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Perils of Empire & Teutoburg Forest

Perils of Empire & Teutoburg Forest


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Blending commentary from noted historians with footage created using the Total War: ROME II engine, this documentary short takes a close look at one of the most devastating defeats the Roman Empire ever faced.

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest saw three full legions of Rome utterly destroyed; it shook the empire to its very foundations, and offered Rome a stark reminder of the perils of an overstretched empire.

Featuring Bettany Hughes, Mike Loades, Lynette Nusbacher and Dr. Adrian Goldsworthy.


Suebi

The Suebi (or Suebians, also spelled Suevi, Suavi) were a large group of Germanic peoples originally from the Elbe river region in what is now Germany and the Czech Republic. In the early Roman era they included many peoples with their own names such as the Marcomanni, Quadi, Hermunduri, Semnones, and Lombards. New groupings formed later such as the Alamanni and Bavarians and two kingdoms in the Migration Period were simply referred to as Suebian. [1]

Although Tacitus specified that the Suebian group was not an old tribal group itself, the Suebian peoples are associated by Pliny the Elder with the Irminones, a grouping of Germanic peoples who claimed ancestral connections. Tacitus mentions Suebian languages, and a geographical "Suevia".

The Suevians were first mentioned by Julius Caesar in connection with the invasion of Gaul by the Germanic king Ariovistus during the Gallic Wars. Unlike Tacitus he described them as a single people, distinct from the Marcomanni, within the larger Germanic category who he saw as a growing threat to Gaul and Italy in the first century BC, as they had been moving southwards aggressively, at the expense of Gallic tribes, and establishing a Germanic presence in the immediate areas north of the Danube. In particular, he saw the Suebians as the most warlike of the Germanic peoples.

During the reign of Augustus the first emperor, Rome made aggressive campaigns into Germania, east of the Rhine and north of the Danube, pushing towards the Elbe. After suffering a major defeat to the Romans in 9 BC, Maroboduus became king of a Suevian kingdom which was established within the protective mountains and forests of Bohemia. The Suevians did not join the alliance led by Arminius. [2]

Under the reign of Marcus Aurelius in the 2nd century AD, the Marcomanni, perhaps under pressure from East Germanic tribes to their north, invaded Italy. [3]

By the Crisis of the Third Century, new Suebian groups had emerged, and Italy was invaded again by the Juthungi, while the Alamanni ravaged Gaul and settled the Agri Decumates. [4] The Alamanni continued exerting pressure on Gaul, while the Alamannic chieftain Chrocus played an important role in elevating Constantine the Great to Roman Emperor.

By the late 4th century AD, the Middle Danubian frontier inhabited by the Quadi and Marcomanni received large numbers of Gothic and other eastern peoples, escaping disturbances associated with the Huns. In 406 AD, Suebian tribes led by Hermeric, together with other Danubian groups including Alans and Vandals, crossed the Rhine and overran Gaul and Hispania. They eventually established the Kingdom of the Suebi in northwestern Spain and Portugal. With the breaking up of Hunnic power after the Battle of Nedao there was also a short-lived Kingdom of the Suebi on the Danube, under Hunimund. They were defeated by the Ostrogoths, one of the peoples of eastern origin who had been allies of the Huns. In the sixth century the Suevic Longobards moved from the Elbe to become one of the major powers of the Middle Danube, in competition with the dynasties from the east such as the Herules, Gepids and Ostrogoths.

During the last years of the decline of the Western Roman Empire, the Suebian general Ricimer was its de facto ruler. [5] The Lombards, with many Danubian peoples both Suebian and eastern, later settled Italy and established the Kingdom of the Lombards.

The Alamanni, Bavarii and Thuringii who remained in Germania gave their names to the still-existing German regions of Swabia, Bavaria and Thuringia respectively. [6] Suebian languages are thought to be the main source of the later High German languages, including standard German and the dialects predominant in Southern Germany, Switzerland and Austria, which experienced the Second consonant shift some time after about 600 AD. And given the closeness to these dialects to Dutch and Low German, it is likely that Suebian languages also strongly influenced the development of those languages as well. [7]


Skeptic or Real? August 9, 2010

I don’t care how skeptical you are (I am myself), this is damn entertaining. Maybe even creepy or troublesome, to some. Remarkable storytelling at the very least.

Now you’re looking for the secret. But you won’t find it because of course, you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled.


Contents

According to their own traditions, the Lombards initially called themselves the Winnili. After a reported major victory against the Vandals in the 1st century, they changed their name to Lombards. [7] The name Winnili is generally translated as 'the wolves', related to the Proto-Germanic root *wulfaz 'wolf'. [8] The name Lombard was reportedly derived from the distinctively long beards of the Lombards. [9] It is probably a compound of the Proto-Germanic elements *langaz (long) and *bardaz (beard).

