Alamanni
Overview
 
The Alamanni, Allemanni, or Alemanni were originally an alliance of Germanic tribe
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

s located around the upper Rhine river (Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

). One of the earliest references to them is the cognomen
Cognomen
The cognomen nōmen "name") was the third name of a citizen of Ancient Rome, under Roman naming conventions. The cognomen started as a nickname, but lost that purpose when it became hereditary. Hereditary cognomina were used to augment the second name in order to identify a particular branch within...

 Alamannicus assumed by Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

 Caracalla
Caracalla
Caracalla , was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. The eldest son of Septimius Severus, he ruled jointly with his younger brother Geta until he murdered the latter in 211...

, who ruled the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 from 211 to 217 and claimed thereby to be their conqueror. The nature of this alliance and their previous tribal affiliations remain uncertain.
Encyclopedia
The Alamanni, Allemanni, or Alemanni were originally an alliance of Germanic tribe
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

s located around the upper Rhine river (Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

). One of the earliest references to them is the cognomen
Cognomen
The cognomen nōmen "name") was the third name of a citizen of Ancient Rome, under Roman naming conventions. The cognomen started as a nickname, but lost that purpose when it became hereditary. Hereditary cognomina were used to augment the second name in order to identify a particular branch within...

 Alamannicus assumed by Roman Emperor
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

 Caracalla
Caracalla
Caracalla , was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. The eldest son of Septimius Severus, he ruled jointly with his younger brother Geta until he murdered the latter in 211...

, who ruled the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 from 211 to 217 and claimed thereby to be their conqueror. The nature of this alliance and their previous tribal affiliations remain uncertain. The alliance had a warlike history, frequently attacking the Roman province of Germania Superior
Germania Superior
Germania Superior , so called for the reason that it lay upstream of Germania Inferior, was a province of the Roman Empire. It comprised an area of western Switzerland, the French Jura and Alsace regions, and southwestern Germany...

 . Generally its strategy with respect to the Empire was similar to that of the Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

.

Since the 1st century, the Rhine had been the border between Roman Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 and tribal Germania. Germanic peoples, Celts, and tribes of mixed Celto-Germanic ethnicity were settled in the lands along both banks. The Romans divided these territories into two districts, Germania Inferior
Germania Inferior
Germania Inferior was a Roman province located on the left bank of the Rhine, in today's Luxembourg, southern Netherlands, parts of Belgium, and North Rhine-Westphalia left of the Rhine....

and Germania Superior
Germania Superior
Germania Superior , so called for the reason that it lay upstream of Germania Inferior, was a province of the Roman Empire. It comprised an area of western Switzerland, the French Jura and Alsace regions, and southwestern Germany...

situated along the lower (north) and upper (south) Rhine respectively.

Upper Germania included the region between the upper Rhine and the upper Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

, (the Black Forest
Black Forest
The Black Forest is a wooded mountain range in Baden-Württemberg, southwestern Germany. It is bordered by the Rhine valley to the west and south. The highest peak is the Feldberg with an elevation of 1,493 metres ....

 region was larger than today: see Hercynian Forest
Hercynian Forest
The Hercynian Forest was an ancient and dense forest that stretched eastward from the Rhine River across southern Germany and formed the northern boundary of that part of Europe known to writers of antiquity. The ancient sources are equivocal about how far east it extended...

). The Romans called this the Agri Decumates
Agri Decumates
The agri decumates or decumates agri were a region of the Roman Empire's province of Germania superior , covering the Black Forest area between the Main river and the sources of Danube and Rhine rivers, presently in Southwestern Germany...

, (i.e. "Decumates territories"), a name of unknown origin. Some scholars have translated the expression as "the ten cantons", but whose cantons of what entity is not known.

The Roman fortified border around the area of Germania Superior was called the Limes Germanicus
Limes Germanicus
The Limes Germanicus was a line of frontier fortifications that bounded the ancient Roman provinces of Germania Inferior, Germania Superior and Raetia, dividing the Roman Empire and the unsubdued Germanic tribes from the years 83 to about 260 AD...

. The assembled warbands of the Alamanni frequently crossed the limes, attacking Germania Superior and moving into the Agri Decumates. As a confederation, from the 5th century, they settled the Alsace
Alsace
Alsace is the fifth-smallest of the 27 regions of France in land area , and the smallest in metropolitan France. It is also the seventh-most densely populated region in France and third most densely populated region in metropolitan France, with ca. 220 inhabitants per km²...

 and expanded into the Swiss Plateau
Swiss plateau
The Swiss Plateau or Central Plateau constitutes one of the three major landscapes in Switzerland alongside the Jura mountains and the Swiss Alps. It covers about 30% of the Swiss surface...

, as well as parts of what are now Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

 and Austria
Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

, reaching the valleys of the Alps
Alps
The Alps is one of the great mountain range systems of Europe, stretching from Austria and Slovenia in the east through Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Germany to France in the west....

 by the 8th century.

According to Historia Augusta the confederates in the 3rd century were still simply called Germani. Proculus
Proculus
Proculus was a Roman usurper, one of the "minor pretenders" according to Historia Augusta; he took the purple against Emperor Probus in 280....

, an imperial usurper in 280, derived some of his popularity in Gaul by his wartime successes against the Alamanni. The Alamanni thereafter became the principality of Alamannia
Alamannia
Alamannia or Alemannia was the territory inhabited by the Germanic Alamanni after they broke through the Roman limes in 213.The Alamanni expanded from the Main basin during the 3rd century, raiding the Roman provinces and settling on the left bank of the Rhine from the 4th century.Ruled by...

, that was sometimes independent, but more often was ruled by the Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

. The name of Germany and the German language, in French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

, Allemagne, allemand, in Portuguese
Portuguese language
Portuguese is a Romance language that arose in the medieval Kingdom of Galicia, nowadays Galicia and Northern Portugal. The southern part of the Kingdom of Galicia became independent as the County of Portugal in 1095...

 Alemanha, alemão, in Spanish
Spanish language
Spanish , also known as Castilian , is a Romance language in the Ibero-Romance group that evolved from several languages and dialects in central-northern Iberia around the 9th century and gradually spread with the expansion of the Kingdom of Castile into central and southern Iberia during the...

 Alemania, alemán, and in Welsh
Welsh language
Welsh is a member of the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages spoken natively in Wales, by some along the Welsh border in England, and in Y Wladfa...

 (Yr) Almaen, almaeneg are derived from the name of this early Germanic tribal alliance. Persian and Arabic also designate Germans Almaani, and Germany as Almaan in Persian and Almaania in Arabic. In Turkish, German is Alman and Germany is Almanya.

The region of the Alamanni was always somewhat sprawling and comprised a number of different districts, reflecting its mixed origins. In the Early Middle Ages
Early Middle Ages
The Early Middle Ages was the period of European history lasting from the 5th century to approximately 1000. The Early Middle Ages followed the decline of the Western Roman Empire and preceded the High Middle Ages...

 its territories were divided between the Diocese of Strassburg, which dates from about 614, the territory of Augusta Vindelicorum (Augsburg) from 736, the Moguntiacum (Mainz
Archbishopric of Mainz
The Archbishopric of Mainz or Electorate of Mainz was an influential ecclesiastic and secular prince-bishopric in the Holy Roman Empire between 780–82 and 1802. In the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, the Archbishop of Mainz was the primas Germaniae, the substitute of the Pope north of the Alps...

