Thursday 9 September 2021


By modern calendars and scholarly concensus the ambush described by contemporary historians as Clades Variana (the disaster of General Publius Quinctilius Varus) and familiar to subsequent generations as the Battle of the Teuotburg Forest occurred on this day in the year nine when an alliance of Germanic peoples routed three Roman legions under the leadership of Arminius, the defeat seen as a pivotal moment in the course of history as Roman ambitions and imperial expansion were checked.

Thoroughly Romanised, after the advances of Drusus I two decades earlier, Arminius’ father, chieftain of the Cherusci, called Segimerus the Conqueror sent his sons to Rome as tribute, hostages where he received a military education and citizenship. Eventually becoming a trusted advisor to Varus and familiar with the terrain, Arminius returned to the frontier and in secret negotiated a pact among tribes that were generally hostile to one another out of collected grievance about how the Romans were treating the native population. No truce was ever reached in part because the winning alliance had captured the legions’ aquilae, the eagle standard, and the Romans, with no other territorial or material gains, spent years in retalitory skirmishes and recovery missions. The monument to the victory, the Hermannsdenkmal, erected some one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four years later, became a symbol for German nationalism and focus of anti-Napoleon sentiment (see also), provocatively facing France.