The Tencteri or Tenchteri or Tenctheri (in Plutarch's Greek, Tenteritē[1] and possibly the same as the Tenkeroi mentioned by Claudius Ptolemy if these were not the Tungri[2]) were an ancient tribe, who moved into the area on the right bank (the northern or eastern bank) of the lower Rhine in the 1st century BC. They are known first from the surviving works of ancient authors such as Julius Caesar and Tacitus. In December 2015, archaeologists found remains of the Tencteri in The Netherlands.[3]

While the Tencteri and their neighbours were referred to by the Romans as Germanic rather than Gauls, their recorded names (including personal names) are most reasonably explained as Celtic: Tencteri is generally translated as "the faithful".[4]

Germania tribes
Some of the tribes in Germania during the Roman empire.

Tencteri and Usipetes in the time of Julius Caesar

In his Commentarii de Bello Gallico, Caesar describes how two tribes, the Tencteri and Usipetes, had been driven from their traditional lands by the Germanic Suebi, whose military dominance had led to constant warfare and neglect of agriculture. This original homeland of the two tribes is not clear but by the time of Caesar the Suebi had settled in a very large wooded area to the east of the Ubii, who at this time lived on the east bank of the Rhine, on the opposite bank from where Cologne is today. It has been argued that the Tencteri and Usipetes specifically may have come from the area of the Weser river to the east of the Sigambri, because it is near to where the two tribes appeared on the Rhine, and Caesar reports the Suevi in this area. It would also explain the apparently friendly relations of the Tencteri and Usipetes with the Sigambri, who might have been their traditional neighbours.[5] (In later Roman times this area inhabited by Caesar's Suebi was inhabited by the Chatti.[6])

In the winter 55 BC, having failed to find new lands elsewhere in Germania, they came to the mouth of the Rhine, into the territory of the Menapii, a Belgic tribe which had land on both sides of the river and had not yet submitted to Roman rule. Alarmed by the scale of the incursion, the Menapii had withdrawn from their territories east of the Rhine and successfully resisted the Germani bid to cross it for some time. The Germani feigned a retreat, allowing the Menapii to return to their territories east of the Rhine. Their cavalry then returned and made a surprise night attack. They crossed the river and seized Menapian boats, occupied Menapian villages and towns, and spent the rest of the winter living on Menapian provisions.

Caesar, fearing how the Gauls on the left bank might react, hurried to deal with this threat to his command of the region. He discovered that a number of Gaulish tribes had attempted to pay these Germani generously to leave, but the Tencteri and Usipetes had ranged further, coming to the frontiers of the Condrusi and Eburones, who were both under the protection of the Treveri to their south. Caesar convened a meeting of the Gaulish chiefs, and, pretending he did not know of their attempts at bribery, demanded cavalry and provisions for war against the Tencteri and Usipetes.

The Tencteri and Usipetes sent ambassadors to Caesar as he advanced. While they boasted of their military strength, claiming that they could defeat anyone but the Suebi, they offered an alliance, requesting that Caesar assign them land. Caesar refused any alliance so long as the Tencteri and Usipetes remained in Gaul. He proposed settling them in the territory of the Ubii, another Germanic tribe who had sought his help against the aggression of the Suebi, there being no land available in Gaul.

The ambassadors requested a truce of three days, during which time neither side would advance towards the other, and they took Caesar's counter-proposal to their leaders for consideration. But Caesar would not accept this, believing the Germani were buying time for the return of their cavalry, who had crossed the Meuse to plunder the Ambivariti a few days previously. As Caesar continued to advance, further ambassadors requested a three-day truce for them to negotiate with the Ubii about his settlement proposal, but Caesar refused for the same reason. He offered a single day, during which he would advance no more than four miles, and ordered his officers to act defensively and not to provoke battle.

The Germanic cavalry, although outnumbered by Caesar's Gallic horsemen, made the first attack, forcing the Romans to retreat. Caesar describes a characteristic battle-tactic they used, where a horsemen would leap down to their feet and stab enemy horses in the belly. Accusing them of violating the truce, Caesar refused to accept any more ambassadors, arresting some who came requesting a further truce, and led his full force against the Germanic camp. The Usipetes and Tencteri were thrown into disarray and forced to flee, pursued by Caesar's cavalry, to the confluence of the Rhine and Meuse. Many were killed attempting to cross the rivers.[7][8] They found refuge on the other side of the Rhine amongst the Sicambri.

