From the Commentary on Tacitus's _Germania_
by J.B. Rives; ISBN 0199240000
Edited and Abridged by R. Riedlinger for Heathenhistory
(42.1) Next to the Hermunduri live the Naristi and then the
Marcomani and Quadi. The Marcomani are outstanding in glory
and strength, and even obtained their very homeland through
valour, having long ago expelled the Boii; nor do the Naristi and
Quadi fall short. This so to speak is the front of Germania, so
far as defined by the Danube.
Tacitus is the earliest extant writer to mention [the Naristi], who
are probably identical with the 'Varistoi' of Ptolemy. Many
commentators place the tribe in the valley of the Regen river.
They joined the Marcomanni in their wars with the Romans. The
tribal name, with its alternate forms, does not seem to have been
Germanic in origin.
Marcomani: Although the spelling with a double 'n' is usually
adopted in modern discussions, it seems to have been a later
development, with Tacitus and earlier writers using a single 'n'.
The name is definitely Germanic, literally 'march-men', that is,
the inhabitants of a border region. Given that their later settlements
in Bohemia show them to have belonged to the Elbe cultural
grouping, it is likely that they were among the peoples who in
the first century bc had pushed westwards from that region. They
are generally thought to have settled in the upper Main valley.
This might also explain their name, since from the point of view
of other Elbe peoples they would have been living on a frontier.
It is possible that the first people to carry this name did not
constitute a real tribe at all, but were simply small groups of
warriors; it was over the second half of the first century bc that
they developed into a tribe.
Probably in 9 bc, the Marcomanni suffered a great defeat at the
hands of Drusus. As a result, they abandoned their territory on the
upper Main, and under the leadership of Maroboduus established
a new homeland in Bohemia. From this base Maroboduus
built up a powerful kingdom that had close relations with Rome.
In ad 19 the leading men of the tribe expelled Maroboduus and
replaced him with a young exile named Catualda, who was in turn
driven out shortly afterwards with the help of the Hermunduri. At
this point the Romans intervened, setting up as king Vannius of
the Quadi, whose rule lasted some thirty years. Under Vannius the
Marcomanni may have moved from Bohemia down to Moravia and
Slovakia. In ad 50, Vannius was expelled from his kingdom by his
nephews Vangio and Sido and the Hermunduran king Vibilius; the
nephews divided the kingdom between them.
For most of the first century ad, then, the Marcomanni had close
and generally friendly ties with the Romans. Under Domitian,
however, relations clearly soured. Thereafter relations between the
Marcomanni and the Romans seem to have been peaceful until the
great wars under in ad 166-73 and 17780. The Marcomanni
continue to appear in the historical record into the fifth century ad.
Quadi: This tribe for the most part have a very low profile in the
historical record. They first appear as the tribe of Vannius in
ad c.20, whose subjects were settled 'beyond the Danube,
between the Marus and Cusus rivers', generally thought to be the
Morava and the Vah. From this point on the fortunes of the Quadi
were closely bound up with those of the Marcomanni, so that the
sources often speak of both tribes together as 'Suebi'. Their origin
is obscure. Since archaeological evidence indicates that the
settlements in Moravia and Slovakia were part oftlie Elbe complex,
the Quadi were probably among the peoples who followed Maroboduus
in his trek east, although they may not have acquired a distinct
identity until they inhabited their new homelands.
It is uncertain whether the Marcomanni were responsible for the
expulsion of the Boii from Bohemia, since a sharp decline in Celtic
burials at the beginning of the first century bc suggests an emigration
as early as that date.
(42.2) Down to our own day the Marcomani and Quadi have had
kings from their own tribe, the noble line of Maroboduus and Tudrus;
now they also allow foreigners. But the kings derive their power and
influence from the authority of Rome: they are occasionally aided by
our armies, more often by our money, yet their strength is none the
Although we know many of the Marcomannic rulers in the first
century ad, we hear nothing of another from the same family as
Maroboduus; Tudrus is otherwise unknown.
Maroboduus: The great leader of the Marcomanni, who in the reign
of Augustus built up a powerful kingdom in the Elbe region.
He had as a young man spent time in Rome, where he won the
favour of Augustus and no doubt learned much at first hand about
Roman organization and government. On his return to the Marcomanni,
probably in the last decade bc, he became their chief, and led them
to new territory in Bohemia. Roman writers stress that his rule was
unusual among the Germani: it was not so dependent on special
circumstances and popular approval, but was 'a defined power and
a regal force', presumably based on his disciplined bodyguard.
From his base in Bohemia he acquired hegemony over a number of
tribes, including the Lugii, the Semnones, and the Langobardi.
from the authority of Rome: The evidence suggests that Rome
played an important, if sometimes indirect, role in the selection of
our money: Tacitus elsewhere records several examples of the
Romans refusing to send military aid to northern tribes.