Advocates for a northern homeland point to Greek and Roman sources that associate the Cimbri with the peninsula of Jutland. According to the Res gestae (ch. 26) of Augustus, the Cimbri were still found in the area around the turn of the Common Era:
My fleet sailed from the mouth of the Rhine eastward as far as the lands of the Cimbri, to which, up to that time, no Roman had ever penetrated either by land or by sea, and the Cimbri and Charydes and Semnones and other peoples of the Germans of that same region through their envoys sought my friendship and that of the Roman people.
The contemporary Greek geographer Strabo testifies that the Cimbri still existed as a Germanic tribe, presumably in the "Cimbric peninsula" (since they are said to live by the North Sea and to have paid tribute to Augustus):
As for the Cimbri, some things that are told about them are incorrect and others are extremely improbable. For instance, one could not accept such a reason for their having become a wandering and piratical folk as this that while they were dwelling on a Peninsula they were driven out of their habitations by a great flood-tide; for in fact they still hold the country which they held in earlier times; and they sent as a present to Augustus the most sacred kettle in their country, with a plea for his friendship and for an amnesty of their earlier offences, and when their petition was granted they set sail for home; and it is ridiculous to suppose that they departed from their homes because they were incensed on account of a phenomenon that is natural and eternal, occurring twice every day. And the assertion that an excessive flood-tide once occurred looks like a fabrication, for when the ocean is affected in this way it is subject to increases and diminutions, but these are regulated and periodical.
On the map of Ptolemy, the "Kimbroi" are placed on the northernmost part of the peninsula of Jutland., i.e. in the modern landscape of Himmerland south of Limfjorden (since Vendsyssel-Thy north of the fjord was at that time a group of islands). Himmerland (Old Danish Himbersysel) is generally thought to preserve their name, in an older form without Grimm's law (PIE k > Germ. h). Alternatively, Latin C- represents an attempt to render the unfamiliar Proto-Germanic h = [χ], perhaps due to Celtic-speaking interpreters (a Celtic intermediary would also explain why Germanic *Þeuðanōz became Latin Teutones).
The origin of the name Cimbri is unknown. One etymology is PIE "inhabitant", from "home" (> Eng. home), itself a derivation from "live" (> Greek κτίζω, Latin sinō); then, the Germanic *χimbra- finds an exact cognate in Slavic sębrъ "farmer" (> Croatian, Serbian sebar, Russ. sjabër).
Because of the similarity of the names, the Cimbri were at times associated with Cymry, the Welsh name for themselves. However, this word is generally derived from Celtic *Kombroges, meaning compatriots, and it is hardly conceivable that the Romans would have recorded such a form as Cimbri. The name has also been related to the word kimme meaning "rim", i.e. the people of the coast, but this is incompatible with the association of Cimbri to Himmerland since kimme does not exhibit the effects of Grimm's law. Finally, since Antiquity, the name has been related to that of the Cimmerians.
There are few direct testimonies to the language of the Cimbri: Referring to the Northern Ocean (the Baltic or the North Sea), Pliny the Elder states: "Philemon says that it is called Morimarusa, i.e. the Dead Sea, by the Cimbri, until the promontory of Rubea, and after that Cronium." The words for "sea" and "dead" are muir and marbh in Irish and mor and marw in Welsh. The same word for "sea" is also known from Germanic, but with an a (*mari-), whereas a cognate of marbh is unknown in all dialects of Germanic. Yet, given that Pliny had not had the word directly from a Cimbric informant, it cannot be ruled out that the word is in fact Gaulish instead.
Similarly, the kings of the Cimbri and Teutones carry what look like Celtic names, viz. Boiorix and Teutobodus, but the origin of a name need not say anything about the ethnicity or language of the individual carrying the name. On the other hand, there is no positive evidence of Germanic words or names in connection with the Cimbri. The etymology given above (PIE ) would work just as well in a Celtic context (and the Latin form with c rather than h would be easier to explain). Other evidence to the language of the Cimbri is circumstantial: thus, we are told that the Romans enlisted Gaulish Celts to act as spies in the Cimbri camp prior to the final showdown with the Roman army in 101 BC. This is evidence in support of "the Celtic rather than the German theory".
Jean Markale wrote that the Cimbri were associated with the Helvetii, and more especially with the indisputably Celtic Tiguri. As will be seen later, these associations may link to a common ancestry, recalled from two hundred years previous. Also, all the known Cimbri chiefs had Celtic names, including Boiorix (King of the Boii), Gaesorix (King of the Gaesatae, who were Alpine Celtic mercenaries), and Lugius (after the Celtic god Lugh). Henri Hubert states "All these names are Celtic, and they cannot be anything else". Some authors take a different perspective. For example, Peter S. Wells states that the Cimbri "are certainly not Celts", without providing argumentation.