Early history Edit

Legendary origins Edit

According to their own legends the Lombards originated in southern Scandinavia. [10] The Northern European origins of the Lombards is supported by genetic, [11] [12] anthropological, [10] archaeological and earlier literary evidence. [10]

A legendary account of Lombard origins, history, and practices is the Historia Langobardorum (History of the Lombards) of Paul the Deacon, written in the 8th century. Paul's chief source for Lombard origins, however, is the 7th-century Origo Gentis Langobardorum (Origin of the Lombard People).

The Origo Gentis Langobardorum tells the story of a small tribe called the Winnili [3] dwelling in southern Scandinavia [4] (Scadanan) (the Codex Gothanus writes that the Winnili first dwelt near a river called Vindilicus on the extreme boundary of Gaul). [13] The Winnili were split into three groups and one part left their native land to seek foreign fields. The reason for the exodus was probably overpopulation. [14] The departing people were led by the brothers Ybor and Aio and their mother Gambara [15] [16] and arrived in the lands of Scoringa, perhaps the Baltic coast [17] or the Bardengau on the banks of the Elbe. [18] Scoringa was ruled by the Vandals and their chieftains, the brothers Ambri and Assi, who granted the Winnili a choice between tribute or war.

The Winnili were young and brave and refused to pay tribute, saying "It is better to maintain liberty by arms than to stain it by the payment of tribute." [19] The Vandals prepared for war and consulted Godan (the god Odin [4] ), who answered that he would give the victory to those whom he would see first at sunrise. [20] The Winnili were fewer in number [19] and Gambara sought help from Frea (the goddess Frigg [4] ), who advised that all Winnili women should tie their hair in front of their faces like beards and march in line with their husbands. At sunrise, Frea turned her husband's bed so that he was facing east, and woke him. So Godan spotted the Winnili first and asked, "Who are these long-beards?," and Frea replied, "My lord, thou hast given them the name, now give them also the victory." [21] From that moment onwards, the Winnili were known as the Longbeards (Latinised as Langobardi, Italianised as Longobardi, and Anglicized as Langobards or Lombards).

When Paul the Deacon wrote the Historia between 787 and 796 he was a Catholic monk and devoted Christian. He thought the pagan stories of his people "silly" and "laughable". [20] [22] Paul explained that the name "Langobard" came from the length of their beards. [23] A modern theory suggests that the name "Langobard" comes from Langbarðr, a name of Odin. [24] Priester states that when the Winnili changed their name to "Lombards", they also changed their old agricultural fertility cult to a cult of Odin, thus creating a conscious tribal tradition. [25] Fröhlich inverts the order of events in Priester and states that with the Odin cult, the Lombards grew their beards in resemblance of the Odin of tradition and their new name reflected this. [26] Bruckner remarks that the name of the Lombards stands in close relation to the worship of Odin, whose many names include "the Long-bearded" or "the Grey-bearded", and that the Lombard given name Ansegranus ("he with the beard of the gods") shows that the Lombards had this idea of their chief deity. [27] The same Old Norse root Barth or Barði, meaning "beard", is shared with the Heaðobards mentioned in both Beowulf and in Widsith, where they are in conflict with the Danes. They were possibly a branch of the Langobards. [28] [29]

Alternatively some etymological sources suggest an Old High German root, barta, meaning “axe” (and related to English halberd), while Edward Gibbon puts forth an alternative suggestion which argues that:

…Börde (or Börd) still signifies “a fertile plain by the side of a river,” and a district near Magdeburg is still called the lange Börde. According to this view Langobardi would signify “inhabitants of the long bord of the river” and traces of their name are supposed still to occur in such names as Bardengau and Bardewick in the neighborhood of the Elbe. [30]

According to the Gallaecian Christian priest, historian and theologian Paulus Orosius (translated by Daines Barrington), the Lombards or Winnili lived originally in the Vinuiloth (Vinovilith) mentioned by Jordanes, in his masterpiece Getica, to the north of Uppsala, Sweden. Scoringa was near the province of Uppland, so just north of Östergötland.

The footnote then explains the etymology of the name Scoringa:

The shores of Uppland and Östergötland are covered with small rocks and rocky islands, which are called in German Schæren and in Swedish Skiaeren. Heal signifies a port in the northern languages consequently Skiæren-Heal is the port of the Skiæren, a name well adapted to the port of Stockholm, in the Upplandske Skiæren, and the country may be justly called Scorung or Skiærunga. [31]

The legendary king Sceafa of Scandza was an ancient Lombardic king in Anglo-Saxon legend. The Old English poem Widsith, in a listing of famous kings and their countries, has Sceafa [weold] Longbeardum, so naming Sceafa as ruler of the Lombards. [32]

Similarities between Langobardic and Gothic migration traditions have been noted among scholars. These early migration legends suggest that a major shifting of tribes occurred sometime between the 1st and 2nd century BC, which would coincide with the time that the Teutoni and Cimbri left their homelands in Scandinavia and migrated through Germany, eventually invading Roman Italy.


