), or perhaps more correctly Eth. Sennones
, are described as the most ancient and illustrious among the Suevi in the north of Germany. They dwelt between the Albis and Viadus, being surrounded on the west by the Cherusci, on the south by the Silingi, on the east by the Manimi and Burgundiones, and on the north-west by the Longobardi. (Tac. Germ.
39; Ptol. 2.11
. § § 15, 17; Vell. 2.106
.) Their country accordingly extended from the hills of Lusatia
in the south, as far as Potsdam
in the north, and in it they formed 100 communities (pagi
), which gave them such strength that they regarded themselves as the head of the Suevi. Their country contained an ancient forest (Semnonum Silva), hallowed by awful superstition and sacrificial rites; at stated seasons deputies from all the kindred tribes met in it, and commenced their proceedings with a human sacrifice. No one, moreover, was allowed to enter this forest except he was bound in chains, a mark of humiliation in the presence of the god; and if any one stumbled he was not permitted to rise, but had to crawl along.
As to the history of the Semnones, we learn from Tacitus (Tac. Ann. 2.45
) and Strabo (vii. p.290
) that in the time of Augustus they were united with the Marcomanni under Maroboduus.
In the Monumentum Ancyranum the Semnones, are mentioned among the German tribes which sought the friendship of the emperor and the Romans. They appear to have been governed by kings, one of whom bore the name of Masyus, and reigned in the time of Domitian. (D. C. 67.5
, comp. 71.20.)
After the reign of M. Aurelius they are no longer mentioned in history, from which circumstance some have unnecessarily inferred that the Semnones were not a distinct tribe, but only a general name for several kindred tribes.
As to the Silva Semnonum, it is generally supposed to have existed near Finsterwalde
between the rivers Elster
where three large places have been discovered, which were evidently intended as a sort of altars. (Kruse, Deutsche Alterth.
vol. ii. part 2, p. 132; Zeuss, Die Deutschen,