Military Heritage Magazine March 2016
The AD 9 Battle in the Teutoburg Forest
By Ludwig Heinrich Dyck
Arminius, Prince of the Cherusci, had grown up as a child hostage in Rome. Arminius gained the coveted Roman citizenship and fought for Rome suppressing insurrections in Pannonia. However, after being moved to the headquarters of the Roman governor Publius Quinctilius Varus at Vetera (Xanten) on the lower Rhine, Arminius secretly began to plot against Rome.
“To Rome the German tribes were not equals, as he once thought. Germania’s sons fought and died for Rome while her daughters served the conquerors and her wealth fattened the pockets of men like Varus, who knew nothing of honor and battle.”
With false rumors of a tribal insurrection, Arminius led the unsuspecting Varus and his legions into the wilderness of the Teutoburg Forest and into an ambush.
“The path to the rebels led through heavy wood. Dark clouds of the northern fall hovered over the horizon. Soon Varus had his hands full just moving his army ahead. Oak and birch, beech and alder, boulders and rocks hemmed in the legions as if the very woods and mountains were turning against the Romans.
“Whistles cut the air. Here and there, all along the convoy, javelins and slingshot showered upon the Romans. The wind carried guttural bellows: the barbarians calling upon their spirits and their gods. Ghostly figures, pale-skinned, near-naked bearded giants, appeared and disappeared among the trees.
“The barbarians, lightly armed, carrying nothing but large oval shields were at home in the woods. They struck at wherever the Romans were at their weakest.
“Fortunately for the legionaries they came upon good defensive ground for the next marching camp. Behind the mauled convoy, back along its 20-mile passage to the southeast, lay 13,000 dead that were left as food for flocks of ravens and packs of wolves.
“From all directions, barbarians charged at the camp, plunging through the shallow ditch and storming the ramparts. Released of their pent-up frustration, of not being able to come to grips with their foes, the legionaries fought with renewed vigor. The barbarian waves pounded against the Roman shield wall…
L. H. Dyck’s article “Teutonic Fury” appears in Military Heritage’s March 2016 issue. The article is based on a more detailed chapter in Dyck’s book, “The Roman Barbarian Wars, the Era of Roman Conquest.”