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Imperator Germanorum: The Legacy of Arminius



“The boy is something else. He will go places, just like his father.” – Flavus, Brother of Arminius I, Liberator of Germania


Excerpts from ‘The Son of Arminius: Limits of an Empire’ by Andreas Adrikonos.

“In order to truly understand the circumstances that led to the rise of Thumelicus I ‘Secundi Liberator’ [1] referred to as the Son of the First Liberator by the Germans, one must first look towards the past, to the events that led to the fall of Arminius: The Battles of Teutoburg Forest and Idistaviso.

Born in 735 AVC [2], Arminius was the son of the Cheruscan chief Segimerus, who was allied with Rome. Like many allied Germanic tribes of the era, Segimerus sent his sons, Arminius and Flavus to Rome where they would stay as political hostages. During this time, political hostages were merely glorified guests rather than an actual hostages. As such, Arminius had a privileged upbringing during his time in Rome. He learned to speak Latin, and joined the Roman military alongside his younger brother, Flavus. He served the Roman Army between 754 AVC and 759 AVC [3] and received a military education as well as Roman citizenship, and the status of Equite before returning to Germania. These experiences gave the man a vast knowledge of Roman politics and military tactics. He knew all about the strengths of Rome, and he knew about their weakness as well.


A bust of Arminius today

Around the year 757 AVC, Arminius assumed command of a Cheruscan detachment of the Roman auxiliary forces, probably while fighting for the Romans during the Pannonian Wars in the Balkan Peninsula and Illyria. He returned to northern Germania in 760 AVC, where the Romans had established secure control of the territories east of the Rhenus [4] along the Lippe and Main rivers and their tributaries. The Romans were now seeking to expand their hegemony eastward towards the Weiser [5] river and Elbe River, under the command of Publius Quinctillius Varus, a high ranking administrative official appointed by Augustus himself as governor. It is said that during this time, the ill-treatment of the German auxiliary and civilians turned Arminius against his Roman benefactors.

He began to scheme, and started to plot to bring the various Germanic tribes under one banner in order to thwart Roman efforts to incorporate their lands into the empire. This was a monumental task, as the tribes were fiercely independent, and many were actually traditional enemies of one another for centuries. Between 759 AVC and 762 AVC, the Romans were forced to move around 8 of their 11 Legions present in Germania east of the Rhenus to crush a rebellion in the Balkans, known to us as the Great Illyrian Revolt, leaving Varus undermanned with only 3 legions to face the Germans, which was still around 18,000 to 6,000 men per legion. An additional amount of 2 Legions were stationed in Moguntiacum under the command of Lucius Nonius Asprenas.


A bust of Varus.

In the autumn of 762 AVC, the 25 year old Arminius brought to Varus various false reports of rebellion in Northern Germania, instigated by the Cherusci’s traditional enemies, making his case even stronger in the eyes of the Romans. He persuaded Varus to divert the leftover three legions under his command, the 17th, 18th and 19th legions which were at the time trying to wind down to winter quarters, to suppress the rebellion, lest the rebellion got extremely serious, Arminius warned the Romans.

Varus, however marched right into the trap that Arminius had set for them near Kalkriese. Arminius’s tribe the Cherusci and their Germanic allies, the Marsi, Chatti, Bructeri, Chauci, and Sicambri, around a tenth of the total tribes of Germania at the time, representing an unprecedented amount of cooperation between Germanic tribes during the time, ambushed and annihilated Varus’s entire army, totaling over 20,000 men in one of the greatest Roman military disasters of its time at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest. When defeat became inevitable, Varus committed suicide by fallng on his sword. The defeat at Teutoburg Forest ensured that the German lands east of the Rhenus remained free of direct Roman control.


The Roman Empire in 762 AVC

However the Romans were not going to let a defeat of such magnitude lay lying down. Germanicus, the adopted son of Tiberius, the second Roman Emperor, led punitive operations into Germania, fighting Arminius to a draw in the Battle at Pontes Longi, and twice defeating him in smaller skirmishes. During one of these punitive raids in 768 AVC, Germanicus captured Thusnelda, the wife of Arminius, who was pregnant at the time. Arminius grieved the loss of his wife, and according to his brother Flavus who was there during his brother’s last moments, would later say that his brother thought of his wife and unborn child until the very end.

