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Another person who got caught up in all this was the poet Ovid.
He of the Ars Amatoria, in Engligh, the Arse of Love.
Remember him from ten episodes back?
The one who wrote beautiful poems about love and seduction and rape?
Well he’s told to remove himself from Rome and go to the city of Tomi on the Black Sea until told otherwise.
This is as far as you can go from Rome without falling over the edge of the world.
What did he do?
We don’t know.
There were no charge or trial.
Maybe he saw something he shouldn’t have.
Or fucked someone he shouldn’t have.
Or maybe it was just the corrupting influence of his Ars Amatoria.
You know what that’s like, Ray. I know your arse has got you into trouble before.
Maybe Augustus was old, weak, recently scared that shit was crumbling, and didn’t like the kids having so much fun around him.
But seeing as he’s still deflowing maidens, I can’t imagine that.
It sounds like something very serious happened, but we don’t know the details.
So poor Augustus has more family sent into exile.
It’s lonely at the top.
Later he refers to the two Julias and Postumus as his “three boils” or “three ulcers”.
According to Suetonius: He disliked large and sumptuous country palaces, actually razing to the ground one which his granddaughter Julia built on a lavish scale.
Whatever the reasons, the outcom is that Livia’s family line will dominate the succession.
In 9 CE Tibbo returned to Rome and was awarded a triumph for his defeat of the Bato rebellion.
From exile to triumph.
He must have done a good job – these regions remained stable and prosperous parts of the empire for centuries.
The crisis is over! Peace is restored!
CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES.
Annnnnd then news comes in from Germany.
And now we start talking about one of my favourite guys.
aka Hermann the German
He was born somewhere around 15 BCE, son of a member of the royal family of the Germanic tribe the Cherusci.
Either his father, Segimer, or another senior member of their tribe, did a deal with the Romans at some stage towards the end of the first century BCE, probably as a way of getting an advantage over the other tribes in the area.
We first hear of Arminius when he’s the leader of a force of auxiliary troops raised from his own people to fight alongside the Romans.
It’s possible that he and his younger brother Flavus had spent time as hostages in Rome, even living somewhere in Aug’s complex on the Palatine, getting an education on how to be good Romans with the children from Aug’s own family.
They were both fluent in Latin and Roman citizens.
Arminius went on to serve in the Roman army for years, campaigning in Germany and Illyricum during the Bato rebellion.
He was made an equestian at some point and returned to his homeland in 7 CE to become one of the key leaders of the Cherusci.
Having enough wealth to become an equestrian would have made him the Donald Trump of his homeland.
Or actually someone with real money, not fake Russian mobster wealth.
Maybe the Bill Gates of the Cherusci.
He was wealthy, had a proven service record, had good Roman manners and was a frequent dinner guest at the table of the imperial legatus in Germany, Publius Quinctilius Varus, Tibbo’s old consular colleague from 13 BCE, the son in law of Agrippa, when he was married to Vipsania Marcella Agrippina, and then he married Augustus’ great-niece, Claudia Pulchra
Varus had also been governor of Africa
And he’d been a legate in Syria around the time of the death of Herod the Great, where he’d had to crush riots that occurred.
He’d been given the command of Germany in 7 CE.
His job was to keep the region stable while Tibbo was off dealing with Bato 1 and Bato 2
He had five legions and a large auxiliary force.
Although his numbers might have been weakened during the Illyricum rebellion.
And the really talented generals might have been sent to Illyricum to help Tibbo.
As that was the big threat.
The fact that Varus himself wasn’t sent to the Balkans might suggest Augustus thought him capable, but not gifted.
Paterculus calls him “a man of mild character and of a quiet disposition, somewhat slow in mind as he was in body, and more accustomed to the leisure of the camp than to actual service in war.”
And things seemed to be going well in Germany.
Noblemen like Arminius are embracing Roman rule and they did a deal with Bodacious.
Arminius’ father seems to be dead, maybe killed by other Germans for being a traitor and doing a deal with the Romans.
But his uncle and other noblemen were dining with Varus and coming to him to settle their disputes and there had been a general peace since about 5 CE.