America's Military Strategy? Persistent Overreach

Reports that President Obama is considering even more troops and bases to fight ISIS in Iraq put me to mind of Roman general Publius Quinctilius Varus. Two millennia ago, Varus committed three Roman legions to the Teutoburg Forest in Germania in terrain that neutralized Roman advantages in firepower and maneuverability. Ambushed and caught in a vise, his legions were destroyed in detail as Varus took his own life. To Rome the shock and disgrace of defeat were so great that Emperor Augustus cried, "Quinctilius Varus, give me back my Legions!"

Ever since 9/11, American presidents and their military advisors have repeatedly committed U.S. troops and prestige to inhospitable regions in terrain that largely neutralizes U.S. advantages in firepower and maneuverability. Whether it's the urban jungles of Baghdad or Fallujah or Mosul, or the harshly primitive and mountainous terrain of Afghanistan, American troops have been committed to campaigns that they can't win (in any enduring sense), under conditions that facilitate ambushes by an elusive enemy with superior knowledge of the local terrain. The number of U.S. soldiers killed or seriously wounded in these campaigns is roughly equivalent to those lost by Varus, though unlike Varus, no U.S. general has yet to fall on his sword.

Unlike Rome, which did learn from Varus's catastrophe the perils of imperial overreach, the U.S. persists in learning nothing. Perhaps that's because America's defeat is collective and gradual, rather than singular and quick. America may lack a Varus or a calamity like Teutoburg Forest, yet the overall result since 9/11 has been no less debilitating to American foreign policy.

Despite setback after setback, American presidents and generals persist in trying to control hostile territory at the end of insecure logistical lines, while mounting punitive raids designed to deny Al Qaeda or ISIS or the Taliban "safe havens." We should have learned the impossibility of doing this from Vietnam, but it seems America's presidents and generals keep trying to get Vietnam right, even if they have to move the fight to the deserts of Iraq or the mountains of Afghanistan.

Yet seeking to control territory in inhospitable regions like the Middle East or Afghanistan, whether you use American troops or proxy armies, is an exercise in strategic futility. It's also old-fashioned thinking: the idea that, to exert influence and control, you need large numbers of military boots on the ground. But the world has already moved past such thinking into "borderless" hegemony as demonstrated by the Internet, by global business and finance, and by America's own practice of drone strikes and cyber-war.

By repeatedly deploying American troops -- whether in the tens of hundreds or tens of thousands - to so many equivalents of the Teutoburg Forest, our leaders continue a strategy of overreach that was already proven bankrupt in Vietnam. Meanwhile, despite our own early revolutionary history, our leaders seem to have forgotten that no country likes to be occupied or interfered with by foreigners, no matter how "generous" and "benevolent" they claim to be. Let's also not forget that boots on the ground in faraway foreign lands cost an enormous amount of money, a cost that cannot be sustained indefinitely (just ask the British in 1781).

America simply cannot afford more troop deployments (and commitments of prestige) that set the stage for more military disasters. When you persist in committing your legions to torturous terrain against an enemy that is well prepared to exact a high price for your personal hubris and strategic stubbornness, you get the fate you deserve.

After Varus's calamity, the Romans stopped campaigning east of the Rhine. When will America's leaders learn that persistence in strategic overreach is nothing but folly?

William Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and former professor of history who edits the blog The Contrary Perspective.


Teutoburg Forest - The Worst Defeat in Roman History

Teutoburg Forest was a defeat for the Romans primarily because they could not get the favored formations inside of the forest itself. Add to it that the Romans simply didn't have the experience of fighting inside of this large, dark forest.

The Romans were never really able to pacify the "Germans" which were just a large swath of peoples. The Germans were too independent, too fierce, and it was easier to pay tribute and keep them in a loose alliance whenever Rome needed their help. This helped the Germans since they were able to acquire many skills from the Romans they would not have gotten otherwise.

Legionarius

Teutoburg Forest was a defeat for the Romans primarily because they could not get the favored formations inside of the forest itself. Add to it that the Romans simply didn't have the experience of fighting inside of this large, dark forest.

The Romans were never really able to pacify the "Germans" which were just a large swath of peoples. The Germans were too independent, too fierce, and it was easier to pay tribute and keep them in a loose alliance whenever Rome needed their help. This helped the Germans since they were able to acquire many skills from the Romans they would not have gotten otherwise.

