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European Kingdoms

Germanic Tribes


MapBructeri (Bructri) (Germanic)

The Germanic tribes seem to have originated in a homeland in southern Scandinavia (Sweden and Norway, with the Jutland area of northern Denmark, along with a very narrow strip of Baltic coastline). They had been settled here for over two thousand years following the Indo-European migrations. The Germanic ethnic group began as a division of the western edge of late proto-Indo-European dialects around 3300 BC, splitting away from a general westwards migration to head towards the southern coastline of the Baltic Sea. By the time the Germanic tribes were becoming key players in the politics of Western Europe in the last two centuries BC, the previously dominant Celts were on the verge of being conquered and dominated by Rome. They had already been pushed out of northern and Central Europe by a mass of Germanic tribes which were steadily carving out a new homeland.

The Bructeri were one of many relatively small Germanic tribes that were located in north-western Germany, to the east of the lower Rhine, in the first century AD. The tribe was situated on either side of the upper River Ems, and to their north were the Chasuarii and Angrivarii, to the north-east were the Ampsivarii, and to the east was the vast Teutoberger Forest and the powerful Cherusci tribe. Southwards was the River Lippe, across which were the Sicambri, Marsi, Tencteri and Chatti, and to the west was the Rhine, along with the Chamavi, the minor Tubantes tribe, and the Paemani and Cugerni, with the Frisii and Belgic tribes beyond them.

The tribe was also known as the Bructri, or by the later name of the Bructerians. 'Bructer' has an '-er' ending, which indicates someone who carries out whatever the object is in the main part of the word. A 'bruct' could well be a bridge, which would make the tribe the 'bridge builders'.

The Franks were first documented during the third century (the Period of Migration), when they were to be found occupying territory on the Lower Rhine valley (on the east bank, in what is now northern Belgium and the southern Netherlands). They were one of several West Germanic federations, and were formed of elements of the Ampsivarii, Batavi, Bructeri, Chamavi, Chatti, Chattuarii, Cherusci, Salii, Sicambri, Tencteri, and Usipetes. Most of these peoples were living along the Rhine's northern borders in what was then known as Francia.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from Roman Soldier versus Germanic Warrior: 1st Century AD, Lindsay Powell, from Histories, Annals, Germania, Tacitus, from Agricola, from The Harleian Miscellany: A Collection of Scarce, Curious and Entertaining Tracts Volume 4, William Oldys & Thomas Park,  from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from Geography, Ptolemy, and from External Link: Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition).)

12 - 9 BC

Nero Claudius Drusus Germanicus, stepson of Emperor Augustus, is appointed governor of the Rhine region of Gaul. He launches the first major Roman campaigns across the Rhine and begins the conquest of Germania. He starts with a successful campaign that subjugates the Sicambri. Later in the same year he leads a naval expedition along the North Sea coast, conquering the Batavi and the Frisii, and defeating the Chauci near the mouth of the Weser. In 11 BC, he conquers the Bructeri, Usipetes and Marsi, extending Roman control into the Upper Weser. In 10 BC, he launches a campaign against the Chatti and the resurgent Sicambri, subjugating both. The following year he conquers the Mattiaci, while also defeating the Marcomanni and Cherusci, the latter being taken care of near the Elbe. He is killed in a fall from his horse during his fourth campaign, and his death deprives Rome of one its best generals.

AD 9

Arminius declares the independence of the Cherusci from Rome, decimating three legions in the Teutoberger Forest. He achieves this momentous victory in an alliance with the Bructeri, Chatti, Chauci, Marsi, and Sicambri. The Dulgubnii, Tencteri, and Usipetes are also very likely to be involved. The Bructeri, Tubantes and Usipetes certainly team up to harass the troops of Germanicus AD 14, and they are later included in his triumph.

Teutoberger wald
The decimation of three legions in the Teutoberger wald was a massive humiliation for the Roman empire and caused the abandonment of plans to conquer Germania Magna

14 - 16

Roman General Germanicus begins his invasion of northern Germany in AD 14 with Segestes of the Cherusci as an ally. He enters Marsi territory with 12,000 legionaries, along with eight squadrons of cavalry and twenty-six cohorts of auxiliaries. The Marsi are destroyed in AD 15, and the Bructeri soon find themselves under attack by one of Germanicus' commanders, one Lucius Stertinius. The tribe burns its own property to keep it out of Roman hands but is quickly defeated. The Roman campaign continues against the Cherusci, defeating them at Idistaviso and at the Battle of the Angrivarian Walls in AD 16.

59 - 60?

After failing to gain a new homeland in the buffer zone on the lower Rhine that has just been created by Rome, the homeless Ampsivarii tribe subsequently forms a defensive alliance with the Bructeri, Tencteri, Tubantes, and Usipetes. Rome acts immediately, sending troops into the territory of the Tencteri and threatening them with annihilation. All four tribes withdraw from the alliance and the Romans withdraw from their territory, leaving the Ampsivarii utterly friendless.