Plutarch reports that back in Rome,

Cato pronounced the opinion that they ought to deliver up Caesar to the Barbarians, thus purging away the violation of the truce in behalf of the city, and turning the curse therefor on the guilty man. Of those who had crossed the Rhine into Gaul four hundred thousand were cut to pieces, and the few who succeeded in making their way back were received by the Sugambri, a German nation. This action Caesar made a ground of complaint against the Sugambri, and besides, he coveted the fame of being the first man to cross the Rhine with an army.[9]

Concerning the exact location of this slaughter, archaeologist Nico Roymans has announced in 2015 that convincing evidence has been found that it was in fact in the confluence of Waal, a branch of the Rhine and not the Rhine itself, and the Maas/Meuse, near Kessel.[10]

Later mentions

In 16 BC, the Tencteri, Usipetes and Sicambri once again crossed the Rhine and attacked Gaul. Marcus Lollius was defeated and the Germanic tribes took the standard of the 5th legion.[11]

Tacitus describes the Tencteri as living in his time (approximately 98AD), and also at the time of the Batavian revolt (69/70 AD), between the Chatti and the Rhine, across from the Ubii who had been settled in Cologne. This means that they had settled in the area once inhabited by the Ubii (which is what Caesar had been considering already in his time). The Sicambri to the north of this area, had also apparently been moved by this time, and possibly partly replaced by their neighbours the Tencteri and Bructeri.

Orosius reports that the Tencteri, and not only the Sicambri and Usipetes, were defeated by Drusus.

Later, the difficult to interpret description given in Claudius Ptolemy's Geography describes the Tenkeroi and Incrionoes living between the Rhine and the Black Forest (Abnoba) mountain range, implying that the Tencteri had moved southwards up the Rhine.

In the Peutinger map, the area across from Cologne and Bonn is inhabited by the "Burcturi" (Bructeri), who may have included a mixture of several of the original Germanic tribes from over the Rhine, including the Tencteri and Usipetes. To their north are Franks and to their south on the Rhine were Suevi.

See also


  1. ^ Plut. Caes. 22
  2. ^ Geography 2.10
  3. ^ Julius Caesar battlefield unearthed in southern Netherlands
  4. ^ Tencteri seems to be Celtic rather than Germanic (germ. *Tincteri), but could well be either. Rübekeil, Diachrone Studien zur Kontaktzone zwischen Kelten und Germanen, Wien, 2002, p. 383f.
  5. ^ https://books.google.com/books?id=6HCeJU_7SFwC&pg=PA61
  6. ^ Peck (1898), Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities
  7. ^ Julius Caesar, Commentarii de Bello Gallico 4.1-15
  8. ^ Lee, K.H. "Caesar's Encounter with the Usipetes and the Tencteri." Greece & Rome 2nd vol. 2 (1969): 100-103.
  9. ^ Plut. Caes. 22
  10. ^ http://www.nationalgeographic.nl/artikel/genocidaire-slachting-onder-leiding-van-julius-caesar-bij-kessel
  11. ^ Lanting; Van Der Plicht (2010), "De 14C chronologie van de Nederlandse Pre- and Protohistorie VI: Romeinse tijd en Meronvingische periode, deel A: historische bronnen en chronologische thema's", Palaeohistoria, 51/52
55 BC

Year 55 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Crassus and Pompey (or, less frequently, year 699 Ab urbe condita). The denomination 55 BC for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.


The Ampsivarii, sometimes referenced by modern writers as Ampsivari (a simplification not warranted by the sources), were a Germanic tribe mentioned by ancient authors.Their homeland was originally around the middle of the river Ems, which flows into the North Sea at the Dutch-German border. Most likely they lived between the Bructeri minores (located at the delta of the river IJssel) and the Bructeri maiores, who were living south of them on the upper Ems. It is supposed that their name is a Latin rendering of the Germanic "Ems-werer", meaning "men of the Ems". Reconstruction of the location of other tribes in the area places the Ampsivarii on the lower Ems. The names of least two modern towns reflect that of the river and tribe: Emden (in Germany) and Emmen (in the Netherlands).


