News of Varus’ defeat reached Rome only five days after the victory celebrations from the Balkan war.
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At least Augustus could now transfer troops back to the Rhine.
But this was Rome’s biggest defeat since Carrhae in 53 BCE, when Crassus had literally lost his head.
Three legions had been lost.
A tenth of the entire army wiped out in a matter of days.
And they had to wonder about the fate of the other forces in Germany and whether or not hordes of German warriors were crossing the Rhine and plundering Gaul.
Again, Augustus has to worry about the optics.
He’d built up his image as someone who was victorious because he had the favour of the gods.
Now in a few years he’s had a near invasion of Rome by barbarians from one end of the empire, and now lost three legions on the other end by separate barbarians.
Even worse, he had lost eagles.
This is a new stain on Rome’s honour.
All the more damaging because Augustus had made the recovery of lost eagles a major part of his own image.
He had an image of getting eagles back from the Persians on his fucking chest plate!
It’s be like Batman losing the bat symbol.
Or Superman losing the S.
Obviously Augustus is in a STATE OF SHOCK.
Augustus was in his early seventies.
That song was from the early 80s.
He had been working at full stretch for fifty years and the last decade had been crammed with personal disappointment and political trouble.
But this time it’s more anger than despair.
Dio claims Augustus tore his clothes in frustration.
He increased patrols of the city to prevent any disorder.
In case barbarians saw an opportunity to riot.
You don’t want another slave revolt on your hands.
And his German cavalry bodyguard were sent away from Rome.
He also revives another festival that hadn’t been held for a hundred years.
A special games in honour of Jupiter Optimus Maximus.
He also extended the tenurs of the provincial governors to ensure stability.
A new round of recruiting was ordered but the well of recruits was even drier than in 6 CE.
He had to introduce conscription based on lottery, which was unpopular.
Some men tried to dodge the draft and were executed.
In the meantime, soldiers had their terms extended, discharged veterans were recalled and again slaves were purchased, given freedom and formed into special units.
Tibbo was sent to Germany to take charge.
Legio II Augusta, XX Valeria Victrix, and XIII Gemina were sent to the Rhine to replace the lost legions.
Augustus refused to shave or have his hair cut for several months, just like had done when JC was murdered, and also like JC had done when he lost Sabinus and Cotta in Gaul.
But of course his coins from this period didn’t show a scruffy old man with a long beard
But that *is* where Santa Clause comes from
Privately he raged against Varus, banging his head on the doors of his house and yelling out ‘Quinctilius Varus, return my legions!’
“Quintili Vare, legiones redde!“
He used to fuck the eyeball of Varus’ skull too.
And invented the fleshlight.
Arminius was also painted as a traitor in the earliest sources.
In future years, the date of the disaster was marked as a day of mourning in Rome.
No legions were raised to replace the three lost ones, possibly because there were barely enough recruits to top up the existing units.
Even in later years when new legions were being raised, the numbers 17 and 19 were never revived.
Legio XVIII was raised again under Nero, but finally disbanded under Vespasian
In the following months there was some good news out of Germany.
Arminius’ troops have gone home with their plunder for the winter.
Only a few stayed in the field.
They managed to take out a few small detachments Varus had left scattered around the country, but when they tried to attack an army base they were repulsed.
The garrison and a large number of civilians escaped and went back across the Rhine.
A crossings of the river itself were held and don’t seem to have faced any serious attacks.
So the Germans for the moment are content to stay in Germany.
And they stay that way…. for 400 years.
The aggressive plan to settle Germania up to the Elbe, which we may guess Agrippa and Augustus to have devised twenty years previously, was revoked.
From now on the Rhine was to be the permanent boundary between Romanized Gaul and the barbarians of central Europe.
Varus’ two remaining legions and some auxiliares were still largely intact ???
Their commanders were doing their best to organise a defence.
Despite several successful campaigns and raids by the Romans in the years after the battle, they never again attempted to conquer the Germanic territories east of the Rhine river.
Contemporary and modern historians have generally regarded Arminius’ victory over Varus as “Rome’s greatest defeat”, one of the most decisive battles recorded in military history, and as “a turning-point in world history”.
And Arminius, aka Hermann the Cherusker, became a legend.
Emperor William I, the first Kaiser of the unified German Empire, dedicated a monument to him in 1875.
For almost 2,000 years, the site of the battle was unidentified.
After World War II, it was taught that the story was only a legend with no real historical value.
It wasn’t until a British amateur archaeologist Major Tony Clunn, who was casually prospecting at Kalkriese Hill in 1987 with a metal detector in the hope of finding “the odd Roman coin”.
He asked Wolfgang Schlüter, at the time the archaeologist for the District of Osnabrück, where he should look.
He was advised to search 20 km north of the city, where Roman coins had previously been found, though none for 18 years.
Schlüter’s recommendation was based upon a study of maps and the 19th-century historian Theodor Mommsen’s proposal that the Kalkriese area was a likely location of the battle which took place in 9 C.E.
