Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Langobards and the Battle of the Teutoborg Forest - Part II

Edward Peters, the editor of the book 'History of the Lombards', gave his take on this subject in the first footnote of 'Book I, Chapter VII:

"Scoringa, according to Miillenhoff's explanation in which Bluhme concurs, is "Shoreland" (see Schmidt, 43). Bluhme considers it identical with the later Bardengau, on the left bank of the lower Elbe where the town of Bardowick, twenty-four miles southeast of Hamburg, perpetuates the name of the Langobards even down to the present time. Hammerstein (Bardengau, 56) explains Scoringa as Schieringen near Bleckede in the same region. Schmidt (43) believes that the settlement in Scoringa has a historical basis and certainly, if the name indicates the territory in question, it is the place where the Langobards are first found in authentic history. They are mentioned in connection with the campaigns undertaken by Tiberius against various German tribes during' the reign of Augustus in the fifth and sixth year of the Christian era, in the effort to extend the frontiers of the Roman empire from the Rhine to the Elbe (Mommsen, Romische Geschichte, V, 33). The Langobards then dwelt in that region which lies between the Weser and the lower Elbe. They were described by the court historian Velleius Paterculus (II, 106), who accompanied one of the expeditions as prefect of cavalry (Schmidt, 5), as "more fierce than ordinary German savagery,'' and he tells us that their power was broken by the legions of Tiberius.

"It would appear also from the combined testimony of Strabo (A. D. 20) and Tacitus (A, D. 117) that the Langobards dwelt near the mouth of the Elbe shortly after the beginning of the Christian era, and were in frequent and close relations with the Hermunduri and Semnones, two great Suevic tribes dwelling- higher up the stream. Strabo (see Hodgkin, V, 81) evidently means to assert that in his time the Hermunduri and Langobards had been driven from the left to the right bank. Ptolemy who wrote later (100-161) places them upon the left bank. Possibly both authors were right for different periods in their history (Hodgkin, V, 82). The expedition of Tiberius was the high-water mark of Roman invasion on Teutonic soil, and when a Roman fleet, sailing up the Elbe, established communication with a Roman army upon the bank of that river, it might well be thought that the designs of Augustus were upon the point of accomplishment, and that the boundary of the empire was to be traced by connecting the Danube with the Elbe. The dominions of Marobod, king of the Marcomanni, who was then established in Bohemia, would break the continuity of this boundary, so the Romans proceeded to invade his territories. An insurrection, however, suddenly broke out in Illyricum and the presence of the Roman army was required in that region.

"So a hasty peace was concluded with Marobod, leaving him the possessions he already held. It required four successive campaigns and an enormous number of troops (Mommsen, Rom. Gesch., Vol. V, pp. 35-38) to suppress the revolt. While the Roman veterans were engaged in the Illyrian war, great numbers of Germans led by Arminius, or Hermann, of the Cheruscan tribe rose in rebellion. In the ninth year of our era, Varus marched against them at the head of a force composed largely of new recruits. He was surprised and surrounded in the pathless recesses of the Teutoburg forest and his army of some twenty thousand men was annihilated (id., pp. 38-44). It is not known whether the Langobards were among the confederates who thus arrested the conquest of their country by the Roman army, although they dwelt not far from the scene of this historic battle. They were then considered, however, to belong to the Suevian stock and were subject, not far from this time, to the king of the Marcomanni, a Suevian race (id., p. 34; Tacitus Germania, 38-40; Annals, II, 45), and king Marobod took no part in this war on either side as he had made peace with the Romans. The defeat of Varus was due largely to his own incompetency and it would not appear to have been irretrievable when the immense resources of the Roman empire are considered.

"Still no active offensive operations against the barbarians were undertaken until after the death of Augustus and the succession of Tiberius, A. D. 14, when in three campaigns, the great Germanicus thrice invaded Germany, took captive the wife and child of Arminius, defeated the barbarians in a sanguinary battle, and announced to Rome that in the next campaign the subjugation of Germany would be complete (Mommsen, id., pp. 44-50). But Tiberius permitted no further campaign to be undertaken. The losses suffered by the Romans on the sea as well as on land had been very severe, and whether he was influenced by this fact and by the difficulty of keeping both Gaul and Germany in subjection if the legions were transferred from the Rhine to the Elbe, or whether he was actuated by jealousy of Germanicus, and feared the popularity the latter would acquire by the subjugation of all Germany, cannot now be decided, but he removed that distinguished commander from the scene of his past triumphs and his future hopes, sent him to the East on a new mission, left the army on the Rhine divided and without a general-in-chief, and adopted the policy of keeping that river as the permanent boundary of the empire (id., p. 50-54). Thus the battle in the Teutoburg forest resulted in the maintenance of German independence and ultimately perhaps in the overthrow of the Roman empire itself by German barbarians.

"It marked the beginning of the turn of the tide in Roman conquest and Roman dominion, for although the empire afterwards grew in other directions yet behind the dike here erected, the forces gradually collected which were finally to overwhelm it when it became corrupted with decay. When the legions of Varus were destroyed, the head of the Roman commander was sent to Marobod and his cooperation solicited. He refused however to join the confederated German tribes, he sent the head to Rome for funeral honors, and continued to maintain between the empire and the barbarians, the neutrality he had observed in former wars. This refusal to unite in the national aspirations for German independence, cost him his throne. " Not only the Cheruscans and their confederates " says Tacitus (Ann. II, 45) "who had been the ancient soldiery of Arminius, took arms, but the Semnones and Langobards, both Suevian nations, revolted to him from the sovereignty of Marobod . . . . The armies (Ch. 46) . . . . were stimulated by reasons of their own, the Cheruscans and the Langobards fought for their ancient honor or their newly acquired independence, and the others for increasing their dominion." This occurred in the seventeenth year of our era. Marobod was finally overthrown, and took refuge in exile with the Romans, and it was not long until Arminius, accused of aspiring to despotic power, was assassinated by a noble of his own race (Mommsen, id. 54-56).

"After his death the internal dissensions among the Cheruscans became so violent that the reigning family was swept away, and in the year 47 they asked the Romans to send them as their king the one surviving member of that family, Italirus, the nephew of Arminius, who was born at Rome where he had been educated as a Roman citizen. Accordingly Italicus, with the approval of the emperor Claudius, assumed the sovereignty of the Cheruscans. At first he was received with joy, but soon the cry was raised that with his advent the old liberties of Germany were departing and Roman power was becoming predominant. A struggle ensued, and he was expelled from the country. Again, the Langobards appear upon the scene, with sufficient power as it seems to control the destiny of the tribe which, thirty-eight years before, had been the leader in the struggle for independence, for they restored him to the sovereignty of which he had been despoiled by his inconstant subjects (Tacitus Annals, XI, 16, 17). These events and other internal disturbances injured the Cheruscans so greatly that they soon disappeared from the field of political activity (Mommsen, id., 132). During the generations that followed there was doubtless many a change in the power, the territories and even the names of the various tribes which inhabited Germania Magna, but for a long time peace was preserved along the frontiers which separated them from the Roman world (id., p. 133). It is somewhat remarkable that none of those events appear in the Langobard tradition as contained in the pages of Paul."

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