidden troops to envelope him. It was only by bringing up his regular forces that Germanicus was able to avert disaster, and the battle broke off without a victor.

The season was late, so the Romans made their way towards their winter quarters. A force led by Caecina, however, found itself cut off while seeking to cross a swamp over which a narrow causeway had been built in earlier years. Again the leadership of Arminius was telling - by forced marches and the use of shortcuts he had placed his warriors upon the gently sloping woods overlooking the bog. Assessing the situation correctly, Caecina erected a camp there in order to repair the old causeway while fending off Arminius. Even so, attacks upon the heavily armed Romans, slipping in the mud, by the experienced marsh-fighters took their toll. Were it not for the fall of night, the faltering Romans may have been overwhelmed.

The Germans showed further ingenuity by diverting streams from the surrounding hills onto the low ground, making the repair of the causeway all the more difficult.

The mood of the Romans was somber. They had just been to the site of a great Roman defeat at the hands of these very warriors they now faced. The sounds of "savage shouting and triumphant songs" in the night, the heavy scent of the marshy rot about them - what an alien and terrifying place this wild land must have seemed! In Caecina's dream that night, blood-drenched Varus rose from the marsh and called to him, extending his hand. Caecina, for four decades a Roman warrior, for four decades part of the conquering legions of Mars, brushed the hand aside.

Black night parted for the dawn. The Romans on the flanks had pulled back, and this gave Arminius a clear approach. The renewed fighting surrounded Caecina, whose horse was slain beneath him. Victory neared again, but the Germans let it from their grasp, as they turned prematurely to looting. The Romans were able to battle their way onto firm, open ground where they set up hasty defenses.

Terror reigned among the Romans that night, who felt themselves defeated, and greed ruled the Germans, who were certain of victory. A horse broke loose in the Roman camp and many Romans fled in terror from an imagined attack, only to be stopped by Caecina himself. The Germans quarreled. Arminius wanted victory and glory, and wished to let the Romans make their way back into the swamp. He understood the tactical advantage given him in the marsh, and knew that the terror-striken Romans, granted a step toward escape and then attacked, would be difficult for Caecina to control. His uncle Inguiomerus, however, wanted to capture prisoners and undamaged loot, and therefore urged that the camp be surrounded and the Romans attacked where they stood.

With the next dawn, Inguiomerus' plan was tried. Given a chance at battle on firm ground, and time to prepare, the Romans were ready. Horns and bugles filled the morning air, and the startled Germans found a fierce battle instead of the cowering opponents they had expected. The momentum had shifted, and the Germans were defeated. For this, Caecina was awarded a triumph.

Arminius made his escape and awaited another day.

He hadn't long to wait. In 16 CE, Germanicus came again for battle. The Angrivarii rose as he made his way toward the Cherusci, and Lucius Stertinus was put into his accustomed role of killing and burning. At the Weser, the Romans and the Germans faced one another across the river. Here a meeting of brothers, separated by war and by their attitude toward Rome, took place - Flavus on the Roman side, an eye missing from his sword-service to the Emperor; and Arminius on the other, commanding men of many tribes at the peak of his prowess. Flavus spoke of the greatness of Rome, of Roman wealth, of Roman harshness toward its enemies and mercy for those who submitted. Arminius spoke of patriotism, freedom, family, and "the national Gods of Germany". Clearly, Arminius percieved the Germans as a people united by a faith. The brothers nearly came to blows as the discussion became heated. Arminius shouted threats and insults in the Latin he had learned in the Roman army, thus letting the Romans know of his utter contempt. It was Lucius Stertinus who restrained Flavus.

Batavians under Chariovalda were sent across the river against the free tribes, there to die for Rome at the hands of their kinsmen.

Germanicus, through an informer, knew that Arminius planned a night attack upon his camp. Due to the resulting vigilance of the Romans, the Germans withdrew without casting a spear. Germanicus knew, too, that Arminius planned to seek battle in a forest sacred to Donar, whom Asatruar today call Thor. To Donar, who had roared in triumphant thunder-claps in the Teutoburger Wald, would be offered a Roman army!

