, or Eth. Χαιρουσκοί
), the most celebrated of all the German tribes, and mentioned even by Caesar (Caes. Gal. 6.10
) as a people of the same importance as the Suevi, from whom they were separated by the Silva Bacenis.
It is somewhat difficult to define the exact part of Germany occupied by them, as the ancients do not always distinguish between the Cheruscans proper, and those tribes which only belonged to the confederation of the Cheruscans.
But we are probably not far wrong in saying that their country extended from the Visurgis in the W. to the Albis in the E., and from Melibocus in the N. to the neighbourhood of the Sudeti in the S., so that the Chamavi and Langobardi were their northern neighbours, the Chatti the western, the Hermunduri the southern, and the Silingi and Semnones their eastern neighbours. (Comp. Caes. l.c.; D. C. 55.1
.; Flor. 4.12
After the time of Caesar, they appear to have been on good terms with the Romans; but when the latter had already subdued several of the most powerful German tribes, and had made such progress as to be able to take their winter quarters in Germany, the imprudence and tyranny of Varus, the Roman commander, brought about a change in the relation between the Romans and Cheruscans; for the latter, under their chief Arminius, formed a confederation with many smaller tribes, and in A.D. 9 completely defeated the Romans in the famous battle of the Teutoburg forest. (D. C. 56.18
; Tac. Ann. 2.9
; Vell. 2.118
; Suet. Aug. 49
; Strab. vii. p.291
After this, Germanicus waged war against them to blot out the stain which the German barbarians had cast upon the Roman name; but the Romans were unsuccessful (Tac. Ann. 1.57
, foll., 2.8, foll.), and it was only owing to the internal disputes and feuds among the Germans themselves, that they were conquered by the Chatti (Tac. Germ.
36), so that Ptolemy (2.11.19
) knew them only as a small tribe on the south of the HARZ mountain, though it is possible also that several tribes which he mentions in their neighbourhood under different names, were only branches of the great Cheruscan nation.
At a later period, in the beginning of the 4th century, the Cheruscans again appear in the confederation of the Franks. (Nazar. Paneg. Const.
18; Claudian, de IV. Cons. Hon.
450, de Bell. Get.
419; comp. Plin. Nat. 4.28
; Liv. Epit. 138
; Zeuss, Die Deutsch.
pp. 105, 383, foll.; Wilhelm, Germ.
p. 190, foil.; Latham, on Tac. Germ.
p. 129, foll.)