Is Barbarians’ Marbod Based on an Actual German King?

Netflix’s German historical drama series ‘Barbarians’ is predominantly set in the first century AD and revolves around the conflict between the Roman Empire and the Germanic tribes. In the first season of the show, the tribes achieve a decisive victory at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, annihilating three Roman legions. In season 2, the Germanic leader Arminius or Ari discovers that Tiberius, the heir of Emperor Augustus, and Germanicus, Tiberius’ heir, are now in charge of the Roman army in Germania. Their presence can only mean one thing — war is inevitable. Ari knows the number of soldiers that the alliance of the tribes has isn’t enough to take on the Romans under Tiberius’ command. So, he reaches out to Marbod, the Reik of the Marcomanni people. If you are wondering whether Marbod is based on a real German ruler, we got you covered. SPOILERS AHEAD.

Who Is Marbod?

In ‘Barbarians,’ Marbod is a powerful Germanic tribal leader with 70,000 spears under his command. Like Ari, he was a tribute to the empire from his tribe. After returning home, he assumed the command of the Marcomanni. Ari and Marbod were in Rome together, so the former knows the latter quite well. When the Germanic leaders propose that they should ask Marbod to join their alliance, Ari has reservations. But he knows that if they want to free Germania completely from Roman control, they need Marbod. So, he reaches out to the other man and invites him hunting with him.

However, Ari’s brother, Flavus, arrives from Rome just then, and things become complicated. It is revealed that Marbod and Flavus were lovers when they were in Rome, and even though years have passed since then and Marbod is married and has children, those feelings haven’t gone away. Marbod also opposes Ari on principle. He doesn’t want an open war with Rome, preferring to be a business partner to the empire. It’s an arrangement that Tiberius likes as well.

Marbod betrays Ari and hands him over to Flavus and the Romans. After Ari escapes, he makes a gamble and accepts Marbod as the king of all Germanic people. But it isn’t until Romans attack the Thing under the command of Flavus and Germanicus and his wife is killed that Marbod firmly joins the side of his native people. In the climactic battle of season 2, he helps Ari destroy the Roman camp and push the empire from the Germanic land.

Maroboduus: The Real King Behind the Name

Yes, Marbod is based on a real Germanic king. The spelling of the real Marbod’s name wildly varies in Latin and Greek texts. Among them, Maroboduus is one of the most commonly used by scholars. Maroboduus spent his youth in Italy, where he was a favorite of Augustus himself. Like the Cherusci, the Marcomanni people were in constant conflict with the Romans, and by 10 AD, they had been thoroughly defeated.

After returning to Germania in about 9 AD and assuming control of the Marcomanni, Maroboduus led his people to what would later be known as Bohemia and declared himself king. Although Augustus was worried about Maroboduus’ growing power, Rome signed a treaty with him, acknowledging him as the king, so the empire could focus on putting down a rebellion in Illyria.

Roman historian  Marcus Velleius Paterculus relates that after his victory over Publius Quinctilius Varus at the Battle of Teutoburg Forest, Arminius sent Varus’ head to Maroboddus, who then sent it to Augustus. He stayed out of the war between Germanicus and Ari and later was briefly engaged in conflict with the Cherusci leader.

Eventually, Maroboddus was removed from power by a Marcomannic nobleman named Catualda. He spent the last 18 years of his life as a prisoner of Rome in Ravenna before dying in 37 AD.

Read More: Barbarians Season 2 Ending, Explained: Does Ari Succeed in Freeing Germania?