"so Tiberius overwhelmed the armoured ranks of barbarians" - The End of the War of the Batons in 9 CE

3 August 8 CE, 2.005 years ago during the Great Illyrian Revolt on the banks of the river Bathinus in Bosnia, Bato, the leader of the Pannonian tribe of the Breuci, surrendered himself and his people to General (and later Emperor) Tiberius.

“… so Tiberius overwhelmed the armoured / ranks of barbarians, his fierce impetus / covering the earth, mowing down front / and rear, and conquering them without loss“ (Horace, “The Odes, Drusus and Tiberius”)

Re-enactment of Legio VIII Augusta, one of the legions originally deployed in the region when the Great Illyrian Revolt broke out*

During the early years of Augustus’ reign, when the newly founded Roman Empire tried to expand its borders beyond the Rhine and the Danube, not everyone was exactly enthusiastic to contribute auxiliaries and fight their eastern and northern neighbours. 
At least not among the Empire's  allies along the great rivers. The Illyrian tribes under Roman supremacy decided they’d had it when Maroboduus, the king of the Germanic Marcomanni tribe, settled his people in present-day Bohemia and Augustus perceived him as a threat and the legions began to advance across the Danube.  As soon as General Tiberius, Augustus’ step-son, deployed his legions in Pannonia (western Hungary), conquered just 15 years before, his Dalmatian, Illyrian and Pannonian auxiliaries under Bato of the Daesitates tribe mutinied and the Romans had a full-fledged rebellion on their hands, in a region ranging from Zagreb, Split and Sarajevo to Tirana. 

Image of a bust of Tiberius found at Herculaneum

Panic broke out in Rome up to the point of a fear of invasion of Italy by the rebel tribes from the other side of the Adriatic Sea. By the end of the year 6 CE, half the entire Roman army, 10 legions and their allies, were fighting in the Balkans. Suetonius, admittedly in his usual exaggeration, described the conflict as the most serious of Rome’s foreign wars since Hannibal came to Italy. In any case, Tiberius’ legionaries faced hard fighting for the next three years, especially in the Bosnian mountains with the kind of guerrilla warfare the rebels forced upon them. Rome reacted with her customary harshness in reconquered territories, entire tribes were either displaced or annihilated. 

An Illyrian nobleman wearing his pot helmet in Hellenistic times,
maybe the type was still in use during the Illyrian Rebellion

During spring and summer of 8 CE, Bato’s tribe of the Breuci was overpowered and Bato surrendered after several pitched battles. Most of his people were sold as slaves, some fled to Dacia (Romania), their descendants fought a hundred years later with Trajan against the folks there and received Roman citizenship for it. Bato himself escaped but was caught by Bato of the Daesitates’ die-hards and executed for his cowardice. The Daesitates’ and the rest of the revolt collapsed a year later, though, and the other Bato surrendered to Tiberius a few days before Varus was defeated in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest on the Rhine frontier. However, the Great Illyrian Revolt was finally over and the whole area from the Adria up to the banks of the Danube stayed firmly Roman for the next 400 years.

Roman legionaries crossing the ship bridge across the Danube during the Marcomanni Wars of Marcus Aurelius

Tiberius, who had acquired a reputation of being one of Rome’s greatest military leaders, went home and refrained from having a triumph after the news of Varus’ crushing defeat. Five years later, he was made emperor as Augustus’ successor and began a long and stable reign of more than twenty years, even though he is best remembered as a dirty old man who had some really sick excesses together with his grand-nephew Caligula in Capri, mostly thanks to Suetonius’ slandering. The Marcomanni in Bohemia however, who were the initial bone of contention of the revolt, emerged completely unscathed out of the conflict and proved to be a major threat for Rome’s northern frontier, invaded and bestowed upon the Empire the Marcomannic Wars that shaped the fate of Rome considerably from the 160 CE onward.

* the image was found on


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