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(24 May 15 BCE - 10 October 19 CE)

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Bust of Germanicus – a general who gained great popularity in the Roman Empire.
Na licencji Creative Commons Uznanie autorstwa - Na tych samych warunkach 3.0.

Germanicus was born on May 24, 15 BCE as Caius Iulius Caesar Germanicus. He was one of the most famous Roman chiefs. He became famous for successful campaigns carried out in Germania.

As the son of a great husband, Drusus the Elder and Antonina the Younger had a broad and brilliant political career and military. His father Germanicus inherited the nickname Germanicus, which he rightly owed for his later victories for the Rhine. He was the cousin of grandson Octavian Augustus, nephew of Tiberius, older brother Claudius, husband of Agrippina Elder and father of, among others: Agrippina the Younger(in the future she will be married to Germanic’s brother Claudius) and emperor Caligula (future tyrant).

Military career

From an early age Germanic, as a son from a good home, was educated under the watchful eye of the greatest thinkers and scientists of that period. He had outstanding talents in pronunciation and learning in Greek and Latin, and above all, he learned the art of warfare. From an early age, Germanicus took part in numerous war expeditions to Germany and Gaul. He was a very good warrior, which is why his successes were significant. He was considered an outstanding leader, and at the same time was liked by legionaries.

In the 4th year CE, Emperor Augustus, designating Tiberius as his successor, obliged him to adopt Germanicus and make him his successor. This, however, exceptionally despised the young and popular young man. German, according to his contemporaries, had outstanding physical and spiritual qualities, which ensured him recognition and love of the Romans.

In the 5th year CE, Germanicus married Agrippina the Elder. In the following years, nine children were born. Three of them died as infants. The rest are three daughters: Agrippina, Druzylla and Liwilla and three sons: Nero, Druzus and Gaius Caesar (Caligula).

The extremely busy Germanicus did not stay at home for more than a week. As a result, his wife Agrippina the Elder, who was an extremely brave woman, accompanied him in all his war expeditions, both to Germany, Gaul and those to the Middle East. During this time he won many victories by commanding an army of in Pannonia and Dalmatia.

In 12 CE, Germanic, twenty-seven years old, became consul and received all his legions in Gaul under his command. However, he did not exercise direct command there, because his function was properly based on the work of a civil administrator. Germanic, who moved to Gaul with the whole family, mainly determined the property censuses of Gaul residents.
In 13 CE, Germanicus became the commander in chief of the Rhine legions, where he gained immense popularity as a brilliant and forgiving leader.

The unexpected death of the seventy-year-old emperor Augustus and the accession to the throne of the unpopular among the people of Tiberius caused a riot in the Germanicus army in Germany. Soldiers reluctant to rule Tiberius proclaimed Germanicus Emperor. However, he rejected the proposed title, accepting the will of August. The Germanicus man managed to silence the rebellion thanks to his personal prestige and caution, as well as various concessions to soldiers.

But when the emissaries of the Roman senate arrived, the rebellion broke out again. Germanicus’s persuasions and requests did not result. The rebellion from the camp of Germanic’s wife, Agrippina, together with his son Gajus, a favourite of soldiers, contributed to silencing the rebellion. Their departure extremely worried and angered the rebelling soldiers, especially since they were leaving the camp without escort, and under the protection of the Gauls. Then Germanicus came out to them, who, according to Tacitus, spoke to them:

Neither my wife nor my son are more expensive to me than my father and motherland; but his – his own majesty, the Roman state would defend the remaining armies; my wife and my children, whom I would willingly sacrifice for my fame, now I am away from the raging ones, that no matter what other crime threatens on your part, only my blood will erase her and that the killing of grandson Augustus, the murder of your daughter-in-law Tiberius has not made them even more guilty.

Tacitus, Annales, I

His unusually lively and dramatic speech caused many legionaries to cry and sadness. Without hesitation, they again gave in to the orders of their beloved leader. The suppression of the rebellion and the refusal to become emperor won Germanicism favouring the reigning Tiberius.

As a reward for suppressing the rebellion, Germanicus was appointed commander-in-chief of the Rhine army. The chief was moved to a new headquarters, in the city of Ubiów, where he had another daughter, Agrippina the Younger, the future wife of Emperor Claudius and mother Nero.
At the turn of 15 and 16 CE, he made two successful expeditions against the Germans under the leadership of Arminius. There he found and buried the remains of three legions remaining after the famous massacre in the Teutoburg Forest in 9 CE

Karl von Piloty, Thusnelda Led in Germanicus’ Triumph. Tiberius was extremely jealous of Germanicus’s successes. The young commander, after defeating Arminius on the Weser River in 16 CE, returned to Rome and received the right to triumph. Arminius’s wife, Thusneld, and their children took part in the march.

In the East

The unusual popularity of the young leader and his wife disturbed Tiberius, who dismissed Germanicus and in 17 CE sent him on a political mission to the East, where he was to control the unrest in the Roman legions.
He quickly managed to gain the trust of soldiers, at the head of whom he conquered and joined Cappadocia and Kommagena in Rome in 18 CE.

When Germanicus fought, the emperor Tiberius dismissed the current governor Silanus from Syria and appointed Gnaeus Piso. His extremely violent character and negative attitude towards Germanicus caused a conflict between them. During the stay of the Germanicus family in the Middle East, there was a dispute between their wives.

From Syria, Germanicus and his family went to Armenia. There, he placed king Artaksyas on the throne and met with the Parthian king Artabanus. In 19 CE, Germanicus went to Egypt and entered Alexandria, which was contrary to the orders issued by Augustus forbidding entering the province without permission. This event caused great indignation of Tiberius.


From then on Germanicus was persecuted. Intrigues intensified towards him, naturally initiated by Pizon. Unexpectedly, Germanicus became seriously ill for everyone. It is recognized that the reason for such a sudden change in health was the poison somehow given to him by Pison and magical practices intended to bring him unhappiness. Strange accidents that accompanied his last days of life caused Germanic’s mental breakdown.

Death of Germanicus, Nicolas Poussin

It is possible that the emperor Tiberius was behind the assassination, concerned about the arbitrariness and popularity of the young leader.

He died an unjust and unworthy death of his deeds in Antioch on October 10, 19 CE.


  • Aratea – the authorship and date of the translation of the work of Aratos (Fainomena) is discussed among scholars. Most researchers accept the authorship of Germanic. The oldest testimony of Aratea is Lactantius and Jerome.
  • Prognostica – the work is preserved in fragments, also dealing with stars, but in a meteorological context with astrological elements. From the preserved work remained 165 verses divided into six fragments. It is not excluded that both works could form one whole.
Agrippina Landing at Brundisium with the Ashes of Germanicus, Benjamin West
  • Cary M., Scullard H. H., Dzieje Rzymu. Od czasów najdawniejszych do Konstantyna t. I, Warszawa 1992
  • Iwaszkiewicz Piotr, Łoś Wiesław, Stępień Marek, Władcy i wodzowie starożytności. Słownik, Warszawa 1998
  • Krawczuk Aleksander, Poczet cesarzy rzymskich, Warszawa 2004
  • Tacitus, Annales

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