Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Battle of Teutoburg Wald

Roman Military mask found at Kalkriese

This year is the 2000th anniversary of the destruction of three legions of the army of the Emperor Augustus, lead by Quintus Varus, occurring in September of that year apparently; in the area called by the Historian Tacitus the Teutoburg Wald.1 This battle marked the end of the Roman attempt to conquer Germania and incorporate it into the Roman Empire. It is also of interest as one of the few ancient battle fields of which field archaeology has told us a great deal about.2

For years the battlefield was only guessed at, with much dispute over the location of the battlefield.3 In the late 19th century some historians like the great Classicalist Mommsen identified the area of the battle as in the Kalkriese. It was not confirmed as the battlefield until the late 1980s.4 Previous writers have located the battlefield all over the place in north western Germany, although the most common opinion was to locate the battle in the area of Detmold which is about 70 miles south east of Kalkriese. With the idea that much of the fighting occurred near or in the Doren pass.5 The archaeological discoveries at Kalkriese have effectively removed that option.

Location of Kalkriese

Before I get into the Archaeology of the site and what this tells us of the battle let us go through the various historical sources for the battle.

The main sources of the battle are Velleius Paterculus’, Roman History, written during the reign of Augustus’ successor Tiberius, (c. 20’s C.E.), and the earliest surviving source. The next is Lucius Annaeus Florus in his Epitome of Roman History, written during the reign of Antonius Pius, (c. 150’s C.E.). Neither of these sources provides much detail; however, the last source Cassius Dio, provides in his Roman History, a fairly detailed account of the battle. It was written in the reign of the Emperor Alexander Severus. (c. 220’s C.E.). It seems to have been based largely on much earlier source material that is now lost.6

Florus’ book is basically a summary of parts of the work of the Roman historian Livy, however he does describe events that occurred after the end of Livy’s history, further he gives information from the lost books of Livy. His history seems to be basically reliable but not terribly impressive as history. Florus seems to have been basically a summarizer, and a not an historian.7

Paterculus is quite different he knew Varus and was a friend of the Emperor Tiberius. His Roman History which like Florus’ is a summary history of Rome has some of the most revolting suck up flattery of the Emperor Tiberius, for example:
What public buildings did he construct in his own name or that of his family! With what pious munificence, exceeding human belief, does he now rear the temple to his father! With what a magnificent control of personal feeling did he restore the works of Gnaeus Pompey when destroyed by fire! For a feeling of kinship leads him to protect every famous monument. With what generosity at the time of the recent fire on the Caelian Hill, as well as on other occasions, did he use his private fortune to make good the losses of people of all ranks in life!8
Head of Tiberius

This rather stomach turning claptrap detracts from the value of his book although it appears that his book, when not sucking up to the imperial family, is basically reliable.9

Cassius Dio is another matter, he was a Greek who wrote his Roman History in Greek and although not a great writer was overall a more competent and reliable historian than Livy or Tacitus. He wrote during the early stages of Rome’s decline in which even then the reign of Marcus Aurelius, (161-180 C.E.) and the period of the 5 “good Emperors”, (96-180 C.E. were considered a golden age).10 Dio was a friend of the Emperor Alexander Severus and an Roman Senator. His Roman History is unlike the two previous works, which are quite brief, a massive work divided into 80 books. Although it is an invaluable source much of it is fragmentary and some of it only survives in the form of summaries written up in the Middle Ages. Dio provides the only detailed account of the battle of Teutoburg Wald and for that event is indispensable. He also provides the only detailed complete account of the reign of the Emperor Augustus.11

The above three are the chief primary historical sources on the battle itself; however there is one other source that while it provides little data about the battle itself provides much additional information, including a description of the battlefield that is the account by the historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome. The section which describes a visit by a Roman army lead by the Emperor Tiberius’ nephew Germanicus to the battlefield, where they buried the strewn remains of the dead (c. 15 C.E.), also is the only account which gives the name of where the battlefield occurred, the Teutoburg Wald. Tacitus is considered among the very greatest of Roman historians, although his reliability and fairness are in many respects questionable, his literary style is among the very best of classical Latin literature. Examples of Tacitus’ lack of reliability is his rather off putting boosting of Germanicus’ questionable military achievements and his studied character assassination of the Emperor Tiberius. Unfortunately Tacitus’ book is in fragmentary pieces and is missing large sections, notably the end of the work and the section describing the reign of Caligula and the first half of the reign of Claudius. Tacitus who was a Roman Senator and who wrote during the reign of the Emperor Trajan was nostalgic for the days of the Republic although he realized that they were gone for good. Despite his biases he is considered basically reliable in matters in which he doesn’t have a political or social bias to advance.12

The accounts themselves describe the conflict as arising from the effects of Roman efforts to formalize their conquest of Germania and turn Germania into a formal Roman province.