The Romans were to call the battle Idistaviso. It took place on a level plain, with a forest behind it. The trees, however, however, contained very little undergrowth to entangle and hamper movement. The forest sloped upward - in the heights were the Cherusci, beneath them their allies. At the onset, Arminius seemed to lose control of his troops - impetuously the Cherusci fell upon the Romans, who simply outflanked the Germans with their cavalry and began to roll them up from all sides. Eight eagles flew toward the forest, and Germanicus hailed these symbols of Rome as omens of victory. Arminius smeared his face with his own blood - his skin colored red like the Romans honoring Mars in triumphal processions - and battled his way free again into the wilds of his homeland. Others were speared in the river or became sport for the bowmen when they climbed into the trees.

Tacitus tells of a further battle, in which Arminius - wounded or weary - did not fight vigorously, and calls it a great defeat for the Cherusci. He says, "Germanicus, who had torn off his helmet so as to be recognized, ordered his men to kill and kill. No prisoners were wanted. Only the total destruction of the tribe would end the war." Elsewhere he writes that Arminius was fought to a stalemate, but never beaten. Given later developments, it is safe to say that Tacitus embellished the account somewhat. Sympathetic as he might have been to Arminius' fight against tyranny and for the old ways, he was still a loyal Roman who would have wanted to believe that some retribution was made for the slaughter of his countrymen at Teutoburger Wald. A more likely explanation is simply that the Germans withdrew from an inconclusive series of fights.

Whatever the case, Germanicus was recalled by Tiberius, who said that "...the Cherusci and other rebellious tribes, now that we have duly punished them, can be left to their own internal disturbances." Indeed, this proved prophetic; very little time passed before Arminius and Maroboduus were at one another. Maroboduus, chief of the Marcomanni, led the Suebian confederation. Two Suebian peoples, however, sided with Arminius - the Semnones and the Lombards. Arminius' uncle, Inguiomerus, and a number of Cherusci went over to Maroboduus. Arminius won, partly because Maroboduus' plea for Roman aid was refused.

It must have been galling for the Romans to see Arminius still the preeminant power in Germania. With the defeat of Maroboduus, too, the prospect loomed large that the still-young Arminius would present a greater threat. How safe was the Rhine frontier? Could a great German confederation arise?

Segestes enjoyed a comfortable exile in Gaul, Maroboduus in Ravenna. Arminius roamed the forests free.

A chieftain of the Chatti, Adgandes, offered to poison Arminius, but Tiberius refused such underhanded trickery. Nonetheless, envy and distrust of Arminius grew, due to his growing power - which, perhaps, he wielded too harshly in his drive to unite the Germanic tribes. Men with a vision, idealists, are often blinded to humanity. The Cheruscan succumbed to the treachery of kinsmen and was murdered. Dead at the age of 37, he is still alive in our hearts. He drinks of the mead we offer him at sumbel, at the side of the Gods he honors to this day.

By 47 CE, the Cherusci were so reduced by internal feuding and endless warfare with the Chatti that they asked the Roman Emperor Claudius to appoint a king over them. From Rome, there arrived a warrior, horseman, and prodigious drinker. On his mother's side he was Chatti - his mother was the daughter of Actumerus, chief of the Chatti (any relation to Adgantes?). On his father's side he was not merely Cherusci. His grandfather was Sigimer, father of Arminius. His father was Flavus. Thus Italicus became king of the Cherusci. One learns of history that the story never ends- he was expelled some years later in repeated in-fighting, to be later restored by the Lombards.

By the time Tacitus wrote the Germania in 98 CE, he described the Cherusci thus: "[T]he Cherusci have been left free from attack to enjoy a prolonged peace, too secure and enervating - a pleasant but perilous indulgence among powerful aggressors, where there can be no true peace. When force decides everything, forebearance and righteousness are qualities attributed only tothe strong; and so the Cherusci, once known as 'good, honest people', now hear themselves called lazy fools...."

Whatever the ebb and flow of Cheruscan fortunes, the bright legacy of Arminius the freedom fighter, beloved of our Gods, shines still in our memories. The fame of his deeds will last for eternity!
 

Asutra Folk Assembly
 

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