) archdiocese from 745, and of Basilia (Basel
Bishopric of Basel
The Diocese of Basel is a Roman Catholic diocese in Switzerland .Historically, the bishops of Basel were also secular rulers of the Prince-Bishopric of Basel ....

) from 805. Its distinctive laws were codified under Charlemagne
Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

 as the Duchy of Alamannia in Swabia. Today the region historically occupied by the Alamanni is divided between parts of four nations: France (Alsace), Germany (Swabia and parts of Bavaria), Switzerland and Austria, and the German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 spoken by the inhabitants of those regions has distinctive regional dialects.

Language

The German spoken today over the range of the former Alamanni is termed Alemannic German
Alemannic German
Alemannic is a group of dialects of the Upper German branch of the Germanic language family. It is spoken by approximately ten million people in six countries: Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, France and Italy...

, and is recognised among the subgroups of the High German languages
High German languages
The High German languages or the High German dialects are any of the varieties of standard German, Luxembourgish and Yiddish, as well as the local German dialects spoken in central and southern Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Luxembourg and in neighboring portions of Belgium and the...

. Alamannic runic inscriptions such as those on the Pforzen buckle
Pforzen buckle
The Pforzen buckle is a silver belt buckle found in Pforzen, Ostallgäu in 1992. The Alemannic grave in which it was found dates to the end of the 6th century and was presumably that of a warrior, as it also contained a lance, spatha, seax and shield...

 are among the earliest testimonies of Old High German
Old High German
The term Old High German refers to the earliest stage of the German language and it conventionally covers the period from around 500 to 1050. Coherent written texts do not appear until the second half of the 8th century, and some treat the period before 750 as 'prehistoric' and date the start of...

.
The High German consonant shift
High German consonant shift
In historical linguistics, the High German consonant shift or second Germanic consonant shift is a phonological development that took place in the southern parts of the West Germanic dialect continuum in several phases, probably beginning between the 3rd and 5th centuries AD, and was almost...

 is thought to have originated around the 5th century either in Alamannia or among the Lombards
Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

; before that the dialect spoken by Alamannic tribes was little different from that of other West Germanic peoples.

Alemannia lost its distinct jurisdictional identity when Charles Martel
Charles Martel
Charles Martel , also known as Charles the Hammer, was a Frankish military and political leader, who served as Mayor of the Palace under the Merovingian kings and ruled de facto during an interregnum at the end of his life, using the title Duke and Prince of the Franks. In 739 he was offered the...

 absorbed it into the Frankish empire, early in the 8th century. Today, Alemannic is a linguistic term, referring to Alemannic German
Alemannic German
Alemannic is a group of dialects of the Upper German branch of the Germanic language family. It is spoken by approximately ten million people in six countries: Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, France and Italy...

, encompassing the dialects of the southern two thirds of Baden-Württemberg
Baden-Württemberg
Baden-Württemberg is one of the 16 states of Germany. Baden-Württemberg is in the southwestern part of the country to the east of the Upper Rhine, and is the third largest in both area and population of Germany's sixteen states, with an area of and 10.7 million inhabitants...

 (German State), in western Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

 (German State), in Vorarlberg
Vorarlberg
Vorarlberg is the westernmost federal-state of Austria. Although it is the second smallest in terms of area and population , it borders three countries: Germany , Switzerland and Liechtenstein...

 (Austrian State), Swiss German
Swiss German
Swiss German is any of the Alemannic dialects spoken in Switzerland and in some Alpine communities in Northern Italy. Occasionally, the Alemannic dialects spoken in other countries are grouped together with Swiss German as well, especially the dialects of Liechtenstein and Austrian Vorarlberg...

 in Switzerland and the Alsatian language
Alsatian language
Alsatian is a Low Alemannic German dialect spoken in most of Alsace, a region in eastern France which has passed between French and German control many times.-Language family:...

 of the Alsace
Alsace
Alsace is the fifth-smallest of the 27 regions of France in land area , and the smallest in metropolitan France. It is also the seventh-most densely populated region in France and third most densely populated region in metropolitan France, with ca. 220 inhabitants per km²...

 (France).

Name

According to Asinius Quadratus
Asinius Quadratus
Gaius Asinius Quadratus was a Greek historian of Rome and Parthia in the third century. Felix Jacoby in the Fragmente der griechischen Historiker provides the thirty remaining fragments of his work. Most derive from the dictionary of Stephanus of Byzantium...

 (quoted in the mid-6th century by Byzantine historian Agathias
Agathias
Agathias or Agathias Scholasticus , of Myrina , an Aeolian city in western Asia Minor , was a Greek poet and the principal historian of part of the reign of the Roman emperor Justinian I between 552 and 558....

) their name means "all men". It indicates that they were a conglomeration drawn from various Germanic tribes. This was the derivation of Alamanni used by Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon
Edward Gibbon was an English historian and Member of Parliament...

, in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and by the anonymous contributor of notes assembled from the papers of Nicolas Fréret
Nicolas Fréret
Nicolas Fréret was a French scholar.-Life:He was born at Paris on 15 February 1688. His father was procureur to the parlement of Paris, and destined him to the profession of the law. His first tutors were the historian Charles Rollin and Father Desmolets...

, published in 1753, who noted that it was the name used by outsiders for those who called themselves the Suevi. This etymology has remained the standard derivation of the term.

Walafrid Strabo
Walafrid Strabo
Walafrid, alternatively spelt Walahfrid, surnamed Strabo , was a Frankish monk and theological writer.-Theological works:...

, a monk of the Abbey of St. Gall
Abbey of St. Gall
The Abbey of Saint Gall is a religious complex in the city of St. Gallen in present-day Switzerland. The Carolingian-era Abbey has existed since 719 and became an independent principality during the 13th century, and was for many centuries one of the chief Benedictine abbeys in Europe. It was...

 writing in the 9th century, remarked, in discussing the people of Switzerland and the surrounding regions, that only foreigners called them the Alamanni, but that they gave themselves the name of Suevi.

First explicit mention

The Alamanni were first mentioned by Cassius Dio describing the campaign of Caracalla
Caracalla
Caracalla , was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. The eldest son of Septimius Severus, he ruled jointly with his younger brother Geta until he murdered the latter in 211...

 in 213. At that time they apparently dwelt in the basin of the Main
Main river
Main rivers are a statutory type of watercourse in England and Wales, usually larger streams and rivers, but also include some smaller watercourses. A main river is defined as a watercourse marked as such on a main river map, and can include any structure or appliance for controlling or regulating...

, to the south of the Chatti
Chatti
The Chatti were an ancient Germanic tribe whose homeland was near the upper Weser. They settled in central and northern Hesse and southern Lower Saxony, along the upper reaches of the Weser River and in the valleys and mountains of the Eder, Fulda and Weser River regions, a district approximately...

.

Cassius Dio (78.13.4) portrays the Alamanni as victims of this treacherous emperor. They had asked for his help, says Dio, but instead he colonized their country, changed their place names and executed their warriors under a pretext of coming to their aid. When he became ill, the Alamanni claimed to have put a hex on him (78.15.2). Caracalla, it was claimed, tried to counter this influence by invoking his ancestral spirits.

