The tribe of the Ambrones appears briefly in the Roman sources relating to the 2nd century BC. Their location at the beginning of their brief history was the coast of north Europe, north of the Rhinemouth, in the Frisian Islands, the region now occupied by what is left of the Zuider Zee, and Jutland, which they shared with their close neighbors, the Cimbri and the Teutones.

As to their ethnicity there is no agreement. The Teutones were most likely to have been Germanic, but there is some evidence that the Ambrones and Cimbri may not have been entirely so. Later in their brief and sanguinary course across Europe, the Cimbri were ruled by Boiorix, a Celtic name, "King of the Boii." The Amb- in Ambrones is an initial segment of many Celtic tribal names. The Ambrones followed a Celtic custom in shouting the name of their tribe going into battle. Yet, the Romans considered them Germanic, not Celtic, and assisted the Celts against them. These circumstances suggest a mixed ethnicity, possibly earlier Celtic assimilated to Germanic. However, they did not only come from an area that had been recently Germanized from the North, this was also a time when the Germanic tribes were influenced by Celtic culture.


The three neighbors began their career in Roman history as an alliance determined to emigrate to the lands of the south. The Ambrones perhaps were driven by recent floods in the Zuider Zee region, not yet inundated. The total numbers were about 300,000, including 30,000 Ambrones. The migration soon turned to predation. Heading for Bohemia, they were successfully resisted by the Boii, who at that time still resided in the land named after them.

Going around the Boii, the three allies entered Serbia and Bosnia up the Save and Morava, but soon left that mountainous terrain for the greener pastures of Gaul, following a course around the north of the Alps and threatening Rome. The Romans attempted to stand in their way and suffered tragic losses: an army defeated under Gnaeus Papirius Carbo (Perseus, Carbo No. 4) in 113 BC at Noreia in Styria, another under Marcus Junius Silanus (Perseus, Silanus, Junius No. 17) in Gaul in 109 BC, a third under Cassius Longinus in 107 and another under Servilius Caepio and Gnaeus Mallius in 105 (Battle of Arausio).

Concluding that they wouldn't have much trouble sacking Rome and settling in North Italy, the three allies left a base in Gaul and divided into two prongs. The Ambrones and the Teutones were to transit Liguria (east of Marseilles), while the Cimbri were to enter Italy further north. At this point the Romans decided to make Gaius Marius consul again, illegally, as he had already served.

Marius marched into Liguria and set up camp in the path of the enemy. The Teutones assaulted the camp and were repulsed. They decided to go on and streamed around the camp, giving the Roman soldiers messages for the wives they should encounter as domestics when enslaved. Marius followed swiftly and again encamped next to them at Aquae Sextiae at the foot of the Alps. The year was 102 BC.

The battle began as a chance encounter but the Romans turned it into a victory. Roman camp followers attempting to draw water from a nearby river were attacked by the Ambrones, who were still using it. The Ligurians acting as Roman auxiliaries came to their rescue and were repulsed across the river. The opportunity was not lost on Marius. The Romans quickly formed ranks and caught the Ambrones trying to recross the river. The Ambrones lost the main part of their force. Two days later Marius repulsed an attack on the camp and caught the enemy force between his own main force in the front and an ambush of 3000 men in the enemy rear.

Marius took 100,000 prisoners. The Ambrones were virtually destroyed. The camp in Gaul survived, however. Combining with local Celts, they formed a new Celtic tribe, the Aduatuci, in the region whence they had come. So ended the Ambrones. You may find the story in "Plutarch's Lives", life of Gaius Marius, written c. 80 AD.

ee also

*List of Germanic peoples
*Amrum in Nordfrisland
*Zuider Zee

External links

* [ The Tufts Perseus Site]

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Look at other dictionaries:

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