The Suevi-Sarmatian Connection

We’ve been asked to expand on the Suevi-Sarmatian connection that we previously briefly talked about.  So we oblige listing here most of the relevant sources.  (We keep the Suebi spelling of the translations, where it appears, though suspect most manuscripts refer to the Suevi).


Some scholars speculate that the Iazyges cavalry consisted of war oliphants

Tacitus Annals (Book 12, 29)

“At this same time, Vannius, whom Drusus Caesar had made king of the Suevi, was driven from his kingdom. In the commencement of his reign he was renowned and popular with his countrymen; but subsequently, with long possession, he became a tyrant, and the enmity of neighbours, joined to intestine strife, was his ruin. Vibillius, king of the Hermunduri, and Vangio and Sido, sons of a sister of Vannius, led the movement… an immense host of Ligii, with other tribes, was advancing, attracted by the fame of the opulent realm which Vannius had enriched during thirty years of plunder and of tribute. Vannius’s own native force was infantry, and his cavalry was from the Iazyges of Sarmatia an army which was no match for his numerous enemy. Consequently, he determined to maintain himself in fortified positions, and protract the war. But the Iazyges, who could not endure a siege, dispersed themselves throughout the surrounding country and rendered an engagement inevitable, as the Ligii and Hermunduri had there rushed to the attack ; …He then fled to the fleet which was awaiting him on the Danube, and was soon followed by his adherents, who received grants of land and were settled in Pannonia. Vangio and Sido divided his kingdom between them; they were admirably loyal to us [i.e., the Romans]…” [close to the years 40-50];

Tacitus Histories (Book 1, 2)

“The history on which I am entering is that of a period rich in disasters, terrible with battles, torn by civil struggles, horrible even in peace. Four emperors fell by the sword; there were three civil wars, more foreign wars, and often both at the same time. There was success in the East, misfortune in the West. Illyricum was disturbed, the Gallic provinces wavering, Britain subdued and immediately let go.  The Sarmatae and Suebi rose against us [Charles Dennis Fisher’s edition has “the tribes of the Suevi and the Sarmatæ rose in concert against us“]; the Dacians won fame by defeats inflicted and suffered; even the Parthians were almost roused to arms through the trickery of a pretended Nero.” [years 85-88]


These date to the years 89-92 and Domitian’s war against the Dacians and then Quadi and Marcomanni:




Cassius Dio (67, 5, 12)

“In Moesia the Lygians, having become involved in war with some of the Suebi, sent envoys asking Domitian for aid. And they obtained a force that was strong, not in numbers, but in dignity; for a hundred knights alone were sent to help them. The Suebi, indignant at his giving help, attached to themselves some Iazyges and were making their preparations to cross the Ister with them. Masyus, king of the Semnones, and Ganna, a virgin who was priestess in Germany, having succeeded Veleda, came to Domitian and after being honoured by him returned home.” [year 98];

Tacitus Germania (46)

“I am in doubt whether to reckon the Peucini, Venedi, and Fenni among the Germans* or Sarmatians; although the Peucini, who are by some called Bastarnae, agree with the Germans in language, apparel, and habitations.  All of them live in filth and laziness. The intermarriages of their chiefs with the Sarmatians have debased them by a mixture of the manners of that people. ” [written about the year 98]

* Suevi are described as the largest of the German tribes

(Unknown Authors) Historia Augusta (Marcus Aurelius – Emperor 161-180, 21)

“He armed the Diogmitae, besides, and even hired auxiliaries from among the Germans for service against Germans.  And besides all this, he proceeded with all care to enrol legions for the Marcomannic and German war.  And lest all this prove burdensome to the provinces, he held an auction of the palace furnishings in the Forum of the Deified Trajan, as we have related, and sold there, besides robes and goblets and golden flagons, even statues and paintings by great artists.  He overwhelmed the Marcomanni while they were crossing the Danube, and restored the plunder to the provincials.  Then, from the borders of Illyricum even into Gaul, all the nations banded together against us — the Marcomanni, Varistae, Hermunduri and Quadi, the Suebians, Sarmatians, Lacringes and Buri, these and certain others together with the Victuali, namely, Osi, Bessi, Cobotes, Roxolani, Bastarnae, Alani, Peucini, and finally, the Costoboci. Furthermore, war threatened in Parthia and Britain.  Thereupon, by immense labour on his own part, while his soldiers reflected his energy, and both legates and prefects of the guard led the host, he conquered these exceedingly fierce peoples, accepted the surrender of the Marcomanni, and brought a great number of them to Italy.”

