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Arminius and his motivations to fight the Romans
I am trying to plot together a plausible scenario on how and why Arminius and the Cherusci turned on the Romans in 9AD.  I have tried to find as much as there is to find on the subject,(to my limited resources) but most of the sources parrot one another about the same little fragments of information. Most of the rest is conjecture, which is largely option I am left with.  There are several divergent points that could swing motivations one way or another, and I would like some feedback from the community, if you are so inclined.

The Cherusci cavalry

Tiberius finished the first subjugation of the Cherusci, among other Germanic tribes, at the tail end of the first century BC. Hostages were taken from the leaders and nobles of the various tribes, which would presumably have included Arminius and Flavus, and a contingent of cavalry was soon mustered to serve with the Legions.  What was the nature of this cavalry? 

The Roman auxiliary had two main types: Native units that fought in their own traditional styles and tactics and non-citizen units built and equipped with Roman training and tactics.  The Cherusci cavalry serving Tiberius in Pannonia in 7AD, when Arminius presumably left the service of the Romans to help Varus, might have been either type.  By 7AD, the Cherusci were serving with the Romans for roughly 10 years as allied cavalry. 

Would that have been enough time for the Romans to build enough trust in them to train and equip them in the formalized type of auxiliary, or would they have still retained their more native ways of war?  I feel this is important to the motivation of Arminius, which I will cover in the next section.

Arminius and Flavus in service of Rome.

Arminius at the time he was taken into Roman custody was about 15 or 16 years old.  This was the age of manhood for both Roman and Cherusci society, which I feel is important to the events that would take place later in his life.  What I find equally as interesting is the choices made by his brother Flavus.  How does one come to betray Rome while the other seems to stay fiercely loyal? This is why the nature of the Cavalry unit is important to me.  If they were a Cheruscian unit with all of their old customs and traditions of their homeland, I could see Arminius holding on to his native loyalties over his Roman commanders, being as old as he was.

Flavus poses a bit of a problem.  How much younger was he then Arminius?  If it was by a great deal, then I could see him being indoctrinated into the Roman culture much more thoroughly as an impressionable youth.  If he wasn't a great deal younger, and he was surrounded by Cherusci that influenced him in similar manor to Arminius, why didn't he follow his brother?  Maybe the unit had been 'Romanized' and Flavus took it to heart more than his brother.

There is speculation that Arminius was plotting against Rome as early as the Illyrian revolt, but I find this troubling, again due to Flavus' loyalty.  If Arminius was plotting against the Romans why wouldn't he try to recruit his own brother?  If he did do that and Flavus rejected it, why did he not warn the Romans? It seems that Flavus took command the the cavalry when Arminius left, or that is how I see it, so why would he leave his brother in the grips of the enemy the was about to make? I really don't know, but I find it to be an interesting thought.

Arminius and Segimerus

I read somewhere, I don't remember if it was Murdoch's book or a college thesis that I came across off hand, that Segimerus, father of Arminius, might have died, which is partially why Arminius returned to Cherusci territory.  It was stated in the spirit of conjecture, and I take it as such, but it would explain some things for me in my mind.  The problem is that Cassius Dio states that Sigimerus assisted Arminius in his plot against Varus:

"Among those deepest in the conspiracy and leaders of the plot and of the war were Armenius and Segimerus, who were his constant companions and often shared his mess."
-Cassius Dio, book 56

This seems to infer that Sigimerus was alive and an active participant in the revolt. However, one potential way of interpreting it is that Sigimerus befriended Varus while actively plotting against him, and upon his death his son came in to finish his work. Why would Arminius, presumably a capable cavalry commander in service of Tiberius, be sent away right at a critical time in the middle of a major revolt in Illyria?  The leading notion is that he was sent to help Varus keep the peace, which is fair enough, but did Varus really need the help?  He was a capable and experienced governor with a strong military presence that was getting along with his native allies pretty well, at least in his eyes.  Did he really need the help of the son of a Cherusci noble, whose father he was already getting along with?  A dead Segimerus really puts this scenario in place. Varus would have accepted the son of his friend with open arms, and it is not far fetched for a son to adopt the work of his father. Furthermore, Arminius had first hand experience with the Roman army and would have known its vulnerabilities, making him a good choice to be named leader of the conspiracy.

 However, this means keeping a conspiracy secret for several years with a change in leadership, which is hard to swallow.  Perhaps Arminius didn't return until much later, or perhaps the plot formed more organically? Of course, that may be reaching for a conclusion to fit my theory.  But what do you think?

Arminius in service of Varus

It always seems to be assumed, at least to me, that Arminius was serving directly under Varus during the time leading up to the battle.  I have started to lean away from this thought.  This is why a dead Segimerus works better for the plot of Arminius, but it can work with Segimerus alive too.  If Arminius was a full and recognized noble of the Cherusci, this gives him better political access to all the Germanic tribes.  This from a Roman prospective makes him more valuable as an ally, having served Rome's interest while being positioned in a local office of authority with his own people. If he were a Roman officer under Roman command, it might turn away some nobles from participating in a plot against Varus, perhaps fearing a trick. 

Having Arminius as a allied noble also allows him to move from Roman to Cherusci circles and back more easily without raising suspicions.  This becomes a bit more difficult, though not impossible, if he were under the command of Varus.  The Cheruscian cavalry could still be loaned to the Romans as scouts and as supplementary allied forces for Varus, which still fits the established narrative. With the Lippe river dotted with Roman forts, it would be easy for Arminius to get to Varus and back to Cherusci lands in a matter of days, while keeping covert communications open to him.

This post is getting ridiculous now, so I will stop here, but what does everyone think? Am I on to something? Am I way off the mark? Comments and criticism welcome.
Daniel DeVargas

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