But with this success, Rome became complacent. During the reign of Antoninus Pius, who served as Roman Emperor before Marcus Aurelius, the emperor never left Italy, naively assuming that the Empire could manage itself. Through this, Germania, which had always proven the most difficult province to control, grew in confidence, its tribes launching audacious attacks on Roman settlements, outposts and fortresses along the Danube frontier.
By the time Marcus Aurelius became Emperor of Rome, Germania’s tribes were on the warpath, with ambitions to cross the Danube and march south to Italy. Their actions forced Marcus’ hand, and the emperor launched a full-scale offensive on the northern banks of the Danube, with himself in attendance.
So began the Marcomannic Wars, so named because of the tribal factions who proved Rome’s greatest adversaries: the Marcomanni and the Quadi. The 12-year conflict saw many bloody battles, and is today broken down into three distinct periods: the First Marcomannic War, the Second Marcomannic War and the Third Marcomannic War.
Some of the most notable battles in the conflict took place on or close to the banks of the Danube, with both sides keen to force the other back across this natural frontier. At the time, this entire region was known to the Romans as the Pannonian Plain, a province which stretched from the centre of modern Hungary, through Austria and to the German border.
Over the course of the conflict, battles were fought in key locations which would go on to become some of the Danube’s best-loved destinations. Vindobona, which is the Roman name for Vienna, was the site of several major engagements throughout the war, while Aquincum, Budapest, and Carnuntum, close to Bratislava, are also cited as important battlegrounds in the history of this ferocious conflict.