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The Chauci were a populous Germanic tribe that inhabited the extreme northwestern shore of Germany between Frisia in the west and the Elbe estuary in the east. Their name derives from Proto-Germanic *xabukaz, "hawk" ( which survives not only as the English "hawk" (from the Old English "hafoc") bit also in other Germanic languages such as German where it survives as "habicht"[1]).

The Chauci, like the Frisii, inhabited terpen, artificial mounds raised above the large floodplains of their region, which served to protect their farms from the floods of the North Sea. Their way of life was unfamiliar to the Romans, who found it mystifying. A lively, first hand account is provided by Pliny the Elder, who writes that the Chauci lived by fishing and hunting. Archeological evidence, however, shows that this is not entirely accurate, since the Chauci also raised cattle and supported cavalry troops.

The Chauci, according to Tacitus, were highly respected among Germanic tribes. He also describes them as peaceful, calm, and levelheaded, despite the reports in his Annales of piracy.



The political position of the Chauci, early in the 1st century AD, was essentially a pro-Roman one. For instance, they provided auxiliaries during the second campaign of Germanicus against the Cherusci. This is evidenced not just by Tacitus, but also by finds of typical equestrian paraphernalia near the Praetorium on the Kops plateau near Oppidum Batavorum (Nijmegen), which served as the Roman headquarters in Germania Inferior.

The first known map of Ireland, made by the Greek geographer Ptolemy, shows a people called the Cauci living in the eastern part of Ireland during the first or second century AD. Identification with the Chauci has long been argued but is not universally accepted.[citation needed]

In 41 AD the third missing eagle of the legions lost in the defeat of Varus in 9 AD was recovered from the Chauci by Publius Gabinius.

In 47 the Chauci, with the Frisii, raided Germania Inferior, led by Gannascus, a Canninefat and deserter from the legions. They used small boats to raid the coast of Gaul (Belgica) but were defeated by Gnaeus Domitius Corbulo. Corbulo in turn started plotting against Gannascus, who was ultimately killed. But this led to great unrest amongst the Chauci and the situation was about to escalate when Corbulo was ordered by Claudius to retreat behind the Rhine River, which was subsequently declared the border of the Roman Empire.

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