Cherusci

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The Cherusci were a Germanic tribe that inhabited parts of the northern Rhine valley and the plains and forests of northwestern Germany, in the area between present-day Osnabrück and Hanover, during the 1st century BC and 1st century AD. Subsequently they were absorbed into the tribal confederations of the Franks and Saxons[1].

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Etymology

The etymological origin of the name Cherusci is not known with certainty. According to the dominant opinion in scholarship, the name may derive from the ancient Germanic word *herut (Modern English hart, i.e. 'deer'). The tribe may have been named after the deer because it had a totemistic significance in Germanic symbolism.[2] A different hypothesis, proposed in the 19th century by Jacob Grimm and others, derives the name from *heru-, a word for 'sword' (cf. Gothic hairus, Old English heoru)[3] Hans Kuhn has argued that the derivational suffix -sk-, involved in both explanations, is otherwise not common in Germanic. He suggested that the name may therefore be a compound of ultimately non-Germanic origin, connected to the hypothesized nordwestblock.[4]

Rome encounters the Cherusci

The first historical mention of the Cherusci occurs in Book 6.10 of Julius Caesar's De Bello Gallico, which recounts events of 53 BC. Caesar relates that he crossed the Rhine again to punish the Suebi for sending reinforcements to the Treveri. He mentions that the Bacenis forest separated the territory of the Cherusci from that of the Suebi. In 12 BC, the Cherusci and other Germanic tribes were subjugated by the Romans.

As Rome tried to expand in northern Europe beyond the Rhine, it exploited divisions within the Cherusci, and for some time the tribe was considered a Roman ally. At this time the tribe was split between Arminius (known in modern German as "Hermann der Cherusker", although his actual Germanic name was more likely Erminaz [5]) and Segestes. Arminius advocated breaking allegiance to Rome and declaring independence, while Segestes wanted to remain loyal. By about 8 AD, Arminius had gained the upper hand and began planning rebellion. Segestes repeatedly warned Publius Quinctilius Varus, the governor of Gaul, that rebellion was being planned, but Varus declined to act until the rebellion had broken out.

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