Caldrail

It is true that the Romans could not fight an open battle - something Arminius clearly wished to avoid - however what is more significant, considering that in at least one place the legions fought back, is the lack of communications along a long line of march restricted by sight and terrain. That wasn't a specific fault of the Romans legions - any army in that circumstance might well have responded as badly - but it is also true that the Roman legion functioned according to a cooperative principle and formal battlefield communications were something the Romans never developed. They regarded runners as inherently unreliable and in any case, independent initiative of units was part and parcel of Roman practice. It is also true that lethargic response or loss of coordination were problems we see in Roman accounts of battle repeatedly. Where the Romans had the initiative - as they preferred to arrange - they were able to control the battle in most cases. However, in ambush situations the legions often crumbled into chaos as local command and organisatioi broke down under stress - and it happened very quickly too. Many legionaries were slain in ambush, others were captured and later ritually tortured and executed.

Yes they did. The legions assigned to Varus had already been fighting German tribes in the forest. Tacitius refers to Germania as "fearful forest and stinking bog", thus the terrain, known to have been a temperate rainforest, was not an easy place to campaign in, and there is also a reference to the familiarity that helped German tribesmen.

The Romans were far more proactive than that. Their patrols were often seen in neighbouring German territory. Modern concepts of territorial sanctity didn't apply - Germania was a wilderness, nit a nation state, and Roman soldiers patrolled freely. It was a situation rather like American soldiers mounting patrols of Canadian territory in case those pesky Canadians decided to cause trouble (Yes, I watch South Park too)

Further, the Romans interfered politically, playing one tribe off against another with promises of cash and goods, or simply spreading rumours. At one stage, some German tribes could not meet publicly without a Roman centurion present, nor select their own chiefs without Roman consent.

Yakmatt

Frostwulf

Caldrail

I've checked and can't see any sign I mentioned whether they had problems or not.

As I've said previously, Germania was a temperate rainforest, an unpleasant enviroment, although the 'fearful forest and stinking bog' that Tacitus describes was not the only terrain - there were also areas of heathland. Note that Germanicus made use of rivers during his subsequent campaign in order to ease travel - therefore it might not be too incorrect to compare Germanian wilderness with that of colonial America. Many of the same animals too.

Whether Roman patrols had problems with Germans is another matter, and that depended on circumstance. It was common practice for Roman frontier forts to be built beyiond what we would consider their territory, in order to provide a measure of frontier security. They did not generally mark lines on a map and divide theirs from barbarian property - it was a more fuzzy concept than that, especially in the absence of convenient geographical features such as rivers. Instead, they regarded a frontier as a 'zone of control'

I doubt there was any standard size of patrol. Commanders would order men to patrol in whatever strength they deemed suitable for the prevailing conditions, not only for the very prospect of dealing with trouble, but also to keep troops busy, keep them fit, and keep the local natives aware that the Romans weren't dropping their guard (which they often tended to nonetheless).

Distance would depend on circumstance. It would make sense to patrol in the vicinity of native settlement, thus the distribution of villages would pretty much dictate where they patrolled. There were instances of punitive expeditions now and then, raids into German territory that might travel a long way - there's one mentioned in the Historia Augusta that has been confirmed archeologocially, that sent Roman soldiers a very long way to settle someones hash.

Frostwulf

Bart Dale

Despite claims made by others that the Romans never had any intention of colonizing Germany east of the Rhine, the archaeology of sites such as Roman Forum of Lahnau-Waldgirmes indicate the Roman intention to settle Germany East of the Rhine:

Since Theodor Mommsen, it had been assumed that Roman operations in Greater Germania were limited to exploratory expeditions, and small temporary trading stations. This was despite Cassius Dio's (56,18,2) reference to the foundation of some cities during the governorship of Varus. Waldgirmes appears to have been one such place, designed to trade with the Germanic population and to supply Roman troops. .

Waldgirmes appears to have been a planned new foundation on a virgin site. The existence of the oversized forum at the centre of the site suggests that it may have been intended to form the core settlement of a future civitas, an important part of a projected Romanisation of the area.

The site remained unfinished, indicated by the large undeveloped areas. After the Teutoburg victory, when virtually all Roman military posts east of the Rhine were lost, Waldgirmes was abandoned. Waldgirmes Forum - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


While Teutoburg Forest was not the worst military defeat the Romans suffered, it had one of the biggest psychological effects on the Romans, more so than any other defeat.

