Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Cimbri

CIMBRI, or Cimbrians (Greek, Κίμβροι), an ancient nation of unknown affinity, which was one of the most formidable enemies of the Roman power, and has proved one of the most difficult subjects for the historical investigator. About 113 B.C., in company with the Teutones, they defeated the consul Papirius Carbo near Noreia in Styria; and in 109 B.C. they routed another army under the consul Silanus. By the latter success they opened their way to Gallia Narbonensis; and in 105 B.C. they began to threaten the Roman territory itself. They were joined by the Gauls from all quarters; and the Roman army sent against them under Cæpio and Manlius was almost exterminated. Only ten men with two generals are said to have escaped; and, in accordance with a vow which they had made before the battle, the conquerors destroyed all the spoil. The gold and silver they flung into the Rhone; they drowned the horses, and put all the prisoners to death. The Romans were thrown into consternation; but a new army was raised with all expedition, and the command was bestowed on Marius, who at that time enjoyed a high reputation on account of his victories in Africa. The Cimbri were approaching over the eastern Alps, and the Teutones and the other allies over the western. He first attacked and defeated the latter division at Aquæ Sextiæ, and then returned to face the Cimbri, who had meanwhile seen the backs of the soldiers of Catullus and Sylla. The vast host attacked the Romans with the utmost fury in the Campi Raudii near Vercellæ (101 B.C.); but, unaccustomed to the heats of Italy, they soon began to yield and were easily overcome. They had put it out of their own power to fly; for, that they might the better keep their ranks, they had, like true barbarians, tied themselves together. It is said that 120,000 were killed on the field of battle and 60,000 were taken prisoners. The people of the Italian districts known as the Sette Communi in Vicenza and the Tredeci Communi in Verona have a belief that they are descended from the remnants of the Cimbrian army, but it is much more probable that they are the posterity of German settlers introduced by the bishops of Trent. Be this at it may, it is certain that after the victory of Marius the Cimbri were no longer of much importance as antagonists of Rome.

Two great questions have claimed the attention of the historian in regard to this people; but to neither of them has anything like a definite answer been obtained. The first has to do with their local habitation, and the second with their ethnographical connection. Cæsar, Sallust, Cicero, and Diodorus Siculus seem to have regarded them as Gauls, and assign them a position within the Gallic area; whereas Strabo, Velleius Paterculus, and Tacitus treat them as Germans and locate them beyond the Rhine. The modern district of Jutland was familiarly known as the Cimbric Chersonese, and mention is made in the Mon. Ancyranum of an embassy from the Cimbrians of that peninsula to Augustus. Beyond this our ancient authorities do not carry us, and modern discussion has done little but maintain a continual oscillation of opinion. That they were closely connected with the Teutones is evident, and that the Teutones at least were Germanic was for a time regarded as certain; but more elaborate investigation shows that even this is open to dispute, and can afford no support as an argument. The ancient identification of the people with the Cimmerii and the modern identification with the Cymry are well-nigh exploded, and probably owe their origin to mere similarity of names.

See Cellarius De Cimbris et Teutonibus; Joh. von Müller, Bellum Cimbricum, 1776; Schiern, De Cimbrorum Origine et Migrationibus, 1842; Latham, Appendix to edition of the Germania of Tacitus; and a paper read by Canon Rawlinson before the Anthropological Institute, May 1876.