Starts Sunday 16th on BBC2 7.15pmBattle: Teutoburg Forest.
Series 2 Week One: Teutoburg Forest
In 9 AD the Roman frontier in the north was marked by the natural moat of the Rhine river. To the north and east barbarians lurked in their dark forests, worshipping darker gods and, according to the Romans, they plotted the destruction of all that was good and civilized.
Augustus, the Emperor of Rome in all but name, saw no reason why the German tribes wouldn't benefit from a bit of Roman civilizing and was pushing for full development of Germania as a Roman possession. To this end he despatched one of his favourite administrators and a personal friend, Publius Quinctilius Varus, to run Roman affairs in the area. Here was a man who understood how to organise the business of the Empire: the collection of taxes, the conscription of soldiers, and the establishment of Roman law. Perhaps Roman efficiency and the comforts that went along with it would win over the Germans. Although often dismissed as a civilian rather than a soldier, Quinctilius Varus must have had some military experience and aptitude. He had been governor of both Africa and Syria; Syria had four Legions along the border with the Parthians and an incompetent military commander would never have been assigned to the region, regarldess of any friendship with Augustus.
In Germany there were three Legions of 5000 men each at Varus' disposal: the XVII, XVIII, and XIX Legions. These troops had been on the frontier for several years and were as well trained and professional as any other Roman force. They could be relied on to fight well. By the end of the year they were withdrawing towards their winter quarters in the south, laagering up until the campaigning season started again with the spring thaws. The exact position of this camp has never been established, but the best estimates place it somewhere near modern Minden on the River Weser.
This was the opportunity that the German tribes had awaited. Unknown to Varus his 'native guide' and local expert, Arminius, was not a friend of Rome or Romans. He was one of the leaders of a conspiracy of tribes aimed at breaking the power of Rome in Germania. Arminius lead the Roman legions south towards their camps and then disappeared into the forest. Then the attacks by the wild men of the woods began, and the Legions were cut to pieces. All three Legionary eagles - the standards were the symbol of Roman military might - were captured by the Germans and vanished, taken as trophies. Fifteen thousand men, along with Publius Quinctilius Varus, their commander, perished in the snow and the dark. When, months later, another Roman army reached the spot, it was said that the Roman skeletons stretched for miles.
It is said that Augustus aged visibly when told of the disaster. He had lost a friend, three full Legions and the chance to rule Germany. It's great seeing the Rome: Total War Engine on telly, hopefully this will a later version than the one used on the first series of Time Commanders? Anyway, I'll most certainly be watching it