Intelligence systems failure The slaughter of Varus in the Teutoburgerwald1

One of the most important reasons for studying intelligence, whether it be in the ancient or modem worlds, is to realize the great price one must pay for a failure to perceive a deadly threat. Although this book was begun well before the World Trade Center bombing on September 11, my conclusions about the price of intelligence failure have not changed. Indeed, many more people around the world have become attuned to the issue. In my opinion, one of the best examples of a systems failure in a Roman context can be found in the events of ad 9. On the surface, it would seem a strange time for the Romans to be caught off guard. Rome’s imperial army had been restructured by Augustus and tempered by wars of conquest in central Europe. The intelligence assets mentioned in the previous chapter were set up to collect information on the enemy and to transmit intelligence between the field and the capital. One would think the Roman Army would have had enough of an intelligence gathering capability to prevent major disaster from befalling large numbers of its troops. And yet in ad 9, three of Rome’s best legions left their camp on the banks of the Weser River in Westphalia for a routine march back to their winter quarters behind the Rhine. As they marched through the Teutoburg Forest (see Map 17), they were ambushed by their own German auxiliaries accompanied by other German allies. These forces were led by a German they had trusted and even trained. With all the military intelligence personnel hard at work, the Romans were still unable to detect a plot under their very noses. Indeed, it caused a disaster that would destroy their imperial dreams in Germany.

Map 17 Teutoburg Porest.

It has been my contention for some time that the clades Variana can best be understood as an intelligence failure, and I believe the new archaeological evidence recently found at Kalkriese in Lower Saxony substantiates this view.2 Although many sources make the Roman general, Varus, the scapegoat for the defeat and indeed even the failure of Augustus’s entire German policy, we may legitimately ask whether the incompetence of one man was really to blame. I suggest that the incident was caused by three things: (1) an inadequate understanding of the strategic problems in Germany, and an underestimation of the dangers of overextension; (2) an insufficiency of tactical intelligence on the Germans in the area and along the route march; and (3) inadequate counterintelligence against disloyal elements within the Roman auxiliary troops, the threat they posed, and the extent of their disaffection. The combination of these three elements makes the intelligence failure total.

Publius Quinctilius Varus

Command of the army of the Rhine belonged to 55-year-old Publius Quinctilius Varus, a former proconsul of Syria.3 Since much of the blame for the disaster in Germany would later fall on Varus, his character and competence are of considerable importance. Many historians have characterized him as a political appointee, an administrator whose ties to Augustus stemmed from, among other things, his having married Augustus’s grandniece, rather than a vir militaris, like his predecessors in the German command.4 Others do not regard this connection as the sole reason he received two very important military commands.5 The ancient sources tend to denigrate Varus after his failure in Germany; Velleius says of him that he was “somewhat slow of mind as he was in body” and “more accustomed to the leisure of the camp than to actual service in war.”6 But there was nothing in Varus’s previous military career to suggest he was not qualified for the job. His post as Proconsul of Africa (?7–6 bc) would have given him experience with other people undergoing the process of Romanization.7 As legate of Syria (6–4 bc), he had to deal with the Jews, who were among the most unpredictable and troublesome of Rome’s subjects, and yet he seems to have handled them with skill. Finally, he had inherited an experienced army with experienced officers and all the intelligence assets that went with that.

The real issue here is the degree of Romanization in Germany beyond the Rhine, and to what extent Varus caused difficulties by speeding it up.8 Even when the historians Dio Cassius and Velleius Paterculus disagree about the degree of genuine Romanization taking place among the Germans, they both confirm that Varus was making special efforts in that direction. Some Romanization had already taken place. Trade and contact had produced such things as changes in agricultural technique and increased wealth and power for the members of the ruling class. Dio says:

The Romans were holding portions of it [Germany] – not entire regions, but merely such districts as happened to have been subdued… and the soldiers… were wintering there and cities were being founded. The barbarians were adapting themselves to Roman ways, were becoming accustomed to hold markets and were meeting in peaceful assemblages. They had not, however, forgotten their ancestral habits, their native manners, their old life of independence, or the power derived from arms. Hence, so long as they were unlearning these customs gradually and by the way, as one might say, under careful watching, they were not disturbed by the change in their manner of life, and were becoming different without knowing it.9

Varus was appointed commander of the Rhine army in order to organize Germany, now supposedly pacified, as a regular province and to impose Roman systems of justice and taxation. Some have argued that a Roman requirement that taxes be paid in gold would certainly be a potential irritant to the Germans, since gold was relatively rare in Germany. The Germans maintained a barter economy and gold was used mainly for making ornaments.10 Other scholars have doubted, in spite of what Dio and Florus say, that Roman taxation had been or could have been put in place at the time of Varus, so that revolting against oppressive Roman taxation could not have been the immediate cause of the rebellion.11 It may be simply that a large enough number of Germans still wanted the Romans out of their territory. Varus was perfectly competent to organize a Roman province, but this was not the situation that he was about to be handed. There was an error in judgment either on Varus’s part or on the part of those who sent him.

Arminius: Hermann the German

On the opposing side was Arminius, a member of the noble house of the Cherusci, the son of Sigimer, the tribal chief. The Romans had taken every reasonable step to integrate the sons and chiefs of noble German families into the Roman civic and military order of things. Arminius’s brother had served in the Roman Army as an officer and took the Latin name Flavus.12 He was given a knightly rank and remained loyal to Rome, even when his brother was in revolt. Arminius himself had served as commander of a tribal troop contingent under Roman command during the revolt in Pannonia, along with Velleius Paterculus.13 He held Roman citizenship, spoke some Latin, may have visited some Roman cities and held equestrian rank.14 What we are dealing with here is thus a highly Romanized native. Both his rank and prestige show that he was highly regarded by the Romans.15 His extensive contact with the Roman military certainly gave him an appreciation of Roman military ability and techniques. Tacitus tells us that, in later campaigns at least, he arranged his army in Roman military fashion.16 Service with the Romans certainly gave Arminius time to observe the united strength of the Romans and to appreciate the weakness of traditional tribal fighting.

Among the reasons given for his revolting against Rome is his personality. Tacitus portrays him as headstrong and given to rash action when angered (“the troublemaker of Germany”). This could very well be a literary contrast to Varus’s slowness.17 Fuller says Arminius was possessed of an inbred hatred of the Romans, as was Hannibal; although there is no evidence for such antipathy in either case.18 Other authors suggest there were personal reasons for Arminius’s rebellious attitude. Arminius wanted to marry Thusnelda, the daughter of his uncle, Segestes. Segestes refused, creating bad blood between the two men. Thusnelda and Arminius eloped. Segestes was a loyal ally of Rome and served as an advisor to Varus. Dio tells us that Arminius and Segimerus were the two German officers who were Varus’s constant companions and often shared his mess. He did not want to believe the stories of those who suspected them, and “rebuked them for being needlessly excited and slandering his friends.”19 Thus when Segestes denounced Arminius to Varus as being of questionable loyalty, the suspicions were dismissed by Varus as mere family squabbling.

This was a fatal mistake. While the Romans no doubt treated this Latin-speaking German as a true friend, Arminius retained his foothold in his own native society. His tribe had a tradition of strong resistance to the Romans. It had first retreated in the face of previous Roman invasions trying to avoid total defeat, but it had later risen in revolt in 1 bc. Tiberius was forced to campaign against them in ad 4.20 In other words, at least part of the tribe had a reputation of anti-Roman resistance, and Arminius led a large enough contingent of them to be able to capitalize on their anti-Roman feeling. We have no details about how he did this, but without doubt he was a charismatic leader who used the disaffected Cherusci as a power base. This was a position beyond that which traditional German tribal leaders had gone and would ultimately contribute to his downfall. Arminius would eventually be accused of seeking a kingship that ran counter to the feelings of the other Germans and he was assassinated by his own tribe.21

Perhaps Arminius’s motives had nothing to do with family squabbling; he simply did not want his territory occupied by the Romans. This was quickly becoming a reality, and, unlike his brother, he did not wish to be bought off with honors, wealth, or refinement. He aspired to be exactly what Tacitus calls him: Liberator haud dubie Germaniae.22 Arminius had witnessed what had happened in Illyricum and may have guessed what was in store for Germany. If he wanted to stop it, this would be the time. The whole familiar process of Romanization was beginning, and Varus had been sent in to speed it up. Arminius was able to convince the “dependable natives” to reject the Roman cause and join in a rebellion. Segimundus, the son of Segestes, who was pro- Roman and a Roman citizen, was persuaded to join. Even though he had been consecrated a priest at the Altar of the Ubii, Tacitus tells us that he ripped off his fillets and joined the rebels. Inguiomerus, on the other hand, who was Arminius’s uncle and a man whose prestige had stood high with the Romans, did not join the initial revolt.23

Whatever Arminius’s character or personal ambitions were, the most important fact was his position: at the age of 26 he was posted to Varus’s staff as head of a German contingent that accompanied Varus to the summer camp and remained with him.24 As a member of the staff and son of a loyal ally, Arminius could move about freely and observe events. It was from this position of trust inside the Roman commandatura that Arminius plotted the destruction of the Roman armies in Germany. If there was ever such a thing as Roman counterintelligence, it has left no traces here.

