"The great questions of our time were not solved with talking and majoritydecisions, but with blood and iron."
(Otto von Bismarck)
On this page I will describe some of the major battles that were fought by the Germans, keep in mind that this list only contains major battles and battles that have been documented; there have also been many small skirmishes and undocumented battles.
Most battles described on this page are battles that involve the Romans or Byzantines because they documented many of their battles, the Germans have probably fought lots of other battles against their other neighbours (Celts, Slavs, Sarmatians, Pannonians, Dacians, etc.) of which we know virtually nothing.
Keep in mind that certain dates are estimations and some battles may be a bit briefly described due to the small amount of information I could obtain about them, my apologies for that.
I have tried to make this list as complete as possible though I may have forgotten some important battles; if you know of any that are not listed just send me an Email with the name and date of the battle.
200BC, Battle of the Rhineland: not much details are known about this battle, but excavations have revealed that western Germanic tribes invaded the Rhineland around 200BC and defeated the Celts who were living in that area, the survivors fled over the Rhine, leaving all lands east of the river to the Germans.
105BC, Battle of Arausio: in the preceding years a coalition of Teutons and Cimbrians (and some small groups of Ambronians, Tigurinians, Marcomannians, and Cheruscians) had invaded the Roman empire, the Romans had sent an army under consul Mallius Macimus to defeat them and they met eachother at Arausio in Gaul (nowadays Orange in France).
Unfortunately not much is known about the battle but the outcome was devastating to the Romans; 80.000 Roman soldiers and 40.000 Roman civilians were killed.
102BC, Battle of Aquae Sextae: after the coalition of Teutons and Cimbrians had fallen apart the Romans managed to defeat them separately, the Romans met the Teutons at Aquae Sextae in Gaul (nowadays Aix-en-Provence in France) and completely destroyed their army (consisting of Teutons and Ambronians), many survivors were enslaved though most of them comitted suicide to avoid this, according to Plutarchus 100.000 Teutons lost their lives.
This mass slaughter resulted in the extermination of the tribe, the Teutons who had stayed behind in their homeland probably assimilated with surrounding tribes in the years thereafter and another group of Teutons had left the group sooner and settled in northern Gaul.
101BC, Battle of Vercellae: in 101BC the Cimbrians invaded Italy and were intercepted by a Roman army under general Marius, who chose to attack them at Vercellae (Nowadays Vercelli in northern Italy), Marius positioned his troops in such a way that they had the sun in their backs, the attacking Cimbrians were blinded by the light which severely weakened their attacks and eventually the Romans emerged victorious.
60.000 Cimbrians were taken prisoner and were sold as slaves, though most of them refused to surrender and committed suicide; it is estimated that over 120.000 to 140.000 Cimbrians died that day.
58BC, Battle of Vosges: in 71BC a western Germanic army lead by the Suebian warlord Ariovistus and formed out of a coalition of the tribes of the Harudians, Marcomannians, Tribocians, Vangionians, Nemetians, Sedusians, and Suebians crossed the river Rhine into Gaul (modern France) and attacked and defeated the Germanic/Celtic tribe of the Aeduians (Aedui), conquering a big part of northern Gaul.
In the following years Ariovistus (whose real name may have been Harjawistaz) expanded his power over Gaul and fought many battles with resisting Celtic tribes, in 60BC the Roman Empire understood that Ariovistus was a force to be reckoned with and they signed an alliance with him.
In the same period Gaul was invaded from the south by the Roman consul Julius Caesar who attacked and defeated the Helvetians who posed a threat to Roman allies and the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis that was situated in southern Gaul.
While in Gaul, Julius Caesar used the help his Celtic allies had asked him as an excuse to take Gaul for himself and he marched further into Gaul to "protect" the Celts against other invasions.
Julius Caesar's plans were thwarted by Ariovistus, who was becoming more and more powerful in northern Gaul and Ceasar knew that Ariovistus wouldn't leave Gaul to the Romans without a fight so he sent a message to Ariovistus in which he told him that Gaul was now Roman territory and that he had to withdraw across the Rhine, but naturally Ariovistus refused.
