Perhaps originating north of the River Main, the Quadi and Marcomanni migrated into what is now Moravia, western Slovakia and Lower Austria where they displaced Celtic cultures and were first noticed by Romans in 8–6 BC, briefly documented by Tacitus in his Germania. A further Marcomannic confederation that included the Quadi fought the future emperor Tiberius in 6 AD.
There may be an earlier reference to the Quadi in the Geography of Strabo (7.1.3). In a parenthetical expression, often removed from the main text, he mentions a branch of the Suevi called the Koldouoi, transliterated to Latin Coldui (Strabo wrote in Greek). Part of their range is Bohemia, the domain of Maroboduus. The emendment of Coldui to Coadui (Quadi) is generally considered correct.
Tacitus in Germania only mentions the Quadi in the same breath as the Marcomanni, alike in warlike spirit, alike governed by "kings" of their own noble stock, "descended from the noble line of Maroboduus and Tudrus," the "Tudric" line apparently kings among the Quadi. The royal powers of both tribes were also alike, according to Tacitus, in being supported by Roman silver.
Their frontiers for the next 350 years or more were the Marcomanni to the west, proto-Slavic tribes to the north, Sarmatian Iazgyians and Asding Vandals arriving to the east somewhat later, and the Roman Empire to the south.
A couple of years later the Marcomanni and Quadi, with assistance from other tribes that had crossed the Danube, overwhelmed a Roman army, passed over the plain at the head of the Adriatic and put the town of Aquileia in northern Italy under siege. After initial Roman losses, the Marcomanni were defeated in 171, and Marcus Aurelius managed to make peace with some of the tribes along the Danube, including the Quadi. But in 172 he launched a major attack into the territory of the Marcomanni and then turned on the Quadi, who had been aiding Marcomanni refugees. In a major battle in that year, his troops were almost defeated, until a sudden rain storm allowed them to defeat the Quadi The Quadi were ultimately eliminated as a direct threat in 174. Marcus' planned counteroffensive across the Danube was prevented in 175, however, by insurrection within the Empire.
Though Marcus Aurelius successfully suppressed the revolt, it was not until 178 that he was able to pursue the Quadi over the Danube into Bohemia. He executed a successful and decisive battle against the Quadi in 179 at Laugaricio under the command of legate and procurator Marcus Valerius Maximianus of Poetovio Pannonia (modern-day Ptuj, Slovenia). He was planning to advance the Roman border east and north to the Carpathian Mountains and Bohemia when he became ill and died in 180.
After crossing the Pyrenees in 409 a group of Quadi, Marcomanni, and Buri, established themselves in the Roman province of Gallaecia (modern Galicia and northern Portugal), where they were considered foederati and founded the Suebi Kingdom of Gallaecia. There Hermeric swore fealty to the emperor in 410. Bracara Augusta, the modern city of Braga in Portugal, previously the capital of Roman Gallaecia, now became the capital of the Suebic kingdom in Gallaecia.