The setting

Varus spent the uneventful summer of ad 9 in his camp, possibly Minden on the Weser (Map 18), with the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth legions, three alae, and six cohorts.25 Florus describes him as “sitting like a tribune and supreme justice,” ignoring warnings by Segestes that there was a conspiracy in the making and that there would be an attempt to trap him.26 If the sources are incorrect and Varus did investigate the rumors, no reliable evidence has been left. There must have been some uneasiness since the Roman armies deployed between the Rhine and the Elbe did not feel sufficiently safe to winter in their summer forts. In the fall, the armies moved back to safer positions, only to return again the following summer.

Map 18 The Roman march.

As the autumn approached, therefore, Varus made preparations to move his army to more secure winter quarters, possibly at Haltern on the Lippe River in the Ruhr Basin or at Xanten (Vetera) on the Rhine itself.27 Redeploying the army meant packing up the women, the slaves, the animals, and the wagons to carry all the paraphernalia of an army in garrison. Some time during the preparations for departure Varus was informed, perhaps by Arminius’s scouts, that rebellion had broken out among some of the tribes. We are never told who they are (“those who lived at a distance”) or where they were located. It has even been suggested that Arminius may have staged several minor revolts to lure the Romans away from the Lippe and comparative safety.28 Varus would have to deal with the problem by a show of force. Were these rebellions along the route march? And if so, was it reported to Varus to lure him to a certain spot? If Varus was passing through Cheruscan lands, did he assume they were marching through friendly territory?

At full strength, Varus’s army would have meant a little under 20,000 men, accompanied by Arminius’s troops. Noncombatants such as slaves, women, children, armorers, medical personnel, and civilian tradesmen would have tagged along with the supply and baggage wagons.29 Dio tells us that the troops were thoroughly mixed with the civilians as the column proceeded, suggesting they were not expecting trouble. The column seems to have consisted of all the occupants of the summer fort moving to permanent winter quarters. It stretched out for 9 miles, and Dio criticizes Varus for not keeping his legions together as was proper in hostile country.30 If Varus knew there were revolts in the area, why was he taking such a large, cumbersome force and civilians with him? Perhaps because Arminius reassured him that he and his auxiliaries would be able to hold any troubled areas until Varus’s men could form up and strike. He expected to detach some of the fighting men and send them off to put down a rebellion if they passed it along the way.

The location31

As a result of the excavations at Kalkriese begun in 1987–88 by the Museum at Osnabrück, many scholars now believe that the exact site of the battle has been located. If they are correct, then many previous discussions of the battle have been rendered obsolete.32 According to the latest reconstruction, the column would have left Minden and plodded west along the Wiehengebirge past modem Schwagstorf and Venne. When it arrived at the Kalkrieser Berg, it skirted the mountain, moving through a narrow pass with the mountain to the south and the Great Moor to the north, heading in the direction of modem Engter. This narrow corridor is known as the Kalkrieser-Niewedder Senke (depression) (see Map 19). It is a narrow pass 6 km long and 1 km wide and lies 110 m below the plateau of the mountain.33 Romans were funneled into the pass along this road on purpose, so they would be unable to maneuver or find safe ground for a counteroffensive.34

Map 19 The pass at Kalkriese.

Many previous discussions of the battle have assumed that it took place in densely forested woodlands like those found around the southern part of the Teutoburgerwald at Detmold. Excavation results in the Kalkriese area, however, show that this region was not a pristine and inaccessible forest landscape. Rather, it was an agrarian area in which farming had been practiced for millennia.35 The areas used for agriculture were largely unforested, and a network of old paths and fields reveal the preferred areas for cultivation. The bordering areas marked by the build-up of wetness and affected by groundwater were unsuitable for farming and were probably used as pasture or as a source for timber (mixed woodland dominated by oaks). The sloping sandy areas, valley sand, and low moor were covered by bog forests, reed swamps, or sedge fenland. How appropriate that Tacitus describes the Cherusci as “habituated to marsh-fighting.”36

There was nothing unusual about the Romans choosing this route. There are two roads passing through the Kalkrieser-Niewedder Senke. The northern-most runs along the sand ridge near the Great Moor and follows the path of the Atle Heerstrasse (Old Military Road). Due to the high water table, long-distance travel in the past was generally along this route. The road to the south along the Kalkrieser Berg follows the main road from Engter to Venne built in 1845, a portion of which is the modem B 218 highway.37 These two passable areas are on average about 200 m wide. Both routes could have been used by the Romans, since they join at Bramsche.

This area was a logical crossing place for a route march. Varus knew this, and obviously so did Arminius. It was not necessary for the Germans to lure the Romans into some dense forest in order to ambush them. As the army moved past the Kalkrieser Berg and into the narrow pass in long columnar formation, the German tribal federations, hidden behind ramparts they built on the hills, fell on their flanks and drove them into the swamps. This is what the terrain would suggest, and, indeed, this is what the archaeological evidence seems to show. The considerable concentration of Roman finds at the foot of the Kalkrieser Berg largely coincides with the boundary between the dry, unforested area and the wooded swampy areas.

The evidence

Anyone standing in the pass at Kalkriese today can see why this was a perfect place for an ambush. The archaeological evidence gives us the bare outlines of how the trap was sprung. Along the boundary line we have just laid out, fortifications have been found running parallel to the direction in which the Roman Army marched, consisting of walls of turf or simple ramparts of sand without ditches in front of them. These represent the original points at which the German attacks took place and also served as obstacles to Roman counterattacks. Although Roman in style, the bulwark appears to have been built by the Germans.38 Virtually all the metal artifacts – more than 3,000 objects and fragments thus far – were found in front of the ramparts where Varus’s forces were presumably attacked.39

Roman finds not only cover the entire pass, but a swath of Roman finds 2 km wide branches off from the main line of Roman finds at the foot of the Kalkrieser Berg. This separate swath can be traced through the valley into the area of drifting sand on the edge of the Great Moor. This suggests that part of the Roman Army sought to elude the attacks of the German tribesmen descending from the slopes of the mountain, and by passing through what was then a wet depression with bog forests, hoped to reach the dry areas of drifting sand that seemed to offer an escape route to the northeast. The division of the army into two parts may also potentially point to disagreements among the Roman commanders about the direction to be taken in order to save the army. Whatever the case may have been, it did not work; they never made it to safety.

