Who actually was… Veleda?

Veleda was a Teuton, who was worshiped by her tribe, the Bructeri, as a sibyl. She lived during the reign of emperor Vespasian and predicted her tribe victory over the Romans. She was later captured and sent off to Italy.

Peace?

In the disastrous Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 BC the Teutons defeated three Roman legions and killed the Roman governor Varus. Several long years of fighting followed, in which the Romans tried to rectify the humiliation and subdue the unruly Teutons right of the river Rhine. It was only in 16 AD that the emperor Augustus ended Rome’s expansion in the north of Germania.

This did not however mean the end of fighting. Every now again small groups of Teutons crossed the Rhine, raided Roman territory and provoked Roman punitive expeditions. The Revolt of the Batavi in the year 69 marked a break, as the Teutonic fighters were able to defeat a number of Roman legions.

The Batavi

For a long time the Batavi were confederates, allies of Rome. Their areas of settlement left of the Rhine, in today’s Netherlands, served as a buffer zone for Rome to protect the prosperous Gaul provinces from Teutonic raids.

The Batavi were not tributary to Rome, but they had to provide support troops to the Roman armies. Their cavalry and infantry were famous for their fighting strength. It is hence possible, but cannot be proven beyond any doubt, that with its continuous request for support troops, Rome angered the Batavi and other Teutonic allies in this otherwise poor region.

Civil war

The death of the emperor Nero in 69 AD was followed by a time of chaos and civil war in the Roman Empire. Different generals were acclaimed emperor by their troops and fought for succession. A Teutonic duke from the Batavi tribe used this chaos for his own rebellion. The Batavi Gaius Julius Civilis won over a range of Teutonic tribes from both sides of the Rhine for his rebellion against Rome.

Like Arminius did 75 years earlier, he defeated multiple Roman legions. And also just like Arminius, Civilis, as the commander of a cohort of Teutonic support troops, enjoyed his training in the Roman army. This gave him sound knowledge of the habits and military tactics of his enemy.

The sibyl

The sibyl Veleda is accredited with a crucial role in the rebellion. She belonged to the neighboring tribe of the Bructeri and was famous as a prophet and sibyl there. Tacitus reports that wise women like Veleda were well-respected and even worshiped as goddesses. Veleda supposedly lived in a tower and never directly spoke with her supplicants. She only spoke to them through intermediation by a tribesman.

It is said that Veleda played a key role in winning over further tribes for the rebellion. When a Batavi delegation visited her, she reportedly predicted a huge victory of the rebels over the Roman legions. The Batavi and their allies from the tribes of the Bructeri, Treviri and others were indeed victorious in the first battles. They conquered the Romans’ fortified camps at Vetera (near Xanten), Novaesium (Neuss) and Bonna (Bonn) partly even without a fight at all.

The Teutons showed gratitude towards her. They sent the captured commander of the Vetera garrison, Munius Luperculus, to Veleda; most likely so that he would serve as her slave. He never actually got to face her though, since he was murdered on his way in unknown circumstances. Later the Bructeri sent the sibyl the flagship of the Roman Rhine flotilla, which they obtained.

Vespasianus

At the end of the chaotic, so called four-emperor-year Vespasian won against his rival. After his troops conquered Rome in a bloody battle on December 20th 69 AD, the city accepted him as the new emperor. From then Vespasian pushed through with the suppression of the Batavi revolt. After all, the Teutons crushed two legions and immobilized another two.

Under the lead of Quintus Petillius Cerialis he sent eight legions to the Lower Rhine, where they fought against the Teutons over the course of the year 70 AD. After losing the battles, the rebels had to withdraw to the left side of the Rhine. In the end, Civilis could count his blessings to have negotiated a peace deal that secured the survival of his tribe.

The Batavi had to capitulate to Rome, lost their capital city near today’s Nimwegen and had to supply eight cavalry cohorts as support troops to the Roman army; yet their tribe was kept alive. Vespasian imposed military reform: From now on support troops were staffed by Roman officers and were only used far away from their native settlements.

No details are recorded about Veleda’s fate. Reportedly she mediated in the peace negotiations. In 77, it is said, she was captured by the Romans during a punitive action against rebellious Teutons and led to Italy. There a satirical poem in the Greek language proves the detention of the “tall, pompous virgin, who is worshiped by the drinkers of Rhine water”, but her fate is unknown.

Кто такая… Веледа?

Веледа принадлежала к германскому племени бруктеров, где почиталась как пророчица. Она жила в эпоху правления императора Веспасиана и предсказала победу своего племени над римлянами. Позднее она была захвачена в плен и отправлена в Италию. (more…)

One Comment on “Who actually was… Veleda?

  1. Good article, but the pornified graphic is … annoying. Veleda was no wilting naked maiden barely draped in gauze. You can find better out there.

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