On the request of the Roman consul Gnaeus Papirius Carbo, sent to defend the Taurisci, they retreated, only to find themselves deceived and attacked at the Battle of Noreia, where they defeated the Romans. Only a storm, which separated the combatants, saved the Roman forces from complete annihilation.
Rome was in panic, and the terror cimbricus became proverbial. Everyone expected to soon see the new Gauls outside of the gates of Rome. Desperate measures were taken: contrary to the Roman constitution, Gaius Marius, who had defeated Jugurtha, was elected consul and supreme commander for five years in a row (104-100 BC).
In 103 BC, the Cimbri and their proto-Germanic allies, the Teutons, had turned to Spain where they pillaged far and wide. During this time C. Marius had the time to prepare and, in 102 BC, he was ready to meet the Teutons and the Ambrones at the Rhône. These two tribes intended to pass into Italy through the western passes, while the Cimbri and the Tigurines were to take the northern route across the Rhine and later across the Tyrolian Alps.
At the estuary of the Isère River, the Teutons and the Ambrones met Marius, whose well-defended camp they did not manage to overrun. Instead, they pursued their route, and Marius followed them. At Aquae Sextiae, the Romans won two battles and took the Teuton king Teutobod prisoner.
The Cimbri had penetrated through the Alps into northern Italy, The consul Quintus Lutatius Catulus had not dared to fortify the passes, but instead he had retreated behind the River Po, and so the land was open to the invaders. The Cimbri did not hurry, and the victors of Aquae Sextiae had the time to arrive with reinforcements. At the Battle of Vercellae, at the confluence of the Sesia River with the Po River, in 101 BC, the long voyage of the Cimbri also came to an end.
It was a devastating defeat and both the chieftains Lugius and Boiorix died. The women killed both themselves and their children in order to avoid slavery. The Cimbri were annihilated, although some may have survived to return to the homeland where a population with this name was residing in northern Jutland in the 1st century AD, according to the sources quoted above.
Strabo gives this vivid description of the Cimbric folklore (Geogr. 7.2.3, trans. H.L. Jones):
Their wives, who would accompany them on their expeditions, were attended by priestesses who were seers; these were grey-haired, clad in white, with flaxen cloaks fastened on with clasps, girt with girdles of bronze, and bare-footed; now sword in hand these priestesses would meet with the prisoners of war throughout the camp, and having first crowned them with wreaths would lead them to a brazen vessel of about twenty amphorae; and they had a raised platform which the priestess would mount, and then, bending over the kettle, would cut the throat of each prisoner after he had been lifted up; and from the blood that poured forth into the vessel some of the priestesses would draw a prophecy, while still others would split open the body and from an inspection of the entrails would utter a prophecy of victory for their own people; and during the battles they would beat on the hides that were stretched over the wicker-bodies of the wagons and in this way produce an unearthly noise.
The Cimbri are depicted as ferocious warriors who did not fear death. The host was followed by women and children on carts. Aged women dressed in white (cf. the Old Norse völva) sacrificed the prisoners of war and sprinkled their blood (cf. the Old Norse blót), the nature of which allowed them to see what was to come.
If the Cimbri did in fact come from Jutland, evidence that the they practised ritualistic sacrifice may be found in the Haraldskær Woman discovered in Jutland in the year 1835. Noosemarks and skin piercing were evident and she had been thrown into a bog rather than buried or cremated. Furthermore, the Gundestrup cauldron, found in Himmerland, may be a sacrificial vessel like the one described in Strabo's text. The work itself was of Thracian origin.
The population of modern-day Himmerland claims to be the heirs of the ancient Cimbri. The adventures of the Cimbri are described by the Danish nobel-prize-winning author, Johannes V. Jensen, himself born in Himmerland, in the novel Cimbrernes Tog (1922), included in the epic cycle Den lange Rejse (English The Long Journey, 1923). The so-called Cimbrian bull ("Cimbrertyren"), a sculpture by Anders Bundgaard, was erected 14 April 1937 on a central town square in Aalborg, the capital of the region of North Jutland.
In northern Italy, a Germanic language traditionally called Cimbrian is spoken in some villages near the cities of Verona and Vicenza. Since the fourteenth century, it was believed that the speakers were the direct descendants of the Cimbrians defeated at Vercelli, some hundred kilometers to the west. However, this is most certainly not true. The "Cimbriano" language is in fact related to the Austro-Bavarian dialects of German like many other Upper German dialects in northern Italy, it is only more isolated and therefore less recognizable as German. The name was either indigenous (from Zimmer = "timber"?) or given to them by Italian humanists who wanted to find this "living fossil" of antiquity.