History Files

Please help the History Files

Contributed: 175

Target: 400

Totals slider

The History Files still needs your help. As a non-profit site, it is only able to support such a vast and ever-growing collection of information with your help, and this year your help is needed more than ever. Please make a donation so that we can continue to provide highly detailed historical research on a fully secure site. Your help really is appreciated.

European Kingdoms

Celtic Tribes


MapCugerni (Belgae?)

FeatureThe Cugerni were not amongst the four tribes described by Julius Caesar as Germanic but with at least one leader who bore a Celtic name. Those tribes were the Caerosi, Condrusi, Eburones, and Paemani, but the Cugerni also appear to have been more Germanic than Celtic. They were a minor tribe which was located between the Rhine and the Maas, amongst the tribes of the Belgae, in what is now northern France and the low lands of Belgium. To their west were the Eburones, to the north were the Paemani and the Menapii, across the Rhine to the east were the Germanic Bructeri, Ubii, and Sicambri, and to the south were the Atuatuci and Tungri.

The tribe's name is amongst the more obscure Celtic or Germanic names (and can also be rendered as Cuberni or Guberni). The core element, 'cug', does not seem to exist as a verb. This leaves any examination with a very large 'if', this being that if 'cug' is is a verb, then the '-er' suffix forms a noun and '-en' a plural. Failing this, and due to horrifying spelling irregularities with ancient writers, 'cu' is a hair-raising misspelling of 'ke-', an alternate form of 'ge-' (together), which progresses as 'ge-ger-en', 'together-spears'. This produces a meaning of 'the spearmen together', but the evidence to back this up is very thin.

For the main part, the tribe is thought to have been a splinter of the Sicambri, but with other elements added. Like the other apparently mixed tribes such as the Paemani, they probably formed or arrived around the start of the first century BC, quite possibly as overspill from the mass migration of the Cimbri and Teutones. Their territory included Castra Vatera and Xanten (a town in the North Rhine-Westphalia state of modern Germany), both on the Rhine.

(Information by Peter Kessler and Edward Dawson, with additional information from The La Tene Celtic Belgae Tribes in England: Y-Chromosome Haplogroup R-U152 - Hypothesis C, David K Faux, and from External Links: The Works of Julius Caesar: Gallic Wars, and Geography, Strabo (H C Hamilton & W Falconer, London, 1903, Perseus Online Edition).)

55 BC

As recorded by Julius Caesar in his work, Commentarii de Bello Gallico, the Germanic Tencteri and Usipetes tribes cross the Rhine from Germania and attack first the Belgic Menapii and then the Condrusi and Eburones. The tribes of the Caerosi, Condrusi, Eburones, and Paemani are Belgic peoples who are sometimes thought by scholars to be Germanic, although much of the evidence seems to suggest that they are either Celts, or are ruled by a Celtic nobility.

53 BC

Following the failure of their revolt, Ambiorix of the Eburones flees before the Romans and Cativolcus commits suicide by poisoning. Despite this apparent capitulation, the country of the Eburones proves difficult for the Romans, being woody and swampy in parts. Caesar invites the neighbouring people to come and plunder the Eburones. After stubborn resistance from the tribe, Caesar burns every village and building that he can find in their territory, drives off all the cattle, and confiscates all of the tribe's grain. The tribe is destroyed by this action and no further mention is made of them in history. Their land is occupied by the Germanic Tungri, but it is likely that survivors from the tribe find a home with the Cugerni, among others.

AD 69 - 70

Under the authority of self-proclaimed emperor, the Lingones noble, Julius Sabinus, Gaius Julius Civilis leads a Batavian insurrection against a Rome which is distracted by the events of the 'Year of the Four Emperors'. He is supported by the Bructeri, Canninefates, Chauci, Cugerni, and Tencteri, while the Sinuci are also mentioned as a people who live in the region (although their involvement in the revolt is uncertain). The tribes send reinforcements and Civilis 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).

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'

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. His subsequent fate is unknown, but the Batavi are treated with great consideration by Emperor Vespasian. During the revolt, the Roman fortress ceases to be used (for obvious reasons) and the Oppidum Batavorum is razed. Quintus Petilius Cerialis soon gains the post of Governor of Britain in reward for his triumph.

The Cugerni are subsumed within the Roman empire. Their region is somewhat depopulated in later Roman times in the face of increasing raids by Germanic tribes that are pushing westwards. Eventually, any Cugerni who remain in their homeland are overwhelmed by the Frankish confederation.

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.