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The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest



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Podcast Transcript

In the present day in Western Europe, there’s a line that divides audio system of Germanic languages and audio system of Romance languages. Whereas that line has shifted over time, its existence may be traced again to a battle that happened over 2000 years in the past. 

That battle rocked the Roman Empire to its core, and at last set limits for the way massive the empire may develop. 

Study extra concerning the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest and the way its impression can nonetheless be seen in the present day, on this episode of All the pieces In every single place Every day.


One of many frequent themes that hold popping up in numerous episodes of this present is how the fashionable world continues to be influenced by issues that occurred within the distant previous. 

It’s only by the lens of time that we are able to work out what occasions have been massive and what occasions have been each massive and vital. 

A superb instance can be the Battle of Cannae that I beforehand did an episode on. Hannibal and the Carthaginians worn out an infinite Roman military in a battle that induced Rome to endure an existential disaster. Within the massive scheme of issues, nonetheless, regardless that that battle continues to be studied by navy commanders in the present day, it didn’t find yourself deciding the warfare. 

It was massive, nevertheless it wasn’t vital.

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest is one other essential second in Roman historical past. As with the Battle of Cannae, it was an enormous second, however not like Cannae, it additionally had an enduring impression. 

To grasp how the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest took place, we first have to grasp how Rome received up to now. 

By the point Augustus grew to become the primary emperor, Rome managed all the pieces across the Mediterranean, save for elements of North Africa round modern-day Algeria and Morocco. 

In Europe, they managed virtually the entire Iberian Peninsula save for the North, all of Gaul, and Greece. 

There have been, and without end can be, two areas that Rome couldn’t conquer: Parthia within the east, and Germany within the north. 

Whereas conquering Parthia was a Roman dream, it was far-off. Germany was not removed from Rome, and so they shared an extended border with it. 

Germany wasn’t a unified nation. It was a set of tribes that as a rule quarreled with one another. The Romans had been combating with German tribes for a century, however issues had picked up beginning in about 16 BC. 

The de facto border between the Roman Empire and the German lands was the Rhine River.  A lot of the Roman campaigns throughout this era have been in what’s in the present day Western Germany, east of the Rhine. 

The Romans have been capable of management the tribes close to the border. They’d tax them, and they might maintain the kids of tribal leaders as hostages. By hostage, this implies they have been taken to Rome, raised by a Roman household, and given a Roman schooling. 

That is the place the primary character enters the story. A German by the title of Arminius, or as he’s recognized in German, Hermann. Sure, Hermann the German. 

Arminius was the son of Segimerus, the chief of the Cherusci Tribe.

His father needed to give him up as a tribute to Rome, and Arminius was despatched to Rome to be raised. 

From all exterior appearances, Arminius was a wonderful Roman. He realized Latin, grew to become a Roman citizen, acquired a navy schooling, joined the military, and was named an eques, which was the Roman equal of being a knight. 

He knew the Roman navy system inside and outside, however he by no means forgot the truth that he was German. 

Nor did the Romans neglect this truth.

Within the yr 4, he was given command of a unit made up of his fellow Cherusci tribesmen that fought within the Balkans. 

Within the yr 7, he was despatched as much as Germany to serve beneath the commander and governor for the area, Publius Quinctilius Varus. 

Varus had a fairly completed profession. He had been the Governor of each Africa and Syria. He gained notoriety for ruthlessly quashing a riot in Judea. He famously crucified 2,000 Jewish rebels. 

When the longer term Emperor Tiberius declared the lands to the East of the Rhine pacified, Augustus declared it the brand new Roman Province of Germania. 

Within the yr 7, Augustus appointed Varus the primary governor of Germania.

Simply as Varus was taking up in Germania, and Armenius was despatched to serve beneath him, eight legions have been despatched from Germania all the way down to the Balkans the place it was felt they have been extra wanted suppressing what was often called the Nice Illyrian Revolt. 

In truth, about half of all of the legions within the Roman world have been despatched there. 

