The Bottom Line
Early Empire/Principate > Age of Augustus > Teutoberg Wald Disaster
If you're trying to understand what we know of the Teutoberg Forest disaster in A.D. 9, when three Roman legions were annihilated by German tribes, or you are looking for background on the opening scene of the movie Gladiator, Peter S. Wells' very clearly written "The Battle That Stopped Rome" will be invaluable. There was a lot of repetition in the 220 pages, but after listening to a half dozen of his lectures, I have come to see the value in this because it reinforces important points.
- Easy to understand
- Nicely illustrated
- Very repetitive
- Maps hard to figure out and badly placed
- Unclear organization
- Describes life for a Roman soldier.
- Describes the arrangement of a Roman legion.
- Discusses the glorification of the German hero Arminius through history.
- Reflects on the affects of the disaster on subsequent history.
- Discusses whether it was Augustus or Tiberius who ended Roman expansion.
- Lists the consequences of the Rhine as the border to the Roman Empire.
- Describes what the day of battle must have been like for the Romans.
- Imagines the battle's aftermath - butchery, sacrifice, sale into slavery.
- Like a series of lectures.
Guide Review - Review of Peter S. Wells' 'The Battle That Stopped Rome'
Wells details the marching conditions for Roman soldiers because, on the day of their ambush, they were moving, under the leadership of Publius Quinctilius Varus, from their camp near the Weser River to a supposed rebellion only a couple of day's march away. Varus had been told of the rebellion by Arminius, sometimes known as Hermann, a German chieftain who was thought to be a supporter of Rome. Another German leader, Segestes, had warned of possible treachery. Because of this warning it was possible (after the fact) to blame Varus for the disaster, but Wells shows it was more the terrain, the heavy packs of the legionaries, and German tactics than Roman gullibility that led to the Roman tragedy.