But in 9 A.D., the results of this massacre affected Rome like no other loss in its history. It altered the Roman mindset of the Germanic barbarian and that led to Rome establishing a permanent defensive position, which gave the Roman Empire its first permanent borders in the history of Rome.175

The results of this battle went well beyond loss of the three legions. After Teutoburg, Roman legionary bases more than doubled along the Rhine. The pre-Teutoburg Roman archeological settlements along the Rhine (referenced in chapter 2) shifted to the defensive with a new primary purpose of supporting the defensive line of Rome along the Rhine at Xanten, Cologne, and Mainz. The Romans established four additional legionary bases along the Rhine after Teutoburg as well, at Nijmegen (Noviomagus), Neuss (Novaesium), Strasbourg (Argentoratum), and Vindonissa (Venta Belgerum).176 The fact that the Romans focused on increasing defensives along the Rhine and not continuing east of the Rhine to re-establish their previous settlements demonstrates a Roman mindset shift. With the increase in defensive posts, Rome also increased its legions along the Rhine, almost doubling in number from five (in 6 A.D.) to eight legions after Teutoburg.177 The idea of turning Germania into a Roman province was an idea of the past.

Following Teutoburg, the Romans never conquered beyond the Rhine River throughout the rest of its Empire.178 This period (9 A.D.) set the first permanent defensive line and marked the limits of the Roman Empire. Teutoburg came at a time when Rome, the most powerful empire in the world, had not yet reached its full height. Rome would continue to expand, increase its territory, wealth, and power for centuries to come. The Romans completed their conquest of Britain by 96 A.D. and continued their push east conquering Mesopotamia (which holds the city of Carrhae from the defeated Roman battle in Chapter 2) by 200 A.D.179 Rome continued expansion south into North Africa and North into Dacia yet never into Germania.180 Rome never conquered territory east of the Rhine, as Teutoburg caused the first permanent expansionist halt in Rome&#8216s history. www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA502346

1. After the battle of Teutoburg Forest, the Roman Army was permanently reduced in size by the 3 lost legions, which were never replaced, going from 28 legions to 25 legions.

2. The Romans never again tried to conquer and settle Germany east of the Rhine. While they did send some punishment expeditions, those expeditions were never intended to reconquer the land previously lost. Pre Teutoburg Roman settlements east of the Rhine were permanently abandoned. The Rhine became a permanent defensive boundary of the Roman empire, the first.

3. After the Teutoburg, the Germans became to be regarded as one of the greatest threats to Rome, which had not been the case before. Here is what the post Teutoburg writer Tacitus said:


The Contrary Perspective

A Roman Cavalry Mask found at the presumed site of the Battle of Teutoburg Forest

Reports that President Obama is considering even more troops and bases to fight ISIS in Iraq put me to mind of Roman general Publius Quinctilius Varus. Two millennia ago, Varus committed three Roman legions to the Teutoburg Forest in Germania in terrain that neutralized Roman advantages in firepower and maneuverability. Ambushed and caught in a vise, his legions were destroyed in detail as Varus took his own life. To Rome the shock and disgrace of defeat were so great that Emperor Augustus cried, “Quinctilius Varus, give me back my Legions!”

Ever since 9/11, American presidents and their military advisors have repeatedly committed U.S. troops and prestige to inhospitable regions in terrain that largely neutralizes U.S. advantages in firepower and maneuverability. Whether it’s the urban jungles of Baghdad or Fallujah or Mosul or the harshly primitive and mountainous terrain of Afghanistan, American troops have been committed to campaigns that they can’t win (in any enduring sense), under conditions that facilitate ambushes by an elusive enemy with superior knowledge of the local terrain. The number of U.S. soldiers killed or seriously wounded in these campaigns is roughly equivalent to those lost by Varus, though unlike Varus no U.S. general has yet to fall on his sword.

Unlike Rome, which did learn from Varus’s catastrophe the perils of imperial overreach, the U.S. persists in learning nothing. Perhaps that’s because America’s defeat is collective and gradual, rather than singular and quick. America may lack a Varus or a calamity like Teutoburg Forest, yet the overall result since 9/11 has been no less debilitating to American foreign policy.

Despite setback after setback, American presidents and generals persist in trying to control hostile territory at the end of insecure logistical lines while mounting punitive raids designed to deny Al Qaeda or ISIS or the Taliban “safe havens.” We should have learned the impossibility of doing this from Vietnam, but it seems America’s presidents and generals keep trying to get Vietnam right, even if they have to move the fight to the deserts of Iraq or the mountains of Afghanistan.

Yet seeking to control territory in inhospitable regions like the Middle East or Afghanistan, whether you use American troops or proxy armies, is an exercise in strategic futility. It’s also old-fashioned thinking: the idea that, to exert influence and control, you need large numbers of military boots on the ground. But the world has already moved past such thinking into “borderless” hegemony as demonstrated by the Internet, by global business and finance, and by America’s own practice of drone strikes and cyber-war.