This left Varus with simply three legions in Germania, the XVII, XVIII, and XIX,  which consisted of a complete of 15,000 to twenty,000 males. 

Arminius’s job beneath Varus was to function a consultant to the German tribes. As a result of Arminius knew their language and customs and was additionally a Roman soldier, it was felt that he may function the right go-between. 

Nonetheless, Arminius wasn’t simply serving as a Roman consultant. Whereas he was visiting the assorted tribes, he was truly creating an alliance. 

All of the whereas, he grew to become one in all Varus’s prime advisors on German affairs. He was incomes the belief of Varus whereas he was organizing the entire Germanic tribes to work collectively to battle the Romans. 

He was engaged on a plan which might as soon as and for all get the Romans out of Germany.

In September of the yr 9, Varus was going to be shifting his legions from their summer season headquarters to their winter camp close to the Rhine River. 

In the course of the march to their winter camp, Arminius got here to Varus with information of an emergency that required his consideration. He mentioned there was a riot amongst German tribes. 

Varus determined to reroute all three of his legions to get to the rebellious space as quickly as doable. That route took him and his three legions by an space that the Romans weren’t acquainted with. A spot known as the Teutoburg Forest. 

One of many leaders of the Cherusci, a person named Segestes, warned Varus about Arminius’s plan earlier than they set out, and instructed that he arrest Arminius and all the opposite tribal chiefs. 

Nonetheless, Varus merely didn’t imagine that such a factor was doable, so he ignored his recommendation of Segestes. 

Arminius from his coaching knew that Romans weren’t geared up to battle in wooded terrain. A Roman legion was designed to battle as a unit in open areas the place they might maneuver and battle as a cohesive unit. It was normal Roman techniques to not battle in forests. 

Contained in the forest, the Germans have been ready for them, able to spring their lure. 

The Romans weren’t marching in formation and so they have been interspersed with camp followers, who would normally stroll behind the troopers. Varus had additionally not despatched any reconnaissance forward, so that they had no clue what they have been strolling into. 

The trail was slim and muddy, so the Romans couldn’t set up to battle as a unit even when they needed to.

The Germans have been nonetheless outnumbered, however that they had the ingredient of shock and have been capable of mass their forces and decide off the Romans who have been stretched out alongside the path. 

The battle lasted for 3 days. The Germans had the excessive floor for nearly the entire battle. 

The Germans had additionally constructed fortifications at key factors alongside the route the place they knew the Romans would possibly be capable of reassemble to mount a counterattack.

Even when some Roman items have been capable of escape, most of them have been minimize down by different German tribes ready outdoors the forest. 

On the third day, Publius Quinctilius Varus killed himself, taking the honorable Roman loss of life in defeat. When phrase unfold among the many remaining Romans, morale collapsed. 

People who weren’t killed in battle have been sacrificed in Germanic pagan ceremonies or have been enslaved. 

The top consequence was the entire annihilation of three Roman legions. The whole thing of Rome’s navy presence in Germany.  Estimates place the variety of Roman deaths between 15,000 to twenty,000. It was the equal of 10% of the complete Roman navy.

After the battle, the Germans went on a rampage destroying each vestige of Rome they might discover together with all of the forts and cities. The Romans that have been left all fled to a place throughout the Rhine River. 

The information hit Rome like a ton of bricks. Rome hadn’t suffered a defeat of this magnitude in over 200 years. All the combating over the past a number of many years to ascertain a presence in Germany had been utterly undone in simply three days. 

Augustus himself was haunted by the lack of his legions for the remainder of his life. The historian Suetonius reported that Augustus walked round his palace hitting his head towards the wall and shouting “Quinctilius Varus, give me again my legions!”

The XVII, XVIII, and XIX legions have been by no means reconstituted once more in Roman historical past due to the disgrace they introduced from their defeat.

After Augustus died just some years later, the brand new emperor Tiberius despatched his nephew Germanicus again to actual revenge. He did handle to safe a number of main victories, and really recovered 2 of the three misplaced eagle requirements from the legions. 