Beginning c. 15 B.C.E., the Romans began a long series of campaigns to pacify and occupy Germania; it was part of a general and massive extension of the empire that occurred during the reign of the Emperor Augustus. Although Augustus drastically reduced the number of legions, (to 28) he did not reduce the number of men nearly as much. Further this was not much of a reduction of capacity or desire of the Roman elite to expand the empire as might be thought given that the great expansion of the size of the Roman army before Augustus was the result largely of the fact that Roman armies fought each other in bloody civil wars that were only ended by Augustus’ defeat of Anthony and Cleopatra at Actium in 31 B.C.E. Not just Germania was invaded by Augustus’ troops but north western Spain, Dalmatia, Illyricum, the Cottian Alps etc. Augustus’ reign was an age of massive imperial expansion.13
Head of Augustus
The description of these various wars would be interminable, aside from the fact except for the attempted conquest of Germania we lack much detail, and even in this case the account is pretty sparse.

The conquest of Germania was a long drawn out affair apparently related to the fact that unlike the peoples of Gaul the Germans lacked fortified settlements or towns in which they could be pinned down and crushed, further the terrain seems to have been rougher and less open and cultivated, with fewer good roads or trails for Roman armies to march over. Although it appears that the Germans were a settled agricultural population they were at a less complex stage of culture than their Gaulish neighbours.14
Roman bases in Eastern Germany
The division of Germania into many different tribal groups who were fiercely independent of each other also didn’t help Roman efforts to conquer the Germans. So the conquest was long drawn out. In 9 B.C.E., Tiberius’ brother Drusus died while on campaign of an infected wound while near the Rhine river.15 Other Roman generals including Tiberius continued with the war and by 4 C.E., it appears that Germania was conquered and all that was left to do was to round off the conquest by taking neighbouring areas. However in 6 C.E., due to mal-administration and oppression the recently subjugated provinces of Dalmatia and Pannonia rose in rebellion and these efforts had to be called off. The rebellion turned out to be difficult to suppress and was very costly too. The main Roman general involved in suppressing the revolt was the Tiberius, who succeeded in crushing the rebellion in 9 C.E.16

Shortly after this rebellion was crushed came the disaster of the battle of Teutoburg Wald. What happened was as follows. It appears that Romans jumped the gun in terms of guessing how fast they could begin the process of romanizing the areas of Germania that they had conquered.

As a side issue there used to be a debate about whether or not the Romans were actually trying to conquer Germany or merely trying to prevent the formation of any threats to Roman possessions west of the Rhine, (i.e., Gaul), and that they therefore had no intention of conquering Germania and adding new provinces to the Roman Empire, thus despite the disaster of Teutoburg Wald the Roman policy was successful after Tiberius resumed it after the disaster and it was carried out by his nephew Germanicus.17

Aside from the fact that this idea relies on sheer speculation to a large extent, ignores clear statements from the ancient sources regarding what the Romans were doing which indicates conquest was intended, it ignores the Archaeological evidence which clearly indicates the founding of Roman cities in Germania. It appears that yes indeed the Romans were intending to establish a Roman province of Germania. For example the Romans had established large bases at Haltern and Oberaden, which were military fortresses that were intended to be the basis for Roman cities. Further a full fledged civic centre, probably a future provincial capital had been established at Waldgirmes. Those three along with many other incipient fortresses and possible towns were abandoned / destroyed after the disaster at Teutoburg Wald.18

To illustrate the point that conquest was intended Dio says:
The Romans had a hold on parts of it,--not the whole region, but just places that happened to have been subdued, so that the fact has not received historical notice,--and soldiers of theirs were used to wintering there and cities were being founded. The barbarians were adapting themselves to Roman ways, were taking up the custom of markets, and were holding peaceful meetings.19
Paterculus says:
But, after accomplishing to a great extent the subjection of Germany, in which much blood of that people was shed on various battle-fields, an unkind fate carried him [Drusus] off during his consulship, in his thirtieth year. The burden of responsibility for this war was then transferred to Nero. He carried it on with his customary valour and good fortune, and after traversing every part of Germany in a victorious campaign, without any loss of the army entrusted to him — for he made this one of his chief concerns — he so subdued the country as to reduce it almost to the status of a tributary province. He then received a second triumph, and a second consulship.20

Nothing remained to be conquered in Germany except the people of the Marcomanni, which, leaving its settlements at the summons of its leader Marobodus, had retired into the interior and now dwelt in the plains surrounded by the Hercynian forest.21
Florus states as follows concerning Roman aims in the war with Germania:
It could be wished that Caesar had not set such store on conquering Germany also. Its loss was a disgrace which far outweighed the glory of its acquisition. But since he was well aware that his father, Gaius Caesar, had twice crossed the Rhine by bridging it and sought hostilities against Germania, he had conceived the desire of making it into a province to do him honour. His object would have been achieved if the barbarians could have tolerated our vices as well as they tolerated our rule.22
It appears that the weight of evidence indicates that the Roman plan was indeed to conquer Germania not merely to render it an impotent threat by military action.