In 769 AVC, the Romans under Germanicus moved against Arminius who was hurriedly reforming the German coalition and the two commanders would meet each other in battle, at the plains of Idistavisus, near the Weiser River. The Battle of Idistaviso was a disaster for the Germans. The Roman troops under Germanicus had found out about Arminius’s traps in the forest beforehand, and Germanicus utilized this to fight the battle on his own terms.

More importantly however, Arminius, during the later stages of the battle, was surrounded by the Romans, where he demanded, to meet his brother Flavus, before the Romans inevitably killed him. Flavus, who had remained loyal to Rome, marched up to the ferocious German Chieftain, who had personally slain so many Romans in personal combat, despite the fact that he was outnumbered and encircled. According to Roman historian Tacitus, Arminius asked his brother about his wife. Flavus proclaimed that Thusnelda was being well treated, as was typical of Rome. Arminius, who had always been close to his brother, despite the two’s estrangement after Arminius’s betrayal to Rome, asked his brother to take care of his wife, and unborn child, after he was killed. According to Tacitus, Arminius is said to have asked 'In the name of our long lost relationship brother, will you take care of them?'


The Battle of Idistaviso.

Flavus, agreed to his brother’s last wish and told Arminius that his child and wife would be taken care of by Flavus personally. Arminius then attacked the Romans beside him, and was killed. In 770 AVC, the Romans returned to Rome, and despite Flavus’s best efforts, Thusnelda and her newborn son, Thumelicus, the protagonist of this historical recount, were displayed as prized trophies of the triumph granted to Germanicus. Tacitus writes that it took almost the entirety of Flavus’s political acumen and reputation to beg Germanicus to allow him to take care of his sister-in-law and nephew. And even then, it was decreed that the two would live under house arrest for the rest of their lives, and with the status of Freedmen only.


Thesnelda during Germanicus's Triumph in Rome.

Nonetheless, for Rome, it was a great victory. Their greatest German enemy was dead lying beneath the mud and rain. To the Romans, Arminius was now history, a footnote in the many pages of time, much like Hannibal, the great Punic commander. Thumelicus would be raised as a Roman, and the legacy of Arminius would be stifled in time. But as history shows us, the young Son of Arminius would return to claim his birthright, as the Roman Empire would tremble once again in fear of the House of Arminius.


[1] – Second Liberator in Latin

[2] – 18 BCE in the Roman calendar.

[3] – To keep up, just add the number of years after 0 AD with 753 to get a clear view of the Roman calendar.

[4] – Rhine

[5] – Weser


Author’s Note: After a few months of research, I can proudly proclaim that the prologue and scene for this TL is set. The basic PoD is that Arminius doesn’t escape in Idistaviso and speaks with his brother who was present on the Roman side, cementing his legacy as a martyr of Germania among the Germanic tribes who fought against Rome. I may be slow in updating this timeline due to RL issues, and concerns as well, I hope you guys enjoy reading this TL as much as I enjoy writing it.

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Author’s Note: After a few months of research, I can proudly proclaim that the prologue and scene for this TL is set. The basic PoD is that Arminius doesn’t escape in Idistaviso and speaks with his brother who was present on the Roman side, cementing his legacy as a martyr of Germania among the Germanic tribes who fought against Rome. I may be slow in updating this timeline due to RL issues, and concerns as well, I hope you guys enjoy reading this TL as much as I enjoy writing it.