On his first day, Clunn found several coins from the reign of Augustus, mostly in excellent condition.
No coins found at the site post-date 9 C.E.
He discovered coins from the reign of Augustus (and none later), and some ovoid leaden Roman sling bolts.
On the basis of Clunn’s findings, Schlüter began a comprehensive excavation of the site in 1989.
scholars had searched for it without success for 600 years.
Clunn returned to Osnabrück to live.
He was awarded the Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany.
He died on 3 August 2014 at his home in Bissendorf.
Eight months after we started this series.
The archaeological record shows that every Roman garrison and civilian settlement between the Rhine and the Elbe was lost after the defeat of Varus.
But of course, Augustus isn’t going to take the betrayal of Arminius lying down.
Or actually he *was* lying down – but he sent Tibbo to do the dirty work.
Tibbo spend the next four years campaigning in the Germany or the Balkans, eventually joined by Germanicus.
We don’t know much about these campaigns, but apparently they involved vastatio.
Tibbo went beyond the Rhine, burning villages, destroying crops, stealing flocks, killing and capturing everyone in their path.
But they still faced serious opposition from Arminius.
You can only imagine how popular and powerful he was, as the man who kicked the Romans in the balls.
Not only the Cherusci tribe were following him but other tribes as well.
The defeat of Varus had shattered the Roman’s aura of invincibility.
Just like the reputation of the British Empire in the Far East was destroyed when the Japenese quickly conquered Hong Kong, Malaya and Burma in 1941-2.
It’s hard, if not impossible, to recover from humiliating failures of that magnitude.
For the rest of this life, Augustus ran campaigns in Germany, trying to regain the lost province.
But it wasn’t to happen.
In 11 CE, Tibbo and Germs joined their forces for the first major expedition beyond the Rhine, but there wasn’t much fighting.
Arminius and the other German leaders weren’t dummies.
They weren’t going to fight a head to head battle with a bunch of pissed off Romans.
And the Romans knew better than to stray too far from their base into German territory.
As Sun Tzu put it:
“If your enemy is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is in superior strength, evade him. If your opponent is temperamental, seek to irritate him. Pretend to be weak, that he may grow arrogant. If he is taking his ease, give him no rest. If his forces are united, separate them. If sovereign and subject are in accord, put division between them. Attack him where he is unprepared, appear where you are not expected .”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
On Sept 23, the troops celebrated Aug’s birthday while still in enemy territory.
They had a series of horse races organised by the centurions, before getting back to the safe side of the Rhine.
But there was no recovering of the lost standards or their dignity.
Despite the lack of a significant victory, these years seem to have been good for rebuilding Tiberius’ reputation back in Rome.
He would return each winter and take his place in the Senate beside Augustus between the two consuls.
Suetonius quotes several letters from Augustus to Tibbo which may have been written around this time.
‘I have nothing but praise for your conduct of the war, my dear Tiberius, and am sure no one could have acted more prudently in the face of so many difficulties and an army lacking in spirit.’
‘When I hear and read that you are exhausted by constant labours, may the gods correct me if my own body doesn’t ache in sympathy. I beg you to spare yourself, lest hearing of your illness slay your mother and me, and place the Roman people at peril . . .’
‘It does not matter whether or not I am well, if you are not.’
Obviously a lot of affection
It would appear that the tension of the years gone past, the exile years, and the time when Augustus publicly announced Tibbo as his successor with a shrug of his shoulders, is long gone.
In January 10 CE, Tibbo finally gets around to dedicating the Temple of Concord in the Forum in his own and his brother Drusus’ name.
He probably paid for it with the profits of wars in Germany – not the ones he’s currently engaged in, but the earlier, successful campaigns.
The triumph he was awarded for defeating the rebellion of the Batos was postponed until 12 October 12 CE.
At that time he was also awarded an extension of his proconsular imperium, and now it’s extended to cover the entire empire, not just the western provinces.
Augustus had also been hailed as imperator for the defeat of that rebellion and could have celebrated another triumph but as usual he just yawned and said “no thanks, i’ve already got one”.
In fact he’d been hailed as imperator 21 times.
A total that had never been matched before and would never be matched again.
Germanicus was awarded ornamenta triumphalia for the suppression of the rebellion and was consul for 12 CE at the age of 26.
He totally skipped the praetorship because that’s boring.
Tibbo’s actual son Drusus,his son with his first wife, Vipsania Agrippina, was quaestor in 11 CE and marked down to be consul at an early age too.
His political career mirrored that of Germanicus, and he assumed all his offices at the same age as him.
Following the model of Augustus, it was intended that the two would rule together.
They were both popular, and many dedications have been found in their honor across Roman Italy.
Cassius Dio calls him “Castor” in his Roman History, likening Drusus and Germanicus to the twins, Castor and Pollux, of Roman mythology.