By repeatedly deploying American troops – whether in the tens of hundreds or tens of thousands – to so many equivalents of the Teutoburg Forest, our leaders continue a strategy of overreach that was already proven bankrupt in Vietnam. Meanwhile, despite our own early revolutionary history, our leaders seem to have forgotten that no country likes to be occupied or interfered with by foreigners, no matter how “generous” and “benevolent” they claim to be. Let’s also not forget that boots on the ground in faraway foreign lands cost an enormous amount of money, a cost that cannot be sustained indefinitely (just ask the British in 1781).

America simply cannot afford more troop deployments (and commitments of prestige) that set the stage for more military disasters. When you persist in committing your legions to torturous terrain against an enemy that is well prepared to exact a high price for your personal hubris and strategic stubbornness, you get the fate you deserve.

After Varus’s calamity, the Romans stopped campaigning east of the Rhine. When will America’s leaders learn that persistence in strategic overreach is nothing but folly?

Update (6/21/15): A friend writing from Germany reports that “new archaeological finds near the Elbe apparently show at least one major battle between Roman and Germanic forces in the second century AD. The documentary film’s claim was that the archaeological finds, combined with a few classical source references, show that the Roman armies did engage in major punitive expeditions deep into the territory across the Rhine in the time after Varus, including the one newly discovered which apparently showed a major Roman victory.”

Difficult to see. Always in motion the future, Yoda once said. He might have added that the past too “is always in motion.” Did a punitive raid such as this strengthen the Roman Empire or weaken it? If the Romans won a victory, was it of the Pyrrhic variety? Did the Romans attempt to sustain a presence across the Rhine only to abandon the attempt? It will be interesting to see what new evidence is uncovered by archaeologists working in the area.


Battle of Teutoberg Forest

I am currently studying the story of Arminius for a big history project where I get to choose my topic. I thought the whole story was fascinating, but now I'm pulling my hair out in frustration. I can't seem to find sources. Oh, I'm finding all the primary ones, Tacitus, Suetonius, Cassius Dio. I have access to those. But every time I find a database that has what seems to be everything I need, it's blocked off by a password, something that requires money or subscription or enrollment at a university. As I am a high school student, I cannot afford any of these at the moment, and I am getting really frustrated at thinking I'm getting something but stumbling upon yet another dead end. Can anyone point me in the right direction here? Expert opinions on the battle would be amazing as well.

I realise you probably don't want to spend too much money, but Michael McNally's Teutoburg Forest, AD 9: The destruction of Varus and his legions is a damn good read. It's one of Osprey Publishing's books, so there's plenty of maps and very good context and narrative. Be warned though, my copy cost £15 (U.S. $21.95).

I'll definitely look into it. I looked on Amazon just now, and I found a new one for half that, actually. Thank you for the suggestion!

What you really need is a copy of Pliny's "History of the Germanic Wars". Unfortunately, no copy is known to exist. Your local library may have access to JSTOR and other databases for free, or if you have a university library nearby. That's a good place to start.

My thesis was on Roman operations in Germania during Augustus' reign, so I may be able to answer any questions.

Some good sources, other than those already mentioned:

Delbrück, Hans. History of the Art of War, Volume II: The Barbarian Invasions. - Dated, but highly influential in it's time.

Murdoch, Adrian. Rome's Greatest Defeat: Massacre in the Teutoburg Forest.

Rost, Achim and Susanne Wilbers-Rost. “Weapons at the Battlefield of Kalkriese.” Galdius XXX (2010), 117-136.

Wells, Peter S.. The Barbarians Speak: How the Conquered Peoples Shaped Roman Europe.

Wilbers-Rost, Susanne, “Total Roman Defeat at the Battle of Varus (9 AD).” in Fields of Conflict

A few things to think about:

The Roman army in AD 9 was in bad shape. The rebellion in Illyricum had sapped Rome's resources severely. Augustus was forced to raise new taxes, and start forced conscription to fight it. Varus' legions may have been understrength because of this. A Roman legion of the period was 4800 men on paper (There is no evidence of the first cohort's double-strength centuries this early). Varus had detachments all over the area, most of whom were killed away from Kalkriese. He had left a strong force at ɺliso' (probably Haltern), probably cohort sized, and perhaps another cohort at Xanten. Those would also have included any too sick to march to the summer camp. The 6 cohorts of light infantry and 3 alae of cavalry would have had significant numbers of Germans, who probably either switched sides or simply slipped away. Furthermore, a number of survivors slipped away and made it to Aliso. Thus the casualty numbers at Teutoburg may not have numbered more that 10-12000.

The survivors are a mystery. Kalkriese is a long way from Haltern (if the fort called Aliso is Haltern). Either they were the remains of Numinius Vala's cavalry that managed to break out, or a group large enough to defend themselves broke out of the trap. It's hard to imagine that scattered stragglers could make it to Haltern without being ridden down by the Germanic cavalry.

