Battle of Teutoburg Forest (9 A.D.)Battle of Teutoburg Forest (9 A.D.) - In Rome's long and glorious history, it inevitably had to suffer some severe and humiliating defeats. Cannae and Carrhae are two of the most noteworthy; but the Battle of Teutoburg Forest would also rank up there as well. The Roman Empire first invaded Germania in 12 B.C. and conquered territory up to the Elbe River. The future emperor Tiberius led the campaign. In 6 A.D. general Publius Quinctilius Varus was appointed to organize and pacify the German province. He quickly earned the resentment of the Germanic people for his harsh treatment. Three years later, he led a force of 15,000 legionnaires and thousands of additional support units deeper into Germania in an attempt to bring the entire region under Roman control. It was uncharted territory for the empire. In the years leading up to this new campaign, many of the Germanic people who had already been incorporated into the empire were recruited into the military. One of these was a man named Arminius. He was a nobleman from a Germanic tribe known as the Cherusci. As a native, he was entrusted as the army's guide on this particular expedition.


What Varus did not realize is that Arminius had secretly united many of the Germanic tribes against Rome. What Varus further did not realize is that, as their guide, Arminius was also leading them into a trap. He separated himself from the Roman army under the pretext that he would travel ahead and scout the area. Varus apparently had complete trust in him based on an account in Tacitus which says that another German nobleman named, Segestes, warned the Roman general that Arminius was planning to betray him. Varus dismissed the warning as nothing more than a tribal feud between the two of them. As the Romans penetrated deeper into the forest, the terrain became more rugged and forced the army to stretch out over a long distance, several miles even. This also made it impossible for the troops take up a standard battle formation in the event of an attack. To make matters worse, a heavy rain started falling, slowing their progress.


Suddenly, Germanic warriors emerged from the trees on either side of the line and began hurling spears at the Roman soldiers. Many of them were successfully picked off before they could regroup and set-up a bivouac.  When they finally did, the Germans disappeared back into the forest.  They camped for the evening and, in the morning decided to head toward a Roman fort near the Rhine some 60 miles away. They never made it. Arminius, who had been trained in Roman battle tactics, anticipated their every move. Once again they were ambushed. As the rain continued to fall, many of the Romans' defenses were rendered useless. Bows could not be drawn as the sinew strings become slack when wet, and tower shields were too waterlogged to wield. Virtually the entire army was wiped out. Officers threw themselves on their swords, including Varus, to prevent being taken prisoner. Survivors were enslaved, and some according to Tacitus, were sacrificed in ritual ceremonies. The losses on the German side are not known. The failed expedition is well documented by several Roman historians, including Suetonius, Tacitius and Dio Cassius. Although Dio Cassius' account is the most complete, it is also the one furthest removed by time, written some two centuries later. So bad was the loss for the Roman Empire that it ended any further ambition of extending its border past the Rhine River, and upon receiving the news, Augustus Caesar is said to have roamed the palace in his final years banging his head against the walls shouting, " Vare, legiones redde! " (meaning, "Varus, give me back my legions!").