These three parts are all united by a common theme of relations with Rome, either noble resistance, or dishonorable treason. The stories of the good polytheists are also well known by their respective native peoples and don’t require too much elaboration, although several links are provided for the curious.
VIRIATHUS (died 139 BCE)
He was a Lusitanian warrior that lived sometime after the Roman conquest of Iberia (Spain), following the Second Punic War. He then commanded the Lusitanian tribes (the people inhabiting a region east of Portugal and west of Spain), among other neighboring Iberian tribes (both Celtic and indigenous), in their rebellion against Rome for almost 20 years. During that time, Viriathus managed to score several admirable victories, by means of his great bravery, spirit, and cunning, and gave great distress to the Roman forces till his death by treachery. He would later inspire the Cantabrian rebellion of Corocotta and Gauson. Read more about Viriathus here.
AUDAX, DITALCUS, and MINURUS
These were three associates of soldiers of Viriathus who treacherously murdered him during his sleep. They had been sent as emissaries to the Romans, but were bribed by Servilius Caepio. However, after the assassination, they sought an official reward from the Romans, but instead of receiving one, they were put to death by Caepio who was now disgraced by the deed and refused a triumph by the Senate for his conquest over Iberia. The Romans would still suffer from sporadic resistance, especially in the north, for a hundred more years.
SPARTACUS (died 71 BCE)
He was a Thracian slave (from today’s Bulgaria) who was trained as a gladiator in Roman Italy. The Romans at that time were corrupt and greedy, especially the rich Senators. Spartacus led a revolt of gladiators, which later spread to many parts of Italy, and his army of plundering and rebellious slaves grew as he passed through every town. He scored many victories against Roman garrisons and even armies. Plutarch states that his original intention was to liberate his men (most of whom were Celts and Germans) by marching north, but it seems that he changed his mind and chose to plunder Italy or liberate Sicily, which had revolted twice before. His army was at last defeated by the very rich Senator Crassus, and all the rebels that survived the battle (about 10,000), perhaps including women and children, were mercilessly crucified. Read more about Spartacus here.
RHESCUPORIS II (died in the middle of the 1st century CE)
This was a Thracian king who ruled over half of the Odrysian kingdom, but later coveted the other half, which was allotted to his nephew Cotys VIII, according to the intercession of Emperor Augustus. As soon as Augustus died, however, he tried by negotiation to gain the other lands, but when failing, he turned to treachery, by inviting Cotys to a banquet on pretence of negotiation, and then imprisoning him, leading to suicide. Augustus’ successor, Tiberius, ordered a trial of Rhescuporis, who was found guilty and exiled to Egypt. Having avoided execution for his dishonorable deed, this Rhescuporis still tried to escape, but was killed by Roman soldiers. Although his son ruled after him, the Odyrsian kingdom soon came to an end, because after an assassination as revenge for Cotys’ life, the Romans seized the territory and adjoined it to their empire.
HERMANN (called Arminius by the Romans, died 21 CE)
This was the German nobleman who was raised by the Romans as a hostage, becoming a citizen and knight of theirs. Nothing need be said about him beyond that he was the savior of all the German tribes, because of his noble treachery of the Romans, leading to the most disastrous massacre of at least 15,000 men at the battle of Teutoburg forest during the time of Augustus. The Romans never truly recovered their shame and never really attempted another invasion of the region that lay to the north of the Danube or the east of the Rhine. If it were not for this man, who was unfortunately later poisoned by his jealous or treasonous rivals, the Germans would have lost their native culture and language like the Celts. His rebellion directly inspired that of Boudica, which was very hopeful and just (though very bloody), but unfortunately did not succeed. Read more about Hermann here.
CATUALDA (flourished in the early 1st century CE)
This German noble was the antipode of Hermann. After the massacre of Teutoburg forest, the Emperor Tiberius sent his son Drusus to spread division among the Germans. Catualda, who had been an exile, was chosen for this purpose, and proceeded with an army to the kingdom of the Marcomanni (his native tribe) in the south of Germany to corrupt the nobles. He succeeded in deposing their king, Marboduus, who was already weak after an internal war with Hermann. However, before the project of corrupting other tribes went forward, Vibillius, a neighboring king, attacked Cataulda with a greater force and overthrew him.