The Roman problems in dominating Germania were largely logistic. The Germanic tribes weren't urbanized like the Gauls, and so had little surplus agriculture to feed the occupying legions. Because Roman supplies moved by riverboat, they could easily dominate the Rhine, Lippe, and Main River valleys. Beyond that was problematic. Drusus had built a canal from the Rhine through what is now the IJselmeer to the Wadden Sea, but supplies still had to run a gauntlet from there to the Wesser or the Elbe. The North Sea storms made winter resupply all but impossible. In the spring, forward supply depots could be established on those rivers for the summer, but the Romans were forced to retreat to the Rhine/Lippe region. This always gave the Germani a breather.

There is a strong argument that the battle itself was not the end of Augustus' ambition in Germania. Varus' two legions that remained on the Rhine were reinforced with six more legions. Germanicus used those legions to raid in to Germania shortly before Augustus' death in AD 14, and laid waste to much of the area between the Lippe and Weser, including defeating a very large force in a pitched battle and recovering two of the lost eagles. For the most part, the tribes hostile to Rome appear to have withdrawn beyond the Elbe. Augustus' deathbed command to keep to the current borders is a bit too convenient for Tiberius. Tiberius had good reasons not to continue to go into Germania. Aside from the poor condition of the army, Tiberius didn't trust his nephew with eight legions that might march on Rome. The Rhine command would be broken up into two provinces with four legions each.

Varus' summer camp location, and the route of march, are still unknown. I favor Barkhausen for the summer camp, and the route of march along the north slope of the Wiehengeberge.


Legio XVII

Legio XVII: one of the Roman legions. Its surname is not known, but may have been Gallica or Germanica.

Due to the fact that they were destroyed in the battle in the Teutoburg Forest in September 9, the history of the legions XVII, XVIII and XIX is not well understood. Except for one highly ambiguous inscription that has to be read backwards (below), the Seventeenth is not even known from texts, and is therefore among Rome's most mysterious military units. The existence of a seventeenth legion in the Augustan army is in fact a hypothesis. However, the arguments for this hypothesis are strong enough:

  • The legions of the Augustan army were numbered from one to twenty-two. It would have been strange if there was no seventeenth legion.
  • During the battle in the Teutoburg Forest, three legions were destroyed. Among them were the Eighteenth and Nineteenth. No other unit disappears from the archaeological-historical record at this moment, which makes it plausible that the third legion was a little-known unit, for example the Seventeenth.
  • Finally, several seventeenth legions are known from the age of the civil wars.

During the civil war of 49-48, both Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great employed legions with the numbers XVII, XVIII and XIX, but we do not know what became of them. It has been argued that the Caesarian legions, commanded by Curio, were destroyed in Africa, but this is entirely hypothetical.

It is more probable that the Seventeenth was founded in 41 or 40 BCE, after the battle of Philippi (where Caesar's murderers Brutus and Cassius were defeated). Its founder must have been Caesar's heir Octavian, who needed new units to put an end to Sextus Pompeius' occupation of Sicily, which put the grain supply of Rome into peril. The first generation of soldiers may have consisted of veterans of the army of Brutus and Cassius others may have been recruited in northern Italy, because this is where most soldiers of the legions XVIII and XIX came from.

When Pompeius was defeated, Octavian and his fellow-triumvir Mark Antony fell out with each other and started a war, which culminated in the naval battle off Actium (31), where Octavian defeated his opponent and won the supremacy in the Mediterranean world. From now on, he was known as the emperor Augustus.

The possibility that the seventeenth legion is identical to the seventeenth legion Classica ("naval") of MarkAntony, cannot be excluded, but is less likely than the theory that this unit was founded by Octavian.

It is possible, but again hypothetical, that the Seventeenth was stationed in Aquitania during the fifteen years after the battle off Actium. An inscription showing the sign IIVX , found at Ehl in the Alsace, may or may not suggest that the Seventeenth stayed on the Middle Rhine. Later, it was almost certainly transferred to the Lower Rhine, together with XVI Gallica and the eighteenth legion.

In Germania, the soldiers took part in the campaigns in Germania of Augustus' generals Drusus (13-9) and Tiberius (8 BCE and 4-5 CE). In those years, the seventeenth legion was probably based at Xanten and/or Oberaden and/or Haltern. In 5, the conquest was completed and Augustus sent Publius Quinctilius Varus to rule the area as a governor, impose tribute and establish civil rule.

In 6 CE, Tiberius was to lead at least eight legions (VIII Augusta from Pannonia, XV Apollinaris and XX Valeria Victrix from Illyricum, XXI Rapax from Raetia, XIII Gemina, XIV Gemina and XVI Gallica from Germania Superior and an unknown unit) against king Maroboduus of the Marcomanni in Czechia at the same time, I Germanica, V Alaudae, XVII, XVIII and XIX were to move against Czechia as well, attacking it along the Elbe. It was to be the most grandiose operation that was ever conducted by a Roman army, but a rebellion in Pannonia obstructed its execution.