This TL is also heavily inspired by @Basileus_Komnenos's Imperator Francorum Timeline and @Hecatee's Hadrian Consolidation, go visit these TLs, they're splendid!
As this is a Rome-screw, could we expect the Parthians (and/or whoever replaces them as the Sassanids would be butterflied away) to do better than OTL in this scenario?
As this is a Rome-screw, could we expect the Parthians (and/or whoever replaces them as the Sassanids would be butterflied away) to do better than OTL in this scenario?
The Parthians will certainly play a big role here. As will succeeding Persian Empires.
Chapter 1: Early Life
Chapter 1: Early Life


“He is simply too much like my brother. I fear I made a mistake when I took my nephew in.” – Flavus


From The House of Arminius: The Foundations

“The early life of Thumelicus is shrouded in mystery and yet at the same time, it is not. Historical accounts from Tiberius, Tacitus and Flavus show us that the duo of Thusnelda and Thumelicus were spirited away by Flavus to Ravenna, where he owned a villa according to historical records. There, Flavus intended to raise Thumelicus as a proper Roman. He would know of his heritage when the time was right.

However things don’t often go the way we want them to. Thumelicus’s entire life would attest to this saying. Thusnelda and Thumelicus were high end political hostages for Rome. There were many who advocated in the Senate that the two should be shipped off to some far away province, where they would be unable to meet their own demands of living, and would wither away and die, ending a massive headache for the Romans once and for all.


Roman Emperor Tiberius

It was however the intervention of Tiberius and Germanicus that seemed to have allowed the duo to stay where they were. Tiberius had throughout his reign emulated his predecessor and had taken the role of the reluctant public servant who wanted nothing more than to serve the state. Though Tiberius by and large operated on a focus of letting the Senate do as they wanted for the most part, Tiberius intervened in the case of the family of Arminius. Germanicus had spoken highly of Thusnelda, who had exchanged words with Germanicus during her pregnancy and had been given company by the Roman commander. And Tiberius also wanted to keep the Cherusci Tribe, who were now chastened in line. The Cherusci would not dare act as long as their heir and prince was in the hands of the Romans. However if the prince died under Roman care, then the outrage in Germania would be too high to control, he reasoned according to Tacitus. As a result, the Senate allowed Thusnelda and Thumelicus to stay in Ravenna under the care of Flavus, though apparently a large guard detail was stuck with the two.

Despite Tiberius’s vouch for the family, the Princeps was diverted due to other problems in the empire. For his triumph in Germania, Germanicus haad been granted control over the eastern part off the Empire, just as both Agrippa and Tiberius had received before, and as such was a clear successor to Tiberius. Germanicus was in Syria, when he poisoned and killed, merely a year after his great triumph in Germania. It is unknown whether Germanicus’s poisoning was a case of natural food poisoning, or a case of murder, however the Senate and Germanicus both believed that it was Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso, the governor of Syria, who had poisoned Germanicus. Piso fought back against the blame heaped on him ferociously however committed suicide once it became clear that the Senate was going to convict him.


The Trial of Piso

This taxing event left Tiberius tired, and as a result the man retired from politics. He shared his authority with his remaining son Drusus. However in 776 AVC [1], Drusus died mysteriously on campaign in Campania. The emperor made no effort to elevate a new replacement to the throne and seems to have retired from politics and the country entirely by retiring to the island of Capreae [2]. As he retired to the island, he left Lucius Aelius Sejanus, the Praetorian Prefect of Rome in charge of national governance.



Sejanus held a view that was in line with the Senate in regards to the young Thumelicus and his mother, Thusnelda. According to Tacitus and other Roman historians such as Herodorian and Bede, the man held a contemptuous view of the Germanic family. This was further heightened by the fact that Flavus alludes to the idea that Thumelicus was being raised in both Roman and Germanic manners. Plautius later tells us that Thumelicus knew how to speak proper Germanic and how to mingle in with the Germanic auxiliary with ease during the Roman Invasion of Britain. This tells us that Thusnelda, and perhaps even Flavus made the young boy aware of his heritage. Though considering this is not in line with what Flavus does in the future, it is highly probable that it was Thusnelda who was responsible for Thumelicus’s understanding of his father’s legacy.