The archeological remains give grim testimony to what happened in the pass. Most of the human skeletal remains are of adult males, in good health and of military age. Their skulls show damage that suggests injury by blows to the head by sharp weapons. The bones also show evidence that they remained on the surface for some time before being reburied. Bone deposits found in pits may date to a few years later, when Germanicus returned to Germany, found the battle site and tried to bury the Roman remains with some dignity and honor.40 The vast majority of the archeological finds are metal – objects from the Roman military predominate. Finds include parts of both offensive and defensive weapons.41 Parts of Roman military armor were found strewn over the battlefield: helmets, plume holders, helmet handles, mail shirts, S-shaped hooks, body armor, hinges, belt buckles, breastplates, shields, and face masks. It is obvious that the battlefield was extensively plundered by the Germans. What was left behind were small metal pieces from uniforms and the occasional stray find, such as a face mask. The best evidence for a major battle being fought here was the presence of two latches from a vest of armor engraved with the name of a legionary from the first cohort. The first cohort was always the elite unit of a legion, and this suggests the presence of heavily armed infantry on the site.42

The finds contain not just military equipment but also the objects of every-day life. Woodworking tools, surveying equipment, medical instruments, writing implements, scales, scissors, razors, keys, trunk latches, gaming counters, and spoons remind us that the casualties also included noncombatants. All the finds date to the late Augustan period. The coins, however, are the final testimony to the date and the identity of the victims in the pass. Of the 550 bronze coins (asses) found since 1987, 93 percent are of the Lugdunum I series minted between 8 bc and ad 3. This was the type of coin used to pay Roman troops. Of those coins in the Lugdunum I series found, 96 percent are counterstruck with avg (Augustus), imp (Imperator), c-VAL (C. Numonius Vala), or VAR (Varus). Copper coins were countermarked exclusively in military areas prior to being given to soldiers. The countermark VAR can only have been struck on coins lost between ad 7 and 9, the period when Varus was legatus Augusti pro praetore in Germania. No Roman coins found their way into the ground at Kalkriese after ad 9.43 A single event was the cause of the concentration of finds, as well as the unified nature of the material found.

Because the written sources report no large-scale engagements in ad 7 or 8, we are led to conclude that these are the remains of the disaster of ad 9, the clades Variana. The quantity of finds is extremely large, as one would expect in a disaster such as that which befell Varus. The extent of the battlefield as suggested by the finds shows it covered a large area, possibly over a three-day period, and that the Roman Army was on the move at the time. Since only a fraction of the site has been excavated, more evidence may emerge that can fill in parts of the story that we do not yet know.

The reconstructed narrative

We can now reconstruct a convincing narrative using new archaeological evidence, along with the texts of Cassius Dio, Velleius Paterculus, Tacitus, and Florus. In broad outline, the evidence gives a relatively consistent narrative. Varus leaves the summer camp in Minden on the Weser and begins his march back to winter quarters, possibly at Haltern on the Lippe River in the Ruhr Basin, or at Xanten (Vetera) on the Rhine. Segestes becomes aware of Arminius’s plot and warns Varus. He argues that Arminius be placed in chains.44 Varus, thinking this was just the result of a standing family quarrel, ignores Segestes’s advice and heads west for the 30-kilometer march to his winter camp. He takes no unusual precautions. Arminius, for his part, accompanies Varus, while his men escort the column. Arminius remains with Varus until the evening before the revolt. On the second day out from the summer camp, Arminius and some of his men take their leave, saying they are going to assemble more of the allied forces and clear the way of any possible uprisings. In reality, he is assembling German tribesmen for an ambush in the area of Kalkriese. Varus continues his march along the Wiehengebirge.

As Varus moved around the Kalkrieser Berg and through the Kalkrieser- Niederweder Senke, the Germans attacked the Roman Army’s rear guard and blocked its retreat from the pass. Packed into the narrow confines of the forest road, the Romans had momentarily lost the advantage of maneuverability. At the same time, troops emerged from behind the ramparts and barricades and fell upon the tight Roman column, driving them further into the pass while trying to escape the attacks. The continuous javelin attacks and small ambushes picked the Romans off quickly. There was no room to form up in columns or even find any cover. The Roman Army was trapped in the narrow pass with hills, trees, ramparts, and Germans on one side, and bogs, swamps, and fens on the other. When the Germans saw that the Romans were not able to defend themselves well, they moved in closer. If Varus was to gain passage through this area, he would have to fight for every foot.

The Romans fought their way to a relatively open stretch of land where, we are told, Varus followed Roman tradition and built a fortified camp.45 As the rainy afternoon turned into night, the rest of his column straggled in. Throughout the long night the Germans harassed the camp, staging false attacks and raining arrows down on the Romans. The Romans inside tended their wounded and regrouped to see how many had survived. Varus’s quartermasters sorted through the baggage train and burned everything not considered essential. Varus probably did not believe that they were mortally wounded, and expected to break out of the trap, because of Roman fighting ability and discipline. He probably thought they would be safe if they could reach Aliso, some 9 km away. There he believed he could expect help from the Roman garrison, and eventual transport of his army to secure winter quarters on the Rhine at Vetera. But he was wrong; the Romans could expect no help from any quarter. What he did not know was that at that very moment, the garrison at Aliso was under attack, and although resisting, was holding on by its fingertips.46 Every major outpost east of the Rhine, including Minden and Aliso (Haltern), had been attacked and most had been overrun. As each hour passed, more and more German reinforcements joined Arminius, as news of the ambush spread.

The next morning the Romans left their camp and the Germans began harassing their columns again as they snaked through the forest. Arminius was not going to commit to a pitched battle, and he let the Romans fight on their own terms. Long discussions about Roman battle formations or the German flying wedge are irrelevant to this discussion. This was hand-to-hand combat at its closest. Some of Arminius’s units had fought with the Romans in Pannonia and were probably armed with Roman pila and gladii. These could have been used in close combat with the Romans and explain why no German weapons have been found. Another explanation for their absence is the fact that the Germans won and carried their weapons away with them. Few if any Roman finds have yet been located on the German side of the ramparts, which attests to how little ground the Germans gave to the Roman counterattacks.

The column had to move forward or die, but even the terrain itself seemed to envelope them. Then it began to rain. The rain that fell caused the Roman Army to bog down. The heavy downpour “prevented them from going forward and even from standing securely.”47 The hide shields became soaked and so heavy they had to be discarded because of their weight. Trapped in this sea of mud and rain, fatigue and discouragement must have set in. The German baritus or war cry echoed among the hills, as thousands of warriors poured down from the hillside and engaged the floundering Romans at several points along the column. Arminius, surrounded by his personal retinue of warriors, struck at the Roman cavalry, wounding their horses. The wounded animals, slipping about in the mire and their own blood, threw their riders and plunged among the ranks of the legions, creating havoc. With the Germans literally chopping the column to pieces, Roman discipline began to break down.

Even the escape route could not be agreed upon and the column split in two. Numonius Vala, the Roman legatus in charge of the cavalry, ordered his squadrons to disengage and rode away seeking escape, while abandoning his comrades to their fate.48 The rain and the nature of the terrain made it difficult for either group to find an escape route, however. German cavalry that had been stationed at the end of the pass to prevent their escape overpowered each of the units. The Roman cavalry was slaughtered to the last man. With the Roman ranks severely depleted, the Germans now moved in for the kill. The bulk of the infantry under the command of the centurions fought on steadily and stubbornly, repelling attack after attack. But as each Roman soldier fell, the small units that resisted grew weaker. Eventually, the isolated pockets of resistance were overcome. One small troop of soldiers fought on through the day, beating off attack after attack, but the next morning they were overwhelmed by the Germans and massacred on the spot. According to Florus’s account, Arminius had captured two of the legions’ eagles while the third was broken off by the standard bearer, who hid it under his clothing and disappeared with it into the blood-red swamp.49 It is unclear if Varus was able to order a rudimentary camp to be constructed that night.