The Bructeri (Greek Βρούκτεροι; but Βουσάκτεροι in Strabo) were a Germanic tribe in Roman imperial times, located in northwestern Germany, in present-day North Rhine-Westphalia. Their territory included both sides of the upper Ems (Latin Amisia) and Lippe (Latin Luppia) rivers. At its greatest extent, their territory apparently stretched between the vicinities of the Rhine in the west and the Teutoburg Forest and Weser river in the east. In late Roman times they moved south to settle upon the east bank of the Rhine facing Cologne, an area later known as the kingdom of the Ripuarian Franks.


The Casuari were an ancient Germanic people. Ptolemy mentions them as living on the southern border of Germany, east of the Abnoba mountains, that are east of the Rhine. They were therefore neighbours of the Tencteri, a tribe living between the Rhine and the Abnoba mountains. Their origins can be traced back to those of the Alemanni and Khatti, they descend from Assyrian tribes who migrated into Europe to settle. Ptolemy also mentions them as having founded the town of Suevos Casuari. The Casuari were most likely numerous during and around the time of Ptolemy, which is around 90 to 168 AD. Being a small tribe, very little remains of them, and most evidence comes from written sources.


The Chamavi were a Germanic tribe of Roman imperial times whose name survived into the Early Middle Ages. They first appear under that name in the 1st century AD Germania of Tacitus as a Germanic tribe that lived to the north of the Lower Rhine. Their name probably survives in the region today called Hamaland, which is in the Gelderland province of the Netherlands, between the IJssel and Ems rivers.


The Chasuarii were an ancient Germanic tribe known from the reports of authors writing in the time of the Roman empire. They lived somewhere to the east and north of the Rhine, near the modern river Hase, which feeds into the Ems. This means they lived near modern Osnabrück.

Tacitus in his Germania (Chapter 34) says they are between Ems and Weser, to the north of the Angrivarii and Chamavi (who had also expanded into the area once belonging to the Bructeri, between Ems, Weser and Lippe). In this same area as the Chasuarii were the Dulgubnii (but then probably nearer the Weser).

To their north, on the coast of the North Sea, were the Chauci. By the account of Tacitus, the Chauci in his time had not only the coast in this region, but would have also stretched down to the lands of the Cherusci (north of the Harz mountains) and Chatti (in modern Hessen).

Claudius Ptolemy in his Geography places Chasuarii (Κασουάροι), east of the Tencteri and Abnoba mountains which run north-south and parallel with the Rhine, and west of the Harz mountains where he places some Chamavi (Camavi) between the Cherusci and the Chatti. Interpretation of this passage in Ptolemy is difficult, and it may contain systematic errors. The position for the Chasuarii and Chamavi and many other tribes does not correspond to other sources, and for example in the case of the Chamavi and Tubantes, this includes post Roman records.

Although the theory is not widely supported, the Chasuarii are sometimes thought to be equivalent to, or related to, the Chattuari, and maybe even the Chatti, based on similarity of names.

Clades Lolliana

The clades Lolliana or Lollian disaster was a battle in 16 BCE, when the consul Marcus Lollius Paulinus was defeated by the Sicambri, Tencteri and Usipetes, Germanic tribes who had crossed the Rhine. This defeat is coupled by the historian Suetonius with the disaster of Publius Quinctilius Varus in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, but it was disgraceful rather than dangerous.


The Condrusi were a Germanic tribe of ancient Belgium, which takes its name from the political and ethnic group known to the Romans as the Belgae. The Condrusi were probably located in the region now known as Condroz, named after them, between Liège and Namur. The terrain is wooded hills on the northeastern edge of the Ardennes.

The Belgae were distinguished from the Celts and apparently claimed to be of Germanic descent. From Belgic names we know that the Belgae were heavily influenced by the Gaulish language, but from other information we know that they were also heavily influenced by Germanic peoples on the east of the Rhine river. In particular, the Condrusi were in the tribal group known as the Germani cisrhenani, who are amongst the Belgae most strongly associated with Germanic ancestry.