Caesar marched into northern Gaul, broke his alliance with Ariovistus and tried to engage his army, Ariovistus evaded the Roman attacks and told Ceasar that he wanted to postphone the battle because of bad omens, in reality Ariovistus wanted to wait until Suebian reinforcements arrived but Ceasar knew this and attacked Ariovistus' camp, forcing him to give battle.
In 58BC the armies of Caesar and Ariovistus clashed somewhere in the Upper Alsace (Elzas), the Germans quickly moved towards the Romans to avoid their throwing spears (Pila) and engaged in hand-to-hand battle, they severely pressed the Roman lines and Caesar had to strengthen them by sending in his reinforcements, eventually the Roman army surrounded the Germanic army on both sides and broke their ranks, defeating the army; the Germans knew that further fighting was hopeless and retreated over the Rhine, leaving Gaul to the Romans, Ariovistus was captured and sold into slavery.
Most information we have about this battle is from the "Bello Gallico" (Gallic Wars), which was written by Julius Ceasar; a reliable but not a very objective source in which Ariovistus is described as a cruel man who kidnapped and tortured children.
Ceasar also gives the impression that he easily defeated those "barbarians" but in reality it took him a huge amount of casualties do defeat the Germans in Gaul.
After the battle it was just a mopping up job for Ceasar since most Celtic tribes in the north were already weakened by the previous Germanic attacks, one of the Germanic tribes that was still present in Gaul were the Nervians who withstood the Roman attacks for some time but eventually they too were subdued.
As a last desperate measure to keep their freedom the Celts in the south united under Vercingetorix and tried to reconquer their lands, Julius Ceasar quickly marched southwards and eventually defeated Vercingetorix at Alesia using a brilliant strategy in which he defeated two Celtic armies while being completely surrounded by them, the outcome of the battle of Alesia sealed the fate of the Celts and forever ended the Celtic power over Europe.
The period in which this battles were fought later became known as the Gallic Wars, in contrast to what most people think the Romans did not win the battle of Vosges (or "Vogezen") easily, it was a close victory with enormous consequences, not the Germans but the Romans became the new dominant force in Europe; Gaul was an important area with fertile farmlands and a huge economical value, posessing it meant almost certain dominance over western Europe thus it can easily be said that the battle of Vosges changed the future of Europe.
9AD, Battle of the Teutoburger Forest: this is one of the most important and remarkable battles ever fought in Germanic history in which three Roman legions, six cohorts, and three squadrons of cavalry were utterly defeated by Arminius.
On this page I shall leave this battle untouched because I have dedicated an entire page to it that can be found here.
69AD, The Batavian rebellion: the Batavian rebellion is not as well-known as the battle of the Teutoburger forest but it has also been of great importance, although it did not succeed in its goals it did cause the Roman Empire to suffer a humiliating defeat which could have ended the Roman dominance over Europe 4 centuries "earlier".
I have decided to dedicate an entire page to the Batavian rebellion that can be found here.
251AD, Battle of Abrittus: in the year 250 the Goths under king Kniva (meaning "Knife") migrated southwards and settled in the Balkans, the Romans, who considered this their territory amassed an army that was lead by the Roman emperor Trajanus Decius himself, he moved his army into the Balkans and attacked the Goths.
In 251 the Romans met with the Gothic army at Abrittus (nowadays Razgrad in Bulgaria) and after some initial Roman successes the Goths managed to lure the Romans into a swamp and completely surrounded them; the Romans took heavy casualties and emperor Trajanus Decius and his son Herronius were killed; this was the first time in history that a Roman emperor was killed by "barbarians".
The emperor's successor (Trebonianus Gallus) signed a peace treaty with the Goths which allowed them to stay in their newly obtained land.
268AD, Battle of Naissus: in 268 an enormous force consisting of several Gothic armies crossed the river Danube and invaded the rich Roman province of Pannonia where they plundered and destroyed several rich cities and prepared to move onwards to Rome.
In April 268 the Roman emperor Gallenius attacked and defeated a Gothic army but did not manage to drive the Goths back over the Danube, for the rest of the season the Goths returned to their old ways of plunder and destruction until Gallenius attacked them again in September 268.