By the third day, the slaughter had taken its toll on the senior Roman officer corps. Varus was severely wounded and committed suicide rather than fall into the hands of the Germans. A number of other senior officers perished bravely, while some others committed suicide.50 Paterculus names the prefect of the camp, Lucius Eggius, as one who died honorably in battle, and Ceionius as “an example of baseness” because he agreed to an unconditional surrender.51 Varus’s servants attempted to bum their master’s body and hid it from the Germans. Arminius had the body dug up and the head of Varus severed. It was sent to Maroboduus, king of the Marcomanni. He wisely refused to accept it and sent it off to Rome. Arminius had the heads of Roman officers placed on spears and posted around the Roman camp. Those Romans who were captured or surrendered were cmcified, buried alive, or offered as live sacrifices to the German gods. The Romans were exterminated “almost to a man”, as Velleius notes, “by the very enemy whom it had always slaughtered like cattle.”52

In short, the so-called Battle of the Teutoburg Forest was not a single battle, nor did it take place in a dense, impassable forest. The extent of the battlefield from east to west, as seen from the archaeological finds, covers a very large area – of more than 50 square kilometers. The area can be readily matched to the ancient sources, which indicate that the clades Variana took place over three days, and that the Roman Army was on the move during this time. What we have here is an insurgency that rose up in a multitude of larger and smaller engagements over a period of three days, rather than a single set-piece “battle.” There is no doubt that the Romans were caught completely off guard and had no opportunity to form up into the positions in which they fought best. They held off an onslaught of Germans who had lured them into a killing field, but they never had a chance. Nor was this a contest solely between two professional military organizations. The gruesome remains confirm that not only were Roman fighting forces destroyed – legionary divisions, auxiliary units, and cavalry – but also all the nonfighting specialists one would normally expect to accompany a Roman Army. Destroyed were an entire retinue of draftsmen, surveyors, clerks, doctors, their wives and children. All the remains were found in close proximity to the German fortifications and show clear traces of battlefield plundering. They were slaughtered and their bodies were stripped of valuables. At this point in time, a fairly large concentration of finds has been uncovered, as the result of preliminary, systematic exploration and archaeological excavation. What the site of Kalkriese shows is not merely a secondary theater of war. This is a principal battlefield. Something big and awful happened here, and it happened in ad 9. It does not take a great leap of faith to conclude that this was the site where Varus died and Arminius triumphed.53


Augustus lamented the loss of his legions. For months afterwards he was known to bang his head against doors or walls, crying “Varus, give me back my legions!”54 But the Seventeenth, Eighteenth, and Nineteenth Legions were never replaced. There was a call for recruits, but few came. There was as little prospect of raising three more legions as there had been three years before during the Pannonian-Dalmatian Revolt. Forced levies and inferior troops were used. Freedmen and slaves were drafted and formed into cohortes voluntariorum; 32 such cohorts of 500 men each were quickly raised and trained. Tiberius had to postpone his Pannonian triumph and leave for the Rhine.55 Fear swept through Rome at news of the disaster. Even Augustus was afraid that the Germans would cross the Rhine and head for Italy. The nervous emperor dismissed the Gauls and Germans from his bodyguard. Perhaps now he realized he had tried to extend his empire too fast and with too little knowledge of what was out there.

The disaster in the Teutoburg Forest was a miscalculation of massive proportions caused by incomplete intelligence on many levels. Roman confidence in the pro-Roman attitudes of many German chiefs was misplaced. Its counterintelligence missed entirely the amount of anti-Roman sentiment that existed among the German tribes, and in particular among the German leaders whom they trusted the most. The Romans also erred in underestimating the potential for unity among the Germans. Among other things, service as Roman auxiliaries had fostered a native sense of unity that had showed itself during the Pannonian- Dalmatian Revolt.56 From their experience, they thought that the Germans would not cooperate with each other, even to fight a common enemy like themselves, and that they could be left safely to their own internecine squabbling.57 Although Tacitus uttered a famous prayer for Fortune to “guarantee us nothing better than discord among our foes,” unless one could confirm it by direct observation, it is better not to base foreign policy upon it.58 The Romans misinterpreted several years of quiet rule as a sign of German docility.

Without having a major cultural or commercial center upon which the Romans might focus, the Germans could not be controlled as well as the Romans would have liked. One center that was established to foster German unity was the cult at the ara Ubiorum (altar of the Ubii) at Cologne. This cult was established, like the cult at Lugdunum or later Camulodunum, to unify the province. In spite of Roman intentions, it may have unified them in ways unanticipated by the Romans. And this unification extended beyond the Ubii. Segimundus was a priest of the cult, and he was a Cheruscan.59 Religious activity could very well be used as a focus for uprising. One only need think of Tacitus’s account of the visit of Germanicus to the site of the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. Among the things he describes are the groves where the centurions and tribunes were sacrificed.60 Human sacrifices were not that common in Germany, and Arminius may have invoked the highest religious sanctions in German society to rouse people for battle.61

What had developed in the absence of Roman scrutiny was the rise of a native leader who managed to produce a totally unexpected unity of action among the Germans. Arminius was able to check the power of both the Romans and Maroboduus and to exercise his own sovereignty for twelve years.62 He not only defeated Varus and three veteran Roman legions, but later fought the armies of Tiberius and Germanicus, which were sent after him – and he fought them on Roman terms and held his ground against them. We do not know in detail how he maintained his power, but he seems to have been able to use his extraordinary leadership and military ability, existing native institutions, and the prestige that had accrued from his defeat of the Romans.

We cannot doubt Arminius’s valor and resources as a young Cheruscan prince. Nor are his motives or methods unclear. Ronald Syme believed Arminius’s historical importance was vastly blown out of proportion to his real role in German history. He viewed him as nothing more than a leader of a faction among his own people. True, he was not the champion of a united German nation, because no such thing existed. And it is true that he was killed by his own tribe, which did not preserve the memory of their liberator.63 Yet both Arminius’s methods and success speak well to his military and leadership abilities. It was not only a striking deed to bring together the headstrong Germanic tribes, but also a masterpiece to know when, where, and how to attack. True, the Romans had been defeated by a renegade, but there would be a pattern of such revolts, and only Arminius’s was successful. All the uprisings took place after initial pacification, but before the native social structure had been changed or disrupted completely. Revolts always came while the Romans were trying to accelerate their system of administration and financial control. They were usually dominated by a single leader, who promoted a greater degree of unity than was normally present in native society, and such leaders usually come from the Romanized native class. Revolts always caught the Romans off guard, while they were busy with affairs elsewhere. This suggests the insurgents had better intelligence than the Romans.64

The results

The clades Variana can ultimately be regarded as the decisive event that led the Romans to give up the idea of the Elbe as a boundary to the Empire and to retreat behind the Rhine.65 Three Roman legions had ceased to exist. All the Roman garrisons in northern Germany were wiped out, save Aliso, where the stragglers held our for some time and then made their escape through the German lines to the relieving force which was coming up under L. Nonius Asprenas.66 Only Asprenas’s two legions deterred the Germans from trying to cross the Rhine.67 Varus, betrayed and ambushed, perished with his entire army. “Dead, he was made the scapegoat for his superiors’ mistakes, damned by his defeat.”68 Germany was lost, and it became obvious that there had been an error in judgment, either on the part of Varus or on those who had sent him.69 I suggest both were at fault.

What we have here is a rare example of strategic surprise. Although there are many definitions circulating in the modem literature on the subject, I will use Ariel Levite’s: “strategic surprise is a sudden realization that one has been operating on the basis of an erroneous threat perception.”70 It occurs through failure to predict, much less anticipate, an acute and immediate threat to vital national interests. Levite then goes on to list all of the features of a strategic surprise.

The first characteristic: strategic surprise, strictly defined, is not mere over- or underestimation of an opponent’s capabilities; it is a discrete case, rather than a continuous development, composed of fairly clear-cut series of events. The clades Variana certainly fits this definition. It was a discrete case of an insurrection planned by a renegade German who did not even represent the majority of the German tribes. And although such revolts were not unheard of in the Roman Empire, this one was unique because it succeeded.