“Always before making any move, he conferred with the foremost men concerning matters not only of war but also of civil life.  This saying particularly was ever on his lips: “It is juster that I should yield to the counsel of such a number of such friends than that such a number of such friends should yield to my wishes, who am but one”.  But because Marcus, as a result of his system of philosophy, seemed harsh in his military discipline and indeed in his life in general, he was bitterly assailed; to all who spoke ill of him, however, he made reply either in speeches or in pamphlets.  And because in this German, or Marcomannic, war, or rather I should say in this “War of Many Nations,” many nobles perished, for all of whom he erected statues in the Forum of Trajan, his friends often urged him to abandon the war and return to Rome.”

(Unknown Authors) Historia Augusta (Aurelian – Emperor 270-275, 18)

“Aurelian, too, during that same time, fought with the greatest vigour against the Suebi and the Sarmatians and won a most splendid victory…” [years 270-275];

(Unknown Authors) Historia Augusta (Aurelian – Emperor 270-275, 33)

“It is not without advantage to know what manner of triumph Aurelian had… there were Goths, Alans, Roxolani, Sarmatians, Franks, Suebians, Vandals and Germans — all captive, with their hands bound fast.”

(Item Aurelianus contra Suebos et Sarmatas iisdem temporibus vehementissime dimicavit ac florentissimam victorian rettulit… Non absque re est cognoscere qui fuerit Aureliani triumphus… Gothi, Alani, Roxolani, Sarmatae, Franci, Suebi, Vandali, Germani, religatis manibus captive) [years 270-275];

Flavius Eutropius’ Compendium of Roman History, Book VIII, 13

“Having persevered, therefore, with the greatest labour and patience, for three whole years at Carnuntum, he brought the Marcomannic war to an end; a war which the Quadi, Vandals, Sarmatians, Suevi, and all the barbarians in that quarter, had joined with the Marcomanni in raising…”

(Unknown Author) Panegyric of Constantius (I Chlorus), 10

“…Raetia was lost and Noricum and the Pannonias devastated.  Italy herself, mistress of nations, lamented the destruction of very many of its cities.  There was not so much distress over individual losses when the Empire was deprived of almost everything.  But now that the whole wold has been reclaimed through your courage, not only where it had been Roman, but thorough subjugated even where it had been the enemy’s, vince Alamannia has been trampled so many times, the Sarmatians so often shackled, the Iuthungi, the Quadi and Carpi so frequently utterly crushed, the Goth submitting and seeking peace, the King of the Persians making supplication through gifts, this one disgrace of such a great Empire was searing our souls – we can now at last confess it – and seemed the more intolerable to us because it alone frustrated our glory.”

Ammianus Marcellinus (Book 16, 10, 20)

“…but he [Constantius II] was alarmed by frequent reliable reports that the Suebi were attacking the two provinces of Raetia and the Quadi Valeria*, and that the Sarmatians, who are particularly expert marauders, were devastating Upper Moesia and Lower Pannonia” [years 357-358];

* A division of Pannonia, named from Valeria, daughter of Diocletian and wife of Galerius; Basically they were both attacking Pannonia at different parts

Paulinus of Beziers Epigramma (19-21)

“Even though the Sarmatian devastates, the Vandal lights fires, and the quick Alan pillages, we strive, with painful effort and uncertain results, to put everything back to order.” [year 407];

Note that here the usual Suebi, Vandal, Alan trio of the Rhein-crossing fame is actually replaced by the Sarmatian, Vandal, Alan trio.

Saint Jerome Letter to Heliodorus (16)

“For twenty years and more the blood of Romans has been shed daily between Constantinople and the Julian Alps.  Scythia, Thrace, Macedonia, Dadania, Dacia, Thessaly, Achaia, Epirus, Dalmatia, the Pannonias – each and all of these have been sacked and pillaged and plundered by Goths and Sarmatians, Quades* and Alans, Huns and Vandals and Marchmen.”

*Quadi, one of the tribes of the Suevi

Saint Jerome Letter to Agenuchia (16)

“Nations innumerable and most savage have invaded all Gaul. The whole region between the Alps and the Pyrenees, the ocean and the Rhine, has been devastated by the Quadi, the Vandals, the Sarmati, the Alani, the Gepidae, the hostile Heruli, the Saxons, the Burgundians, the Alemanni, and the Pannonians [or “alas! for the commonweal even the Pannonians”].”

Again, the Vandals and the Alans are accounted for so which/where are the Suebi?

And, of course, the Baltic Sea is the Suevic Sea of Tacitus but also the Sarmatian Ocean of Ptolemy.

Shaettner Rickover & Borg Corporation – Copyright ©2015, All Rights Reserved

May 28, 2015

9 thoughts on “The Suevi-Sarmatian Connection

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  7. Fred Hamori

    I had previously mistook the Suavi to be Swab also known as Saxons, but what your article explains well makes more sense now. Thanks.
    I have a translation of an article which you may or may not have heard about concerning the duplicity of timelines which attribute the same events to two different groups. One to Alaric the other to Attila, plus a LOT more. If interested I could send it.


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