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For the Protestant theologian, see Jacobus Arminius.
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Arminius (16 BC - AD 21), in Germany also frequently called Hermann der Cherusker, was a war chief of the Germanic tribe of the Cherusci. Born in 16 or 17 B.C. as son of the Cheruscan war chief Segimerus (German: Segimer), he was trained as a Roman military commander and attained Roman citizenship and nobility. From about 4 A.D. onward, he commanded a Cheruscan detachment of Roman auxiliary forces, probably fighting in the Pannonian Wars on the Balkan peninsula.

Arminius is a Latinized variant of the German name Armin. The name "Hermann" was further defined as the German equivalent of Arminius many centuries later, mainly through religious reformer Martin Luther who wanted to use an ancient and heroic figure as a symbol of the fight against Rome. Hermann means "man in an army" or "warrior". The well-known German family name of Herrmann roughly equates to "supreme one".

Arminius returned to northern Germany in about 7/8 A.D., where the Roman Empire had established control of the territories west of the Rhine and sought to extend its hegemony eastward towards the Elbe river, under the military governor Publius Quinctilius Varus. Arminius soon began plotting to unite various German tribes and to thwart Roman efforts to incorporate their territories into the empire.

In the fall of 9 CE, in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, Arminius – then 25 years old – and his alliance of German tribes (Cherusci, Marsi, Chatti und Bructeri) ambushed and annihilated a Roman army (comprising the 17th, 18th and 19th legions as well as three cavalry detachments and six cohorts of auxiliaries) totalling about 25-30,000 men commanded by Varus. The precise location of the three-day battle remains to be established with certainty, but may have been near the Kalkriese hill about 20 km northeast of Osnabrck. When defeat was certain, Varus committed suicide by plunging himself into his own sword, and the Romans never again attempted permanent conquest of any territory on the right bank of the Rhine.

After his great victory, Arminius tried for several years to bring about a more permanent union of the north German tribes so as to resist more effectively future Roman efforts at conquest, but did not succeed in the face of tribal jealousies. He also met the Romans in other battles, as they sought revenge for Teutoburg Forest. In 13, Germanicus invaded the same area with 80,000 troops, buried the dead of Varus' legions, and raided much of the surrounding area. Arminius successfully resisted in a series of skirmishes and battles and came close once more to annihilating an entire Roman army under Caecina; only the indiscipline of his uncle Inguiomer, who attacked the Roman camp too early, saved Caecina from suffering Varus' fate. Caecina abandoned his camp and supplies and fled with his remaining troops while Inguiomer's warriors plundered the camp.

In 15, Germanicus again raided German settlements and captured Arminius' wife Thusnelda who was delivered to the Romans by her own father Segestes (Segest) as an act of revenge on Arminius. Promised by Segestes to someone else, Thusnelda had eloped with Arminius and married him after the victory of Teutoburg Forest. Segestes and his clan were Roman clients and opposed the policy of Arminius, as did Arminius' brother Flavus. Thusnelda was taken to Rome, displayed in Germanicus' victory parade in Rome in 18, never saw her homeland again and vanished from history. The son, Thumelicus, she bore Arminius while in captivity was trained by the Romans as a gladiator in Ravenna and died before reaching the age of 30 in a gladiator bout.

The last major battle between Germanicus and Arminius, the Battle of the Weser River, took place with heavy losses for both sides in 16 at Idistaviso (Angrivarierwall) near the Weser river, where the Romans avoided another devastating defeat only because, again, Inguiomer failed to heed the agreed battle plan. But this marked the end of Roman attempts to subdue northern Germany.

Once Rome had withdrawn behind the Rhine, war broke out between Arminius' alliance and Marbod, king of the Marcomanni in modern Bohemia, the other major Germanic leader of the time. Arminius had repeatedly sought to forge an anti-Roman alliance with Marbod (he even sent him the head of Varus after the victory of Teutoburg Forest), but the latter was not willing to play a supporting role to Arminius. The war ended with Marbod's retreat, but Arminius did not pursue him, as he faced serious difficulties at home from the family of his wife and other pro-Roman leaders. In 21, at age 37, he was murdered by members of his wife's family.

Largely forgotten for centuries except in the accounts of his Roman enemies, some of whom highly respected him for his military leadership skills and as a defender of the liberty of his people, the story of Arminius was revived in the 19th century as part of the revival of German patriotism fuelled by the wars of Napoleon (see National Romanticism). In 1839, construction began of a massive statue of Arminius, known as the "Hermannsdenkmal", on a hill near Detmold in the Teutoburg Forest; it was completed and dedicated during the early years of the second German Empire and in the wake of the German victory over France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71, and has been a major tourist attraction ever since.cs:Arminius de:Arminius es:Arminio hr:Arminije he:ארמיניוס nl:Arminius pl:Arminiusz


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