Livia Drusilla

It was the presence of Livia Drusilla, the wife of Augustus and mother of Tiberius, who kept Sejanus at bay and she kept a fervent check of Sejanus’s power in Rome. She was also quite taken with the young Thumelicus, with Herodorian writing,

……..The child of Arminius was her most beloved. She would play with him and coddle him, raising him in a manner befitting a Roman…….

According to this line, we can discern that Livia eventually became close to the family of Arminius and she apparently fought to keep the status quo in regards to Thumelicus against Sejanus who wished to deport the family to one of the far off provinces. However whilst Livia was successful for a time, her death in 782 AVC changed the fundamental power play in Rome, with the power falling into the hands of Sejanus entirely.

Seeing that Sejanus would find any excuse to deport his sister in law and nephew, Flavus seems to have brought in military tutors for the young Thumelicus, with the intention of enrolling the young son of Arminius into the Roman military once the boy reached the age of 17 alongside his cousin, Italicus, who was the son of Flavus.

However the Cherusci family needn’t have worried. Sejanus was a power hungry man. In 784 AVC, Sejanus began to plot against Tiberius who was still in absentia. Precisely what plot took place is hard and difficult to determine, but Sejanus seems to have covertly attempted to court the families who were tied to the Julians and attempted to ingratiate himself with the Julian Family line to place himself, as an adopted Julian, in the position of Princeps, or as a possible regent. Livilla, the daughter of Drusus the Elder and Antonia Minor was later implicated in the plot as well, and was revealed in the following trial to have been Sejanus’s lover and eventually link to the Julians for several years. Later that year, Tiberius sent a letter to the Senate having heard of the conspiracy from his spies, condemning Sejanus and all his conspirators to be executed. Sejanus was then tried by the Senate and as per the Emperor’s wishes, he was killed and executed with the week. Naevius Sutorius Macro took power in Rome as the commander of the Praetorian Guard.


Naevius Sutorius Macro

Macro was in line with the Emperor’s and former Dowager Empress’s line of thinking and allowed the Cherusci family to stay as they were, keeping the status quo. However the near removal of the family led Flavus to believe that without the reputation to back him up, Thumelicus and Thusnelda would be deported one day and instead sought to keep the military path Thumelicus was going on to garner the reputation that Thumelicus would require to survive the harsh and militaristic Roman world.

In 788 AVC, Thumelicus reached the age of 17 and was enlisted into the Roman Imperial Army. After years of personal training and the best tutors that money could buy, Thumelicus had received a grandiose early military training from his uncle. Alongside his cousin brother, he entered the roman military with little troubles. Tacitus writes that Thumelicus served ably in the Roman army and largely kept his head down as the son of Arminius serving in the Roman Army. There he learned the tactics of the Roman Army, how the army worked and moved, and much like his father, he probably learned how to fight against Rome by utilizing the years he served in the Roman Army as his basis.

Thumelicus’s first major engagement would be the Invasion of Britannia. To understand the situation in Britannia, we must rewind the clock a bit, so to speak.

After Caesar’s invasion of Britannia, the Brythonic political scene was divided into pro and anti-Roman groups. Those who had suffered defeat, or the tribes on the northern bank of the Tamesas [3] and in Ceint [4] were forced to pay annual tribute to Rome, sustaining a festering hatred of the empire. Those who benefitted, like the Trinovantes, and the Catuvellauni, were obviously forming the pro-Roman block in Britannia. As far as Rome was concerned, South Eastern Britannia had been conquered and treaty relationships had been established with a powerful group of tribes. The next stage would have been to allow the effects of trade and cultural contacts to prepare the way for full occupation with all the apparatus of government and law. However Caesar’s Civil War and the rebellions in Gaul stopped any pre-emptive occupation for the time being.

Claudius however thought of overturning this ideologue and pursued an invasion of Britannia. The army sent to Britannia by Claudius could look back on centuries of growth and development, crowned by a succession of glorious victories against great foes such as Hannibal, Arminius etc. With great martial traditions under their belt, the Roman Army thought itself as nigh invincible. But as with most successful armies, there was also that ever present rigidity which fossilized them into impotence against new weapons and tactics. Something that Thumelicus would use to his advantage against Rome in the future. All that was now remaining for Claudius was an excuse to launch his invasion. And he got one when King Verica of the Atrebates was dethroned and deposed in one of the many tribal coups of the era. Verico fled to Roman Gaul where he asked aid from the Romans.