A second characteristic: both political and military leaders play an important role in the assessment of strategic warning, and in the recognition of any reaction to strategic threats. Because strategic surprise affects the core interests of the target country, that country and its leadership can derive considerable benefits from averting the strategic surprise and conversely, can suffer equally considerable penalties for failing to do so.71 It seems clear that Augustus and his military staff were guilty of making serious strategic mistakes. A policy that tried to incorporate Germany easily into the Roman Empire was based on insufficient geographic and military intelligence.72

The fact that one ambush could take Germany away from the Romans suggests they did not hold it very firmly in the first place. The years after ad 9 show how easily the Roman policy had been reversed. Tiberius, who assumed command in the emergency of ad 9, was so much on the defensive that even the following year, he remained behind the Rhine.73 In ad 11 he crossed the Rhine but did not go far, and he fought no battles.74 In ad 12 Germanicus was in Rome the whole year. In ad 13 Tiberius was in Dalmatia, possibly in connection with the road- building program being initiated there.75 In none of these years do we hear of anything happening in Germany. In ad 14, when Augustus died, the Rhine legions were all on the left bank of the river. Germanicus’s serious campaigning was confined to two years, 15 and 16. The topography of these campaigns has been well discussed.76 In both years, Germanicus’s strategy centered on the Ems, where his land and naval forces converged. Although he crossed the Weser in 16, the Elbe was beyond his reach. Nor did he win a decisive victory. He fought two battles with the forces of Arminius and set up a trophy, but in the end he withdrew all his forces behind the Rhine.77

There is no evidence in Tacitus’s account that would justify the claim that he attributes to Germanicus, that one more year would have completed the reconquest of Germany to the Elbe – a river which after three campaigns in Germany, Germanicus had never seen.78 The dream of an ever-widening empire had passed, or at least been temporarily shelved. It is true Germanicus established (or reestablished) a number of posts on the other side of the Rhine. There may have also been one at Aliso.79 There was a post among the Chauci,80 and a fort established on the old invasion route.81 No attempt was made, as far as we know, to reoccupy Germany in strength, or cover it with a network of forts, such as Drusus had established. Germanicus was nowhere near reconquering the country. Nor is there evidence of any civil administration established in any part of the country that would give it the appearance of being under Roman sway. There were no efforts to settle colonies, either commercial or military, nor any of the characteristic features of a regular Roman conquest.82

It was not impossible to replace Roman losses, or to expand the army to whatever size might be necessary for the reconquest of Germany. But the fact is, the Romans chose not to do it. Whether this represents a failure of nerve or a loss of will to empire is a matter of conjecture. It may simply mean that Tiberius appreciated the changed circumstances in Germany, which would make its reconquest and subsequent pacification a less easy and less attractive task than in the time of Drusus. At the very least, after several years of campaigning there, his intelligence was better. He realized that the Germans were on the move, and conquering them would mean not only overrunning the country and mastering the present population, but also excluding from it for the future the migrating bands pressing upon north and central Germany.83 The new invaders had a virtually inexhaustible reservoir of manpower to draw on in their Baltic homeland and their kinfolk beyond the Elbe. Perhaps Tiberius, who knew Germany better than any Romans did, realized this and saw the impossibility of recovering the territory lost after the Varian disaster. Whereas in ad 12 the Romans could not have known about the tribes stretching across northern Germany, by ad 16 it was no doubt painfully obvious that it was pointless to wage war with the tribes beyond the Rhine if by defeating and massacring one tribe, they were merely clearing room for several other tribes from beyond the Elbe to move in. Unfortunately, the Romans came to this realization not by the proper collection of intelligence, but by the unnecessary loss of three of their best legions and thousands of civilian lives.84

Levite’s third characteristic is as follows: strategic surprise occurs through failure to anticipate immediate (as distinguished from potential) threats posed by hostile as well as peaceful actions. Failure to recognize an opponent’s hostile intentions can take place in the transition from peace to war or from war to peace, as well as within war.85 This was certainly a mistake of both the Roman leadership and of Varus. The leadership assumed that the Germans had been pacified enough to send in a tax collector as governor. This complaisance was mirrored by Varus. In a hostile territory, surrounded by Germans, he relied on other Germans for his reconnaissance and intelligence gathering, and he seems to have believed everything he was told by an enemy whose only goal was to get Romans out of their territory. Tacitus described him as “a commander who feared no fraud.”86 Does any commander really have this luxury? If he had had even a rudimentary grasp of the principles of counterintelligence, he certainly would have had his own Roman agents working among the Germans and reporting back any signs of disenchantment, or worse, rebellion. Although not as reliable, he did have German sources among the Cherusci. Segestes warned him of the impending attack. That he chose not to believe him is a failure of his ability to analyze the intelligence given to him. Once he had been warned, the intelligence cycle was complete. The relevant information had been collected by Segestus, interpreted to mean a rebellion was brewing, and delivered to the proper consumer. This was not an intelligence failure, but stupidity on the part of the commander.

Characteristic number four: surprise is strategic only when the perpetrator deliberately intends and designs his actions to catch his target by surprise.87 There is no doubt that Arminius’s intentions, and those of a good number of Germans, were hostile and that their plan was to lure the Romans into an ambush and then kill as many of the occupying forces as they could. Varus should have investigated the possibility of Arminius’s treachery. Relying on his personal instincts to trust a man he had shared a tent with, he made one of the oldest and most deadly mistakes in the intelligence business. He had been lulled into security by the familiarity of a supposed friend. As Velleius says, “the most common beginning of disaster is a sense of security” and “no one could be more quickly overpowered than the man who feared nothing.”88 Certainly, the Romans were not without the ability to do their own reconnaissance. We see speculatores being used in the later German campaign to scout out German camps, and deserters were not impossible to find.89 If other Germans knew about Arminius’s plan, then the Romans could have discovered it too. Later Roman commanders in Germany are described as being aware of German “secret arrangements.”90 Surely a revolt of this magnitude should have qualified as one of the “secret arrangements” the Romans needed to know about.

Levite notes that strategic surprise may occur on one or more of the following dimensions: (1) one fails to identify the perpetrator (the “Who?” – Arminius); (2) what type of action will be involved (the “What?” – insurgency; the “How?” – ambush); (3) the timing of the action (the “When?” – on the march back to winter camp); (4) the location of the action (the “Where?” – the pass at Kalkriese); and (5) the motivation for taking the action (the “Why?” – the liberation of Germany)91

Finally, one cannot absolve Varus of tactical errors. The Romans could always have fallen back on reconnaissance. Before approaching anything remotely resembling a narrow pass, the countryside should have been thoroughly scoured. Had the Romans been attacked in open country, they would have had a chance to form up their legions and fight back. Their army was a match for anyone if the fight was fair, and Arminius knew this. It was absolutely necessary for him to lure the Romans to a spot where their numbers and tactical superiority could be neutralized by the terrain and a surprise attack. Once that trap had been set, no army could have survived; one need only walk over the terrain to realize this. Arminius succeeded spectacularly. Because of the refusal of Varus to use the intelligence resources at his disposal, 30,000 Romans lay dead, three of Rome’s crack legions had disappeared, and Rome’s imperial dream in Germany was over.92


1. An earlier version of this material was published as “Slaughter in the Forest: German Insurgency and Roman Intelligence Mistakes,” Small Wars and Insurgencies 12,3 (autumn 2001), pp. 1–38. This chapter could not have been completed without the generous help of Dr. Chrystina Häuber and Herr Franz Xaver Schütz of the University of Bonn. My thanks also go to Dr. Susanne Wilbers-Rost and her staff at the excavations of Kalkriese and Dr. Hermann Queckenstedt, Geschaftsführer of the Landschaftsverband Osnabrücker Land for their kind hospitality and for allowing me to see excavations and the materials found there.

2. See Sheldon, “Tinker, Tailor, Caesar, Spy”, Ch. 7, pp. 185–97. The literature on the exact location of the battle is enormous. See my comments and bibliography in “Slaughter in the Forest”. Theodore Mommsen’s guess, based on coin findings, was that the battle site was located in the Barenau region, just north of Kalkriese. T. Mommsen, “Die Örtlichkeit der Varusschlacht,” Sitzungsberichte der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (1885), pp. 63–92; T. Mommsen, Die Örtlichkeit der Varusschlacht (Berlin: Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, 1906); pp. 200–46. See also H. Veitmann, Die Münzfunde in der Umgebung von Barenau und die Örtlichkeit der Varuskatastrophe (Osnabrück, 1885) and also his “Funde von Römermunzen im freien Germanien und die Örtlichkeit der Varusschlacht,” Osnabrücker Mitteilungen 13 (1886), pp. 27Iff. Wells, writing before the discoveries at Kalkriese, believed this was the best guess. C.M. Wells, The German Policy of Augustus (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972), p. 240.

3. For the career of Varus, see E. Kornemann, “P. Quinctilius Varus,” Neue Jahrbücher 49 (1922), pp. 42–62; W. John, “P. Quinctilius Varus,” R-E, vol. 24 (1963), pp. 907–984; H. Petrikovits, “Arminius,” Bonner Jahrbücher 166 (1966), pp. 175–93; M. Reinhold, “Marcus Agrippa’s Son-in-Law, P. Quinctilius Varus,” CP 67 (1972), pp. 119–21, which shows how well connected he was with Augustus’s family; W. John, “Zu den Familienverhältnissen des P. Quinctilius Varus,” Hermes 86 (1958), pp. 251–5.

