Lost Legions of Varus
The history of Europe was marked by centuries of war. Each century there were bloody conflicts. Ultimately, the conflict finally exploded and cost millions of lives. It is crazy to think that one event could have lead to this history. That seems to be the case. Few Europeans remember the battle, but the Romans would never forget. It was a conflict that divided chunks of Europe. It was imprinted in European consciousness for centuries. The conflict Europe endured can be traced to one place: Teutoburg Forest. It was here that the Germanic tribes massacred a legion of Roman soldiers.
Germanicus came to the site because he wanted revenge. What he found shocked him deeply. The forest ground was littered with the bodies of Roman soldiers. Three Roman legions were wiped out by the Germanic tribes. Rome was the most technologically advanced armies in the world and they were massacred by barbarians. Germanicus had to take care of the dead. He had no time to waste. He quickly buried the dead men’s bones. The soldiers' grim task was to bury everyone. The soldiers did not know whether or not they were burying friend or foe or animals. They just had to get this job done. Six years after the battle, the remains were finally buried.
For 2000 years the Teutoburg Forest kept its secrets. It devastated the Roman Emperor. He would frequently send patrols to the area. He went into mourning for the lost legions. Emperor Augustus wanted his rule to be a successful one. The Teutoburg Forest massacre was the one blight on his reign.
The Romans did not believe that such a world existed. They had taken over previously established empires such as Carthage and Egypt. These empires had laws and taxes in place, so they could easily be absorbed into the Roman Empire. The Roman expansion into the Germanic territories would become different. These tribes were not united by one king. They had no established laws or taxes. The Romans tried to bribe and set the tribes against each other.
To conquer the Germanic tribes, Varus was sent. Varus was no general. He was a lawyer who married into the Emperor’s family. Both Varus and the Emperor were determined to make the Germanic territories into another Roman province. In 9 AD, Varus and the legions left for the Germanic interior. They wanted to Romanize the Germanic tribes. Varus would use the army to do it.
The Roman governor at the time treated the Germanic tribes as slaves. The Romans leveled taxes on the Germanic people. One particular governor was noted for his cruelty and his greed. He knew the law but not common sense. This caused resentment amongst the Germans. While the Romans ruled the Germanic territories, the Germans were biding their time. They prepared their weapons and waited. As Varus marched through the Germanic territories he was protected by a group of Germanic soldiers.
Arminius, one of the Germans, was raised as a Roman. He was a member of the royal family. He had Roman citizenship. Arminius’ encounters with Varus made him rethink his position in the new Roman world. He witnessed Varus’ stupidity and started to plan. He slowly and carefully started to unite the Germanic tribes. That was a challenge because the Germanic tribes did not trust each other. However, to throw off the Roman yoke the Germanic tribes started to work together.
To find out what happened next continue to watch the documentary.
Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter narrates the Teutoburg Forest story. This is a good documentary for research purposes. You can take clips from this documentary for a lecture. If there is an independent study student, then you can recommend this documentary.
You can access the YouTube video here.
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