Varian Disaster : Battle Of Teutoburg Forest : Massacre of 3 Roman Legions
Battle Of Teutoburg Forest : Massacre of 3 Roman Legions In AD 9, the Roman Empire was shaken to its core when 3 legions or 1/10th of the Imperial Army was wiped out by Germanic warriors led by Arminius in the Teutoburg Forest.
Led by Quintilius Varus, a political figure rather than an experienced military mind, the Roman Empire suffered their “Custer At Bighorn” moment.
A moment so troubling many citizen’s questioned the survival of the Empire!
The Varian disaster is what can happen when a politician leads an army.
But of course, it is not an absolute rule that no politician can lead an army.
The most obvious example is Julius Caesar
Caesar was a government prosecuting attorney before he led an army.
Throughout history there have been numerous examples of politicians successfully leading armies.
However, the biggest problem was that Varus was dealing with somewhat civilized peoples in the Middle East which made him more trusting when he should have been questioning information.
And as to the Germanic tribes, they were much more warlike then the Roman subjects in the Middle East. Furthermore, the Germanic tribes fought each other constantly. So the tribes were thrilled to have a chance to fight the Romans. And gathered behind Arminius when presented the battle plan.
The Germanic warriors might have heavily outnumbered the Romans. The details of the Germanic size is not clear. But it was a unification of previously hostile tribes. So it was a force as large as Arminius could muster at the time
Arminius had served in the Roman army and knew its weaknesses. His ambush was a military masterpiece.
Firstly, Varus was lured deep into what he (Varus) thought was a friendly country. Varus had to deal with a non-existent revolt far away.
Secondly, when he got to the distant point, he found there was no rebellion. He began to head home. Being a civilian official, not an experienced general, he made numerous mistakes, including not having scouts on his flanks.
As a result, the Roman Army was laden with luggage. Moreover the legions marched in a long line that was several miles long, in the densely wooded forest.
It was raining and the shields became heavy!
Then the Germans attacked when there was no opportunity for the Romans to form up. Presumably, some parts of the column did not even know that an attack was underway for a while.
Did the Germanic warriors outnumber the Roman legions? It is not clear.
But it did not matter as the Germans had every tactical advantage imaginable.
This battle occurred in a densely wooded forest.
Moreover, the thick trees put the Roman battle strategies at a disadvantage. The Romans couldn’t firm up with all the tree
The forest today.
In conclusion, in an open plain, the Romans could have formed up and fought effectively. But, the Romans found themselves in as precarious a military tactical position as possible. The Romans did not have any advantage whatsoever. From a military vantage point. It is almost inevitable that their entire legion would be massacred. The Germanic warriors did not want prisoners.
Roman historian Suetonius writes that Emperor Augustus was extremely upset by the news. The Emperor was inconsolable and repeatedly banged his head against his palace walls shouting, “Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions…"
Varian Disaster : Battle Of Teutoburg Forest : Massacre of 3 Roman Legions Written & Edited by Jay Devon & Avhan Misra