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The Roman empire under Hadrian (ruled 117-38), showing the location of the Marcomanni Germanic people in the region of the upper Danube (modern N Austria/Czech republic)

The Marcomanni were a Germanic tribe, probably related to the Buri, Suebi or Suevi.





Scholars believe their name derives from one of two possible sources: (1) old Germanic forms of "march" ("frontier, border") and "men"; or (2) the name of a Roman legate, Marcus Fabius Romanus, who deserted Drusus' legions during his German campaign in ca. 13 BC and is thought to have banded together a ragtag group of Germanic tribes into a cohesive fighting force (see POMOERIVM, vol. 3, 1998). Another source indicates that Marcus Fabius Romanus was exiled for wheat speculation and did not, in fact, desert the army on campaign though the source also links Romanus with the Marcomanni in the years following his exile. Several primary sources cite Romanus as a senator, a large landholder, and, controversially, a financial backer of one of the primary chariot racing factions (also POMOERIVM, vol. 3, 1998).

Drusus attacked the Marcomanni in 9 BC, forcing them into what is now Bohemia. There their king Maroboduus established a powerful kingdom that Augustus perceived as a threat to Rome. Before he could act, however, the war in Illyria intervened. Eventually Maroboduus was deposed and exiled by Catualda (AD 19).

Tacitus, in the late 1st century mentions (Germania I.42) the Marcommani as being under kings appointed by Rome. [1]

Marcomannic Wars

In the 2nd century AD, the Marcomanni entered into a confederation with other peoples including the Quadi, Vandals, and Sarmatians, against the Roman Empire. This was probably driven by movements of larger tribes, like the Goths. According to the historian Eutropius, the forces of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius battled against the Marcomannic confederation for three years at the fortress of Carnuntum in Pannonia. Eutropius compared the war, and Marcus Aurelius' success against the Marcomanni and their allies, to the Punic Wars. The comparison was apt in that this war marked a turning point and had significant Roman defeats; it caused the death of two Praetorian Guard commanders. The war began in 166, when the Marcomanni overwhelmed the defences between Vindobona and Carnuntum, penetrated along the border between the provinces of Pannonia and Noricum, laid waste to Flavia Solva, and could be stopped only shortly before reaching Aquileia on the Adriatic sea. The war lasted until Marcus Aurelius' death in 180. It would prove to be only a limited success for Rome; the Danube river remained as the frontier of the Empire until the final fall of the West.

Later history

The Christianisation of the Marcomanni occurred under their queen Fritigil (mid fourth century), who corresponded with Ambrose of Milan to bring about the conversion.

There is a runic alphabet called the Marcomannic runes, but they are not believed to be related to the Marcomannic people.

After crossing the Pyrenees in 409, a group of Marcomanni, Quadi and Buri, established themselves in the Roman province of Gallaecia (modern Galicia and northern Portugal), where they were considered foederati and founded the Suebi Kingdom of Gallaecia. There, Hermeric swore fealty to the emperor in 410. Bracara Augusta, the modern city of Braga in Portugal, previously the capital of Roman Gallaecia, now became the capital of the Suebic kingdom.

List of Kings of the Marcomanni

  1. Maroboduus, c. 9 BC - AD 19
  2. Ballomar, c. 166 AD ? - AD 172 or 178 ?

See also

Classical Sources

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MARCOMANNI (i.e. men of the mark, or border), the name of a Suevic tribe. With kindred peoples they were often in conflict with the Roman Empire, and gave their name to the Marcomannic War, a struggle waged by the emperor Marcus Aurelius against them and the Quadi. The Marcomanni disappeared from history during the 4th century, being probably merged in the Baiouarii, the later Bavarians.

See Suebi; also F. M. Wittmann, Die alteste Geschichte der Markomannen (Munich, 1855), and E. Devrient, "Hermunduren and Markomannen" in Neues Jahrb. f. das klassische Altertum (1901), 51.

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