The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest is one of the two great military humiliations in the glittered history of the Roman Empire.
Between 15,000 and 20,000 Roman soldiers and their commanders, led by Publius Quinctilius Varus, a general under the emperor Augustus, were destroyed by Germanic warriors in a series of guerrilla-style attacks.
The soldiers were making their way through the Teutoburg Forest towards a winter fort when they were attacked by warriors led by Arminius, a warlord from the Cherusci tribe who would later be known as Herman.
Varus’ forces were made up of three Roman legions, six cohorts of auxiliary troops and three squadrons of cavalry. The forces were not marching in combat formation, and were streched out across 9 and 12 miles.
Germanic warriors, armed with light weapons and long lances, attacked the Romans who found the track they were marching on narrow and muddy, and used tactics aimed at countering the Roman troops.
Arminius had previously become a Roman citizen and had been given a Roman military education.
This enabled him to deceive the Roman commander methodically, anticipating his movements and tactical response to the attacks.
The three Roman legions were completely destroyed and the few soldiers that survived the attacks were then enslaved by the Germanic warriors.
The Roman soldiers, who had stretched themselves too thinly, attempted to break away from the Germanic soldiers multiple times but fell into traps set by Arminius on each occasion.
Many Roman officers are said to have taken their own lives by falling on their swords, while other officers were sacrificed by Germanic forces as part of religious ceremonies.
Following the defeat of the Romans, the Germanic warriors attempted to sweep the Roman presence out of areas East of the Rhine.
Upon hearing of the defeat, emperor Augustus was so infuriated he was seen hitting his head against the walls out his palace, shouting ‘Quintili Vare, legiones redde! (Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!).
The battle – described as the ‘Varian Disaster’ by Roman historians – sparked a seven-year war which ended up deciding on the boundary of the Empire for the following 400 years.
Despite several successful campaigns following the war, the Romans never again attempted to conquer the Germanic territories east of the Rhine, with the exception of Germania Superior.
15,000 Roman soldiers under the command of Publius Quinctilius Varus were set upon in a series of guerrilla-style attacks launched by Arminius, a warlord from the Cherusci tribe who would later be known as Herman (pictured)