For twenty years, the Roman Empire conquered its way through modern-day Germany, claiming all lands from the Rhine to the Elbe. However, when at last all appeared to be under control, a catastrophe erupted that claimed the lives of 10,000 legionnaires and laid Rome’s imperial ambitions for Germania into the dust. In late September of 9 AD, three Roman legions, while marching to suppress a distant tribal rebellion, were attacked in a four-day battle with the Germanic barbarians. The Romans, under the leadership of the province’s governor, Publius Quinctilius Varus, were taken completely by surprise, betrayed by a member of their own ranks: the German officer and secret rebel leader, Arminius. The defeat was a heavy blow to both Rome’s military and its pride. Though the disaster was ruthlessly avenged soon afterwards, later attempts at conquering the Germans were half-hearted at best. Four days in September thoroughly examines the ancient sources and challenges the hypotheses of modern scholars to present a clear picture of the prelude to the battle, the fighting itself and its aftermath.
FOUR DAYS IN SEPTEMBER The Battle of Teutoberg
This is a good overview that covers a lot of ground in addition and beyond the battle itself that took place in the Teutoburg Forest in 9 CE, when an alliance of Germanic tribes ambushed and decisively destroyed three Roman legions and their auxiliaries, led by Publius Quinctilius Varus. The alliance was led by Arminius, a Germanic officer of Varus’ auxilia. Arminius had acquired Roman citizenship and had received a Roman military education, which enabled him to deceive the Roman commander methodically and anticipate the Roman army’s tactical responses. Despite several successful campaigns and raids by the Romans in the years after the battle, they never again attempted to conquer the Germanic territories east of the Rhine river.