The main German leader was a nobleman of the Cherusci tribe who was called by the Romans Arminius, whose German name is unknown. It is known that he had served in the Roman Army as an auxiliary soldier in the early years of Dalmatian revolt, before returning to Germania. It is also known that in exchange for his services to Rome he had been made a Roman Citizen and given Equestrian status. Before he turned against Rome Arminius had a very antagonistic relationship with a relative of his named Segestes, which became very bad when sometime after the battle of Teutoburg Wald he eloped with Segestes daughter Thusnelda. Arminius’ brother, called by the Roman’s Flavus, stayed loyal to the Romans to the end.23

About the Roman leader Quintilius Varus what we know is strongly coloured by a very negative historical tradition concerning him that blames him for the disaster. Varus was basically a civilian appointee and his appointment indicates that the Roman government led by Augustus was thinking that the process of turning Germania into a Roman province governed by civilians could now begin. Varus was related by marriage to the Imperial family and he had a fairly distinguished record as a public official including a stint as Governor of Syria. While Governor of Syria Varus was involved in handling military disturbances which he dealt with effectively.24 Unfortunately for Varus Augustus and his advisors were very wrong in their appraisal of the readiness of Germania to become a full fledged Roman province.
Coin of Varus
It appears that what brought on the revolt was the attempt to impose the apparatus of Roman fiscal and administrative domination over the various subdued tribes of Germania.
Dio says:
Finally, Quintilius Varus received the command of Germany and in the discharge of his office strove, in administering the affairs of the people, to introduce more widespread changes among them. He treated them in general as if they were already slaves, levying money upon them as he had upon subject nations. This they were not inclined to endure, for the prominent men longed for their former ascendancy and the masses preferred their accustomed constitution to foreign domination.25
Paterculus states:
The cause of this defeat and the personality of the general require of me a brief digression. Varus Quintilius, descended from a famous rather than a high-born family, was a man of mild character and of a quiet disposition, somewhat slow in mind as he was in body, and more accustomed to the leisure of the camp than to actual service in war. That he was no despiser of money is demonstrated by his governorship of Syria: he entered the rich province a poor man, but left it a rich man and the province poor. When placed in charge of the army in Germany, he entertained the notion that the Germans were a people who were men only in limbs and voice, and that they, who could not be subdued by the sword, could be soothed by the law. With this purpose in mind he entered the heart of Germany as though he were going among a people enjoying the blessings of peace, and sitting on his tribunal he wasted the time of a summer campaign in holding court and observing the proper details of legal procedure.26
Florus says:

But it is more difficult to retain provinces than to acquire them. They are obtained by force, but secured by justice. Our exultation was accordingly but short. The Germans been defeated rather than subdued. Under the rule of Drusus they respected our manners rather than our arms. But when Drusus was dead, they began to detest the licentiousness and pride, no less than the cruelty, of Quintilius Varus. He ventured to call an assembly, and administered justice in his camp as if he could restrain the violence of barbarians by the rods of a lictor and voice of a crier. But the Germans who had long regretted that their swords were covered with rust, and their horses idle, proceeded, as soon as they saw the toga and felt laws more cruel than arms, to go to war under the conduct, of Arminius,…27
If read carefully, despite the rather obvious scapegoating of Varus; the above indicates that the imposition of Roman rule, with its officials and taxes and probably the activities of various Romans seeking to take advantage of the conquest for gain that inflamed the situation creating a situation ripe for revolt. It seems to be that Varus was doing nothing more than carrying out a policy agreed to in Rome and as such is less to blame for the coming disaster than his political masters in Rome, i.e., Augustus and the Imperial family.

The role of Imperial officials especially those in the legal field in cheating the Germans is brought out in Florus’ account of what happened during and after the battle to Romans involved in such practices:
Never was slaughter more bloody than, that which was made of the Romans among: the marshes and woods; never were insults more intolerable than those of the barbarians, especially such as they inflicted on the pleaders of causes. Of some they tore out the eyes, of others they cut off the hands. Of one the mouth was sewed up, after his tongue had been cut out which one of the savages holding in his hand cried, "At last, viper, cease to hiss."28
What seems to have happened is that Arminius, probably disillusioned with the Romans due to their crass behaviour and exploitation of his fellow tribesmen, engaged in a widespread conspiracy to revolt. According to various roman historians word leaked out about the conspiracy but that Varus disregarded the warnings. The Historian Tacitus says:
There had, in fact, sprung up a hope of the enemy being divided between Arminius and Segestes, famous, respectively, for treachery and loyalty towards us. Arminius was the disturber of Germany. Segestes often revealed the fact that a rebellion was being organized, more especially at that last banquet after which they rushed to arms, and he urged Varus to arrest himself and Arminius and all the other chiefs, assuring him that the people would attempt nothing if the leading men were removed, and that he would then have an opportunity of sifting accusations and distinguishing the innocent.29
It appears that since Varus was well aware of the antipathy between Arminius and Segestes so that he dismissed these warnings, as personally motivated slanders.