In retribution Caracalla then led the Legio II Traiana Fortis
Legio II Traiana Fortis
Legio secunda Traiana Fortis, , was a Roman legion levied by emperor Trajan in 105, along with XXX Ulpia Victrix, for the campaigns in Dacia. There are still records of the II Traiana Fortis in Egypt in the middle of the 5th century...

 against the Alamanni, who lost and were pacified for a time. The legion was as a result honored with the name Germanica. The Historia Augusta, Life of Antoninus Caracalla, relates (10.5) that Caracalla then assumed the name Alamannicus, at which Helvius Pertinax jested that he should really be called Geticus Maximus, because in the year before he had murdered his brother, Geta
Publius Septimius Geta
Geta , was a Roman Emperor co-ruling with his father Septimius Severus and his older brother Caracalla from 209 to his death.-Early life:Geta was the younger son of Septimius Severus by his second wife Julia Domna...

. Not on good terms with Caracalla, Geta had been invited to a family reconciliation, at which time he was ambushed by centurions in Caracalla's army and slain in his mother Julia's arms. True or not, Caracalla, pursued by devils of his own, left Rome never to return.

Caracalla left for the frontier, where for the rest of his short reign he was known for his unpredictable and arbitrary operations launched by surprise after a pretext of peace negotiations. If he had any reasons of state for such actions they remained unknown to his contemporaries. Whether or not the Alamanni had been previously neutral, they were certainly further influenced by Caracalla to become thereafter notoriously implacable enemies of Rome.

This mutually antagonistic relationship is perhaps the reason why the Roman writers persisted in calling the Alamanni barbari, "savages". The archaeology, however, shows that they were largely Romanized, lived in Roman-style houses and used Roman artifacts, the Alemannic women having adopted the Roman fashion of the tunic
Tunic
A tunic is any of several types of clothing for the body, of various lengths reaching from the shoulders to somewhere between the hips and the ankles...

even earlier than the men.

Most of the Alamanni were probably at the time in fact resident in or close to the borders of Germania Superior. Although Dio is the earliest writer to mention them, Ammianus Marcellinus
Ammianus Marcellinus
Ammianus Marcellinus was a fourth-century Roman historian. He wrote the penultimate major historical account surviving from Antiquity...

 used the name to refer to Germans on the Limes Germanicus
Limes Germanicus
The Limes Germanicus was a line of frontier fortifications that bounded the ancient Roman provinces of Germania Inferior, Germania Superior and Raetia, dividing the Roman Empire and the unsubdued Germanic tribes from the years 83 to about 260 AD...

 in the time of Trajan
Trajan
Trajan , was Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 AD. Born into a non-patrician family in the province of Hispania Baetica, in Spain Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Domitian. Serving as a legatus legionis in Hispania Tarraconensis, in Spain, in 89 Trajan supported the emperor against...

's governorship of the province shortly after it was formed, circa 98/99. At that time the entire frontier was being fortified for the first time. Trees from the earliest fortifications found in Germania Inferior
Germania Inferior
Germania Inferior was a Roman province located on the left bank of the Rhine, in today's Luxembourg, southern Netherlands, parts of Belgium, and North Rhine-Westphalia left of the Rhine....

 are dated by dendrochronology
Dendrochronology
Dendrochronology or tree-ring dating is the scientific method of dating based on the analysis of patterns of tree-rings. Dendrochronology can date the time at which tree rings were formed, in many types of wood, to the exact calendar year...

 to 99/100. Shortly afterwards Trajan was chosen by Nerva
Nerva
Nerva , was Roman Emperor from 96 to 98. Nerva became Emperor at the age of sixty-five, after a lifetime of imperial service under Nero and the rulers of the Flavian dynasty. Under Nero, he was a member of the imperial entourage and played a vital part in exposing the Pisonian conspiracy of 65...

 to be his successor, adopted with public fanfare in absentia by the old man shortly before his death. By 100 Trajan was back in Rome as Emperor instead of merely being a Consul.

Ammianus relates (xvii.1.11) that much later the Emperor Julian
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

 undertook a punitive expedition
Punitive expedition
A punitive expedition is a military journey undertaken to punish a state or any group of persons outside the borders of the punishing state. It is usually undertaken in response to perceived disobedient or morally wrong behavior, but may be also be a covered revenge...

 against the Alamanni, who by then were in Alsace, and crossed the Main (Latin Menus), entering the forest, where the trails were blocked by felled trees. As winter was upon them, they reoccupied a
"fortification which was founded on the soil of the Alamanni that Trajan wished to be called with his own name".

In this context the use of Alamanni is possibly an anachronism but it reveals that Ammianus believed they were the same people, which is consistent with the location of the Alamanni of Caracalla's campaigns.

Alemanni and Hermunduri

The early detailed source, the Germania
Germania (book)
The Germania , written by Gaius Cornelius Tacitus around 98, is an ethnographic work on the Germanic tribes outside the Roman Empire.-Contents:...

of Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

, has sometimes been interpreted in such a way as to provide yet other historical problems. In Chapter 42 we read of the Hermunduri
Hermunduri
The Hermunduri, Hermanduri, Hermunduri, Hermunduli, Hermonduri, or Hermonduli were an ancient Germanic tribe, attested by the Roman historian Tacitus, who occupied the area around what is now Thuringia, Saxony, and Northern Bavaria, from the first to the third century...

, a tribe certainly located in the region that later became Thuringia
Thuringia
The Free State of Thuringia is a state of Germany, located in the central part of the country.It has an area of and 2.29 million inhabitants, making it the sixth smallest by area and the fifth smallest by population of Germany's sixteen states....

. Tacitus stated that they traded with Rhaetia, which in Ptolemy is located across the Danube from Germania Superior
Germania Superior
Germania Superior , so called for the reason that it lay upstream of Germania Inferior, was a province of the Roman Empire. It comprised an area of western Switzerland, the French Jura and Alsace regions, and southwestern Germany...

. A logical conclusion to draw is that the Hermunduri extended over later Swabia
Swabia
Swabia is a cultural, historic and linguistic region in southwestern Germany.-Geography:Like many cultural regions of Europe, Swabia's borders are not clearly defined...

 and therefore the Alamanni originally derived from the Hermunduri!

However, no Hermunduri appear in Ptolemy, though after the time of Ptolemy the Hermunduri joined with the Marcomanni
Marcomanni
The Marcomanni were a Germanic tribe, probably related to the Buri, Suebi or Suevi.-Origin:Scholars believe their name derives possibly from Proto-Germanic forms of "march" and "men"....

 in the wars of 166–180 against the empire. A careful reading of Tacitus provides one solution. He says that the source of the Elbe
Elbe
The Elbe is one of the major rivers of Central Europe. It rises in the Krkonoše Mountains of the northwestern Czech Republic before traversing much of Bohemia , then Germany and flowing into the North Sea at Cuxhaven, 110 km northwest of Hamburg...

 is among the Hermunduri, somewhat to the east of the upper Main. He places them also between the Naristi (Varisti), whose location at the very edge of the ancient Black Forest
Black Forest
The Black Forest is a wooded mountain range in Baden-Württemberg, southwestern Germany. It is bordered by the Rhine valley to the west and south. The highest peak is the Feldberg with an elevation of 1,493 metres ....

 is well known, and the Marcomanni
Marcomanni
The Marcomanni were a Germanic tribe, probably related to the Buri, Suebi or Suevi.-Origin:Scholars believe their name derives possibly from Proto-Germanic forms of "march" and "men"....

 and Quadi
Quadi
The Quadi were a smaller Germanic tribe, about which little is definitively known. We only know the Germanic tribe the Romans called the 'Quadi' through reports of the Romans themselves...