4. Due to a previous marriage, Varus may, like Tiberius, have been Agrippa’s son-in-law. See Reinhold, “Marcus Agrippa’s Son-in-Law”, pp. 119–21. Other scholars have rejected this connection on the grounds that the passage in Josephus that mentions it may be corrupt. See John, “Zu den Familienverhältnissen,” pp. 251–5; Wells, German Policy, p. 238; Webster, Roman Imperial Army, p. 52 calls him “a leading lawyer without any military qualities.”

5. S.L. Dyson, “Native Revolts in the Roman Empire,” Historia 20 (1971), pp. 239–74.

6. Velleius Paterculus 2.117.2, Frederick W. Shipley translation, Loeb Classical Library edition.

7. On his proconsulship in Africa, see B.E. Thomasson, “Verscheidenes zu den Procon-sules Africae,” Eranos 67 (1969), pp. 175–6.

8. The degree and speed of Romanization in Germany beyond the Rhine has been the source of a considerable amount of modem debate. A warning against assuming too great a degree of Romanization, especially in the form of provincial organization, is given in W. Oldfather and H. Canter, The Defeat of Varus and the German Frontier Policy of Augustus (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1915).

9. Cassius Dio 56.18.1–3.

10. Dyson, “Native Revolts”, p. 254.

11. E.A. Thompson, “Early Germanic Warfare,” Past and Present 14 (1958), pp. 20–8. Yet even Dio Cassius 56.18.1 admits that the Romans held portions of Germany – not entire regions. Dio Cassius 56.18.3–4 says he himself tried to change the Germans more rapidly, and that he issued orders to them and extracted money; cf. Florus 2.30, who points out that “it is more difficult to retain than to create provinces… the Germans had been defeated rather than subdued.” E.S. Forster translation, Loeb Classical Library edition.

12. Tacitus, Annals 2.10. For a discussion of how service in the Roman Army aided the social and political position of native chieftains, see G. Kossak, “I Germani,” in L’impero romano e i popoli limitrofi, ed. F. Millar (Milan, 1968), pp. 336–7. On Arminius, see H. von Petrikovits, “Armnius,” Bonner Jahrbücher 166 (1966), pp. 175–93.

13. Velleius Paterculus 2.118.2.

14. Website: Ibid.

15. Dyson, “Native Revolts,” p. 255. On the background of Arminius and his Romanization, see E. Sander, “Zur Arminius-Biographie,” Gymnasium 62 (1955), pp. 83–98; E. Bickel, “Römisch-germanischer Namen-nimbus im deutschen Mittelalter,” Rheinisches Museum 98 (1955), pp. 223–39; E. Hohl, Um Arminius, Biographie oder Legende? (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1951).

16. Tacitus, Annals 2.45: “for their long campaigns against ourselves had accustomed them to follow their [Roman] standards, to secure their main body by reserves and to give attention to their generals’ orders” (Loeb translation). Wolfgang Schlüter is quoted as saying: “In all likelihood, Herman commanded a force of men who knew and used Roman military tactics and technology. They had learned them while serving as mercenaries and auxiliary troops, recruited among Germanic tribes during the various rebellions and uprisings against Roman rule in Pannonia.” In J. Domberg, “Battle of the Teutoberg Forest,” Archaeology (Sept./Oct. 1992), p. 31.

17. Tacitus, Annals 1.55.

18. J.F.C. Fuller, “The Battle of the Teutoburger Wald in ad 9”, in Military History of the Western World (New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1954–6), vol. 1, p. 248. On the subject of temperamental commanders, see H.V. Canter, “The Character of Hannibal,” CJ 24 (1929), pp. 564–77, who pretty much dispels the theory about Hannibal as a literary creation of Livy.

19. Dio Cassius 56.19.3, E. Cary translation, Loeb Classical Library edition.

20. Velleius Paterculus 2.105.1.

21. Tacitus, Annals 2.88.

22. Website: Ibid.; Arminius, in his later campaign, called his pay and military decorations “the cheap rewards of servitude.” Tacitus, Annals 2.9, C.H. Moore and J. Jackson translation, Loeb Classical Library edition.

23. “vetere apud Romanos auctoritate”. Tacitus, Annals 1.60.1. Inguiomarus later joined Maroboduus against Arminius Tacitus, Annals 2.45.

24. Dio Cassius 56.19, who says that both Arminius and Segimerus were constantly in Varus’s company and often present in his mess.

25. On the number of troops, see C. Rüger, CAH, vol. 2, p. 527; L. Keppie, CAH, vol. 2, p. 381. We do not know the location of the camp, but Minden on the Weser is the best guess. Since Minden is now buried under a modem city, it has not yet been excavated. See Wells German Policy of Augustus, p. 240 with bibliography. Susanne Wilbers-Rost has written to me (18 August 1999): “Minden [for the location of the summer camp] is as good a guess as any and would not make the Kalkriese route any less likely. For a previous discussion on Minden with bibliography, although obsolete in view of the new discoveries, see D. Timpe, “Die Frage der Sommerfeldzüge,” in Arminius-Studien (Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universitätsverlag, 1970), pp. 90–3.

26. One must remember, however, that Florus is a very late and unreliable source. See also Tacitus Annals 1.55: “Segestes had repeatedly given warning of projected risings, especially at the last great banquet which preceded the appeal to arms; when he urged Varus to arrest Arminius himself, and the other chieftains, on the grounds that with their leaders out of the way, the mass of people would venture nothing, while he would have time enough later to discriminate between guilt and innocence.” C.H. Moore and J. Jackson translation, Loeb Classical Library edition.

27. Haltern is about 54 km from Vetera on the north bank of the Lippe at the point where it is joined by the Stever and where the valley narrows between the hills of the Hohe Mark and the Borkenberge to the North and the Haard to the south. The Romans had an important base here just west of the modern town which has encroached upon the Roman site. The case for identifying Aliso with Haltern is an old one and was proposed by Schuchhardt, who rightly points out that all references to Aliso imply that it was not very far from the Rhine. C. Schuchhardt, “Das Römercastell bei Haltern an der Lippe,” Sitzungsberichte der Preussischen Akademie (Berlin, 1900), pp. 303–16; C. Schuchhardt, Sitzungsberichte der Preussischen Akademie (1931), pp. 615–26. Wells, German Policy of Augustus p. 153 states that no other suggestion deserves serious consideration. If Haltern is not Aliso, then we simply have no idea yet where Aliso is.

28. Dio Cassius 56.19. K.P. Czech, “Rome’s German Nightmare,” Military History Quarterly 5, 1 (1992), p. 27.

29. On the numbers, see W. Schlüter, “The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest: Archaeological Research at Kalkriese near Osnabrück,” in J.D. Creighton and R.J.A. Wilson (eds), Roman Germany. Studies in Cultural Interaction, Journal of Roman Archaeology, supplementary series 32 (Portsmouth/Rhode Island, 1999), p. 125; Domberg, “Battle of the Teutoberg Forest,” p. 26.

30. Dio Cassius 56.20.5: “The Romans were not proceeding in any regular order but were mixed in helter-skelter with the wagons and the unarmed, and so being unable to form readily anywhere in a body, and being fewer at every point than their assailants, they suffered greatly and could offer no resistance at all.” Dio Cassius 56.19.1 says he did not keep his legions together as was proper in a hostile country. On the length of the Roman marching line, see B. Bar Kochva’s estimations (following J. Kromayer and G. Veith, Heerwesen und Kriegführung der Griechen und Römer (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1926), pp. 287–8) for the length of a Roman marching line. He calculates 5,000 foot soldiers marching six abreast. Each legionary and cavalryman occupying a length of three feet in the march so that a legion extended over 900 meters. Add to this the cavalry, the baggage, and several meters between contingents, and considering that there were three legions marching in Germany, and the area covered could easily be more than 20 kilometers. B. Bar Kochva, “Seron and Cestius Gallus at Beith Horon,” Palestine Exploration Quarterly 107 (1976), p. 18, n. 21. See also the chart and calculations in M. Gichon, “Aspects of a Roman Army in War according to the Bellum Judaicum of Josephus,” in D. Kennedy and D. Riley, Rome ‘s Desert Frontier from the Air (Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1990), pp. 288, 305, 307, and H. Delbrück, “Battle in the Teutoburger Forest,” Ch. 4 of The History of the Art of War within the Framework of Political History (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1980), vol. 2, p. 75, who estimates 9–12 miles.