The Roman accounts go into much detail about the treachery of the Germans and Arminius.
For example Dio says:
They did not openly revolt, since they saw there were many Roman soldiers near the Rhine and many in their own territory; but they received Varus, pretending they would execute all his commands, and took him far away from the Rhine into heruscis near the Visurgis. There by behaving in a most peaceful and friendly manner they led him to believe that they could be trusted to live submissively without soldiers.30
Paterculus says:
This young man [Arminius] made use of the negligence of the general as an opportunity for treachery, sagaciously seeing that no one could be more quickly overpowered than the man who feared nothing, and that the most common beginning of disaster was a sense of security.31
A lot of this reads like sour grapes.

What seems to have happened is that Varus who was near the Weser river was preparing to march back to Haltern, the main Roman Army base east of the Rhine to establish his army in a secure camp for the winter, when Arminus put his plan into action. First his various associates put out calls to have Roman troops scattered among them to deal with, bandits, disorder and possible rebels, purely for the purpose of being destroyed when the rebellion started in earnest. Next a revolt was stated near the line of march of the Roman army to its winter quarters and not surprisingly Varus was encouraged to, if he did not decide on his own, to crush the revolt on his way back to winter quarters.32

Arminius and the other leaders excused themselves on the grounds that they were going to raise other auxiliary forces for the Romans and instead they and the troops under their command joined the rebels. Dio then describes the initial engagement:
The mountains had an uneven surface broken by ravines, and the trees, standing close together, were extremely tall. Hence the Romans even before the enemy assaulted them were having hard work in felling, road making, and bridging places that required it. They had with them many wagons and many beasts of burden as in a time of peace. Not a few children and women and a large body of servants were following them,--another reason for their advancing in scattered groups. Meanwhile a great rain and wind came up that separated them still farther, while the ground, being slippery where there were roots and logs, made walking very difficult for them, and the top branches of trees, which kept breaking off and falling down, caused confusion. While the Romans were in such perplexity as this the barbarians suddenly encompassed them from all sides at once, coming through the thickest part of the underbrush, since they were acquainted with the paths. At first they hurled from a distance; then as no one defended himself but many were wounded, they approached closer to them. The Romans were in no order but going along helter-skelter among the wagons and the unarmed, and so, not being able to form readily in a body, and being fewer at every point than their assailants, they suffered greatly and offered no resistance at all.33
What is interesting is that this seems to describe an ambush in thick forested terrain. This is very much like the terrain of the Kalkriese area with a steep hill on one side and a fairly narrow passage / trail at the base of the hill, with only a few hundred feet to the north an extensive bog. What is not mentioned in the account is the wall that existed along a part of the hill. It would appear that this is were Arminius sprung his ambush and certainly it appears the Romans were surprised and sustained very heavy casualties.34
Kalkriese Battlefield
The wall is a bit of a mystery. It has been theorized that the wall was erected before the battle as part of the plan to lure the Roman Army into an ambush in that area. Given that the wall seems to be quite substantial, and would have taken quite sometime, perhaps months to build, and that rarely does such long term planning pay off in war. It is hard to believe that Varus’ intelligence services would have been unaware of such a recent construction along a road he was using so I rather doubt the idea of the wall being part of a long range plan to ambush a Roman army there. It is frankly hard to believe that the Romans would not have heard of such a construction.35
Remains of the wall at Kalkriese
The Romans left on the battlefield many remains and much debris that was still there too be found 2000 years later. Such things as weights, bits of armour, coins, spear points, buckles, boot nails, hooks, and arrows etc. The debris is scattered over quite a large area and from the direction of the debris it appears that the army may in fact have divided in two, perhaps temporaily.36
Map of artefacts found a Kalkriese

Artefacts found at Kalkriese
After this serious reverse Dio writes:
Accordingly, they encamped on the spot, after securing a suitable place so far as that was possible on a wooded mountain, and afterward they either burned or abandoned the majority of their wagons and everything else that was not absolutely necessary for them. The next day they advanced in better order, with the aim of reaching open country; but they did not gain it without loss. From there they went forward and plunged into the woods again, defending themselves against the attacks, but endured no inconsiderable reverses in this very operation. For whereas they were marshalled in a narrow place in order that cavalry and heavy-armed men in a mass might run down their foes, they had many collisions with one another and with the trees.37
It appears that the Romans were badly cut up by the ambush at Kalkriese and left much booty and apparently considerable number of dead and prisoners there. It appears that they camped near by and continued marching the next day. An indication of the extent of the losses is Tacitus’ description of the battlefield:
Varus's first camp with its wide circumference and the measurements of its central space clearly indicated the handiwork of three legions. Further on, the partially fallen rampart and the shallow fosse suggested the inference that it was a shattered remnant of the army which had there taken up a position.38
Possible locations of First and Second camps
( The X marks the site of Kalkriese)
It appears that Arminius continued the guerrilla style attacks against them and using the terrain to inhibit the Roman’s ability to engage in full open battle for which the Romans were vastly superior to the Germans.