Six years after the battle, when the primary Romans returned to the positioning, they discovered a horror present of bones and barbarian altars the place survivors have been killed. Germanicus ordered the entire Roman stays to be buried. 

Nonetheless, as soon as the Romans received the eagles again and felt honor had been happy, they withdrew to the Rhine. It wasn’t seen as being price the price to attempt to conquer Germany anymore. 

The third eagle was recovered 30 years later in the course of the reign of the emperor Claudius. 

The Romans put the blame for the defeat squarely on the shoulders of Varus. Arminius, regardless of his betrayal, was truly considered extremely by the Romans. He was revered as an enemy who managed to defeat three legions and fought for his individuals. 

Finally, the Romans simply accepted the Rhine and Danube rivers because the restrict of their empire, at the very least to the north. They constructed a collection of defensive fortifications known as limes which served their border with Germany. 

This isn’t to say that the Romans by no means crossed into Germany or raised the concept of making an attempt to overcome it once more, nevertheless it was by no means significantly tried because it was in the course of the reign of Augustus. 

This border resulted in a really onerous boundary between the Roman world and the Germanic world. A division that may nonetheless be seen within the language boundary in Europe in the present day. There’s a line that runs by Belgium, France, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy the place you predominantly see audio system of Germanic languages akin to Dutch or German on one facet, and audio system of Romance languages on the opposite. 

After 2000 years of historical past, this line has clearly moved as nations and kingdoms rose and moved, however on the whole, that division nonetheless exists. 

Arminius grew to become an emblem of German nationalism beginning within the sixteenth century with Martin Luther who noticed Arminius’ battle towards the Romans as much like his battle towards Roman Catholicism.

Arminius rose to additional prominence throughout German unification within the nineteenth century, and naturally it grew to become an emblem beneath Nazi rule as effectively. 

Regardless of the significance of the battle, over time the precise location of  Teutoburg Forest was misplaced.  After two millennia forests can come and go and finally nobody was certain precisely the place precisely the battle happened. 

The positioning was rediscovered in 1987 by an beginner British archeologist with a steel detector who was looking for cash on his break day whereas stationed in Germany within the navy. He discovered cash relationship again no later than the reign of Augustus. 

A group {of professional} archeologists started looking that yr. They discovered an incredible assortment of Roman objects alongside a hall that was 24 kilometers lengthy and 1.6 kilometers large. 

In the present day the positioning is positioned close to the village of Kalkriese within the state of Decrease Saxony, and there’s a museum with artifacts discovered on the dig website. 

The Battle of Teutoburg Forest was some of the essential battles in European historical past. Its impression formed not solely the traditional map of Europe however echoes of it will possibly nonetheless be seen within the fashionable world as effectively. 


All the pieces In every single place Every day is an Airwave Media Podcast. 

The manager producer is Darcy Adams.

The affiliate producers are Thor Thomsen and Peter Bennett.

I’ve a few Boostagrams for you in the present day. They each got here from listener Dave Jones. 

He despatched a 2112 sat increase for the episode on IQ. He wrote 

Nice episode. I knew concerning the eugenics use of the IQ take a look at in the course of the progressive period, however not the newer variations. This was actually good data.

He additionally despatched one other 2112 sat increase for the episode on Terra Nullius. He wrote 

I’m wondering if anybody has ever flown a drone over the North Sentinel island to get an thought of what day by day life appears to be like like. It appears very a lot a “prime directive” type factor.

I’ve seen a video of a helicopter that flew over the island, and one man was capturing arrows on the helicopter. I’m undecided how lengthy you may sit a drone at one spot, however I’m certain there need to be some researchers who at the very least know the fundamentals of how many individuals reside on the island and the place their settlement is. 

However, yeah, it’s principally just like the Prime directive. There are comparable uncontacted tribes on this planet, principally in Brazil, and I feel that would be the topic of a future episode. 

Keep in mind, should you go away a assessment or ship me a boostagram, you can also have it learn the present.



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