31. See especially W. Schlüter, “Die archäologischen Untersuchungen in der Kalkriese-Niewedder Senke”, pp. 13–51 and S. Wilbers-Rost, “Geschichte und Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen in Kalkriese,” pp. 53–72 in W. Schlüter (ed.), Kalkriese – Römer im Osnabrücker Land. Archäologische Forschung zur Varusschlacht, Osnabrück, 1993.

32. Gabriel and Boose, for example, who follow Fuller and Creasy, have it completely wrong. The army was not marching south from Minden to Aliso, but West to the Rhine. Similarly, W. Leise, Wo Arminius die Römer Schlug (Münster: Aschendorff, 1987) has it wrong. T. Mommsen was correct in his nineteenth-century guess based on the coin evidence that the Barenau/Osnabriick area was the actual site. C.M. Wells agreed. See Th. Mommsen, Gesammelte Schriften 4, pp. 200–46; Wells German Policy of Augustus, p. 240; E. Koestermann, “Die Feldzüge des Germanicus 14–16 n.Chr.” Historia 6 (1957), pp. 441–3; B. Tonnies, “Die Ausgrabungen in Kalkriese und Tacitus, Annals 1.60.3 eine lösung für die Varusschlachtfrage in Sicht?” Hermes 120 (1992), pp. 461–5.

33. For a complete discussion of the geography of the area, see Schlüter, “Die archaeolo- gischen Untersuchungen,” pp. 13–51.

34. See Schlüter, “Battle of the Teutoburg Forest: Archaeological Research,” p. 128.

35. Traces of settlements from the early Stone Age to the Roman Empire have been found. On the analyses of the vegetation, see U. Dieckmann and R. Pott, “Archäobotanische Untersuchungen in der Kalkrieser-Niewedder Senke,” in Schlüter, Kalkriese – Römer im Osnabrücker Land, pp. 81–105; U. Dieckmann, M. Speier and R. Pott, “Die Kulturpflanzenfunde aus dem Fundgut der archäologischen Ausgrabungen zur “Varusschlacht” bei Kalkriese (Lkr. Osnabrück),” Natur und Heimat 57, 3 (1997), pp. 73–94; U. Dieckmann, “Paläobotanische Untersuchungen zur Entwicklung von Natur-und Kultur-landschaft am Nordrand des Wiehengebirges,” Abhandlungen aus dem Westflischen Museum für Naturkunde 60.4 (Münster). I was unable to locate U. Dieckmann, “Paläobotanische Untersuchungen im Rahmen der Ausgrabungen auf dem Oberesch in Kalkriese. Stand Februar,” the 1981 report to the Archaeological Research Project at Kalkriese, which remains unpublished.

36. In Annals 1.63. Arminius tries to trap the Romans once again in “wet and broken country.” Tacitus, Annals 1.64. In a later battle against the Germans, the Romans are “pushed towards swampy ground, familiar to the conquerors but fatal to strangers.” In Tacitus Annals, 1.68 the Romans attack the Germans on open ground and yell out: “Here were no trees… no swamps, but a fair field and an impartial heaven.” Annals 1.68.

37. A map of highways in northwestern Germany until 1650 cited by Schlüter reconstructs these roads on the basis of descriptions of travelers and maps drawn up during the second half of the eighteenth and first half of the nineteenth century. See Schlüter, “Battle of the Teutoburg Forest: Archaeological Research,” pp. 138–9.

38. As of this writing, only one rampart has been detected, although the excavators originally thought there were two. (Personal communication from Susanne Wilbers-Rost.) Klaus Fehrs was the excavator who originally found the original sod-and-soil rampart 10–15 ft wide at the base, nearly 7 ft high and 600–700 ft long. It had been reinforced on the outside with wooden stakes. On the inside was a narrow ditch, presumably used for drainage purposes. Carbon-14 testing places the ditch in the first half of the first century ad. See Domberg, “Battle of the Teutoberg Forest,” p. 31.

39. Schlüter does not believe these ramparts were part of the Roman marching camp: “to have camped here on this narrow passageway between the hill and the moor would not have made sense. Nor would there have been enough room for a large contingent. An army of three legions would have required a defensive rampart enclosure measuring 3,000×3,000 feet.” Schlüter, quoted in Domberg, “Battle of the Teutoberg Forest,” p. 32.

40. Tacitus describes in great detail “the bleaching bones, scattered or in little heaps, as men had fallen, fleeing or standing fast. Hard by lay splintered spears and limbs of horses, while human skulls were nailed prominently on the tree-trunks. In the neighboring groves stood the savage altars at which they had slaughtered the tribunes and chief centurions.” “And so six years after the fatal field, a Roman army, present on the ground, buried the bones of the three legions; and no man knew whether he consigned to earth the remains of a stranger or a kinsman, but all thought of all as friends and members of one family, and, with anger rising against the enemy, mourned at once and hated.” Tacitus, Annals 1.61, C.H. Moore and J. Jackson translation, Loeb Classical Library edition. On the bone finds at Kalkriese, see Schlüter, “Battle of the Teutoburg Forest: Archaeological Research,” pp. 13–136, citing the extensive publications up to 1994 by Susanne Wilbers-Rost, to which should be added: S. Wilbers-Rost, “Der Tod in der Kalkrieser Senke. Bemerkenswerte Funde auf dem ‘Oberesch’. Die Ausgrabungen,” 1995. Varus-Kurier 2 (1996), pp. 2–3; S. Wilbers-Rost, “Tier-und Menschenknochen. Weitere Funde auf dem ‘Oberesch’ in Kalkriese,” Varus-Kurier 3 (1997), p. 5; S. Wilbers-Rost, “Die Grabungen 1998 auf dem ‘Timpen’ und auf dem ‘Oberesch,’” Varus-Kurier 4 (1998), pp. 7–9; S. Wilbers-Rost, “Grabungen auf dem ‘Timpen’ und auf dem ‘Oberesch’,” Varus-Kurier 5 (1999), pp. 3–4; S. Wilbers-Rost, “Die Ausgrabungen auf dem »Oberesch«“ in Kalkriese: Deponierungen von Menschen-und Tierknochen auf dem Schlachtfeld,” in W. Schlüter and R. Wiegels (eds.), Rom, Germanien und die Ausgrabungen von Kalkriese. Akten des Internationalen Kongresses vom 2. bis 5. September 1996 an der Universität Osnabrück. Osnabrücker Forschungen zu Altertum und Antike-Rezeption (Osnabrück 1999), vol. 1, pp. 61–72, 81–9; S. Wilbers-Rost, “Die Grabungen auf dem ‘Oberesch’ im Jahr 2000”, Varus-Kurier 6 (2000), pp. 2–4; S. Wilbers-Rost, “Neue Forschungsergebnisse auf dem ‘Oberesch’”, Varus-Kurier 1 (2001), pp. 7–8.

41. Parts from offensive weapons showed projectile missiles (pila lances, etc., sling shot and lead bullets, bows and arrows, and javelins plus close-range weapons, such as gladii and daggers.

42. Schlüter, “Battle of the Teutoburg Forest: Archaeological Research,” p. 14 mentions an iron spur with a small spiked wheel, which he identifies as “Elb-Germanic provenance,” and interprets this as a clear indication of the presence of German cavalry. He does point out, however, that speculation remains as to whether they fought for the Germans or the Romans. Susanne Wilbers-Rost has pointed out, in a tour of the site with the author, that the German finds were on one side of the sod ramparts built by the Germans to conceal their presence in the beginning of the attack, and that the Roman finds were on the other. She is similarly quoted by Dornberg, “Battle of the Teutoberg Forest,” p. 31.