The following day was the dénouement. News of Arminius’ success was attracting many reinforcements to his ranks and the Roman forces were being steadily depleted. The end came as follows:
Dawn of the fourth day broke as they were advancing and again a violent downpour and mighty wind attacked them, which would not allow them to go forward or even to stand securely, and actually deprived them of the use of their weapons. They could not manage successfully their arrows or their javelins or, indeed, their shields (which were soaked through). The enemy, however, being for the most part lightly equipped and with power to approach and retire freely, suffered less from the effects of the storm. Their numbers, moreover, increased, as numbers of those who had at first wavered joined them particularly for the sake of plunder, and so they could more easily encircle and strike down the Romans, who were already few, many having perished in the previous battles. Varus, therefore, and the most eminent of the other leaders, fearing that they might either be taken alive or be killed by their bitterest foes,--for they had been wounded,--dared do a deed which was frightful but not to be avoided: they killed themselves.
22), When this news was spread, none of the rest, even if he had strength still left, defended himself longer. Some imitated their leader; others, throwing aside their arms, allowed who pleased to slay them. To flee was impossible, however one might wish it. Every man and horse, therefore, was cut down without resistance, and the…[there is a gap in Dio’s account here]39
This probably occurred on the road from Kalkriese to Haltern.40 As it was it was a complete disaster. The Roman army was annihilated. The other accounts do not add much; Paterculus for example says:
An army unexcelled in bravery, the first of Roman armies in discipline, in energy, and in experience in the field, through the negligence of its general, the perfidy of the enemy, and the unkindness of fortune was surrounded, nor was as much opportunity as they had wished given to the soldiers either of fighting or of extricating themselves, except against heavy odds; nay, some were even heavily chastised for using the arms and showing the spirit of Romans. Hemmed in by forests and marshes and ambuscades, it was exterminated almost to a man by the very enemy whom it had always slaughtered like cattle, whose life or death had depended solely upon the wrath or the pity of the Romans. The general had more courage to die than to fight, for, following the example of his father and grandfather, he ran himself through with his sword. Of the two prefects of the camp, Lucius Eggius furnished a precedent as noble as that of Ceionius was base, who, after the greater part of the army had perished, proposed its surrender, preferring to die by torture at the hands of the enemy than in battle. Vala Numonius, lieutenant of Varus, who, in the rest of his life, had been an inoffensive and an honourable man, also set a fearful example in that he left the infantry unprotected by the cavalry and in flight tried to reach the Rhine with his squadrons of horse. But fortune avenged his act, for he did not survive those whom he had abandoned, but died in the act of deserting them.41
Aside from indicating that towards the end the Roman army seems to have disintegrated and collapsed, including details that Dio omits about Romans fleeing and surrendering, this account provides little information to the account of Dio. Although it does give a pretty good indication of the sense of shock that the disaster engendered among the Romans.

Florus writes that:
Having therefore, risen upon Him [Varus] unawares, and fearing nothing of the kind, while he with a strange want of precaution, was actually summoning, them to his tribunal, they assailed him on every side, seized his camp, and, cut off three legions. Varus met his overthrow with the same fortune, and spirit with which Paulus met. the day of Cannae. Never was slaughter more bloody.42
Roman losses were apparently very large, as the army consisted of 3 legions, (the 17th, 18th and 19th) with 3 cavalry squadrons and 6 additional cohorts. In all it was probably at least 20,000 men and probably more like 22-24 thousand along with a large number of non-combatants.43

This large Roman army was almost completely annihilated with very few escaping death or capture, which was also likely the fate of virtually all the non-combatants. It appears that most of the captured military men, with exception of those worth ransoms were killed. Along with the dead and captured, and the vast booty captured by the Germans, also lost was an enormous amount of prestige, symbolized in the case of this battle by the loss of the Eagles, or standards, of the three legions. These were an especially important symbol in they symbolized in a concrete symbolic form the military power of Rome. Supposedly of the three Eagles lost one was kept out of the hands of the Germans by a Legionnaire drowning himself along with the Eagle in a Marsh.44

Tacitus describes the scene of the battlefield:
In the centre of the field were the whitening bones of men, as they had fled, or stood their ground, strewn everywhere or piled in heaps. Near, lay fragments of weapons and limbs of horses, and also human heads, prominently nailed to trunks of trees. In the adjacent groves were the barbarous altars, on which they had immolated tribunes and first-rank centurions. Some survivors of the disaster who had escaped from the battle or from captivity, described how this was the spot where the officers fell, how yonder the eagles were captured, where Varus was pierced by his first wound, where too by the stroke of his own ill-starred hand he found for himself death. They pointed out too the raised ground from which Arminius had harangued his army, the number of gibbets for the captives, the pits for the living, and how in his exultation he insulted the standards and eagles.45
Arminus can be forgiven his exaltation he had done something few enemies of Rome had done before. He had destroyed a Roman army utterly.