The two armies met at Naissus (nowadays Nis in Serbia) and fought hard and bitterly, casualties were high but after some time the Roman cavalry managed to destroy the heavy Gothic cavalry that was considered to be one of the best in the world in those times and broke through the Gothic lines; 30.000 to 50.000 Goths were killed or wounded and thousands were taken prisoner, many of those prisoners later decided to join the Roman army instead of living a life in slavery.
Emperor Gallenius could not enjoy his victory for long; he was killed by Romans during a coup not long after the battle.
378AD, 2nd Battle of Adrianople: in the year 378 several Germanic tribes (mainly Visigoths and Ostrogoths) formed a huge army under warlord Fritigern and invaded the Balkans.
The Roman emperor Valens launched a counter strike with an army of 60.000 men and the two armies met at Adrianople (nowadays Edirne in Turkey) on August 9, 378.
Valens was so confident of the victory that he immediately engaged Fritigern without waiting for reinforcements, a decision he would soon regret, the Romans started deploying their troops and began forming formations, Fritigern knew that the strength of the Roman army layed in it's organization, discipline, and battle-formations; so before the Romans got the change to properly deploy and organize their forces he attacked.
The Romans were surprised by this early attack and almost fell into disarray, emperor Valens quickly reorganized his forces but the Romans soon got another blow; the Gothic cavalry charged into the Roman lines and destroyed their left wing, severely weakening the Roman defence.
The fighting continued into the night and the next day the results of the battle were clearly visible; the Germanic army under Fritigern gained an enormous victory and 40.000 Roman legionaries were killed, which was 2/3 of the army; an even bigger loss for the Roman empire was the life of emperor Valens, who was also among the slain.
The victory at Adrianople allowed the Germans to seize big parts of the Balkan which eventually broke the Roman empire in two.
410AD, Alarik conquers Rome: in 401AD, the Visigoths under king Alarik (whose real name was Alareiks) invaded Italy and occupied enormous parts of it, conquering many great and rich cities, they let the vanquished Romans pay huge amounts of tribute that they mainly used to strenghten their army with.
In the upcoming years many Germanic conscripts deserted from the Roman legions and joined Alarik's forces, Alarik also freed many Germanic prisoners of war who were used by the Romans as slaves, the other slaves happily joined his forces too because they saw him as their liberator; Alarik now had an enormous army that was held together by an urge for revenge.
In 410AD Alarik's army was strong enough to take the first prize: the eternal city of Rome, they marched southwards and laid siege to the capital of the Roman Empire, after breaking through the walls Alarik allowed his warriors to plunder the city for three days.
Alarik had no interest in taking over the empty position of Roman Emperor and he left with his army, laden with gold, fabrics, weapons, and other expensive Roman items, they travelled southwards towards Sicily, from where they wanted to cross the Mediterranian and conquer northern Africa but when they were halfway in southern Italy king Alarik died, without their great leader the Visigoths lost the stomach to cross the Mediterranian sea and they decided to bury king Alarik and travel to Gaul, from where they later invaded Spain.
Alarik in Rome
436AD, Battle between Burgundians and Huns: this battle is described in the German "Nibelungenlied" and the Norse "Völsunga Saga" where it is mixed with several mythological aspects.
The Huns invaded the Rhineland, defeated the tribe of the Burgundians, and killed their king Gundahari and his family, in Germanic mythology king Gundahari was also known as the character "Gunther" or "Gunnar" who killed the hero Siegfried (Sigurd) together with his brother Hagen (Högni)
It is unclear which parts of the battle are historical facts and which are fiction that have been added later, though it is known that the Huns moved through that area during that time.
449AD, Invasion of Britannia: because of the Germanic attacks on its borders the Roman Empire decided to retreat her legions from Britannia to use them for defending Rome, leaving the country without any defence.
The Picts immediately invaded the former Roman province from the north and the defenceless Britons called in the help of the Germanic tribes of mainland Europe.
The tribes of the Anglians, Saxons, Frisians, Jutes, and others sent an expeditionary force that was presumably led by the two famous brothers Hengest and Horsa to help the Britons fight off the Picts.