The priestess and prophet of the Bructeri is Veleda. She is regarded as a deity and enjoys a great deal of influence amongst the tribes in central Germania. She lives in a tower near the River Lippe, not far to the east of the Rhine. At some point in this decade, prior to the Batavian rebellion, Veleda is called up to provide arbitration in a row between the Tencteri and the inhabitants of the Roman settlement of Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium (modern Cologne), many of whom would also be Germans. The envoys are not admitted directly into her presence but are forced to communicate with her through an interpreter, and her arbitration is accepted. Veleda later predicts the initial success of the Batavian rebellion (which is possibly taken as encouragement for it).

69 - 70

A high ranking Batavi named Julius Paullus is executed by Fonteius Capito on a false charge of rebellion. A relative of his, Gaius Julius Civilis, is arrested and taken in chains to Rome. Once released, he is allowed to return to his people. The details behind the false charge of rebellion are unknown, but they clearly stir a very real spirit of rebellion within the Batavi. Gaius Julius Civilis leads a Batavian insurrection against a Rome which is distracted by the events of the Year of the Four Emperors.

Supported by the Bructeri, Canninefates, Chauci, Cugerni, and Tencteri, who send reinforcements, he is initially successful. Castra Vetera is captured and two Roman legions are lost, while two others fall into the hands of the rebels. In AD 70 the Chatti, Mattiaci, and Usipetes join in, besieging the legionary fortress at Mogontiacum (modern Mainz). Eventual Roman pressure, with aid from the Mediomatrici, Sequani, and Tungri, forces Civilis to retreat to the Batavian island where he agrees peace terms with General Quintus Petilius Cerialis.

The Gaulish and Germanic Batavian revolt of AD 69-70 was a major contributor to the instability experienced in the Roman empire during the 'Year of Four Emperors'


Veleda is taken into 'protective custody' by Rome, either after being captured or for her own protection (although Rome has long had a habit of making little distinction between the two). The Roman poet, Publius Papinius Statius, records her captor as being Rutilius Gallicus, and there are clear signs that her prophecies are being lampooned by the Romans (a Greek epigram discovered at Ardea, immediately south of Rome proves this).

? - 83/84


Name unknown.


The fate of the Bructeri tribal leader in AD 83 or 84 is unknown, as is his name, but Rome takes the opportunity to proffer their own, compliant candidate for the position. Veleda possibly helps to persuade the Bructeri people to accept the candidate, although whether she sees him as the best choice or is forced by her 'captors' is not known.

83/84 - ?


Pro-Roman king, name unknown.


Writing at this time, Tacitus mentions a large number of tribes in Germania Magna, including the Bructeri. He relates their recent history and their location in tribal Germania, which seems to have changed to an extent. Their original lands, or part of them, are now occupied by the Angrivarii and Chamavi, after the Bructeri had been defeated and almost annihilated by a coalition of neighbouring tribes (Tacitus is uncertain of the reason). More than 60,000 are killed, according to the writer, who is part of a delegation that is apparently allowed to watch the attack, possibly as impartial observers who can record that fair play has been observed.

It is also clear that by this time the prophetess Veleda is no longer alive. She is remembered in modern works as Velleda or Welleda. Tacitus also mentions the fortress of Asciburgium. This is a Latinisation of the common Germanic word 'Askaburgaz', which means 'fortress of the ash trees'. Tacitus states that the fortress had originally been founded by Hercules, by which he probably means the Germanic god Thornaraz or Thor.


Ptolemy, who writes in the mid-second century, places the Bructeri in the same location as other writers, to the east of the Rhine. He also places the fortress of Asciburgium on the border between the territory of the Bructeri and Tencteri.

308 - 310

As recorded by the Panegyrici Latini which praises the later Roman emperors, Emperor Constantine the Great invades the territory of the Bructeri. This action is possibly part of the retaliation for the Frankish raid across the Rhine in 306, which had been led by Ascarich and his co-ruler, Merogais. It shows that the Frankish confederation is already in existence, that the Bructeri are probably already included as part of it, and possibly that they may be held responsible for the raid because Ascarish himself (a 'Frankish' leader) could be a Bructeri. It is also possible that it is for this campaign that Constantine is able to assume the title 'Germanicus Maximus' for the second time.

Emperor Constantine the Great
Emperor Constantine the Great is perhaps best known for confirming Christianity as the official religion of the Roman empire, but he also did a great deal to stabilise the empire and ensure that it survived into the next century

The raid is devastating for the Bructeri. It seems to take place on the west bank of the Rhine, so perhaps this is only a division of the tribe, and it results in: 'countless numbers slaughtered and very many captured. Whatever herds there were, were seized or slaughtered; all the villages were put to flame; the adults who were captured, whose untrustworthiness made them unfit for military service and whose ferocity for slavery, were given over to the amphitheatre for punishment, and their great numbers wore out the raging beasts'. Clearly this west bank division of the tribe is destroyed.


MapThe main body of Chattuarii have probably remained to the east of the Rhine until this period. They are still neighboured to the east by the Chatti and are now to the south of the Bructeri. At this point they cross with the bulk of the Franks and settle between the Meuse and the west bank of the Rhine. The Bructeri themselves do not migrate at all. Instead they remain in their traditional tribal lands and gradually coalesce into the more minor Ripaurian Franks who remain on the east bank of the Rhine, along with the Tencteri, Tubantes, and Usipetes.

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