Also lost was the Roman bases and posts east of the Rhine that one by one were sacked and burned or abandoned shortly after the disaster. The devastation was widespread as Haltern, Oberaden and Waldgirmes among many others were destroyed.46

Augustus was so upset that according to Suetonius among others he:
… was so greatly affected that for several months in succession he cut neither his beard nor his hair, and sometimes he would dash his head against a door, crying: "Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!" And he observed the day of the disaster each year as one of sorrow and mourning.47
The disaster quite unintentionally marked the end of Roman attempts to conquer Germany and it the non-conquest of Germany by Rome became over time permanent.

The Romans were quite taken aback over the disaster, what with their continued complaining of “Barbarian treachery” and their attempts to avenge the disaster. The Roman poet Ovid, then in exile in a city on the Black sea wrote concerning Arminius:
He was the leader in battle, that one next in command.
This one who fixes his eyes now on the earth in his miserable sorrow.
Did not look at all like this when he carried his weapons of war.
That fierce one whose eyes even now are blazing with hostile emotions.
Was once the man who planned battles and urged on his men to the fight.
This treacherous fellow designed an ambush that trapped our battalions.
The one who conceals his distorted features behind his long Hair.
That one who conceals his distorted features behind his long hair.
That one who follows, they tell us, as a priest often sacrificed humansWho were captured in war to a god who often refused to accept.
This lake, these mountains, these many forts, these many forts, these rivers that pass by.
As floats were full of fierce slaughter, were filled with the blood of men.48
A 19th century portrait of Arminius
Thus did Ovid predict that the Romans would avenge their defeat and Germany would be conquered. This provided not to be the case at all.

Augustus sent Tiberius to the Rhine to secure the border from German attack and apart from raiding areas close to the Rhine Tiberius and other Roman generals did not invade Germania deeply. In 14 C.E., Augustus died and was replaced by Tiberius. Shortly afterwards it was decided to avenge the disaster at Teutoberg Wald and probably to try to, again, conquer Germany. Tiberius sent his nephew Germanicus to command the invasion ( in 14-16 C.E.).49

The interminable campaign that resulted got the Romans two of their Eagles back, although another was not found until the reign of Claudius.50 Other than that there was a good deal of skirmishing, lots of devastation and a few pitched battles, all apparently getting the Romans nowhere despite the repeated statements by the Roman historians especially Tacitus of great victories. It appears that Arminius, who was commander of the united German forces, engaged in a largely successful resistance. Germanicus was able to capture Arminius’ wife Thusnelda, who was pregnant at the time. Due to the fact that her father Segestes, who hated Arminus went over to the Romans and took her with him. Thusnelda spent the rest of her life in captivity along with the son she bore soon after being captured. Despite the triumph that Germanicus celebrated in Rome for his, so-called, great victories it appears that his campaigns were basically costly and futile and were for good reason called off. Tacitus despite his glorification of Germanicus does not conceal that Germanicus failed, even has he blames Tiberius for failing to support Germanicus in another campaign and retiring permanently to the Rhine border.51

After Germanicus’ withdrawal Arminius, despite his enormous prestige, did not live long; a few years later he was killed by neighbouring tribesmen and his own relatives who feared his ambitions.52

The historian Tacitus gives this eulogy for Arminius:
Assuredly he was the deliverer of Germany, one too who had defied Rome, not in her early rise, as other kings and generals, but in the height of her empire's glory, had fought, indeed, indecisive battles, yet in war remained unconquered. He completed thirty-seven years of life, twelve years of power, and he is still a theme of song among barbarous nations, though to Greek historians, who admire only their own achievements, he is unknown, and to Romans not as famous as he should be, while we extol the past and are indifferent to our own times.53
Aside from being a rather favourable tribute from a true-blue Roman it is also a definite indication that Germanicus’ “victories” were anything but crushing.

As for the long term effects of this battle if the Romans had won it is likely that Germania would have been Romanized, that England would very likely never have become England, that the Franco-German conflict would never have arisen and that I would not be speaking and writing English, in fact English as a language would not exist and probably not German. All of history after 9 C.E., would be different, very different!!54 Without this battle:
There would have been no Charlemagne, no Louis XIV, no Napoleon, no Kaiser William II, and no Hitler.55
The Cenotaph of Marcus Caelius, killed in the Battle of Teutoberg Wald
(The Inscription is as follows:
To Marcus Caelius, son of Titus, of the Lemonian district, from Bologna, first centurion of the eighteenth legion. 53½ years old. He fell in the Varian War. His bones may be interred here. Publius Caelius, son of Titus, of the Lemonian district, erected (this monument).)56
1. Wells, Peter S., The Battle That Stopped Rome, W. W. Norton & Co., New York, 2003, p. 227.