/> Germanicus returns with the recovered legionary standard (coin by his son Caligula)

It took three years to suppress the revolt. In these years, the Seventeenth was still with Varus. In September 9, however, the Cheruscan leader Arminius, one of Rome's most loyal allies, turned himself against the governor. When reports arrived that a western tribe had revolted, Varus, unaware of Arminius' treason, followed his advise to return to the Rhine. His army was trapped in the neighborhood of Osnabrück, in the Teutoburg Forest. The seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth legions were completely destroyed. The three eagle standards were recovered during the reigns of Tiberius (by Germanicus) and Caligula.


Legio XVIII

Legio XVIII: one of the Roman legions. Its surname is not known, but may have been Gallica or Germanica.

Due to the fact that they were destroyed in the battle in the Teutoburg Forest in September 9, the history of the legions XVII, XVIII and XIX is not well understood. One eighteenth legion fought with a governor named Gaius Cornelius Lentulus Spinther in Cilicia in 56-53. It is not likely that this unit is identical to the later eighteenth legion, but it cannot be excluded either.

During the civil war of 49-48, both Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great employed legions with these numbers, but we do not know what became of them, although it is plausible that Pompey's eighteenth was identical to Cornelius Lentulus Spinther's. It has been argued that the Caesarian legions, commanded by Curio, were destroyed in Africa, but this is entirely hypothetical.

/> Tombstone of an officer of the Eighteenth Legion

It is more probable that the Eighteenth was founded in 41 or 40 BCE, after the battle of Philippi (where Caesar's murderers Brutus and Cassius were defeated). Its founder must have been Caesar's heir Octavian, who needed new units to put an end to Sextus Pompeius' occupation of Sicily, which put the grain supply of Rome into peril. The first generation of soldiers may have consisted of veterans of the army of Brutus and Cassius inscriptions suggests that other recruits came from northern Italy.

When Pompeius was defeated, Octavian and his fellow-triumvir Mark Antony fell out with each other and started a war, which culminated in the naval battle off Actium (31), where Octavian defeated his opponent and won the supremacy in the Mediterranean world. From now on, he was known as the emperor Augustus.

The possibility that the eighteenth legion is identical to the eighteenth legion Lybica of Mark Antony, cannot be excluded, but is less likely than the theory that this unit was founded by Octavian.

In 30 or 14 BCE, veterans were settled in the Veneto, which suggests that the recruits were from Gallia Cisalpina.

/> Germanicus returns with the recovered legionary standard (coin by his son Caligula)

Whatever its origins - Lentulian, Pompeian, Caesarian, Octavian, Antonian - the Eighteenth was at some stage (c.15 BCE?) sent to the Rhine, together with XVI Gallica and the seventeenth legion. It is possible, but again hypothetical, that the Eighteenth had been stationed in Aquitania between the battle off Actium and the transfer.

In Germania, the soldiers part in the campaigns in Germania of Augustus' generals Drusus (13-9) and Tiberius (8 BCE and 4-5 CE). In those years, the eighteenth legion was probably based at Xanten or Oberaden/Haltern. In 5, the conquest was completed and Augustus sent Publius Quinctilius Varus to rule the area as a governor, impose tribute and establish civil rule.

In 6 CE, Tiberius was to lead at least eight legions (VIII Augusta from Pannonia, XV Apollinaris and XX Valeria Victrix from Illyricum, XXI Rapax from Raetia, XIII Gemina, XIV Gemina and XVI Gallica from Germania Superior and an unknown unit) against king Maroboduus of the Marcomanni in Czechia at the same time, I Germanica, V Alaudae, XVII, XVIII and XIX were to move against Czechia as well, attacking it along the Elbe. It was to be the most grandiose operation that was ever conducted by a Roman army, but a rebellion in Pannonia obstructed its execution.

/> Cenotaph of Marcus Caelius

It took three years to suppress the revolt. In these years, the Eighteenth was still with Varus. In September 9, however, the Cheruscan leader Arminius, one of Rome's most loyal allies, turned himself against the governor. When reports arrived that a western tribe had revolted, Varus, unaware of Arminius' treason, followed his advise to return to the Rhine. His army was trapped in the neighborhood of Osnabrück. The seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth legions were completely destroyed. The three eagle standards were recovered by during the reigns of Tiberius and Caligula.

The picture shows the cenotaph of Marcus Caelius, a centurio of the eighteenth legion whose bones were never recovered, and two of the slaves he had freed (and were probably with him during the disaster in the Teutoburg Forest). The monument can be seen in the museum at Xanten. The inscription (CIL 13.8648) is as follows:


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