. Moreover, the Hermunduri were broken in the Marcomannic Wars
Marcomannic Wars
The Marcomannic Wars were a series of wars lasting over a dozen years from about AD 166 until 180. These wars pitted the Roman Empire against the Marcomanni, Quadi and other Germanic peoples, along both sides of the upper and middle Danube...

 and made a separate peace with Rome. The Alamanni thus were probably not primarily the Hermunduri, although some elements of them may have been present in the mix of peoples at that time that became Alamannian.

Ptolemy's Geography

Before the mention of Alamanni in the time of Caracalla, you would search in vain for Alamanni in the moderately detailed geography of southern Germany in Claudius Ptolemy
Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

, written in Greek in the mid-2nd century; it is likely that at that time, the people who later used that name were known by other designations.

Nevertheless some conclusions can be drawn from Ptolemy. Germania Superior is easily identified. Following up the Rhine one comes to a town, Mattiacum, which must be at the border of the Roman Germany (vicinity of Wiesbaden
Wiesbaden
Wiesbaden is a city in southwest Germany and the capital of the federal state of Hesse. It has about 275,400 inhabitants, plus approximately 10,000 United States citizens...

). Upstream from it and between the Rhine and Abnoba
Abnoba
Abnoba is a Gaulish goddess who was worshipped in the Black Forest and surrounding areas. She has been interpreted to be a forest and river goddess, and is known from about nine epigraphic inscriptions...

 (in the Black Forest
Black Forest
The Black Forest is a wooded mountain range in Baden-Württemberg, southwestern Germany. It is bordered by the Rhine valley to the west and south. The highest peak is the Feldberg with an elevation of 1,493 metres ....

) are the Ingriones, Intuergi, Vangiones
Vangiones
The Vangiones appear first in history as an ancient Germanic tribe of unknown provenience. They threw in their lot with Ariovistus in his bid of 58 BC to invade Gaul through the Doubs river valley and lost to Julius Caesar in a battle probably near Belfort...

, Caritni
Caritni
The Caritni, a Latinization, or the Karitnoi in the Greek of Ptolemy's Geography , were a Germanic tribe mentioned by the Roman scholar Ptoeley generally in the region of west Bavaria. Little else is known about them....

 and Vispi, some of whom were there since the days of the early empire or before. On the other side of the northern Black Forest were the Chatti
Chatti
The Chatti were an ancient Germanic tribe whose homeland was near the upper Weser. They settled in central and northern Hesse and southern Lower Saxony, along the upper reaches of the Weser River and in the valleys and mountains of the Eder, Fulda and Weser River regions, a district approximately...

 about where Hesse
Hesse
Hesse or Hessia is both a cultural region of Germany and the name of an individual German state.* The cultural region of Hesse includes both the State of Hesse and the area known as Rhenish Hesse in the neighbouring Rhineland-Palatinate state...

 is today, on the lower Main.

Historic Swabia
Swabia
Swabia is a cultural, historic and linguistic region in southwestern Germany.-Geography:Like many cultural regions of Europe, Swabia's borders are not clearly defined...

 was eventually replaced by today's Baden-Württemberg
Baden-Württemberg
Baden-Württemberg is one of the 16 states of Germany. Baden-Württemberg is in the southwestern part of the country to the east of the Upper Rhine, and is the third largest in both area and population of Germany's sixteen states, with an area of and 10.7 million inhabitants...

, but it had been the most significant territory of mediaeval Alamannia
Alamannia
Alamannia or Alemannia was the territory inhabited by the Germanic Alamanni after they broke through the Roman limes in 213.The Alamanni expanded from the Main basin during the 3rd century, raiding the Roman provinces and settling on the left bank of the Rhine from the 4th century.Ruled by...

, comprising all Germania Superior and territory east to Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

. It did not include the upper Main, but that is where Caracalla campaigned. Moreover, the territory of Germania Superior was not originally included among the Alemanni's possessions.

However, if we look for the peoples in the region from the upper Main in the north, south to the Danube and east to the Czech Republic
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

 where the Quadi
Quadi
The Quadi were a smaller Germanic tribe, about which little is definitively known. We only know the Germanic tribe the Romans called the 'Quadi' through reports of the Romans themselves...

 and Marcomanni
Marcomanni
The Marcomanni were a Germanic tribe, probably related to the Buri, Suebi or Suevi.-Origin:Scholars believe their name derives possibly from Proto-Germanic forms of "march" and "men"....

 were located, Ptolemy does not give any tribes. There are the Tubanti
Tubanti
The Tubantes were a Germanic tribe, living in the eastern part of The Netherlands. They are often equated to the Tuihanti, whom we know from two inscriptions found near the wall of Hadrian. The modern name Twente possibly derives from the word Tuihanti, the name mentioned on two sacral inscriptions...

 just south of the Chatti
Chatti
The Chatti were an ancient Germanic tribe whose homeland was near the upper Weser. They settled in central and northern Hesse and southern Lower Saxony, along the upper reaches of the Weser River and in the valleys and mountains of the Eder, Fulda and Weser River regions, a district approximately...

 and at the other end of what was then the Black Forest, the Varisti, whose location is known. One possible reason for this distribution is that the population preferred not to live in the forest except in troubled times. The region between the forest and the Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

 on the other hand included about a dozen settlements, or "cantons".

Ptolemy's view of Germans in the region indicates that the tribal structure had lost its grip in the Black Forest region and was replaced by a canton structure. The tribes stayed in the Roman province, perhaps because the Romans offered stability. Also, Caracalla perhaps felt more comfortable about campaigning in the upper Main because he was not declaring war on any specific historic tribe, such as the Chatti or Cherusci
Cherusci
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...

, against whom Rome had suffered grievous losses. By Caracalla's time the name Alamanni was being used by cantons themselves banding together for purposes of supporting a citizen army (the "war bands").

Concentration of Germanic peoples under Ariovistus

The term Suebi has a double meaning in the sources. On the one hand Tacitus' Germania tells us (Chapters 38, 39) that they occupy more than half of Germany, use a distinctive hair style, and are spiritually centered on the Semnones. On the other hand the Suebi of the upper Danube are described as though they were a tribe.

The solution to the puzzle as well as explaining the historical circumstances leading to the choice of the Agri Decumates as a defensive point and the concentration of Germans there are probably to be found in the German attack on the Gallic fortified town of Vesontio in 58 BC. The upper Rhine and Danube appear to form a funnel pointing straight at Vesontio.

Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

 in Gallic Wars
Gallic Wars
The Gallic Wars were a series of military campaigns waged by the Roman proconsul Julius Caesar against several Gallic tribes. They lasted from 58 BC to 51 BC. The Gallic Wars culminated in the decisive Battle of Alesia in 52 BC, in which a complete Roman victory resulted in the expansion of the...

tells us (1.51) that Ariovistus
Ariovistus
Ariovistus was a leader of the Suebi and other allied Germanic peoples in the second quarter of the 1st century BC. He and his followers took part in a war in Gaul, assisting the Arverni and Sequani to defeat their rivals the Aedui, after which they settled in large numbers in conquered Gallic...

 had gathered an army from a wide region of Germany, but especially the Harudes, Marcomanni
Marcomanni
The Marcomanni were a Germanic tribe, probably related to the Buri, Suebi or Suevi.-Origin:Scholars believe their name derives possibly from Proto-Germanic forms of "march" and "men"....

, Triboci
Triboci
In classical antiquity, the Triboci or Tribocci were a Germanic people of eastern Gaul, inhabiting much of what is now Alsace.-Name:Besides the forms Triboci and Tribocci, Schneider has the form “Triboces” in the accusative plural. Pliny has Tribochi, and Strabo . In the passage of Caesar, it is...