2. Wells, Peter, pp. 49-55, Schulter, Wolfgang, The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, in Creighton, J. D., & Wilson, R. J. A., Roman Germany Studies in Cultural Integration, Journal of Roman Archaeology, Supp. Series, No. 32, 1999, pp. 125-159, and the Varusschlacht / Kalkriese Museum, website Here. See also The Battle in the Teutoburg Forest, at Livius Here.

3. See Wells, Peter, p. 45-49,

4. IBID, Schluter, p. 125, and Dornberg, John, Battle of the Teutoburg Forest, in Archaeology, vol. 45, No. 5, September / October, 1992, pp. 26-32.

5. Fuller, J. F. C., A Military History of the Western World, vol. 1, Da Capo Press, New York, 1954, pp. 248-249, Delbruck, Hans, History of the Art of War, Vol. II: The Germans, Greenwood Press, New York, 1980, p. 70-71, 76-78.

6. Wells, Peter, pp. 38-42.

7. Notes on Florus and his Epitome of Roman History, can be found at LacusCurtius, Here, see also Note 6.

8. Paterculus, Roman History, Book 2, s. 130, at LacusCurtius, Here. See also Note 6.

9. Notes on Paterculus and his Roman History, can be found at LacusCurtius, Here, see also Note 6.

10. The 5 “good Emperors” are Nerva, 96-98 C.E., Trajan, 98-117 C.E., Hadrian, 117-138 C.E., Antoninus Pius, 138-161 C.E., Marcus Aurelius, 161-180 C.E.

11. Notes on Dio and his Roman History, can be found at LacusCurtius, Here, see also Note 6. For more information on Dio and for Dio’s writings in his Roman History concerning the reign of Augustus see Dio, Cassius, The Roman History: The Reign of Augustus, Penguin Books, London, 1987, see the Introduction, by Carter, John, pp. 1-29.

12. Notes on Tacitus and his The Annals of Imperial Rome, can be found at LacusCurtius, Here, See Wells, Peter, pp. 42-43, and Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome, Penguin Books, Revd Ed., 1971, see Introduction, by Grant, Michael, pp. 7-28.

13. See Florus, Book 2, s. 22-29, 31-33, and Fuller, pp. 234-238.

14. Wells, Peter, pp. 111-124, Jones, Terry, Ereira, Alan, Barbarians, BBC Books, London, 2006, pp. 87--95.

15. Dio, Book 55, s. 1-2.

16, Dio, Book, 55, s. 29-34, Book, 56, s. 11-17.

17, See Oldfather, W. A., & Canter, Howard Vernon, The Defeat of Varus and the German Frontier Policy of Augustus, University of Illinois Studies in the Social Science, Vol. 4, No. 2, June 1915, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, ILL., 1915.

18, Wells, Peter, pp. 208-209, Wells, Colin Michael, The German Policy of Augustus: an Examination of the Archaeological Evidence, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1972, pp. 239-250, Jones, pp. 97, 102.

19. Dio, Book 56, s. 18.

20. Paterculus, Book 2, s. 97.

21. IBID, Book 2, s. 108.

22. Florus, Book 2, s. 30.

23. See Wells, Peter, pp. 105-111, Jones, pp. 95-96, Tacitus, Book 1, s. 57, Book 2, s. 9-10, Strabo, Geographia, Loeb classical Library, William Heinemann Pub. London, 1924, Book 7, Ch. 1, s. 4. Tacitus records in Book 2, s. 9-10, the following exchange between Arminius and Flavus which occurred during the campaigns of Germanicus (14-16 C.E.):
The waters of the Visurgis flowed between the Romans and the Cherusci. On its banks stood Arminius with the other chiefs. He asked whether Caesar had arrived, and on the reply that he was present, he begged leave to have an interview with his brother. That brother, surnamed Flavus, was with our army, a man famous for his loyalty, and for having lost an eye by a wound, a few years ago, when Tiberius was in command. The permission was then given, and he stepped forth and was saluted by Arminius, who had removed his guards to a distance and required that the bowmen ranged on our bank should retire. When they had gone away, Arminius asked his brother whence came the scar which disfigured his face, and on being told the particular place and battle, he inquired what reward he had received. Flavus spoke of increased pay, of a neck chain, a crown, and other military gifts, while Arminius jeered at such a paltry recompense for slavery.
10), Then began a controversy. The one spoke of the greatness of Rome, the resources of Caesar, the dreadful punishment in store for the vanquished, the ready mercy for him who surrenders, and the fact that neither Arminius's wife nor his son were treated as enemies; the other, of the claims of fatherland, of ancestral freedom, of the gods of the homes of Germany, of the mother who shared his prayers, that Flavus might not choose to be the deserter and betrayer rather than the ruler of his kinsfolk and relatives, and indeed of his own people. By degrees they fell to bitter words, and even the river between them would not have hindered them from joining combat, had not Stertinius hurried up and put his hand on Flavus, who in the full tide of his fury was demanding his weapons and his charger. Arminius was seen facing him, full of menaces and challenging him to conflict. Much of what he said was in Roman speech, for he had served in our camp as leader of his fellow-countrymen.
Frankly I think Flavus deserved this treatment.