The Germanic army defeated the Picts and the Britons, took the land for themselves and called it "Anglia"; land of the Anglians (Eng-land), the native population they named "Wealas", which means "slave" or "foreigner", this is where the name "Wales" comes from.
1 century later the Germanic invaders who we now know as the Anglo-Saxons became the most dominant force in Britain.
451AD, Battle of the Catalaunian Fields: the Huns were one of the most destructive forces ever to wander the Earth, during the 5th century they campaigned through Europe, causing trouble to Romans and Germans alike.
The Romans and Germans eventually decided to unite their powers to fight off the Huns, the Roman general Aetius and the Visigothic king Theodorik I formed an army of Romans and Visigoths and attacked the Huns near Châlons-sur-Marne in modern France.
Until that day the Huns had won every battle because they used a new tactic with horses and their immense mobility made it difficult to defeat them, during the battle of the Catalaunian fields the Goths used their famous Gothic cavalry to fight the Huns with their own weapons.
The battle was long and fierce, and Aetius manipulated it from the beginning; he let the Visigoths take all the blows while he kept his Roman legions out of harms way, at the end of the battle the Visigoths had killed so many Huns that Attila decided to retreat, this was the first time in history that the mighty Huns were defeated but the Visigoths payed a high price for their victory; they lost their king Theodorik in the battle.
Aetius allowed Attila and his army to escape because he knew that the Visigoths would take over the rest of Gaul without the presence of the Huns; this allowed Attila to leave Gaul safely and he invaded Italy to continue his destructive campaign.
Almost every modern history book says that the Romans defeated the Huns and that their Germanic allies only played a minor role in the battle, but in reality it was rather vice versa.
476AD, 2nd Battle of Pavia: the second battle of Pavia sealed the fate of the Roman empire that had already been torn apart for years by internal unrest and succession wars, the last Roman emperor was Romulus Augustus who was often named "Augustulus", which meant "little Augustus" since he was only a little boy of 13 years old.
His father Orestes was actually the man in charge and he took all the decisions; one day, he made the mistake of asking Germanic tribes to help him defeat the counter-emperor Nepos, who was becoming a threat to him, the Germans disposed of Nepos and asked 1/3 of Italy in return (which was a Roman custom in those days), Orestes refused and the angry Germans formed an army under warlord Odoaker and invaded Italy.
Orestes assembled the few Roman troops that he still had and attacked the Germanic coalition but they were too strong for him and he had to fall back to the city of Pavia, Odoaker stormed the city and captured it, defeating the last Roman army in history; he took Orestes prisoner and chopped off his head at Piacenza, after his victory at Pavia Odoaker was appointed by his warriors as the first king of Italy.
Odoaker's next move was marching his army to Ravenna which he took without a fight, there he found Romulus Augustulus, the last Roman emperor; the terrified little boy had hidden himself inside the city and begged for his life, Odoaker spared the life of the little Augustulus and gave him a year's income, he then sent him and his family away.
On September the 4th, 476 the Western Roman Empire fell after having dominated Europe for 5 centuries, leaving only behind some territories in the east that would later become Byzantium, ironically, it was done by the same "barbarians" that the Romans tried to oppress during their 503 years of reign over Europe, what would Tacitus have thought when he wrote his "Germania" and someone told him that the people he was describing would eventually be responsible for the fall of the Roman empire? he would probably have laughed...
500AD, Battle of Mound Badon: in the 5th century AD Britannia was invaded by the Anglo-Saxons who rapidly took control of the island, as a last resort the Celts combined their armies under the legendary king Arthur (who really existed!) and attacked the invading Anglo-Saxon army at Mynydd Baddon (Mound Badon), after a long struggle the Anglo-Saxons were defeated and retreated to Anglia, the defeat at Mound Badon delayed the Anglo-Saxon advance for 50 years.
507AD, Battle of Vouille: in the 5th century AD the Visigoths had an empire in the area that is now known as southern France, it was bounded by the Loire, the Pyrenees, the Bay of Biscay, and the Rhône, it's capital was Tolosa (Toulouse).