, Vangiones
Vangiones
The Vangiones appear first in history as an ancient Germanic tribe of unknown provenience. They threw in their lot with Ariovistus in his bid of 58 BC to invade Gaul through the Doubs river valley and lost to Julius Caesar in a battle probably near Belfort...

, Nemetes
Nemetes
The Nemetes , by modern authors sometimes improperly called Nemeti, were an ancient Germanic tribe living by the Rhine between the Palatinate and Lake Constance where Ariovistus had led them, the Suebi and other allied Germanic peoples in the second quarter of the 1st century BC...

 and Sedusii. The Suebi were being invited to join. They lived in 100 cantons (4.1) from which 1000 young men per year were chosen for military service, a citizen-army by our standards and by comparison with the Roman professional army.

Ariovistus had become involved in an invasion of Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

, which the German wished to settle. Intending to take the strategic town of Vesontio, he concentrated his forces on the Rhine near Lake Constance, and when the Suebi arrived, he crossed. The Gauls had called to Rome for military aid. Caesar occupied the town first and defeated the Germans before its walls, slaughtering most of the German army as it tried to flee across the river (1.36ff). He did not pursue the retreating remnants, leaving what was left of the German army and their dependents intact on the other side of the Rhine.

The Gauls were ambivalent in their policies toward the Romans. In 53 BC the Treveri
Treveri
The Treveri or Treviri were a tribe of Gauls who inhabited the lower valley of the Moselle from around 150 BCE, at the latest, until their eventual absorption into the Franks...

 broke their alliance and attempted to break free of Rome. Caesar foresaw that they would now attempt to ally themselves with the Germans. He crossed the Rhine to forestall that event, a successful strategy. Remembering their expensive defeat at the Battle of Vesontio, the Germans withdrew to the Black Forest, concentrating there a mixed population dominated by Suebi. As they had left their tribal homes behind, they probably took over all the former Celtic cantons along the Danube.

Political organization

The Alamanni established a series of territorially defined pagi (cantons) on the east bank of the Rhine. The exact number and extent of these pagi is unclear and probably changed over time.

Pagi, usually pairs of pagi combined, formed kingdoms (regna) which, it is generally believed, were permanent and hereditary. Ammianus describes Alamanni rulers with various terms: reges excelsiores ante alios ("paramount kings"), reges proximi ("neighbouring kings"), reguli ("petty kings") and regales ("princes"). This may be a formal hierarchy, or they may be vague, overlapping terms, or a combination of both. In 357, there appear to have been two paramount kings (Chnodomar and Westralp) who probably acted as presidents of the confederation and seven other kings (reges). Their territories were small and mostly strung along the Rhine (although a few were in the hinterland). It is possible that the reguli were the rulers of the two pagi in each kingdom. Underneath the royal class were the nobles (called optimates by the Romans) and warriors (called armati by the Romans). The warriors consisted of professional warbands and levies of free men. Each nobleman could raise an average of ca. 50 warriors.

Conflicts with the Roman Empire


The Alamanni were continually engaged in conflicts with the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 in the third and fourth centuries. They launched a major invasion of Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

 and northern Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 in 268, when the Romans were forced to denude much of their German frontier of troops in response to a massive invasion of the Goths
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

 from the east. Their raids throughout the three parts of Gaul were traumatic: Gregory of Tours
Gregory of Tours
Saint Gregory of Tours was a Gallo-Roman historian and Bishop of Tours, which made him a leading prelate of Gaul. He was born Georgius Florentius, later adding the name Gregorius in honour of his maternal great-grandfather...

 (died ca 594) mentions their destructive force at the time of Valerian and Gallienus
Gallienus
Gallienus was Roman Emperor with his father Valerian from 253 to 260, and alone from 260 to 268. He took control of the Empire at a time when it was undergoing great crisis...

 (253–260), when the Alemanni assembled under their "king", whom he calls Chrocus
Chrocus
Chrocus or Crocus, also Croc, Krokus, Crochus or Croscus was a leader of the Alamanni in the late 3rd century. In 260, he led an uprising of the Alamanni against the Roman Empire, traversing the Upper Germanic Limes and advancing as far as Clermont, and possibly as far as Ravenna, and he was...

, who "by the advice, it is said, of his wicked mother, and overran the whole of the Gauls, and destroyed from their foundations all the temples which had been built in ancient times. And coming to Clermont
Clermont-Ferrand
Clermont-Ferrand is a city and commune of France, in the Auvergne region, with a population of 140,700 . Its metropolitan area had 409,558 inhabitants at the 1999 census. It is the prefecture of the Puy-de-Dôme department...

 he set on fire, overthrew and destroyed that shrine which they call Vasso Galatae in the Gallic tongue," martyring many Christians (Historia Francorum Book I.32–34). Thus 6th century Gallo-Romans of Gregory's class, surrounded by the ruins of Roman temple
Roman temple
Ancient Roman temples are among the most visible archaeological remains of Roman culture, and are a significant source for Roman architecture. Their construction and maintenance was a major part of ancient Roman religion. The main room housed the cult image of the deity to whom the temple was...

s and public buildings, attributed the destruction they saw to the plundering raids of the Alemanni.

In the early summer of 268, the Emperor Gallienus
Gallienus
Gallienus was Roman Emperor with his father Valerian from 253 to 260, and alone from 260 to 268. He took control of the Empire at a time when it was undergoing great crisis...

 halted their advance into Italy, but then had to deal with the Goths. When the Gothic campaign ended in Roman victory at the Battle of Naissus
Battle of Naissus
The Battle of Naissus was the defeat of a Gothic coalition by the Roman Empire under Emperor Gallienus near Naissus...

 in September, Gallienus' successor Claudius II Gothicus
Claudius II
Claudius II , commonly known as Claudius Gothicus, was Roman Emperor from 268 to 270. During his reign he fought successfully against the Alamanni and scored a crushing victory against the Goths at the Battle of Naissus. He died after succumbing to a smallpox plague that ravaged the provinces of...

 turned north to deal with the Alamanni, who were swarming over all Italy north of the Po River
Po River
The Po |Ligurian]]: Bodincus or Bodencus) is a river that flows either or – considering the length of the Maira, a right bank tributary – eastward across northern Italy, from a spring seeping from a stony hillside at Pian del Re, a flat place at the head of the Val Po under the northwest face...

.

After efforts to secure a peaceful withdrawal failed, Claudius forced the Alamanni to battle at the Battle of Lake Benacus
Battle of Lake Benacus
The Battle of Lake Benacus was one of the decisive battles that marked the beginning of the Roman Empire's emergence from the Crisis of the Third Century...

 in November. The Alamanni were routed, forced back into Germany, and did not threaten Roman territory for many years afterwards.

Their most famous battle against Rome took place in Argentoratum
Argentoratum
Argentoratum or Argentorate was the ancient name of the French city of Strasbourg.The Romans under Nero Claudius Drusus established a military outpost belonging to the Germania Superior Roman province close to a Gaulish village near the banks of the Rhine, at the current location of Strasbourg,...

 (Strasbourg
Strasbourg
Strasbourg is the capital and principal city of the Alsace region in eastern France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département. The city and the region of Alsace are historically German-speaking,...

