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

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Overview

In A.D. 9, an army of barbarians ferociously butchered three entire Roman legions in a desolate German forest. The loss of one-quarter of its European army was a blow from which the Roman Empire never recovered. Archaeologist Peter Wells provides the first graphic details of this monumental confrontation, based on the recent discovery of the site of the massacre.
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Overview

In A.D. 9, an army of barbarians ferociously butchered three entire Roman legions in a desolate German forest. The loss of one-quarter of its European army was a blow from which the Roman Empire never recovered. Archaeologist Peter Wells provides the first graphic details of this monumental confrontation, based on the recent discovery of the site of the massacre.
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Editorial Reviews

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)
Robert Cowley
“Peter Wells conducts us to a hitherto mysterious and myth-enshrouded place....A journey well worth taking.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393020281
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/19/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.48 (w) x 8.66 (h) x 0.93 (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.
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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
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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2004

    A Great Mystery Solved!

    In 1979, as a boy on a visit to my Grandmother in Germany, my Father took me to see the statue of Hermann that sits on the edge of the Teutoberg Forest. At that time and later, I inquired where the location of the battle site was, to see it also. I was told that there was no location. It was like a true mystery right out of the history books. Twenty thousand men slaughtered all together in the same place with Roman armor and all the adornments and nobody knew where. No evidence was found in two thousand years. I was astounded when I saw this book on the shelf. Not only had the site been located in the intervening 25 years, but Wells gives us the most comprehensive work ever written on this battle. He doesn't go that deep into the archeological evidence. But I'm not an archeologist. Anything deeper would have been too technical and boring. Wells has woven the story together from three sources; the archeological record, Roman writers, and his general knowledge of warfare. He fills in the gaps with educated speculation. He doesn't inform us when he's doing this, so the reader has to use a critical eye. All writing about this battle is speculative though. The Germans had no writing at the time and only a handful of Romans survived. Each chapter is written like a separate article, creating some repetition. Overall, a good piece of archeological and historical detective work about a battle with repercussions that have continued to this day. Recommended for readers interested in Romans.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2003

    not worth the paper it is written on

    This must be one of the poorest history books I have ever read. The style is simplistic and the approach unprofessional. Instead of sticking to facts and laying out the archeological evidence from the various digs undertaken, the author has transposed his own images and dialogue into the book and presented it as fact. After struggling through its tedium I thought it better to leave the $25 book in the airplane magazine rack rather than carry it home! Avoid even for $3.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2003

    A stretch

    This is a magazine article stretched to fill a book. It is repetitious and tedious. Much of its information is pure speculation. This may be less the fault of the author than a reflection of how little we have in the way of factual information about the battle and its context. No Roman writer witnessed the battle and the Germans had no writing at that time. This is one you'll soon find for $3.00 in the back of your local used bookstore.

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