One of them was Segestes, Arminius’ father-in-law whose son was also a priest in a new cult of Rome and Augustus.
Romanised civilian settlements were springing up on the sites of old army bases.
Everything was going to plan.
I LOVE IT WHEN A PLAN COMES TOGETHER
But then Varus started to tax the tribes.
They had probably been subjected to hand over cattle or drops before, as tribute to Rome after they lost a battle, but a regular tax was a new thing.
And they weren’t happy about it.
Like the American founding fathers.
Varus might also have been skimming too much off the top, like the governors did in the good old days.
Velleius wrote that even before this, when Varus had been in Syria, that he had gone to a rich province as a poor man, and left a poor province as a rich man.
Like in the Balkans, it was the younger generations who seemed to be most resentful of the Romans.
They’d never faced them in serious battle.
And they’d seen the Romans make a quick peace with Bodacious and how it took them three years to put down the revolt in the Balkans.
Maybe the Romans weren’t so scary after all?
So Arminius decided to rebel against the Romans.
Maybe it was because of the taxation.
Or maybe he just decided the prospect of him rising any further as a loyal ally were slim, and he wanted to have all the power.
After all, he had royal blood.
ROYAL BLOOD CARELESS
And Arminius had a cunning plan.
In the spring and summer of 9 CE Varus did a tour of the province between the Rhine and the Elbe.
He took with him three legions – the 17th, 18th and 19th, with six cohorts of auxiliary infantry and three cavalry alae.
There wasn’t really a campaign going on, he was just showing off his strength, making sure the locals knew who was boss.
Kind of like the U.S. sending their navy and just positioning it off the coast of China or Russia.
By the end of summer, as he was preparing to go into winter quarters, he got news of a rebellion in the east.
Maybe Arminius told him about it.
Maybe Arminius caused it as a feint.
Varus did the usual Roman thing, just like he’d done in Judaea a few years earlier.
He marched his army towards the rebels and the rebellion crumbles as soon as his legions appeared.
So Varus started to march back west in September.
Later in the year, and further away from basecamp than he’d planned.
His supplies would have been running low, like Napoleon in 1812, and he needed to get back to base quickly.
If his units were under strength, due to some of them getting siphoned off to the Balkans, he might have had 10 – 15,000 fighting soldiers all told.
There would also have been thousands of slaves.
We know that he traveled in style.
At least one of his officers had an ornate couch with ivory inlays.
So there would have been a ton of pack mules and wagons.
There were also civilians, traders, women, children, etc.
At some point Augustus banned soldiers from marrying, like Catholic priests.
And for the same reasons – he didn’t want to carry the cost of paying for widows and orphans or to support families in campaign.
And he wanted the troops to be mobile, so he could move them around the empire as required.
But we don’t know when this happened, so it’s possible at least some of the troops Varus had in Germany had wives and children with them.
There weren’t any nice Agrippan wide roads this deep into Germany, so Varus’ army is stretching out for ten miles or more, walking along old cart tracks through forest and marshes.
The route was predictable because it had to stay on track.
Plus Arminius and other tribal leaders provided them with local guides.
Varus didn’t expect any trouble so he wasn’t on the lookout for any.
He trusted the scouts – that were provided by the Cherusci.
When one of the leaders of the Cherusci, Segestes, Arminius’ father-in-law, warned Varus that Arminus was plotting against him, Varus just ignored him.
He put it down to tribal rivalry.
Just trying to shit talk another leader.
Paterculus has this great section on the incident:
This was disclosed to Varus through Segestes, a loyal man of that race and of illustrious name, who also demanded that the conspirators be put in chains. But fate now dominated the plans of Varus and had blindfolded the eyes of his mind. Indeed, it is usually the case that heaven perverts the judgement of the man whose fortune it means to reverse, and brings it to pass — and this is the wretched part of it — that that which happens by chance seems to be deserved, and accident passes over into culpability. And so Quintilius refused to believe the story, and insisted upon judging the apparent friendship of the Germans toward him by the standard of his merit. And, after this first warning, there was no time left for a second.
