Tribe History – A Battle for the Ages: The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest

What happened in the Teutoburg Forest on the ninth of September in the year 9 CE, would one day be known as one of the most significant battles in the history of at least the Roman Empire and the Germanic tribes. It’s a story of cunning intrigue, tactical and political prowess as well as military strategy. The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest lead to the death or enslavement of about 35,000 Roman soldiers, with only about a thousand able to escape certain doom. Although the Germans were outnumbered two to one, they only had minimal losses.

How did the un-unified German forces manage to cause the Romans such a disgraceful defeat?

The military of Roman Empire after all was – and still is to this day – famous for their discipline, effectiveness as well as superior tactics and strategy. Furthermore: while the Romans controlled a big part of the known world, the Germanic tribes, on the other hand, were in disarray: several chieftains with their own agenda, their own men.

The key figures of this story are Publius Quinctilius Varus, the Roman governor of Germania and Arminius. Arminius held a high rank in Varus’ army but was the son of a German chieftain and was kept hostage in Rome since childhood. His military education certainly shaped his mind but as it turns out, his loyalties had not changed: he gave his governor wrong information about an uprising and lead the Roman army into a trap.

While Arminius had played the role as an intermediary between Roman forces and Germanic tribes, he created a plan that would require all his knowledge and cunning intellect, to strike a fierce blow against the Romans:

The route the Romans took through the Teutoburg Forest, squeezed the army between a large, impassable swamp, the Rhine-Elbe River and the Kalkriese hill. The troops were hence stretched over their marching route and attacked from German soldiers who kept hidden in the woods uphill. Unable to build the famous battle formations the Romans are known for,  the Roman army was almost helpless against their well hidden attackers.

Many think that the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest played at least a symbolic, if not significant part in the Romans’ decision not to pursue the conquering of Germany east of the river Rhine.

We may never know how much of an influence the defeat had but the tactics and strategy involved in this battle, along with the huge difference in attitude between the two armies serve an as inspiration to their fictional ancestors in Travian. The battle should also serve as a reminder to our players: if your plan is excellent, you might beat the odds!

Thank you for reading. Stay tuned for the next instalment of Tribe History next month!

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