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Eth. MARCOMANNI (Ethi. Μαρκομάννοι, Eth. Μαρκομμάνοι, or Eth. Μαρκομανοί), a name frequently occurring in the ancient history of Germany, sometimes as a mere appellative, and sometimes as a proper name of a distinct nation. Its meaning is border-men or march-men, and as such it might be applied to any tribe or tribes inhabiting and defending a border country. Hence we must be prepared to find Marcomanni both on the western and southern frontiers of Germany; and they might also have existed in the east, or on any other frontier. Marcomanni are first mentioned in history among the tribes with which Ariovistus had invaded Gaul, and which were defeated and driven back across the Rhine by J. Caesar, B.C. 58 (Caes. Bell. Gall. 1.51). These Marcomanni, therefore, appear to have been the marchmen on the Rhenish frontier, perhaps about the lower part of the Main. They are again mentioned during the campaigns of Drusus in Germany, from B.C. 12 to 9, by Florus (4.12), who seems to place them somewhat further in the interior. Only a few years later, we hear of a powerful Marcomannian kingdom in Boiohemum or Bohemia, governed by Maroboduus; and we might be inclined to regard these Marcomanni as quite a different people from those on the Rhine and Main,--that is, as the marchmen on the southern frontier,--were it not that we are expressly told by Tacitus (Germ. 42), Paterculus (2.108), and Strabo (vii. p.290), that their king Maroboduus had emigrated with them from the west, and that, after expelling the Celtic Boii from Bohemia, he established himself and his Marcomanni in that country. (Comp. Ptol. 2.11.25.) If we remember that the kingdom of the Marcomanni in Bohemia was fully organised as early as A.D. 6, when Tiberius was preparing for an expedition against it, it must be owned that Maroboduus, whose work it was, must have been a man of unusual ability and energy. Henceforth the name of the Marcomanni appears in history as a national name, though ethnologically it was not peculiar to any particular tribe, but was given to all the different tribes which the Marcomannian conqueror had united under his rule. The neighbouring nations whom it was impossible to subdue were secured by treaties, and thus was formed what may be termed the great Marcomannic confederacy, the object of which was to defend Germany against the Romans in Pannonia. But the Marcomanni soon also came into collision with another German confederation, that of the Cherusci, who regarded the powerful empire of Maroboduus as not less dangerous to the liberty of the German tribes than the aggressive policy of the Romans. In the ensuing contest, A.D. 17, the Marcomanni were humbled by the Cherusci and their allies, and Maroboduus implored the assistance of the emperor Tiberius. The aid was refused, but Drusus was sent to mediate peace between the hostile powers. (Tac. Ann. 2.45, 46.) During this mediation, however, the Romans seem to have stirred up other enemies against the Marcomanni; for two years later, A.D. 19, Catualda, a young chief of the Gothones, [p. 2.272]invaded and conquered their country. Maroboduus fled, and demanded the protection of Tiberius, who offered to him a safe retreat in Italy. He there spent the remaining eighteen years of his life, while the throne of the Marcomanni was left to Catualda. [Dict. of Biogr. art. MAROBODUUS.] But the latter, too, was soon expelled by the Hermunduri, and ended his life in exile. (Tac. Ann. 2.62, 63.) The Marcomanni, however, like the Quadi, continued to be governed by kings of their own, though they were not quite independent of the Romans, who often supported them with money and more rarely with troops. (Tac. Germ. 42.) They appear to have gradually extended their dominion to the banks of the Danube, where they came into hostile collision with the Romans. The emperor Domitian demanded their assistance against the Dacians, and this being refused, he made war against them. But he was defeated A.D. 90, and obliged to make peace with the Dacians. (D. C. 67.7.) Trajan and Hadrian kept them in check; but in the reign of M. Aurelius hostilities were recommenced with fresh energy. The Marcomanni, allied with the Quadi and others, partly from hatred of the Romans, and partly urged on by other tribes pressing upon them in the north and east, invaded the Roman provinces A. D. 166; and thus commenced the protracted war commonly called the Marcomannic or German War, which lasted until the accession of Commodus, A.D. 180, who purchased peace of them. During this war, the Marcomanni and their confederates advanced into Rhaetia, and even penetrated as far as Aquileia. The war was not carried on uninterruptedly, but was divided into two distinct contests, having been interrupted by a peace or truce, in which the places conquered on both sides were restored. The second war broke out towards the end of the reign of M. Aurelius, about A.D. 178. (Dio Cass. Fragm. lib. lxxi., lxxii., lxxvii. pp. 1178, foll., 1305, ed. Reimar.; Eutrop. 8.6; J. Capitol. M. Anton. Philos. 12, &c., 17, 21, 22, 25, 27; Amm. Marc. 19.6; Herodian, i. init.) In consequence of the pusillanimity of Commodus the Marcomannians were so much emboldened, that, soon after and throughout the third century, they continued their inroads into the Roman provinces, especially Rhaetia and Noricum. In the reign of Aurelian, they penetrated into Italy, even as far as Ancona, and excited great alarm at Rome. (Vopisc. Aurel. 18, 21.) But afterwards they cease to act a prominent part in history. Their name, however, is still mentioned occasionally, as in Jornandes (22), who speaks of them as dwelling on the west of Transylvania. (Comp. Amm. Marc. 22.5, 29.6, 31.4.) In the Notitia Imperii, we have mention of “Honoriani Marcomanni seniores” and “juniores” among the Roman auxiliaries. The last occasion on which their name occurs is in the history of Attila, among whose hordes Marcomanni are mentioned. (Comp. Wilhelm, Germanien, p. 212, foll.; Zeuss, Die Deutschen, p. 114, foil.; Latham, Tacit. Germ. Proleg. p. 53, foil.)


hide References (9 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (9):
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.46
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.45
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.62
    • Tacitus, Annales, 2.63
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 19.6
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 22.5
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 29.6
    • Ammianus Marcellinus, Rerum Gestarum, 31.4
    • Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, 2.11
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