Arminius said he had to leave the column to go and fetch more auxiliaries or guides.
Instead he went to join an army he had waiting to ambush the Romans.
Then over the next few days he had small groups launch small attacks on vulnerable sections of the column, who would then retreat into the woods before the Romans could mount a defence.
Exactly what the Cossacks did to Napoleon in 1812!
He had selected a narrow pass where the path ran through meadows with wooden hills on one side and boggy ground on the other side.
Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
He had also chopped down trees to slow down the column and dug a trench to stop the Romans from turning off onto another track.
He’d also hemmed in the path on the other side by building a rampart of turf and earth for 500 years on the slope.
This rampart was built exactly the same way the Romans built theirs when they were setting up camp.
Arminius used everything he’d learned from the Romans against them.
This is becoming a trend.
The Romans teach them everything and then the barbarians use it against them.
That’s how I used to feel about girlfriends I had.
I’d teach them how to give the perfect blowjob and then they’d go and give it to someone other bloke.
Arminius had taken days or weeks to prepare his trap
And then it started to rain, heavy rain, PURPLE RAIN
Turning the track to mud and making equipment and horses hard to handle.
Varus didn’t cope well from the start.
Early on he ordered the baggage train to be set on fire.
Then as the fast moving attacks kept nibbling away at the column, the troops started to get desperate.
When they finally reached the ambush spot in the pass, the attackes became heavier.
The wall the Germans had built had several ports built into it which allowed them to come rushing out, attack, and then run back and hide behind the wall.
It was only five feet high, but that was enough to take the steam out of any charge.
And the guys behind the wall could quickly get up on top in the event of a charge and have the height advantage.
The Romans were hemmed in along a narrow path, attacked from several direction at once, and couldn’t get into any kind of fighting formation.
A really great commander, say a Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great, might have still got them through.
He could have restored enough order to mount a concerted attack.
But Varus was not such a man.
He lost control early on.
One of his subordinates led the cavalry off on their own, where they were surrounded and massacred.
Varus himself was wounded.
And committed suicide along with several other senior officers.
His father had also committed suicide after the Battle of Philippi, but to the Romans that’s acceptable when your on the losing side of a civil war.
Not when you’re fighting against a foreign enemy.
If your commander kills himself in despair, it doesn’t do wonder for troop moral.
Some surrendered, including some senior officers.
Others fled and were cut down.
A few still fought on, and were destroyed.
One by one, Varus’ army died.
Then Arminius sacrificed the prisoners to the gods as well, thanking them for the victory.
They were put to death in different ways; some had their throats cut, while others were hanged from trees, crucified, or buried alive.
The German gods appreciated variety.
Victims’ heads were nailed to trees in the forest as a warning to any intending invasion in the future.
Others were kept or sold as slaves.
Eventually some of them escaped or were ransomed back to Rome.
They told the horror stories of the battle.
Hemmed in by forests and marshes and ambuscades, it was exterminated almost to a man by the very enemy whom it had always slaughtered like cattle, whose life or death had depended solely upon the wrath or the pity of the Romans.
Varus was hastily cremated and buried, but his remains were dug up and desecrated.
I think they fucked him in his eye hole.
Three legionary eagles were lost, as were many standards and lots of armour, weapons and other shit.
They were made into trophies which were distributed among the German tribes.
Varus’ head was sent to Maroboduus to try to entice him into joining the rebellion.
But he decided to send it on to the Romans and keep the peace.
The head was properly cremated and buried in Rome.
Review of the week:
This was the first of Cam and Ray’s podcasts that I listened to and they hooked me!! On the face of it, an in-depth study of Augustus’ life may be considered by many as ‘just for the nerds’. However, that discounts the epic story telling abilities of the hosts – Cam and Ray have something for everyone. This podcast has laugh out loud in a crowded cafe moments, combined with intelligent commentary. Yes, there is swearing and dirty jokes, and we go down many a rabbit hole (although that’s one of the great things about it), but this is one podcast you don’t want to miss! Sheena