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Arminius

Arminius (ärmĭnˈēəs) [key], d. A.D. 21, leader of the Germans, called Hermann in modern German. He was a chief of the Cherusci (in an area of present-day Hanover) when the Romans were pushing east from the Rhine toward the Elbe. Arminius, who had been a Roman citizen and soldier, secretly gathered a great allied force and ambushed Publius Quintilius Varus in the Teutoburg Forest in A.D. 9. In the ensuing battle Varus' army was utterly destroyed, and Varus, in disgrace, committed suicide. So great was the shock in Rome that it is said that Emperor Augustus afterward would start up from sleep, crying, "Varus, Varus, bring me back my legions!" The Romans never again made any real effort to absorb the territory east of the Rhine, though Germanicus Caesar (called to aid the father of Arminius' wife, Thusnelda, against Arminius) badly defeated and wounded the German leader in A.D. 16. Arminius was later killed by treachery. Tacitus, the modern source for Arminius, glorified him as a noble barbarian. In the romantic period German nationalists made much of Arminius, who became a major national hero and was sometimes wrongly identified with Siegfried. F. G. Klopstock wrote a trilogy of plays about Arminius, and J. E. von Bandel erected a large monument to him near Detmold.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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