Arminius bigraphy, stories - Chieftain of the Germanic Cherusci who defeated a Roman army

Arminius : biography

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Arminius (18/17 BC – AD 21), also known as Armin or Hermann (Arminius being a Latinization, similar to Brennus), was a chieftain of the Germanic Cherusci who defeated a Roman army in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. Arminius’s influence held an allied coalition of Germanic tribes together in opposition to the Romans but after defeats by the Roman general Germanicus, nephew of the Emperor Tiberius, his influence waned, and Arminius was assassinated on the orders of rival Germanic chiefs.Tacitus, Annals 2.22 ff.; Suetonius, Caligula 1.4; Dio 57.18.1; on Arminius’ assassination, Tac. Ann. 2.88; Arminius’s victory against the Roman legions in the Teutoburg forest had a far-reaching effect on the subsequent history of both the ancient Germanic peoples and on the Roman Empire. The Romans were to make no more concerted attempts to conquer and permanently hold Germania beyond the river Rhine.

Other references

In popular culture

  • Arminio is a 1692 opera about Arminius by Bohemain-Austrian composer Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber.
  • Arminio is a 1736 opera about Arminius by Handel.
  • The Robert Graves novel, I, Claudius includes a description of Arminius’s campaigns, where he is called "Hermann".
  • In 1945 by Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen, an alternate history novel describing a world in which Nazi Germany did not declare war on the United States in December, 1941, Operation Arminius is the code name for the German plan for the invasion of the United States.
  • Harry Turtledove’s 2009 historical novel Give Me Back My Legions! is a fictional retelling of Arminius’ story, from the points-of-view of Arminius himself, various Germans, and Varus and the Romans.
  • At the end of G. A. Henty’s 1887 historical novel about Hannibal and the Second Punic War, "The Young Carthaginian," the main fictional character, Malchus, a cousin of Hannibal, decides to settle with the tribes north of the Alps and becomes an ancestor of Arminius.
  • Irish Black metal band Primordial recently referred to Arminius in a song off their To The Nameless Dead album named "Heathen Tribes" with the line "Arminius stood tall in Teutoborg" in relation to the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.
  • German heavy metal band Rebellion has released a conceptual album about Arminius called Arminius – Furor Teutonicus.


Arminius, born in 18 or 17 BC, was son of the Cheruscan chief Segimerus () and trained as a Roman military commander. Hermann had lived in Rome as a hostage in his youth, where he had received a military education, and obtained Roman citizenship as well as the status of equestrian (petty noble) before returning to Germania and driving the Romans out.

"Arminius" is probably a Latinized variant of the Proto-Germanic *erminaz (Irmin) meaning "great" (cf. Herminones). During the Reformation but especially during 19th century German nationalism, Arminius was used as a symbol of the German-speaking people and their fight against Rome. It was during this period that the name "Hermann" (meaning "soldier", "army man" or "warrior") came into use as the German equivalent of Arminius; the religious reformer Martin Luther is thought to have been the first to equate the two names.

Battle of the Teutoburg Forest

Around the year 4 AD, Arminius assumed command of a Cheruscan detachment of Roman auxiliary forces, probably fighting in the Pannonian wars on the Balkan peninsula. He returned to northern Germania in 7 or 8 AD, where the Roman Empire had established secure control of the territories just east of the Rhine, along the Lippe and Main rivers, and was now seeking to extend its hegemony eastward to the Weser and Elbe rivers, under Publius Quinctilius Varus, a high-ranking administrative official appointed by Augustus as governor. Arminius began plotting to unite various Germanic tribes to thwart Roman efforts to incorporate their lands into the empire.