We learn all we know about the Condrusi from Julius Caesar in Commentarii de Bello Gallico. In 2.4, Caesar states that the Belgian Germani had crossed the Rhine long ago to take control of the fertile land on the other side. They kept a distinct identity, and a reputation for military strength, because they were the only Gauls who successfully resisted the Cimbri and Teutones during their migrations in the second century BCE.Whether the Germani cisrhenani in Belgium actually spoke a Germanic language, is uncertain, but in any case it was claimed by Tacitus that these Germani were the original Germani, and that the term Germani as it came to be widely used was not the original meaning. He also said that the descendants of the original Germani in his time were the Tungri.In chapter 2.4 of Caesar's commentaries the Condrusi are specifically listed amongst the Germani, along with the Eburones, the Caeroesi, and the Paemani. At that time, in 57 BCE, they were joining an alliance of Belgic tribes against Caesar. The alliance met with defeat at the Battle of the Sabis, but some, including many of the Germani, most notably the Eburones, renewed fighting in 54 BCE.

In 4.6 Caesar reports that the Condrusi were under the protection of the Treveri along with the Eburones. How this circumstance came about is not known, but their territories were thereby not invaded by the Usipetes and Tencteri who had lost their own lands to Suebi and then crossed the Rhine into the lands of the Menapii.In 6.32 the Condrusi are again mentioned as Germani "on this side of the Rhine" (citra Rhenum), this time along with the Segni (or Segui), as a German tribe claiming not to be involved in the rebellion. Both tribes were reported to live between the Eburones and the Treviri.After their defeat or capitulation, the Germani cisrhenani became part of the civitas Tungrorum in Roman province of Gallia Belgica. But this civitas was eventually split out to become part of Germania Inferior. An inscription in Scotland shows that soldiers from the pagus Condrustis served within the second cohort of the Tungrian civitas, and worshipped a goddess named Viradecthis.

The name of the pagus Condrustis survived not only into Roman times but into the Carolingian era also, being mentioned as a county in the early Middle Ages. In this way, the name, like many medieval county names, has managed to survive down to the present day, at least as a geographical term.


The Dulgubnii are a Germanic tribe mentioned in Tacitus' Germania (Chapter 34) as living in what is today northwest Germany. Tacitus describes them being to the north of the Angrivarii and Chamavi, and as having moved from the north into the area once belonging to the Bructeri, between Ems, Lippe, and Weser. In this same area as the Dulgubnii, north of the Chamavi and Angrivarii, were the Chasuarii, and north of these, on the North Sea coast, where the Chauci. The Chasuarii's name is thought to derive from the River Hase which feeds into the middle of the Ems from the east, just northwest of the area associated with the Angrivarii, on the Weser. So from Tacitus it appears that the Dulgubnii probably lived near the Weser.

By the account of Tacitus, the Chauci in his time lived not only along the whole German coast, but would have also stretched down to the lands of the Cherusci and Chatti. So they were probably the neighbours of the Dulgubnii on the east.

The Dulgubnii in Tacitus are probably the same as Ptolemy's Doulgoumnioi of the same region (Book 2, Chapter 10). (Many Germanic names are corrupted in Ptolemy's Greek.) Ptolemy describes them near the Elbe, so to the east of the position described by Tacitus, in an area Tacitus associated with the Chauci. They are described as having the "Laccobardi" (Langobardi) to their north, and the "Suebi Angili" (Angles) to their south. To their east are the Angrivarii, still near the Weser, and then the "Chamae" (Chamavi), between Ems and Weser, north of the Bructeri who are now on the Rhine.

In Ptolemy, the Chamae, Angrivarii, and Laccobardi have the Chauci directly on their north, all the way to the coast, and stretched from Ems to Elbe. And the Dulgubnii are no longer between the Chauci and the Chamavi and Angrivarii. Compared to Tacitus, the Chasuarii had also moved away. Ptolemy mentions Casuari far to the south, east of the Abnoba mountains that run east of the Rhine (with the Tencteri apparently between Rhine and Abnoba at that point).

