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Friday, September 22, 2023

Battle of the Teutoburg Forest – The Destruction of Three Legions

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The battle of the Teutoburg Forest was between Germans and the Roman army in 9BC. German tribes marched through the Teutoburg Forest, destroying three Roman legions; and the Roman commander Quintilius Varus was killed. The battle led to the liberation of Germany from the Roman Empire and was the beginning of a long, drawn-out war between the Empire and the Germans. As a result, the German lands remained independent, and the Rhine became the border with the Roman Empire.


In the reign of the first Roman Emperor Augustus, his commander, the future emperor Tiberius, by the year 4 BC, had conquered Germany. from the Rhine to the Elbe.

In the year 5, the Imperial Province of Germany was founded. Five to six Roman legions were in the Rein camps, as well as in fortified camps inside Germany. Romans conducted court cases conducted by Roman lawyers under Roman law. It was supposed to control the population, impose taxes on it, and organize the conscription of Germans to the Roman army, as was done throughout the rest of the empire.

However, Rome feared a strong tribal alliance, formed under the leadership of Maroboduus, the king of the Marcomanni. Maroboduus avoided openly hostile acts against the Empire. But on the other hand, he did not form a union with Rome and gave shelter to enemies of the empire. In the 6th year, the Romans organized a military campaign against Maroboduus. Tiberius led five legions from the Danube to the north. When the armies of Tiberius attacked Maroboduus and approached his territory, an anti-Roman insurrection suddenly broke out in Pannonia and Dalmatia.

In Germany, in the absence of Tiberius, Publius Quintilius Varus was in command, the former proconsul of Syria. In the year 9, Tiberius managed to defeat the rebels in Pannonia and Dalmatia, but almost immediately, in September of the same year, Germany rose.

Preparing for an uprising

The uprising of the Germans was prepared and led by Arminius. He had served in the Roman army, commanding a detachment of Germans, and had earned Roman citizenship. Quintilius Varus completely trusted him, they often feasted together.

The Germans behaved quite peacefully. Varus dispatched troops across their country to fight outlaw robbers, while Arminius was preparing a conspiracy, urging other leaders to oppose the Romans. Sources do not report which tribes were involved in the plot.

According to Arminius’ plan, the distant German tribes first rebelled. Under the pretext of fighting against them, Arminius assembled an army and accompanied the Roman army, which marched against the insurgents, but then fell behind, awaiting the approach of new reinforcements.

The Battle

It is not known exactly how many Roman soldiers were in the marching column of Varus, but estimates are there were three legions. The Germans chose the right moment to attack, when the Romans did not expect it, and the heavy rain intensified the confusion in the column.

Germans attacked the Romans from the forest. Having beaten off the Germans, legions stopped and set up camp for the night. Most wagons and some of the equipment had been burned. The next day, the column moved in a more organized manner. The Germans did not stop the attacks, but the terrain was open, which made ambush impossible.

On the third day, the column went into the forest, where it was impossible to defend from Germans. The Romans lost their fighting capacity, the mud did not allow the warriors to move with their heavy armor, while the Germans with light weapons moved quickly. Resistance ceased, demoralized soldiers threw down their weapons and died, almost without defending themselves. Triumphant Germans sacrificed their captive tribunes and centurions to their gods. The estimate of the Roman losses is based on the number of units in the command of Varus.

Consequences and results

Since the legions of the Empire, weakened by three years of the Pannonian and Dalmatian war, were in Dalmatia, away from Germany, there was a serious threat of invasion by the Germans into Gaul. There were fears of Germans moving into Italy. In Rome, the emperor Octavian Augustus hastily assembled a fresh army. On the Rhine remained only two Roman legions, who actively tried to prevent the crossing of the Germans into Gaul and the spreading of the uprising.

In the year 10, Tiberius, with his legions, campaigned to central Germany, seized a few German leaders, but the main result of his expedition was the reduction of the threat of invasion by Germans into Gaul. Germany was forever lost to the Roman Empire. The Roman provinces of Lower and Upper Germany joined the left bank of the Rhine and thus were in Gaul. The population there was quickly Romanized. The Roman Empire no longer attempted to seize and hold the territories beyond the Rhine.

The battle in the Teutoburg Forest, became a symbol of the victory of German people over the Roman enemy, which lead to national pride, and the future state of Germany.

Site of Battle

In 1987, English amateur archaeologist Tony Clunn discovered findings that allowed him to localize the battle. In the town of Kalkriese, on a field known to locals as Golden for the frequent finds of ancient Roman coins, Tony Clann, with a metal detector, discovered 162 silver coins dating from the reign of the emperor Octavian Augustus; the decisive factor for the large-scale excavation in 1989.

They found several thousand items of Roman ammunition, fragments of swords, armor, tools. The most important findings: the silver mask of a Roman officer-cavalryman and coins, stamped with the mark “VAR”. A large number of finds indicates the defeat of a large military unit of Romans, consisting of at least one legion, cavalry, and light infantry. There are five group burial locations; on some bones, deep cut traces are visible.


  • Rome: Echo of imperial glory
  • Kozlenko AV The last point in the discussion about the location of the battlefield in the Teutoburg Forest
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