), in 357, where they were defeated by Julian
Julian the Apostate
Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

, later Emperor of Rome, and their king Chnodomarius
Chnodomarius
Chnodomarius, also Chnodomar, cognate to the Germanic Gundmar, was the king of an Alamannic canton in what is now south-west Germany, near the Rhine from sometime before 352 till 357...

 was taken prisoner to Rome.

On January 2 366
366
Year 366 was a common year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Gratianus and Dagalaifus...

 the Alamanni yet again crossed the frozen Rhine in large numbers, to invade the Gallic provinces, this time being defeated by Valentinian (see Battle of Solicinium
Battle of Solicinium
The Battle of Solicinium was fought in 367 between a Roman Empire army and the Alamanni. The Roman force was led by Emperor Valentinian I, and they managed to repel the Alamanni, but suffered heavy losses during the battle....

). In the great mixed invasion of 406, the Alamanni appear to have crossed the Rhine river a final time, conquering and then settling what is today Alsace
Alsace
Alsace is the fifth-smallest of the 27 regions of France in land area , and the smallest in metropolitan France. It is also the seventh-most densely populated region in France and third most densely populated region in metropolitan France, with ca. 220 inhabitants per km²...

 and a large part of the Swiss Plateau
Swiss plateau
The Swiss Plateau or Central Plateau constitutes one of the three major landscapes in Switzerland alongside the Jura mountains and the Swiss Alps. It covers about 30% of the Swiss surface...

. The crossing is described in Wallace Breem's historical novel "Eagle in the Snow." Fredegar's Chronicle gives the account. At Alba Augusta (Alba-la-Romaine
Alba-la-Romaine
Alba-la-Romaine is a commune in the Ardèche department in southern France.-History:It was founded in Roman times and bore the names Alba Helviorum and possibly Alba Augusta. From the Middle Ages until 1904, it bore the name Aps, the family name of the local proprietors...

) the devastation was so complete, that the Christian bishop retired to Viviers
Viviers
Viviers is the name or part of the name of several communes in France:* Viviers, Ardèche, in the Ardèche département, capital of the Vivarais and episcopal see* Viviers, Moselle, in the Moselle département...

, but in Gregory's account at Mende in Lozère
Lozère
Lozère , is a department in southeast France near the Massif Central, named after Mont Lozère.- History :Lozère is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790...

, also deep in the heart of Gaul, bishop Privatus was forced to sacrifice to idols in the very cave where he was later venerated. It is thought this detail may be a generic literary ploy to epitomize the horrors of barbarian violence.

List of battles between Romans and Alamanni

  • 259, Battle of Mediolanum
    Battle of Mediolanum
    The Battle of Mediolanum took place in 259, between the Alamannic Germans and the Roman legions under the command of Emperor Gallienus.-Background:...

    —Emperor Gallienus defeats the Alamanni to rescue Rome
  • 268, Battle of Lake Benacus
    Battle of Lake Benacus
    The Battle of Lake Benacus was one of the decisive battles that marked the beginning of the Roman Empire's emergence from the Crisis of the Third Century...

    —Romans under Emperor Claudius II
    Claudius II
    Claudius II , commonly known as Claudius Gothicus, was Roman Emperor from 268 to 270. During his reign he fought successfully against the Alamanni and scored a crushing victory against the Goths at the Battle of Naissus. He died after succumbing to a smallpox plague that ravaged the provinces of...

     defeat the Alamanni.
  • 271
    • Battle of Placentia
      Battle of Placentia
      The Battle of Placentia was fought in January 271 between a Roman army led by Emperor Aurelian and the Alamanni , near modern Piacenza....

      —Emperor Aurelian
      Aurelian
      Aurelian , was Roman Emperor from 270 to 275. During his reign, he defeated the Alamanni after a devastating war. He also defeated the Goths, Vandals, Juthungi, Sarmatians, and Carpi. Aurelian restored the Empire's eastern provinces after his conquest of the Palmyrene Empire in 273. The following...

       is defeated by the Alamanni forces invading Italy
    • Battle of Fano
      Battle of Fano
      The Battle of Fano - also known as the Battle of Fanum Fortunae - was fought in January 271 between the Roman Empire and the Alamanni. The Romans were led by Emperor Aurelian, and they were victorious....

      —Aurelian defeats the Alamanni, who begin to retreat from Italy
    • Battle of Pavia
      Battle of Pavia (271)
      The Battle of Pavia was fought in 271 near Pavia , and resulted in the Roman Emperor Aurelian destroying the retreating Alamanni army.-The battle:...

      —Aurelian destroys the retreating Alamanni army.
  • 298
    • Battle of Lingones
      Battle of Lingones
      The Battle of Lingones was fought in 298 between the Roman Empire and the Alamanni. The Roman force was led by Constantius Chlorus, and was victorious....

      Caesar
      Caesar (title)
      Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator...

       Constantius Chlorus
      Constantius Chlorus
      Constantius I , commonly known as Constantius Chlorus, was Roman Emperor from 293 to 306. He was the father of Constantine the Great and founder of the Constantinian dynasty. As Caesar he defeated the usurper Allectus in Britain and campaigned extensively along the Rhine frontier, defeating the...

       defeats the Alamanni
    • Battle of Vindonissa
      Battle of Vindonissa
      The Battle of Vindonissa was fought in 298 between the Roman Empire army, led by Emperor Constantius Chlorus, and the Alemanni. The Romans won the battle, fought in Vindonissa, strengthening Rome's defenses along the Rhine....

      —Constantius again defeats the Alamanni
  • 356, Battle of Reims
    Battle of Reims (356)
    The Battle of Reims was fought in 356 between the Roman army led by Emperor Julian the Apostate and the Alemanni. The Alemanni were victorious....

    Caesar
    Caesar (title)
    Caesar is a title of imperial character. It derives from the cognomen of Julius Caesar, the Roman dictator...

     Julian
    Julian the Apostate
    Julian "the Apostate" , commonly known as Julian, or also Julian the Philosopher, was Roman Emperor from 361 to 363 and a noted philosopher and Greek writer....

     is defeated by the Alamanni
  • 357, Battle of Strasbourg
    Battle of Strasbourg
    The Battle of Strasbourg, also known as the Battle of Argentoratum, was fought in 357 between the Late Roman army under the Caesar Julian and the Alamanni tribal confederation led by the joint paramount king Chnodomar...

    —Julian expels the Alamanni from the Rhineland
    Rhineland
    Historically, the Rhinelands refers to a loosely-defined region embracing the land on either bank of the River Rhine in central Europe....

  • 367, Battle of Solicinium
    Battle of Solicinium
    The Battle of Solicinium was fought in 367 between a Roman Empire army and the Alamanni. The Roman force was led by Emperor Valentinian I, and they managed to repel the Alamanni, but suffered heavy losses during the battle....

    —Romans under Emperor Valentinian I
    Valentinian I
    Valentinian I , also known as Valentinian the Great, was Roman emperor from 364 to 375. Upon becoming emperor he made his brother Valens his co-emperor, giving him rule of the eastern provinces while Valentinian retained the west....

     defeat yet another Alamanni incursion.
  • 378, Battle of Argentovaria
    Battle of Argentovaria
    The Battle of Argentovaria was fought in May 378 between the Roman Empire and the invading army of the Lentienses, a branch of the Alamanni, at Argentovaria . With this defeat, the Lentienses disappear from history....

    —Western Emperor Gratianus is victorious over the Alamanni, yet again.