In northern France the tribe of the Franconians (or Franks) began building an empire that would later become France ("Francia" or "Franken-land") the ambitious king Chlodovech began to conquer more and more territory from the neighbouring tribes until he finally invaded the Visigothic Kingdom to the south in 507AD, in a battle fought near the city of Vouille he defeated the Visigoths and killed Alarik II (the son of the man who conquered Rome).
The Visigoths refused to be enslaved by the Franconians and retreated over the Pyrenees, they conquered Spain and formed a new empire there, they chose Toledo as their new capital and ruled Spain until their defeat by the Muslims in 711AD.
533AD, Battle of Ad Decimum: after the defeat of the Western Roman Empire the Eastern Roman Empire was mostly spared by the Germanic hordes, the leaders of this Eastern Empire saw themselves as the new Roman emperors and tried to retake the lost Roman provinces in the west to restore the Roman Empire to its former glory, an ideal that they never reached.
In the 6th century Emperor Justinianus I of the Eastern Empire launched an invasion on the Vandal Kingdom in northern Africa under the leadership of the famous general Belisarius who brought an army of 17.000 men, outnumbering king Gelimer of the Vandals who only had an army of 11.000 men.
King Gelimer knew of Belisarius arrival and on September 13, 533AD he took position on the main road to Carthage near Ad Decimum, which means "Ten Mile Post" in Latin and was nothing more than a marker 10 miles (16 kilometers) south of the Vandal capital of Carthage.
Gelimer used the following strategy; he sent 2000 men under command of his nephew Gibamund into the desert to launch a surprise attack on the flank of Belisarius' army, king Gelimer ordered another group of 2000 men under his brother Ammatas to stand ground in a mountain pass near Ad Decimum to block the entrance to Carthage and keep Belisarius' army busy, Gelimer took command of the rest of his forces (7000 men) and ordered them to follow the army of Gibamund around Belisarius' left flank to cut off his retreat.
The strategy did not work as planned; Gibamund's forces were defeated by Belisarius' Hunnic mercenaries and Gibamund was killed, Ammatas could not hold the mountain pass and he too was killed, causing his forces to flee, the remaining warriors of Ammatas and Gibamund retreated back to Carthage, pursued by Hunnic cavalry and some of Belisarius' soldiers.
In the meantime king Gelimer and his Vandal army on the main road to Carthage were severely outnumbered by Belisarius but still they were gaining the upper hand over Belisarius' forces and managed to destroy his Hunnic mercenary cavalry.
But when king Gelimer heard of his brother Ammatas' death he collapsed and failed to give the order for the final attack that would have destroyed the weakened Roman army and cut off the Roman armies that were returning after defeating Ammatas and Gibamund, instead king Gelimer buried his brother on the battlefield and was too mournful to order his army; in the meanwhile Belisarius regrouped his army and launched an attack, defeating the Vandals.
The casualties of the battle of Ad Decimum were low on both sides, but king Gelimer was forced to abandon Carthage and was later defeated at the battle of Ticameron, this ended the Vandal Kingdom in northern Africa.
552AD, Battle of Taginae: during their campaigns to regain the former Roman provinces the Eastern Empire (which I shall now refer to as "Byzantium") invaded the kingdom of the Ostrogoths in Italy with an army that was commanded by general Narses, the invading Byzantine army consisted of Byzantines and Germanic mercenaries from the tribes of the Langobardians and Herulians, the army of the Ostrogoths was formed out of Ostrogoths and Germanic mercenaries who had deserted from the Byzantine army and was lead by king Totila.
Totila advanced to intercept Narses at Taginae (nowadays Gualdo Tadino in Italy), Totila was aware of the fact that he was outnumbered so he called in reinforcements, at first he negotiated with Narses but then attacked the Byzantines to take them by surprise; on the battlefield was a small hill that could be used to attack the Byzantine left flank but general Narses anticipated this move and quickly positioned a group of 50 warriors on it, Totila ordered his cavalry to attack them but the Byzantine infantry blocked off the attack.
Totila, who saw the strength of the Byzantine army decided to wait for his reinforcements to arrive (2.000 horsemen) and both Totila and Narses used the spare time to hold speeches and inspire their men, an Ostrogothic horseman rode out of the lines and challenged an enemy soldier to a duel, however, the over-eager horseman was defeated, to restore the morale of his men king Totila himself rode out too and performed some kind of "war dance" for the astonished enemy, with that he gained the admiration of both armies.
