The Roman Empire was the protagonist of great events in the past, worthy of blockbusters’ scripts, and the Battle of Teutoburg is one of these examples. Betrayals, revenge, decimated troops are elements found in one of the greatest defeats suffered by the Roman Army and marked the end of any hope of expansion of the Roman Empire beyond the Rhine.
If in the great episodes that happened in the past, there are different theories and reports, this one is different, all the historians affirm the undoubted Roman defeat in this battle, a massacre to the then powerful Roman Empire, and in particular one of its commanders, Publius Quinctilius Varus, known for being ruthless and cruel.
If one side of the board was the dreaded Roman Army, on the other were the Germanic warriors, dissatisfied with Varus, who with his iron hand smothered the population with high taxes pushing them into starvation. We know that these factors never end well, and a revolt was a matter of time.
However, to understand what led to this scenario, we need to go back even further. Around the years 11 to 9 BC, after a victory by Rome, led by Drusus I over the Germanic warriors. Segimerus, head of one of the noblest houses of the Germanic tribes that had been conquered, sent his sons Arminius and Flavus to Rome. This was a custom for the defeated, called Tribute, in other words, they were hostages to Rome to ensure the good behavior and submission of their Germanic tribe.
In Rome, Arminius and Flavus received a military education, where young Arminius was summoned by the Roman Army and developed his military career there, where he became a citizen of Rome and even won a high class, equites, similar to a gentleman.
Parallel to this, in VII AD, the emperor Augustus saw that it was necessary to “romanize” the Germanic territory he had conquered years before, and delegated the task to the severe Publius Quinctilius Varus, together with the legions of infantry XVII, XVIII, and XIX. Arminius was also assigned to assist Varus in this task, and perhaps due to arrogance or naivety, he did not notice that the bitterness of bitterness still bittered Varus’ mouth, which saw Rome invade his lands and take him out of the people.
The young prince of the Queruscos, who would now be a soldier in the Army of Rome in a prominent position, used all his influence and knowledge acquired in Rome to devise and implement his plan that would devastate Roman pretensions.
That was when in 9 AD Arminius saw the opportunity that awaited when Varus and his three legions would march to their permanent base for the winter. Arminius planned an attack by Germanic tribes on nearby Roman bases. When the news reached Varus, and Arminius was already aware of his relentless behavior, he told Varus that it would be easy to resolve this issue and that with a quick attack the tribes would be defeated.
Varus immediately decided to follow Arminius’ advice, not imagining that he would be marching to his death and taking with him the future of the Roman Empire.
As they marched through the forest, meandering through hostile, muddy, and unknown terrain, the Germanic tribes tore apart the legions XVII, XVIII, and XIX of the Roman Empire. When faced with imminent destruction, some generals fled, others killed themselves to avoid a slow and painful death at the hands of Germanic warriors, and Varus was one of them, throwing himself on his own sword.
Quinctilius Varus, give me back my legions!
These were the words of the emperor Augustus, hitting his head against the wall (literally!), Upon learning of the catastrophic defeat.
The defeat was so frightening for the Romans that superstition and the shame caused by it meant that the legions of the XVII, XVIII and XIX legions never existed in the battle order of the Roman Army.
Historians claim that the defeat at the battle of Teutoburg was important not only to contain but to put an end to the advance of the Roman Empire in northern Europe.
Traces lost for centuries
For centuries it has been speculated about the exact location of the battle. Despite documented reports, it was not known exactly where the facts had occurred. In the 17th century, the term “Teutoburg forest” is coined and the search begins, which would only be confirmed in 1987, when Tony Clunn, a British military man stationed in Osnabrück, experienced with the use of metal detectors, finds lead slings and coins in the Kalkriese region. Thus, excavations and archaeological research began, and more and more traces of the battle of Teutoburg are found.
Today it is possible to visit the Varusschlacht museum, which is very well presented to visitors. Excavations and searches at the site continue to the present day and we are still surprised by new discoveries.
The episode was so striking for the Germanic tribes that it is still remembered today, with the Varusschlacht museum in Osnabrücker Land as its symbol. The museum uses technology combined with archaeological discoveries about the battle, bringing models, illustrations, and texts, all interactive and can be followed through an audio guide in German and English. Certainly, the high point of the museum is at the top of the tower, where visitors can admire a panoramic view of the site of the ancient battle.
How was the relationship between Romans and Germans? What traces of the Roman presence in Germany can we see today? With our historical tour “ROMANS AND GERMANICS”, we take you to an immersion in the history of Germany, in the places where everything happened.