Alamanni and Franks


The kingdom of Alamannia
Alamannia
Alamannia or Alemannia was the territory inhabited by the Germanic Alamanni after they broke through the Roman limes in 213.The Alamanni expanded from the Main basin during the 3rd century, raiding the Roman provinces and settling on the left bank of the Rhine from the 4th century.Ruled by...

 between Strasbourg and Augsburg lasted until 496, when the Alamanni were conquered by Clovis I
Clovis I
Clovis Leuthwig was the first King of the Franks to unite all the Frankish tribes under one ruler, changing the leadership from a group of royal chieftains, to rule by kings, ensuring that the kingship was held by his heirs. He was also the first Catholic King to rule over Gaul . He was the son...

 at the Battle of Tolbiac
Battle of Tolbiac
The Battle of Tolbiac was fought between the Franks under Clovis I and the Alamanni, traditionally set in 496. The site of "Tolbiac", or "Tulpiacum" is usually given as Zülpich, North Rhine-Westphalia, about 60km east of the present German-Belgian frontier, which is not implausible...

. The war of Clovis with the Alamanni forms the setting for the conversion of Clovis, briefly treated by Gregory of Tours
Gregory of Tours
Saint Gregory of Tours was a Gallo-Roman historian and Bishop of Tours, which made him a leading prelate of Gaul. He was born Georgius Florentius, later adding the name Gregorius in honour of his maternal great-grandfather...

 (Book II.31) Subsequently the Alamanni formed part of the Frankish
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 dominions and were governed by a Frankish duke.

In 746, Carloman
Carloman, son of Charles Martel
Carloman was the eldest son of Charles Martel, major domo or mayor of the palace and duke of the Franks, and his wife Chrotrud. On Charles' death , Carloman and his brother Pippin the Short succeeded to their father's legal positions, Carloman in Austrasia, and Pippin in Neustria...

 ended an uprising by summarily executing all Alemannic nobility at the blood court at Cannstatt
Blood court at Cannstatt
The blood court at Cannstatt took place as Carloman in 746 invited all nobles of the Alamanni to a council at Cannstatt. According to the annals of Metz, the annales Petaviani and an account by Childebrand, Carloman arrested several thousand noblemen and executed them for high treason...

, and for the following century, Alamannia was ruled by Frankish dukes. Following the treaty of Verdun
Treaty of Verdun
The Treaty of Verdun was a treaty between the three surviving sons of Louis the Pious, the son and successor of Charlemagne, which divided the Carolingian Empire into three kingdoms...

 of 843, Alamannia became a province of the eastern kingdom of Louis the German
Louis the German
Louis the German , also known as Louis II or Louis the Bavarian, was a grandson of Charlemagne and the third son of the succeeding Frankish Emperor Louis the Pious and his first wife, Ermengarde of Hesbaye.He received the appellation 'Germanicus' shortly after his death in recognition of the fact...

, the precursor of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

. The duchy persisted until 1268.

Christianization

The Christianization
Christianization
The historical phenomenon of Christianization is the conversion of individuals to Christianity or the conversion of entire peoples at once...

 of the Alamanni took place during Merovingian times (6th to 8th centuries). We know that in the 6th century, the Alamanni were predominantly pagan, and in the 8th century, they were predominantly Christian. The intervening 7th century was a period of genuine syncretism
Syncretism
Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term means "combining", but see below for the origin of the word...

 during which Christian symbolism and doctrine gradually grew in influence.

Some scholars have speculated that members of the Alamannic elite such as king Gibuld
Gibuld
Gibuld was a king of the Alamanni. He is the last known king before the defeat of the Alamanni at the battle of Tolbiac in 496.Gibuld is known from two hagiographic sources, the contemporary Vita Severini by Eugippus,, where his name is latinized as Gibuldus, and the later Vita Lupi where it is...

 due to Visigothic
Visigothic Kingdom
The Visigothic Kingdom was a kingdom which occupied southwestern France and the Iberian Peninsula from the 5th to 8th century AD. One of the Germanic successor states to the Western Roman Empire, it was originally created by the settlement of the Visigoths under King Wallia in the province of...

 influence may have been converted to Arianism
Arianism
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

 even in the later 5th century.

In the mid-6th century, the Byzantine historian Agathias of Myrina records, in the context of the wars of the Goths and Franks against Byzantium, that the Alamanni fighting among the troops of Frankish king Theudebald
Theudebald
Theudebald or Theodebald , son of Theudebert I and Deuteria, was the king of Metz, Rheims, or Austrasia—as it's variously called—from 547 or 548 to 555.He was only thirteen years of age when he succeeded and of ill health...

 were like the Franks in all respects except religion, since
He also spoke of the particular ruthlessness of the Alamani in destroying Christian sanctuaries and plundering churches while the genuine Franks were respectful towards those sanctuaries. Agathias expresses his hope that the Alamanni would assume better manners through prolonged contact with the Franks, which is by all appearances, in a manner of speaking, what eventually happened.

Apostles of the Alamanni were Saint Columbanus and his disciple Saint Gall
Saint Gall
Saint Gall, Gallen, or Gallus was an Irish disciple and one of the traditionally twelve companions of Saint Columbanus on his mission from Ireland to the continent. Saint Deicolus is called an older brother of Gall.-Biography:...

. Jonas of Bobbio
Jonas of Bobbio
Jonas of Bobbio or Jonas Bobiensis was a Columbanian monk and writer of hagiography, among which his Life of Saint Columbanus is outstanding....

 records that Columbanus was active in Bregenz
Bregenz
-Culture:The annual summer music festival Bregenzer Festspiele is a world-famous festival which takes place on and around a stage on Lake Constance, where a different opera is performed every second year.-Sport:* A1 Bregenz HB is a handball team....

, where he disrupted a beer sacrifice to Wodan. Despite these activities, for some time, the Alamanni seem to have continued their pagan cult activities, with only superficial or syncretistic
Syncretism
Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term means "combining", but see below for the origin of the word...

 Christian elements. In particular, there is no change in burial practice, and tumulus warrior graves continued to be erected throughout Merovingian times. Syncretism of traditional Germanic animal-style with Christian symbolism is also present in artwork, but Christian symbolism becomes more and more prevalent during the 7th century. Unlike the later Christianization of the Saxon and of the Slavs, the Alamanni seem to have adopted Christianity gradually, and voluntarily, spread in emulation of the Merovingian elite.

From ca. the 520s to the 620s, there was a surge of Alamannic Elder Futhark inscriptions. About 70 specimens have survived, roughly half of them on fibulae, others on belt buckles (see Pforzen buckle
Pforzen buckle
The Pforzen buckle is a silver belt buckle found in Pforzen, Ostallgäu in 1992. The Alemannic grave in which it was found dates to the end of the 6th century and was presumably that of a warrior, as it also contained a lance, spatha, seax and shield...

, Bülach fibula
Bülach fibula
The Bülach fibula is a silver disk-type fibula with almandine inlay found in Bülach, Canton Zürich in 1927. The Alemannic grave in which it was found dates to 6th century and contained the remains of an adult woman...

) and other jewelry and weapon parts. Use of runes subsides with the advance of Christianity.
The Nordendorf fibula
Nordendorf fibula
thumb|300px|right|The Nordendorf II fibulaThe Nordendorf fibulae are two mid 6th to early 7th century Alamannic fibulae found in Nordendorf near Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany....