24. Fuller, pp. 246-247, Jones, pp. 99-110, Dio, Book 56, 18-19, Paterculus, Book 2, s. 117, Florus, Book 2, s. 30, Tacitus, Book 1, s. 58, Wells, Peter, pp. 80-83.

25. Dio, Book 56, s. 18.

26. Paterculus, Book 2, 117.

27. Florus Book 2, s. 30. Roman methods of waging war were also likely to create resentment / resistance. Here is a quote from Tacitus, (Book 1, s. 51), describing war making by Tacitus’ hero and all round glorious Roman Germanicus:
Caesar, to spread devastation widely, divided his eager legions into four columns, and ravaged a space of fifty miles with fire and sword. Neither sex nor age moved his compassion. Everything, sacred or profane, the temple too of Tamfana, as they called it, the special resort of all those tribes, was levelled to the ground. There was not a wound among our soldiers, who cut down a half-asleep, an unarmed, or a straggling foe.
Although like far too many “civilized” peoples they complained when “barbarians” engaged in similar atrocities. But then the Roman attitude seems to have been it is alright when we do it because we’re civilized and so are allowed to do these things. “Barbarians” do not have the same freedom.

28, IBID.

29. Tacitus, Book 1, s. 55. See also Florus, Book 2, s. 30, Dio, Book 56, s.118, s. 19, Paterculus, Book 2, s. 118.

30. Dio, Book 56, s. 18.

31. Paterculus, Book 2, s. 118.

32, Dio, Book 56, s. 18-19, Wells, Peter, pp. 161-163, Fuller, pp. 246-248, Jones, 100-102.

33, Dio Book 56, s. 20.

34. Walls, Peter, pp. 45-55, Schluter, pp. 127-130, Benario, Hebert W., Teutoberg, in Classical World, Vol. 96, No. 3, Spring 2003, pp. 397-406, at pp. 403-405, Dornberg, pp. 28-29. See also Livius, Note 2.

35. See Wells, Peter, pp. 161-166, Schuler, pp. 130-131.

36. See Wells, Peter, pp. 49-55, 161-176, Schuler, pp. 136-149, also Livius, & Dornberg.

37. Dio, Book 56, s. 21.

38. Tacitus, Book 1, s. 61.

39. Dio, Book 56, s. 21-22.

40. See Livius.

41. Paterculus, Book 2, s. 119.
42. Florus, Book 2, s. 30.

43. Wells, Peter, p. 15, Dornberg, p. 26, Gruen, Erich S., The Expansion of the Empire under Augustus, The Cambridge Ancient History, Vol. 10, The Augustan Empire, Ed. Bownan, Alan K., Champlin, Edward, Lintott, Andrew, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996, pp. 527, Schluter, p. 125, Mommsen, Theodor, The Provinces of the Roman Empire, Vol. 1, MacMillian and Co. Ltd., 1909, p. 45-46.

44. Florus, Book 2, s. 30.

45, Tacitus, Book 1, s. 61.

46. Wells, Colin, 165, 179, 201, 213, 237-245, Jones, 102.

47. Suetonius, The Twelve Caesars, Penguin Books, Revd. Edition, 1979, London, Augustus, s. 23, see also LacusCurtius, Here. See also Dio, Book 56, s. 23.

48. Ovid, Tristia, University of Georgia Press, Athens, Georgia, 1975, Book 4, No. 2.

49. Paterculus, Book 2, s. 120-121, Tacitus, Book 1, s. 3, 50-51, 55-56.

50. Tacitus, Book 1, s. 60, Book 2, s. 25, Dio Book 60, s. 8.

51. Tacitus’ descriptions of Germanicus campaigns can be found in Book 1, s. 50-51, 55-72, Book 2, s. 5-26. for modern assessments of Germanicus’ campaigns see Delbruck, pp. 111-121, Wells, 204-207, Grant, Michael, pp. 18-19, Wells, Colin, pp. 241-243, Mommsen, pp. 51-62, Guen, pp. 185-187, Jones, 103-109.

52. Tacitus, Book 2, s. 88. See also Jones, pp. 107-108.

53. Tacitus Book 2, s. 88.

54. Fuller, p. 252-253.

55, Fuller, p. 253.

56. Livius, Here.

Pierre Cloutier

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