Battle That Stopped Rome: Emperor Augustus, Arminius, and the Slaughter of the Legions in the Teutoburg Forest


Three entire legions of Rome's finest soldiers were slaughtered in the Teutoberg Forest in AD 9. These 20,000 men 'represented a quarter of the Roman army stationed north of the Alps. It was a blow from which the empire never recovered'. This accessible study has been written with the aim of restoring the battle to its rightful place as one of the defining battles of European history for, as the book shows, the consequences of Rome's defeat were longlasting. The narrative is a mix; the archaeological evidence ...
See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$13.15 price
(Save 17%)$15.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (36) from $2.99   
  • New (9) from $9.30   
  • Used (27) from $2.99   
Sending request ...


Three entire legions of Rome's finest soldiers were slaughtered in the Teutoberg Forest in AD 9. These 20,000 men 'represented a quarter of the Roman army stationed north of the Alps. It was a blow from which the empire never recovered'. This accessible study has been written with the aim of restoring the battle to its rightful place as one of the defining battles of European history for, as the book shows, the consequences of Rome's defeat were longlasting. The narrative is a mix; the archaeological evidence from the recently discovered battlefield is always at the forefront. Some of the finds powerfully evoke the horror of that day. This evidence is mixed with that of the few accounts recorded by Rome's patriotic historians and Peter Wells' own 'dramatised' version of what might have happened. The battle is firmly placed within its historical setting. Wells discusses, in simple terms, other pivotal events in these first years of empire, before looking at the place of the battle in the Roman psyche and its consequences for Germany. The tribesman Arminius betrayed Rome but for centuries he was a national hero for Germany. There are clear similarities with In Quest of the Lost Legions by Tony Clunn (who located the battle's location) and, while Well's book is a good read and possibly more accessible it is without the depth and sheer enthusiasm of Clunn's account.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Robert Cowley
“Peter Wells conducts us to a hitherto mysterious and myth-enshrouded place....A journey well worth taking.”
Kirkus Reviews
Important analysis of a fierce first-century surprise attack by German tribesmen that ended Rome's designs on territory east of the Rhine and profoundly altered subsequent history. Wells (Archaeology/Univ. of Minnesota) argues convincingly that both archaeologists and historians must contribute to understandings of long-ago events. (Naturally, he believes the former are less subject to bias since histories are written by the victors.) The site of this little-known battle was not located until 1987. Since then the four-by-three-mile location has yielded a trove of relics; more than 4,000 Roman objects had been recovered by the end of 1999. The author's account of the battle consumes only a single short chapter and is admittedly heavily inferential: the surviving written accounts are scanty (and Roman); the archaeological evidence is still being uncovered and assessed. Still, Wells is able not only to reconstruct a credible analysis of the German strategy—pinning the Romans into a tight area of unforgiving forest and marshy terrain in which they could not execute their customary combat tactics—but also to explore the thoughts and fears of the combatants on both sides as the massacre commenced. In about an hour it was all over but the dying and scavenging, the burying and celebrating, the torturing and sacrificing of prisoners. Three Roman legions, some 20,000 men, were destroyed; a very few survivors escaped to spread the news. The Roman leader, Varus, a trusted ally of Augustus, probably fell on his sword when he saw the imminent defeat. The German leader, Arminius, became a folk hero: though trained by the Romans and granted citizenship, he gave the treacherous intelligence thatled the legions to the slaughter. Wells offers much background on Roman and Rhineland history, politics, anthropology, military strategy, and weaponry, supplying myriad grisly instances of the sanguinary horrors of war. Ultimately, Rome vastly underestimated the "barbarians" they faced. At times repetitive or obvious, but always literate and learned. (16 pp. illustrations, 9 maps, not seen)
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393326437
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 351,306
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Peter S. Wells is professor of archaeology at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of The Battle That Stopped Rome and The Barbarians Speak. He lives in St. Paul.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations 9
List of Maps 11
Important Dates 13
Preface 15
1 Ambushed! 25
2 Creation of the Legend 30
3 History and Archaeology of the Battle 37
4 Augustus: Rome's First Emperor 56
5 Varus and the Frontier 80
6 Arminius: The Native Hero 105
7 Warfare in Early Roman Europe: Prelude to the Battle 125
8 The Battle 161
9 The Horror: Death on the Battlefield 177
10 The Victors' Celebrations 186
11 The Immediate Outcome 200
12 The Meaning of the Battle 213
App. 1 How an Archaeological Site Is Formed 221
App. 2 Roman Weapons Found at the Kalkriese Battle Site 222
App. 3 Museums, Roman Remains, and Archaeological Parks 223
Sources and Suggestions for Further Reading 227
Acknowledgments 239
Illustration Credits 241
Index 243
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2004

    Arminius¿neither a hero, nor a great general

    Arminius was not a great general, and he never achieved a place of distinction amongst Rome¿s greatest adversaries such as Hannibal or Mithradates. However, what Arminius did manage to achieve was a grand deception: betraying general Varus and the Romans, who had been his benefactors, and inflicting upon them a crushing defeat that was not won by military strategy or bravery, but by subterfuge and duplicity. During a period of German nationalistic fervor, Ulrich von Hutten, in a drama which he wrote in the 1520s, agued that Arminius deserved to be regarded as the greatest general in history¿greater, he proclaimed, than even Alexander the Great. To elevate Arminius to this heroic status clearly points to a form of self-delusion that only a country desperate to seek a national hero could produce. This supposed ¿battle than stopped Rome,¿ which took place in the Teutoberg forest in the year 9 AD, did nothing more than lure unwitting Roman soldiers into a killing field where they were butchered like trapped animals. This was treachery, not generalship. Subsequent emperors continued Rome¿s expansionist policies, conquering England in 43 AD and Dacia during the early part of the second century AD. The failure of Rome to completely conquer Germany has less to do with its defeat at the hands of Arminius than with the realization that other lands (i.e., England, Dacia, and the eastern territories) held greater economic and political advantages by virtue of their vast resources. In addition, Rome was near its limit regarding the amount of land area it could effectively control, and did not view further expansion into the German hinterland as beneficial. Given the pragmatic nature of the Roman state, and the systematic way in which Rome conquered and maintained its territories, all of Germany, not just the lands west of the Rhine, would have ultimately succumbed to Roman might, just as many other countries had done, if Rome had deemed the acquisition of these lands necessary. Wells argues that the failure of Rome to conquer the vast land area of Germany east of the Rhine was due to the Romans¿ lack of understanding of the nature of the indigenous peoples and their way of life. This hardly seems the case, as contact between the two societies over the centuries would certainly have made the Romans familiar with German tribal culture. It was due rather to the lack of economic and political advantages that could be gained from the military conquest of the region that Rome ceased to pursue her military exploits east of the Rhine, and not because of Rome¿s ignorance of the northern Germanic tribes¿ social structure or the destruction of three legions brought about by the treachery of Arminius.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 18, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)