 (early 7th century) clearly records pagan theonyms, logaþorewodanwigiþonar read as "Wodan and Donar are magicians/sorcerers", but this may be interpreted as either a pagan invocation of the powers of these deities, or a Christian protective charm against them.
A runic inscription on a fibula found at Bad Ems
Bad Ems
Bad Ems is a town in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. It is the county seat of the Rhein-Lahn rural district and is well known as a bathing resort on the river Lahn...

 reflects Christian pious sentiment (and is also explicitly marked with a Christian cross), reading god fura dih deofile ᛭ ("God for/before you, Theophilus!", or alternatively "God before you, Devil!"). Dated to between AD 660 and 690, it marks the end of the native Alemannic tradition of runic literacy. Bad Ems is in Rhineland-Palatinate
Rhineland-Palatinate
Rhineland-Palatinate is one of the 16 states of the Federal Republic of Germany. It has an area of and about four million inhabitants. The capital is Mainz. English speakers also commonly refer to the state by its German name, Rheinland-Pfalz ....

, on the northwestern boundary of Alemannic settlement, where Frankish influence would have been strongest.

The establishment of the bishopric of Konstanz
Konstanz
Konstanz is a university city with approximately 80,000 inhabitants located at the western end of Lake Constance in the south-west corner of Germany, bordering Switzerland. The city houses the University of Konstanz.-Location:...

 cannot be dated exactly and was possibly undertaken by Columbanus himself (before 612). In any case, it existed by 635, when Gunzo
Gunzo
Gunzo was a 7th century duke of the Alamanni under Frankish sovereignty. His residence was at villa Iburninga at Lake Constance...

 appointed John of Grab bishop. Constance was a missionary bishopric in newly converted lands, and did not look back on late Roman church history (unlike the Raetian bishopric of Chur
Chur
Chur or Coire is the capital of the Swiss canton of Graubünden and lies in the northern part of the canton.-History:The name "chur" derives perhaps from the Celtic kora or koria, meaning "tribe", or from the Latin curia....

, established 451) and Basel
Basel
Basel or Basle In the national languages of Switzerland the city is also known as Bâle , Basilea and Basilea is Switzerland's third most populous city with about 166,000 inhabitants. Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany...

, which was an episcopal seat from 740, and which continued the line of Bishops of Augusta Raurica
Augusta Raurica
Augusta Raurica is a Roman archaeological site and an open-air museum in Switzerland. Located on the south bank of the Rhine river about 20 km east of Basel near the villages of Augst and Kaiseraugst, it is the oldest known Roman colony on the Rhine....

, see Bishop of Basel. The establishment of the church as an institution recognized by worldly rulers is also visible in legal history. In the early 7th century Pactus Alamannorum hardly ever mentions the special privileges of the church, while Lantfrid
Lantfrid
Lantfrid was duke of Alamannia under Frankish sovereignty from 709 until his death. He was the son of duke Gotfrid...

's Lex Alamannorum
Lex Alamannorum
The terms Lex Alamannorum and Pactus Alamannorum refer to two early medieval law codes of the Alamanni. They were first edited in parts in 1530 by Johannes Sichard in Basel.-Pactus Alamannorum:...

of 720 has an entire chapter reserved for ecclesial matters alone.

Independent kings

  • Chrocus
    Chrocus
    Chrocus or Crocus, also Croc, Krokus, Crochus or Croscus was a leader of the Alamanni in the late 3rd century. In 260, he led an uprising of the Alamanni against the Roman Empire, traversing the Upper Germanic Limes and advancing as far as Clermont, and possibly as far as Ravenna, and he was...

     306
  • Mederich (father of Agenarich, brother to Chnodomar)
  • Chnodomar 350, 357
  • Vestralp 357, 359
  • Ur 357, 359
  • Agenarich (Serapio) 357
  • Suomar 357, 358
  • Hortar 357, 359
  • Gundomad 354 (co-regent of Vadomar)
  • Ursicin 357, 359
  • Makrian 368–371
  • Rando 368
  • Hariobaud 4th c.
  • Vadomar vor 354–360
  • Vithicab 360–368
  • Priarius ?–378
  • Gibuld
    Gibuld
    Gibuld was a king of the Alamanni. He is the last known king before the defeat of the Alamanni at the battle of Tolbiac in 496.Gibuld is known from two hagiographic sources, the contemporary Vita Severini by Eugippus,, where his name is latinized as Gibuldus, and the later Vita Lupi where it is...

     (Gebavult) c. 470

Dukes under Frankish suzerainty

  • Butilin 539–554
  • Leuthari I before 552–554
  • Haming 539–554
  • Lantachar until 548 (Avenches diocese)
  • Magnachar 565 (Avenches diocese)
  • Vaefar 573 (Avenches diocese)
  • Theodefrid
    Theodefrid
    Theodefrid was the Frankish duke of the Alemanni in the Diocese of Avenches until 573, when Marius became bishop and took over the secular affairs of the diocese. Marius in his Chronicon mentioned five dukes that ruled Avenches between 548 and 573. Theodefrid was the last and a successor of Vaefar...

  • Leutfred
    Leutfred
    Leutfred, Leutfried, or Leudefredus was the Duke of Alemannia from 570. He was deposed from his ducal office in 587 by the Frankish king Childebert II and replaced by Uncilin.-Sources:...

     570–587
  • Uncilin 587–607
  • Gunzo
    Gunzo
    Gunzo was a 7th century duke of the Alamanni under Frankish sovereignty. His residence was at villa Iburninga at Lake Constance...

     613
  • Chrodobert
    Chrodobert
    Chrodobert, Crodobert, or Crodebert was an Aleman dux of the early seventh century . He probably ruled in the south of the region later known as Swabia....

     630
  • Leuthari II
    Leuthari II
    Leutharis, Leuthari, Leuthard, or Leutharius II was the Duke of Alamannia in the early seventh century.Leuthari murdered Otto, the mayor of the palace of Austrasia, in 643. By doing so he made Grimoald I the mayor of the palace for Sigebert III...

     642
  • Gotfrid
    Gotfrid
    Gotfrid, Gotefrid, or Gottfried was the Duke of Alemannia in the late seventh century and until his death. He was of the house of the Agilolfing, which was the dominant ruling family in Bavaria....

     until 709
  • Willehari
    Willehari
    Willehari or Willihari was an Alemannic duke in the Ortenau in the early eighth century.According to the Vita Sancti Desiderii, Pepin of Heristal of the Franks, led two expeditions against Willehari in 709 and 712...

     709–712 (in Ortenau
    Ortenau
    The Ortenau is a historical territory in Baden-Württemberg, located on the right bank of the River Rhine. It covers approximately the same area as the Ortenaukreis, a present-day district....

    )
  • Lantfrid
    Lantfrid
    Lantfrid was duke of Alamannia under Frankish sovereignty from 709 until his death. He was the son of duke Gotfrid...

     709–730
  • Theudebald
    Theudebald, Duke of Alamannia
    Theudebald or Theutbald was the Duke of Alamannia from 730 until his deposition. He was a son of Gotfrid and brother and co-ruler with Lantfrid from 709....

     709–744

See also

  • Annales Alamannici
    Annales Alamannici
    The core text of the Annales Alamannici covers the years 709 through to 799. Spread over several Swabian monasteries, the annals were continued independently in several places, in the Reichenau Abbey up to 939 , in St. Gallen up to 926. The St...

  • Lex Alamannorum
    Lex Alamannorum
    The terms Lex Alamannorum and Pactus Alamannorum refer to two early medieval law codes of the Alamanni. They were first edited in parts in 1530 by Johannes Sichard in Basel.-Pactus Alamannorum:...

  • Confederations of Germanic tribes

External links

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