Finally, the Ostrogothic reinforcements arrived and the battle started again, Totila immediately let his reinforcements charge into the enemy center but they were slaughtered by Byzantine archers, another Gothic attack failed because they were attacked in the flank by Byzantine cavalry, the Byzantines used a tactic with spikes and bows to defeat the rest of the famous Gothic cavalry and in the evening the Ostrogoths were so weakened that the Byzantines gave an all out assault which caused the Ostrogothic army to flee.
6000 Ostrogoths died in the battle, including king Totila; Italy was now back in Byzantine hands but it did not take long before they would lose it again to their former Langobardian allies.
577AD, Battle of Deorham: this was one of the last major battles for southern Britannia, an Anglo-Saxon army attacked the Celts to the west at Deorham (nowadays Dyrham?) and defeated them.
The Anglo-Saxon attack was a brilliant strategy that formed a land wedge between the Celts in present Wales and those in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, effectively separating them and preventing them from conducting trade or joining armies, the victory at Deorham completed the Anglo-Saxon conquest of southern England.
991AD, Battle of Maldon: during the end of the 10th century the Anglo-Saxons were attacked by the Vikings, they formed an army under general Brythnoth and engaged the Vikings near the river Blackwater in Essex, the Viking forces consisted of 2000 to 4000 men who were lead by a Norwegian general, possibly Olaf Trygvasson.
Brythnoth only had a handfull of men and his army was no match for the Vikings; at the end of the battle the Vikings emerged victorious, they conquered Northumbria and established a Viking state with Jorvik (York) as it's capital.
1066AD, Battle of Stamford Bridge: in the 9th century AD Harold Godwinson had become king over most of southern England, though his throne was highly contested by his brother Tostig and invading Vikings under Harald Hardrada.
Tostig and Harald Hardrada allied themselves and together they conquered Northumbria and the city of York, to keep their grip over the local population they demanded 100 hostages that had to be delivered to them at Stamford Bridge on September 25, 1066.
King Harold appeared on the given place and time but instead of 100 hostages he had brought his army; the enemy was completely surprised and was slaughtered, Tostig and Hardrada were both killed and the Vikings retreated to Norway; Harold's throne was assured.
1066AD, Battle of Hastings: after the battle of Stamford Bridge king Harold heard that William the Conqueror had landed in southern England near Pevensey, Harold and his army were still in the northern part of England and they quickly marched southwards to stop the Normans.
They halted in London to rest and resupply and after that they marched on until they reached Caldbec Hill north of Hastings, Harold fortified his troops in a "wall of shields" formation on this strategically positioned hill which forced William to storm it.
The Anglo-Saxons had 7000 men who mostly consisted of Fyrds (untrained farmers) and a few Huskarls (body guards of the king who can be compared to the Hirð) and Thegns (low nobility), the Anglo-Saxon army was badly trained, tired from the long march, and smaller than the Norman army which consisted of 7000 men and 2000 knights so their chances were slim.
On October 14, 1066 the Normans and Anglo-Saxons clashed in a battle that would define the fate of England; William ordered his archers to fire arrows at the Anglo-Saxons and after that he sent in his infantry and later also the cavalry, the attack failed and the Normans were slaughtered, they quickly retreated and regrouped but became extremely demoralized after they had heard that William was dead, William heard those rumours and to show that he was still alive he threw off his helmet and showed his face to his men after which they attacked with renewed vigour; the battle continued for 9 hours and many men lost their lives, eventually the Anglo-Saxon wall of shields collapsed which allowed the Normans to break through, king Harold was struck in the eye by an arrow and died.
With the loss of their leader the Anglo-Saxons panicked and were defeated, the remaining warriors fled and only the loyal Huskarls and Thegns stood ground and positioned themselves in a ring around Harold's body where they fought themselves to their deaths.
On Christmas day 1066 William the Conqueror was crowned king of England which ended the freedom of the Anglo-Saxons and brought them under Norman rule.