Early Imperial campaigns in Germania

The early Imperial campaigns in Germania (12 BC–AD 16) were a series of conflicts between the Germanic tribes and the Roman Empire. Tensions between the Germanic tribes and the Romans began as early as 17 BC with Clades Lolliana, where the 5th Legion under Marcus Lollius was defeated by the tribes Sugambri, Usipetes, and Tencteri. Rome's emperor Augustus responded by rapidly developing military infrastructure across Gaul. His general, Nero Claudius Drusus, began building forts along the Rhine in 13 BC and launched a retaliatory campaign across the Rhine in 12 BC.

Drusus led three more campaigns against the Germanic tribes in the years 11–9 BC. For the campaign of 10 BC, he was celebrated as being the Roman who traveled farthest east into Northern Europe. Succeeding generals would continue attacking across the Rhine until AD 16, notably Publius Quinctilius Varus in AD 9. During the return trip from his campaign, Varus was betrayed by Arminius, who was an ally of Rome and leader of the Cherusci. Roman expansion into Germania Magna had stopped as a result, and all campaigns immediately after were in retaliation of the Clades Variana and to prove that Roman military might could still overcome German lands. The last general to lead Roman forces in the region during this time was Germanicus, the adoptive son of emperor Tiberius, who in AD 16 had launched the final major military expedition by Rome into Germany. The Roman Empire wouldn't launch another major incursion into Germany until Marcus Aurelius (r. 161–180) during the Marcomannic Wars.

Germani cisrhenani

The Germani cisrhenani (Latin cis-rhenanus "on the hither side of the Rhine", also "Left bank Germani".), were a group of tribes who lived west of the Lower Rhine at the time of the Gallic Wars (mid-1st century BC).

The name is first mentioned by Julius Caesar, who was writing specifically about tribes near the Meuse river, who had settled among the Belgae before Roman intrusion into the area. Tribes who were certainly considered to be among the original Germani cisrhenani include the Eburones, the Condrusi, the Caeraesi, the Segni and the Paemani, who collectively form a group which apparently later came to be referred to as Tungri, in order to avoid confusion with other "Germani" once, by the time of Tacitus, the term had been extended to include, or more strongly associated with, the vast area of Germania magna beyond the limits of the Roman Empire.


The Hermunduri, Hermanduri, Hermunduli, Hermonduri, or Hermonduli were an ancient Germanic tribe, who occupied an area near the Elbe river, around what is now Thuringia, Bohemia, Saxony (in East Germany), and Franconia in northern Bavaria, from the first to the third century. At times, they apparently moved to the Danube frontier with Rome. The Thuringii may have been the descendants of the Hermunduri. Claudius Ptolemy mentions neither tribe in his geography but instead the Teuriochaemae, who may also be connected to both.


The Istvaeones (also spelled Istævones) were a Germanic group of tribes living near the banks of the Rhine during the Roman empire which reportedly shared a common culture and origin. The Istaevones were contrasted to neighbouring groups, the Ingaevones on the North Sea coast, and the Herminones, living inland of these groups.

In linguistics, the term "Istvaeonic languages" is also sometimes used in discussions about the grouping of the northwestern West Germanic languages, consisting of Frankish and its descendants (principally Old Dutch) as well as several closely related historical dialects. Whether or not the Istvaeones spoke a Germanic language according to modern definitions, the theory proposes that their language indirectly influenced later Germanic languages in the area as a substrate.


The Marcomanni were a Germanic tribal confederation who eventually came to live in a powerful kingdom north of the Danube, somewhere in the region near modern Bohemia, during the peak of power of the nearby Roman Empire. According to Tacitus and Strabo they were Suebian.

Ripuarian Franks

Ripuarian or Rhineland Franks (Latin: Ripuarii or Ribuarii) were one of the two main groupings of early Frankish people, and specifically it was the name eventually applied to the tribes who settled in the old Roman territory of the Ubii, with its capital at Cologne on the Rhine river in modern Germany. Their western neighbours were the Salii, or "Salian Franks", who were named already in late Roman records, and settled with imperial permission within the Roman Empire in what is today the southern part of the Netherlands, and Belgium, and later expanded their influence into the northern part of France above the Loire river, creating a Frankish empire.

