The Teutons or Teutones (from Proto-Germanic *Þeudanōz) were mentioned as a Germanic tribe by Greek and Roman authors, notably Strabo and Marcus Velleius Paterculus and normally in close connection with the Cimbri, whose ethnicity is contested between Gauls and Germani, although Scholars generally see the Cimbri as a Germanic tribe originating also in Jutland (Germania). According to Ptolemy's map, they lived in Jutland, in agreement with Pomponius Mela, who placed them in Scandinavia (Codanonia).
Suggestions of Celtic origins are unbased and have been proven wrong. In any case, the Teutons are believed to have given their name to the region of Thy (Old Norse Thiuthæ sysæl) in northern Germania (Jutland), portions of modern-day Germany and Denmark.
Earlier than 100 BC, many of the Teutones, as well as the Cimbri, migrated south and west to the Danube valley, where they encountered the expanding Roman Republic. During the late second century BC, the Teutones and Cimbri are recorded as passing through Gaul and attacking Roman Italy. After several victories for the invading armies, the Cimbri and Teutones divided forces and were then defeated separately by Gaius Marius in 102 BC, and 101 BC. The Teutones' defeat was at the Battle of Aquae Sextiae (near present-day Aix-en-Provence). Their King, Teutobod, was taken in irons.
According to the Roman legend of Germanic heroism noted by Jerome, the captured women committed mass suicide:
"By the conditions of the surrender three hundred of their married women were to be handed over to the Romans. When the Teuton matrons heard of this stipulation they first begged the consul that they might be set apart to minister in the temples of Ceres and Venus; and then when they failed to obtain their request and were removed by the lictors, they slew their little children and next morning were all found dead in each other's arms having strangled themselves in the night."
The term Teuton or Teutonic has been used in reference to all of the Germanic peoples. The origin of the hypothetical proto-Germanic name *Þeudanōz and its Latin form Teutones is vague, having been attributed variously to Celtic tuath, Latvian tauta, or Oscan touto meaning people, race or town. Verner's Law of phonetic shifts traces the Modern German word for German, deutsch, to proto-Germanic thiudisk, "of the people," from thiuda, "people." A relationship between this word and *Þeudanōz (Romanized as theudanoz) is easily hypothesized.
The proverbial furor teutonicus ("Teutonian fighting frenzy"; after an expression used by the Roman writer Lucan to describe the courage of the Germans in battle) that terrified the Romans, however, was considerably weakened when the Cimbri separated from the Teutons (having halved the combat strength) and moved further south. The Cimbri planned in 103 BCE to advance from the Ostmark over the Brenner Pass in the direction of Rome. The Teutons and Ambrones, on the other hand, tried to cross the mountains to the west near the Frankish Mediterranean coast. The Teutons remained in Gaul until they were defeated in 102 BCE by the Roman general Gaius Marius at Aquae Sextiae (today Aix-en-Provence; German: Welsch-Aachen).
- "The last four addresses answered the question: what is the German in opposition to other peoples of Teutonic descent? This line of argument in support of our inquiry as a whole will be completed if we further add the examination of the question: what is a people? This latter question is identical with, and at the same time helps to answer, another question, often raised and resolved in very different ways: what is love of fatherland? Or, as one might more accurately express oneself: what is the love of the individual for his nation? If we have thus far proceeded aright in the course of our inquiry, then it must be evident that only the German – the original man whose spirit has not become dead in some arbitrary organisation – truly has a people and is entitled to reckon on one; that only he is capable of real and rational love for his nation. The following observation, which at first seems to have no connection with the foregoing, will set us on the way to solving our appointed task. Religion, as we had cause to remark already in our third address, is quite able to transport us beyond all time, and beyond the present, sensuous life, without the least injury to the justness [Rechtlichkeit], morality and sanctity of the life seized by this faith." – Johann Gottlieb Fichte, in: Reden an die deutsche Nation, 1808
- Christianity—and this is its fairest merit—subdued to a certain extent the brutal warrior ardor of the Germans, but it could not entirely quench it; and when the cross, that restraining talisman, falls to pieces, then will break forth again the ferocity of the old combatants the frantic Berserker rage whereof Northern poets have said and sung so much. The talisman has become rotten, and the day will come when it will pitifully crumble to dust. The old stone gods will then arise from the forgotten ruins and wipe from their eyes the dust of centuries, and Thor with his giant hammer will arise again, and he will shatter the Gothic cathedrals…When you hear the trampling of feet and the clashing of arms, your neighbors’ children, you French, be on your guard, and see that you mingle not in the fray going on among us at home in Germany. It might fare ill with you. See that you take no hand in kindling the fire; see that you attempt not to extinguish it. You might easily burn your fingers in the flame. Smile not at my counsel, at the counsel of a dreamer, who warns you against Kantians, Fichteans, philosophers of nature. Smile not at the fantasy of one who foresees in the region of reality the same outburst of revolution that has taken place in the region of intellect. The thought precedes the deed as the lightning the thunder. German thunder is of true German character: it is not very nimble, but rumbles along somewhat slowly. But come it will, and when you hear a crashing such as never before has been heard in the world’s history, then know that at last the German thunderbolt has fallen. At this commotion the eagles will drop dead from the skies and the lions in the farthest wastes of Africa will bite their tails and creep into their royal lairs. There will be played in Germany a drama compared to which the French Revolution will seem but an innocent idyll. – Heinrich Heine on furor teutonicus
- Fick, August, Alf Torp and Hjalmar Falk: Vergleichendes Wörterbuch der Indogermanischen Sprachen. Part 3, Wortschatz der Germanischen Spracheinheit. 4. Aufl. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht), 1909.
- Hussey, J. M. (1985). The Cambridge Medieval History. CUP Archive. pp. 191–193. "It was the Cimbri, along with their allies the Teutones and Ambrones, who for half a score of years kept the world in suspense. All three peoples were doubtless of Germanic stock. We may take it as established that the original home of the Cimbri was on the Jutish peninsula, that of the Teutones somewhere between the Ems and the Weser, and that of the Ambrones in the same neighborhood, also on the North Sea coast."
- Cimbri, in: "Encyclopædia Britannica Online"; "Cimbri, a Germanic tribe whose military incursion into Roman Italy was thrust back in 101 bc"
- Northvegr - Saga Book Vol. 7 & 8
- Alfred Franke: Teutoni. In: "Paulys Realencyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft", V, Stuttgart 1934, pp. 1172–1176
- Jerome, letter cxxiii.8 (409 AD); On-line text.
- Furor Teutonicus – Heinrich Heine predicts a meteoric rise for Germany.