Claudius seized this chance, and sent a number of legions (though how many is unclear) to conquer Britannia. During this time, the 24 year old Thumelicus was serving in the Legio II Augusta, under the command of Vespasian and took part in the invasion.


Roman Invasion of Britannia

The invasion force under General Aulus Plautius crossed in three divisions from Bononia and landed in Rutupiae in Ceint. Neither of these locations is entirely certain however historical and archeological all point in direction of these two areas remains. Brythonic resistance against the Romans was led by Caratacus and Togodumnus, the two sons of the late King of the Catuvellauni, Cunobeline. A substantial Brythonic force met the Romans at a river crossing the River Medway. The Battle of the Medway was the first real battle that Thumelicus took part in. During the battle, Plautius and Vespasian both attested to Thumelicus’s bravery in the battle, and that he was one of the first legionnaires to cross the Medway River and to engage the enemy Britons in battle. During that battle he is said to have distinguished himself, and earned the respect of many. Though it is also said that he was given the iconic scar of his on his right cheek during this battle.

Soon after the Romans pursued the Britons across the Tamesas River and defeated the forces led by the Brythonic Kings in open pitched battles, where the disciplined heavy infantry of the Romans were able to counter the wild and aggressive battle style of the Britons. The Emperor himself arrived on Camulodunum, where he accepted the surrender of 11 Briton Kings, all of whom surrendered their lands to the authority of Rome.

During his stay in Britannia, Thumelicus continued to impress many with his military and marital prowess. Many a times, the Germanic auxiliary of the Roman forces mutinied and rebelled against Roman command, and during those times, it was Thumelicus who restrained his fellow Germanics, and he quickly became a good advisor to Vespasian regarding Germanic affairs in the Roman Army in Britannia.

However his stay in Britannia was not to last. The Cherusci’s leader, Segestes, Thumelicus’s own grandfather through his mother, died in 797 AVC, and as a result, the Cherusci were now looking for a new leader to take the mantle as King. At first the Romans wanted Italicus, the son of Flavus to take the throne after Flavus denied wanting it, however Italicus had died during the campaigns in Britannia. The only prince that remained was Thumelicus himself. Bidding Britannia and Rome farewell, Thumelicus left for Cherusci lands, where he was greeted by the Germanic chieftains of the tribe with full honors and he became the Herzog [5] of the Cherusci. It is from this time that Thumelicus’s true story truly begins.


[1] – 23 AD

[2] – Capri

[3] – Thames River

[4] – Kent

[5] – Hereditary Leader.
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Herzog is the modern/high German version of what at that time would be harjatogo, Army Leader, likely a calque of Greek Strategos. It wouldn't be considered hereditary.
Herzog is the modern/high German version of what at that time would be harjatogo, Army Leader, likely a calque of Greek Strategos. It wouldn't be considered hereditary.
Other words also include Herizogo, herzoge etc. I know. The Cherusci did follow a monarchic esque succession of power, and the writer of the atl book is writing from a modern perspective.
Why would it be Germanos Imperium?

Empire of the Germans would be Imperium Germanorum, or German empire would be Germanum Imperium, idk why you'd use the accusative plural. Also secundi liberator would be liberator of the second, I think the nominative secundus is what you want here.
Why would it be Germanos Imperium?

Empire of the Germans would be Imperium Germanorum, or German empire would be Germanum Imperium, idk why you'd use the accusative plural. Also secundi liberator would be liberator of the second, I think the nominative secundus is what you want here.
Speaking from Roman and Greek sources, the Roman and Greeks, literally depict the government that is formed in Germany as the 'Empire of the Germans' or the 'Government of the Germans' resulting in the name Germanos Imperium, which is the rough translation of the phrase(s). Of course the actual German name for the fledgling nation state is far different.