Both the Salii and Ripuarii were new names and represented new groupings of older tribal groups on the Roman Rhine border. The ancestors of the Ripuarii originally lived on the right bank of the Rhine, where there had been a long history of friendly and unfriendly contact. Under pressure from their northern enemies, the Saxons, they were first able to infiltrate the left bank of the Rhine in 274 AD. In the chaotic years after the definitive collapse of Roman power in western Europe, they managed to occupy the Roman city of Cologne and the lower and middle Rhineland in present-day North Rhine-Westphalia.

Few historical details are known before the Rhineland kingdom eventually became an important part of the Merovingian Frankish empire in the sub-kingdom known as Austrasia, which also included the original Germanic speaking Salian region. Austrasia included not only the Rhineland-Palatinate, but apparently the whole of the Germania Inferior (re-named in the late Roman empire as Germania II) and Gallia Belgica II. The border between Austrasia and Neustria was the Silva Carbonaria in modern Wallonia, but the exact definition of this forest region is now unclear.

On the right bank of the Rhine, the Ripuarian Franks had control over the river basin of the Main, in later years also called Franconia, one of the five stem duchies, from which in the middle of the 9th century the kingdom of Germany was formed.

In the 7th century a law code for Austrasia was published as the Lex Ripuaria. After the reign of the last capable Salian Frankish king, Dagobert I in 639, the Carolingian Austrasian mayordomos gradually took over power, transforming Austrasia into the heartland of the Carolingian Empire.

The Iron Hand of Mars

The Iron Hand of Mars is a 1992 historical mystery crime novel by Lindsey Davis and the fourth book of the Marcus Didius Falco Mysteries series. Set in Rome and Germania during AD 71, the novel stars Marcus Didius Falco, informer and imperial agent. The iron in the title refers to the standard, shaped like a giant hand made of iron, which Falco is required to deliver to the imperial legions in Germany.


The Ubii were a Germanic tribe first encountered dwelling on the east bank of the Rhine in the time of Julius Caesar, who formed an alliance with them in 55 BC in order to launch attacks across the river. They were transported in 39 BC by Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa to the west bank, apparently at their own request, as they feared the incursions of their neighbors, the Chatti.A colony for Roman veterans was founded in 50 AD under the patronage of Agrippa's granddaughter, Agrippina the Younger, who had been born at Ara Ubiorum, the capital of the Ubii. The colony derived its title from the names of Agrippina and her husband, the emperor Claudius, and received the name Colonia Claudia Ara Augusta Agrippinensium, which is the origin of the city's modern name, Cologne. Alongside the allotment of land to veterans, the existing town of Ara Ubiorum was elevated to the status of a colonia, which would have conferred many privileges on the inhabitants. The Ubii were also at Bonna (Bonn) of the Eburones.

The Ubii remained loyal allies of Rome; they were instrumental in crushing the Batavian rebellion in 70 and, although some of them made part of the invasion of Pannonia in 166, they become foederati supporting Roman troops in the Marcomannic Wars in 166-67.

They seem to have been so thoroughly Romanized that they adopted the name Agrippinenses in honour of their "founder", and their later history is submerged with other Franks in that of eastern Gaul as a whole.


Usipetes or Usipii (in Plutarch's Greek, Ousipai, and possibly the same as the Ouispoi of Claudius Ptolemy) were an ancient tribe who moved into the area on the right bank (the northern or eastern bank) of the lower Rhine in the 1st century BC, putting them in contact with Gaul and the Roman empire. They are known first from the surviving works of ancient authors such as Julius Caesar and Tacitus. They appear to have moved position several times before disappearing from the historical record.

While the Usipetes and their neighbours were referred to by the Romans as Germanic rather than Gauls, their recorded names, including personal names, are most reasonably explained as Celtic: Usipetes has been translated as "good riders", and Caesar and others report them to have strong cavalry.


Veleda was a priestess and prophet of the Germanic tribe of the Bructeri who achieved some prominence during the Batavian rebellion of AD 69–70, headed by the Romanized Batavian chieftain Gaius Julius Civilis, when she correctly predicted the initial successes of the rebels against Roman legions.

History of the Germanic peoples
Pagan society
(until about
Early Middle Ages)


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