43. F. Berger, “Die Münzfunde von Kalkriese,” in W. Schlüter, “Archaeologische Zeugnisse zur Varusschlacht? Die Untersuchungen in der Kalkriese-Niewedder Senke bei Osnabrueck,” Germania 70 (1992), pp. 396ff.; F. Berger, “Die Aussage der römischen Fundmünzen,” in W. Schlüter, Römer im Osnabruecker Land. Die archae- ologischen Untersuchungen in der Kalkrieser-Niewedder Senke, Schriftenreihe der Kulturregion Osnabrueck des Landschaftsverbandes Osnabrueck e.V. 4 (1991), pp. 63ff.; P. Kehne and F. Berger, “Hat Varus seine Spuren hinterlasen? Sensationelle Funde römischer Münzen im Landkreis Osnabrueck,” Antike Welt 21 (1990), pp. 120ff.; J. Menadier, “Der numismatische Nachlass der varianischen Legionen,” Zeitschrift für Numismatik 13 (1885), pp. 89ff.

44. Tacitus, Annals 1.58.

45. Although Schlüter suggested aerial photos taken in 1992 had located the camp, this turned out not to be so. The camp is yet to be found and it is not entirely clear how big this open stretch would have to be to accommodate a camp. Personal communication, Susanne Wilbers-Rost.

46. The identity of Aliso has been a notorious problem for archaeologists. Mommsen believed there was a fort at Elsen, near Paderborn, and he identified it with Aliso based on the etymological evidence. Later excavation at Elsen revealed no Roman remains, only a German settlement dating to the first century ad. See Wells, German Policy of Augustus, pp. 152–3.

47. Dio Cassius 56.21.3, E. Cary translation, Loeb Classical Library edition.

48. Velleius Paterculus 2.119.4.

49. Florus 2.30.38

50. Tacitus, Annals 1.61: “Survivors of the disaster, who had escaped the battle or their chains, told how here the legates fell, there the eagles were taken, where the first wound was dealt upon Varus, and where he found death by the suicidal stroke of his own unhappy hand.”

51. Velleius Paterculus 2.119.4. On Ceionius and L. Eggius, see R. Syme, “Die Zahl der praefecti castrorum im Heere des Varus,” Germania 16 (1932), pp. 109–11.

52. Velleius Paterculus 2.119.2, F.W. Shipley translation, Loeb Classical Library edition.

53. The extent to which this defeat haunted the Romans, is graphically portrayed in Tacitus’s Annals 1.65, where Caecina Alienus, the general who found the remains of the battlefield, is haunted at night by a dream where Varus rises from the marshes and comes toward him with an extended arm, as if to try to grab him like some B-movie mummy.

54. Suetonius, Augustus 23.2; Orosius 6.21.27.

55. Syme, “The Northern Frontiers”, CAH, vol. 2, p. 376.

56. S. Dyson, “Native Revolts in the Roman Empire,” Historia 20 (1971), pp. 250–3 and 256.

57. See Tacitus, Annals 2.26.3–4. Posse Cheruscos ceterasque rebellium gentis, quoniam Romanae ultioni consultum esset, internis discordiis relinqui.

58. Tacitus, Germania 33.2.

59. Tacitus, Annals 1.39; 1.57.2. Dyson has noted that in Gaul, and very likely in Britain, this use of native assemblies may have given the natives a sense of unity that the Romans had never intended to be used against Rome. Dyson suggests the same thing may have happened in Germany; Dyson, “Native Revolts,” p. 256. See also E.S. Gruen, “The Expansion of the Empire Under Augustus,” CAH, vol. 2, p. 182.

60. Tacitus, Annals 1.61.5–6. Velleius 1.120.5 confirms these sacrifices.

61. See Tacitus, Germania 9.1–2, and Caesar, BG 6.21.1–2, both suggest that the Germans did not show much interest in sacrifices. Tacitus, Annals 13.57.3, describes an instance of mass sacrifice as the result of a communal vow taken before a battle between the Chatti and the Hermunduri.

62. Tacitus, Annals 2.88.

63. Syme, “Northern Frontiers,” CAH, p. 375. See G.A. Lehmann, “Zur historisch-literarischen Überliferung der Varus-Katastrophe 9 n. Chr.”, Boreas 13 (1990), pp. 143–64.

64. See the comments of Dyson in “Native Revolts in the Roman Empire.”

65. See G.A. Lehman, “Das ende der römischen Herrschaft über das ‘westelbische’ Germanien: von der Varus-Katastrophe zur Aberufung des Germanicus Caesar 16//17 n. Chr.,” ZPE 86 (1991), pp. 79–96; G.A. Lehman, “Zum problem des römischen Verzichts auf die Okkupation Germaniens: von der Varus-Katastrophe 9 n. Chr. zu den ‘res gesta’ des Germanicus Caesar in der Tabula Siarensis (19 n.Chr.),” in Die römische Okkupation nördlich der Alpen zur Zeit des Augustus, Kolloquium Bergkamen, 1989, Vortrage Red. Asskamp, Rudolph & Berke, Stephen Bodenaltertümer Westfalns, no. 26 (Münster: Aschendorff, 1991); and Wells, German Policy of Augustus, pp. 244–5.

66. Dio Cassius 56.22.22–24, who tells the story of the only garrison to resist but without names. Velleius 2.120.4 on L. Caecidius, praefectus castrorum at Aliso, referring to the incident. R. Syme, Germania 16 (1932), pp. 109–11.

67. Velleius 2.120.3; Dio Cassius 56.23.1, 24.1.

68. Wells, German Policy of Augustus, p. 238.

69. For a complete discussion of the evidence of the Roman occupation, surrender and withdrawal, see Lehmann, “Zum Problem des römischen”, pp. 217–28. On the miscalculations of Augustus, see Austin and Rankov, Exploratio, p. 127.

70. Levite, Intelligence and Strategic Surprises, Ch. 1, “The Study of Strategic Surprise,” p. l.

71. Website: Ibid., pp. 2–3.

72. P.A. Brunt points out that even Agrippa, Augustus’s closest advisor, “had no notion of the size of the land-mass east of the Rhine,” in his review of H.D. Meyer, Die Aussen-politik des Augustus und die Augusteische Dichtung in Journal of Roman Studies 53 (1963), p. 175.

73. Dio Cassius 56.24.6; Zonaras; Velleius Paterculus 2.121, 122.2.

74. Dio Cassius 56.25.2; Velleius Paterculus 2.121, 122.2.

75. Wells, German Policy of Augustus, p. 240.

76. See E. Koestermann, “Die Feldzug des Germanicus 14–16 n. Chr.,” Historia 6 (1957), pp. 429–79.

77. Tacitus, Annals 2.22.1.

78. Koestermann believed that Germanicus’s judgment was sound and supposes that he had been appointed by Augustus to recover the lost province, a policy that Tiberius did not like but which he acquiesced to in a year or two, in order not to break with Augustus’s wishes. Koestermann, “Die Feldzug des Germanicus,” pp. 429–79.

79. castellum Lupiae fulimini aspositum. Tacitus, Annals 2.7.1, 7.5.

80. Wells, German Policy, p. 240.

81. Tacitus, Annals 2.56.1: super vestigia paterni in monte Tauro.

82. Oldfather and Canter, Defeat of Varus, p. 94.

83. See G.A. Lehmann, “Zur historisch-literarischen Überlieferung der Varus-Katastrophe 9 n. Chr.,” Boreas 13 (1990), pp. \63-A.

84. On the geographic ignorance on the Romans, see Austin and Rankov, Exploratio, pp. 126–7.

85. Levite, Intelligence and Strategic Surprises, p. 2.

86. Tacitus, Annals 2.46, C.H. Moore and J. Jackson translation, Loeb Classical Library edition.

87. Levite, Intelligence and Strategic Surprises, p. 2.

88. Velleius Paterculus 2.118, F.W. Shipley translation, Loeb Classical Library edition.

89. Tacitus, Annals 2.12.

90. Website: Ibid., 2.20.

91. Levite, Intelligence and Strategic Surprises, pp. 2–3.

92. On this disaster beginning the “effective ossification” of the frontiers, see: Austin and Rankov, Exploratio, p. 162.

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