Friday, May 19, 2017

Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!*

Herbst im Teutoburger Wald** (Source)
In October, Germany is a cold, wet place. The incessant rain drips from the trees, the ground is sodden, where it is trod upon it quickly turns into a glutinous mess.

In October of 9 A.D., in that cold, wet place, three Roman legions were moving to their winter quarters. The Germans were restless, they yearned to throw off the Roman yoke. Rumors abounded of rebellion.

Deep in the Teutoburg Forest, Publius Quinctilius Varus, general of Rome, led his troops forward. Three legions (Legio XVII, Legio XVIII, and Legio XIX), six cohorts of auxiliary troops, and three squadrons of cavalry trudged through the rain, some 20,000 troops, heads down, tired. Their column was interspersed with upwards of 10,000 camp followers and as the march continued, the column stretched out further and further.

Suddenly, a large thunderstorm broke over their heads, heavy rains, flashes of lightning, the booming of thunder increased the misery of the troops. Then, out of the forest, spears began to fly out and strike the column.

Only to be followed by screaming Germanic tribesmen with but one thing on their minds - kill the Romans. Drive them back over the Rhine.

When it was over, after two, some say three, days of fighting, some 25,000 Roman troops, auxiliaries, and civilians lay dead upon the forest floor. Germanic casualties were light. Though the rebellion was eventually crushed, Rome fell back across the Rhine, leaving the dark forests of Germania forever.

The utter destruction of three legions haunted Augustus Caesar for the rest of his days. At times he would remember and, according to Suetonius, would cry out "Quintili Vare, legiones redde!" - Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!

The Germans remember to this day the man the Romans called Arminius, but to the Germans, he is Hermann - victor over the Romans.

And yes, that is Walter Cronkite narrating the video. He calls the Germanic tribesmen barbarians, is it barbaric to defend one's homeland against a ruthless invader?

I think not...


* For more information, see here and here.
** Autumn in the Teutoburg Forest.


  1. The Romans were complacent. It's a fatal problem for warriors individually and for armies collectively. The Teutoberg Forrest is beautiful and they still find Roman arms, armor and the odd skull.

    1. Complacency in the vicinity of an armed and capable enemy is nearly always fatal.

  2. That could never happen to US though. 'Cause we're like, Merkins an stuff. Just ask koobecaf.

  3. My only thought is, what was the point?
    The Romans, by most accounts weren't really very nice folks.
    All they wanted was to dominate others.
    That's really pretty sick.
    The fact that they did it for so long doesn't make it any more palatable.

    Just sayin'

    1. You make them sound like modern politicians...


  4. Spooky place. Our company repaired some maneuver damage near there at the edge of the Harz Mountains. Dark rainy night, walking fire guard, the back of your neck prickled. It was like you could feel the history.

    1. Now that would be an incredible experience! If I ever find myself in Germany, I will have to take in the experience for myself.

    2. You must. (And welcome back by the way.)

  5. Thanks for the post.

    Paul L. Quandt


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)