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Towards the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest

XVII, XVIII, XVIIII Roman Legions and Germanic Tribes

Initial Situation

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A model of the Roman ceremonial face mask found at Kalkriese



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The battlefield more than
2000 years later.
(In the middle:
The archeological excavation site)



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Entrance of the
Kalkriese Museum
where the battle took place

In 51 BC, the Romans conquered Gaul and expanded the external borders of the Empire to the Rhine. The commander Julius Caesar declared the Rhine as the new border.
The conquest of Germania was not interesting for the Romans. This is explained by one the descriptions of Germania by the chronicler Tacitius: “Germania consists of eerie woodlands, ghastly swamps and rough mountains. The cows are unsightly, their horses are neither remarkable for beauty nor swiftness, nor are they taught the various evolutions practiced with us. Gold and silver cannot be found there either.”
In reality, Germania was an unimproved land. The Germans lived in small tribes who had their settlements amidst fields. Villages consisted of 10 up to 30 houses. There was no hierarchy, only noblemen who raided the villages and showed their superiority. War and plunder was common in the Germanic culture. The Germans often raided villages in Roman territories such as Gaul.

After Rome had conquered Germania, they build fortresses, paths and towns. Whole tribes were resettled to other areas. To bribe the noblemen, they simply offered money and privileges. In other words, they became Roman citizens and had more rights like the prince of the Cheruskian tribe Segimer. When he received the toga, his son came in contact with the Romans for the first time. In this event he got his roman name, Gaius Julius Arminius. It was custom to keep the children of noblemen as hostages. There is a good case to believe that Arminius was raised in Rome and went to a princely school. Another possibility is that at the time when Christ was born, there was a struggle for power between the Chersukians. Subsequently, prince Segimer had to flee with his whole kin to Rome and Arminius was taught in Rome with at age of 16. What is sure is that 4 BC, Tiberius went back to Germania, ended the power struggle and appointed prince Segimer. This was when Arminius became commander of the ancillary troops. Henceforth he and Tiberius, who admired him, went to war with the Marcomanni who were under the reign of king Marbod. The Romans had lost and had to negotiate. For the first time Arminius saw that the Romans were vincible. Consequently, more tribes arose and Tiberius consigned the command over the Germanic Legion to his friend and comrade Publius Quinctillius Varus. Tiberius ordered Arminius, who had  proved to be a good soldier and commander of the ancillary troops, to serve at Varus's side.

The occupation of Germania generated reluctance in many tribes. They didn't want to live in towns,  nor did they want to be slaves of the Romans. They hated the judiciary system and the execution of the death penalty which not even the princes were allowed to execute in the past. To be peaceful was unacceptable to them, war was part of their culture and highly regarded. This conflict developed to an uprising, Arminius utilized this for his own purposes.

Escalation

These skirmishes and raids weren't enough to provoke the Empire.
16 BC, a bigger group of Germans invaded Gaul where one Legion was put to flight and lost their legionary eagle. This was the biggest disgrace for a legion. Emperor Augustus had to act, especially considering that he proclaimed a golden era with peace and protection against all enemies.
He commanded his stepson Drusus to start a punitive action.
12 BC Drusus advanced to the Elbe river. Many Germanic tribes federated with the Romans (Batavians, Frisians, Chauci), other tribes allied and went into war which they lost. They had to bow to the victors. After all, Germania was conquered by the Romans under Tiberius's command and acknowledged the Roman victory with a parade in Rome in 7 AC.

The Roman Empire spread all over Europe. Their traces can be found everywhere and a lot of cities were founded 2000 years ago. This is what the countries in Europe have in common - their Roman heritage.

 

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For further information please contact: Ludwig Schmidt - Abendgymnasium der Stadt Münster
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