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Maroboduus (born c. in 30 BC, died in AD 37), was king of the Marcomanni. The name "Maroboduus" can be broken down into two Celtic elements, māro- meaning "great" (cf. Welsh mawr, Irish mór), and bodwos meaning "raven" (cf. Irish badhbh). As there was extensive mingling of Germanic tribes and Celts in this period, a Germanic or mixed Germanic-Celtic tribe led by a man with a Celtic name would be nothing unusual.



Maroboduus was born into a noble family of the Marcomanni. As a young man he lived in Italy and enjoyed the favour of the Emperor Augustus.[1] The Marcomanni had been beaten utterly by the Romans in 10 BC. About 9 BC Marbod returned to Germany and became ruler of his people. To deal with the threat of Roman expansion into the Rhine-Danube basin he led the Marcomanni to the area later known as Bohemia to be outside the range of the Roman influence. There he took the title of a king and organized a confederation of several neighboring Germanic tribes.[2] He was the first historical ruler of Bohemia.

Its possible that during his younger years, Maroboduus may have served as a prefect of auxiliaries in the Roman Army. This could explain the formidability of the disciplined Marcomanni army during his reign.

Augustus planned in 6 AD to destroy the mighty kingdom of Maroboduus, which he considered to be too dangerous for the Romans. The later Emperor Tiberius commanded twelve legions to attack the Marcomanni. But the outbreak of the Great Illyrian revolt in the back of the Romans forced Tiberius to conclude a treaty with Maroboduus and to recognize him as king.[3]

War with Arminius and death

Rivalry between him and Arminius, the Cheruscan leader who inflicted the devastating defeat at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest on the Romans under Publius Quinctilius Varus in 9 AD, prevented a concerted attack on Roman territory across the Rhine in the north (by Arminius) and in the Danube basin in the south (by Maroboduus).

However, according to the 1st century AD historian Marcus Velleius Paterculus, Arminius sent Varus' head to Maroboduus. But the king of the Marcomanni sent it to Augustus.[4] In the revenge war of Tiberius and Germanicus against the Cherusci Maroboduus stayed neutral.

In 17 AD, war broke out between Arminius and Maroboduus, and after an indecisive battle Maroboduus withdrew into the area now known as Bohemia in 18 AD.[5] In the next year Catualda, a nobleman, who had been exiled by Maroboduus, returned – perhaps by a subversive Roman intervention – and defeated Maroboduus. The deposed king had to flee to Italy and Tiberius detained him 18 years in Ravenna. There Maroboduus died in 37 AD.[6]

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