The Story of Publius Quinctilius Varus
In September 9 AD an army of three Roman legions with supporting units of cavalry and auxiliaries, around 20,000 men in all, was annihilated in a running battle which lasted for three days. Lulled into a false sense of security by the Germanic chief Arminius, the Roman governor Publius Quinctilius Varus led his army into a trap that only a handful managed to escape alive. The loss of the Varian Legions was a massive psychological blow to the Roman Empire and, after 9 AD, the Romans gave up their plans to hold Germania and withdrew to the west bank of the Rhine.
Roman Accounts of the Battle
Other Primary Source Material
The Archaeology of the Clades Variana
Modern Accounts of the Battle
The Roman Army
The Early Germans
Roman Accounts of the Battle
Cassius Dio - From Roman History (Book 56, 18-24)The longest and most detailed account of the revolt, the battle and its aftermath. Dio gives valuable details of the situation in Germany before the uprising and his account of the battle is the best which survives.Gaius Velleus Paterculus - Roman HistoryA briefer account, Paterculus' passage lays blame for the disaster very much on Varus and gives the names of two of his senior officers.
Cornelius Tacitus - The Annals (Book 1, 61)Here Tacitus describes Germanicus Caesar's discovery of the remains of Varus legions while campaigning in northern Germany.Florus - Epitomae (Book 22, 88)Florus' account gives the background of Drusus' conquest of the province of Germania and the circumstances leading up to the revolt, as well as some lurid details of the torture and mutilation of captured Roman officers.Cornelius Tacitus - The Annals (Book 2, 88)
(English and Latin)
Other Primary Source MaterialIn this passage Tacitus gives an account of a Chattian plot to poison Arminius and his subsequent assassination at the hands of his own people, the Cherusci. (English and Latin)Strabo - Geographica - (Chapter Seven, 11.33-1.5)These three passages from the Greek geographer Strabo give valuable information on the geography of Germania. The second passage - VII 1.4 - also gives a brief account oof the battle and the names of several of the chiefs involved in the uprising against Varus the subsequent wars with Germanicus.Maps of Germania
The translation and notes are courtesy of Iris Kammerer.Ptolemy's Geography gives us the names of settlements and forts within Germania, many of which correspond to names found in Tacitus and Strabo. Here is a modern chart placing many of these recorded names, along with three modern maps showing the Germanic tribes at the time of Varus, the Roman campaigns in Germania and the location of various Roman bases and camps in the province.The Kalkriese Excavations (in German)
The Archaeology of the Clades VarianaThe University of Osnabrueck in Germany seems to have discovered the site of the Clades Variana. A combination of Roman military artefacts and coins dating to 9 AD indicate that the Kalkriese site is, at least, one associated with the battle. Here is a short abstract in English.Summary of Evidence from the Kalkriese Site (in English)A summary of the archaeological evidence which links the Kalkriese site to the Clades Variana (Coming Soon).Bibliotheca Germaniae - A Reconstructed Cheruscian VillageIris Kammerer's excellent site, including photos of a reconstructed first century Cheruscian village in Germany. It also includes images of a reconstructed Treveran village from the same period, images of Germanic defences and much more.The Abandoned Roman Colony at WaldgirmesA great site detailing the on-going excavations of a Roman colony town which was abandoned and burnt to the ground in the wake of the Varian Disaster. Includes reconstructions of the forum, the equestrian statue of the Emperor Augustus and an artist's rendition of how the colony may have looked circa 9 AD. (German language site, with English and French versions available)The Kalkriese Lorica FindOne of the most important archaeological finds at the battle site at Kalkriese was of a plate of Roman lorica segmentata - the earliest find of this type of armoour so far. This discussion of the find and its significance is from Matthew Amt's excellent Legio XX pages (see below)Die Varusschlacht im Osnabrücker LandAnother German language site devoted to the Kalkriese finds and the Varian Disaster. This one has extensive source material and other useful links.Barry Darling Coins - Varus Site
Modern Accounts of the BattleAn excellent and up-to-date reconstruction of the battle, with particular reference to the evidence provided by the many coins found on the site of the battle. Highly recommended.FalcoPhiles - The Teutoburg Massacre 9 AD <Louise Dade's site devoted to the Marcus Didius Falco mystery novels of Lindsey Davis details the background and events of the 'Teutoburg Massacre' (which is what Roman fans call Varus' crushing defeat *g*). The battle was a detailed part of the background to Davis' novel The Iron Hand of Mars - which is worth a read despite Davis mistaking the Germanics for 'Celts'. Celts?!!Channel 4 - Secret History: Lost Legions of VarusIn late 2001 the UK Channel 4's 'Secret History' series featured a documentary on the Varian Disaster - Lost Legions of Varus. The documentary featured extensive information about the Kalkriese excavations and a reconstruction of the battle featuring members of British Roman re-enactment groups. Some great photos of the filming can be found on this Legio Secunda Augusta page (scroll down to 'The Varus Disaster'). Have a look at the rest of the Legio Secunda Augusta site while you're there.Hermann and the Teutoburger WaldA very old fashioned and highly out-dated account of the battle and its background. This is one indication of the way in which the events surrounding the battle have been interpreted by Germanic nationalists and nineteenth century Romantics. Read with caution.Arminius the CheruscianA reasonably well-researched article from the neo-pagan magazine The Runestone. It has a slightly romantic bias towards the Germans, but gives detailed information about the period after the battle and the end of Arminius' life.DiscussionsThe Varus ForumContribute to the Varus Forum and offer your suggestions, ideas and information about the battle, the background history and the screenplay. All contributions welcome.The Roman Army Page
The Roman ArmyAs one of the most extensive and carefully compiled collection of articles and resources on the Roman Army, Sander van Dorst's invaluable site is a must for anyone interested in Roman military affairs.
The Roman Army ForumLively discussion of all aspects of Roman military history by historians and re-enactors. Discuss Boudica's last battle, helmets, shield grips and, of course, the Varus Film Project.Legio XX Home PageMatthew Amt's extensive and well researched site devoted to the Legio XX Roman re-enactment group, based in the US. The site has many useful historical articles about the Roman military system and plenty of photos of Legio XX in action.Romanarmy.comAn extensive and rapidly expanding resource site devoted to all aspects of the Roman Army. It includes the Roman Army Talk discussion board and a large number of links, articles and useful items of interest. They have also awarded 'Clades Variana' their Corona Aurea award for website excellence.Loricae Romanae'Loricae Romanae' is Dave Pearson's careful examination of the armour used in the Roman Army, with very detailed information on Roman mail, scale, lorica segmentata and muscled cuirasses. It includes excellent primary iconographical material from sources such as Trajan's Column and reconstruction diagrammes of the various finds of segmentata.The Calleva Film ProjectFilm-maker Sean Caveille is producing a documentary which aims to bring Roman Silchester to life with the help of local archaeologists, re-enactors and various Roman enthusiasts. Support another Roman-oriented historical production.The Germanic Heritage Page
The Early GermansA collection of articles, links and resources devoted to the early Germanic peoples. Language, literature, history, pagan mythology, runes and even pastimes and games are extensively covered.Tacitus - GermaniaCornelius Tacitus drew on Livy's (lost) German Wars and the Geographica of Strabo, as well as reports and observations of Roman veterans, to write this the most detailed account of the peoples and customs of ancient Germania.
This is Thomas Gordon's translation, but a Latin text version is also available online.
*Theudawurdò - Home of the Germanic-L Discussion Listt*Theudawordò ('Words of the Tribe') is the home page of the Germanic-L mailing list - devoted to discussion of all aspects of the early Germanic Peoples from prehistory to circa 800 AD.
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