The Battle of Teutoburg Forest

That battle gave shape to the future of Europe. Though there were punitive excursions in later years, including a trip to bury the scattered Roman remains from the Varus defeat, the Rhine marked the boundary of the Roman Empire from that time forward. The defeat of Varus and his legions kept Germania German, and not a part of the conquered territories which were integrated into the Roman Empire. Gaul and Germany remained separate until Charlemagne more or less reunited them, and even then the quickly split back into their component parts.

Arminius, also known as Hermann in German, became a folk hero and the Battle of Teutoberg Forest became a landmark in German history, often revived whenever pan-German or nationalistic sentiment needed to be aroused. Monuments remain around the country to Hermann/Arminius, many from the 19th century during the time of Bismarck and the birth of the modern German state. The site of the battle had been lost to history for nearly 2000 years, but in 1987 British officer, treasure hunter, and historian J.A.S. Clune discovered relics on at Kalkreise that upon investigation turned out to be the site of the Battle of Teutoburg Forest.

I visited the area in the fall of 2005 -- approximately the same time of year when the battle took place 1,996 years ago. There is a large modern museum (and gift shop) there now, as well as excavated and recreated portions of the battle site. There are also ongoing archaelogical investigations still continuing in the woods around the boggy meadow. As a student of German and Roman history, particularly the frontiers and the migration period, the site was fascinating to me. I read about the battle in several of the period histories and it was really a high point of my trip to go there. I guess if history isn't your cup of tea (why then would you be reading this?) -- the gathered armor fragments, spear tips, and grassy field might appear as just so much pasture and scrap metal. On the other hand, if you would like to stand behind the recreated blinds and imagine the Roman soldiers dying by the thousand before you in the soggy swampland, then you should go. They sell mugs and key-chains there too! "My parents went to see a Roman legion mass grave and all I got was this lousy t-shirt".

The following gathering of pictures is from my trip to the Kalkreise/Osnabrueck Varusschlacht Museum in 2005. The museum itself also has an excellent site which you can view here: Varusschlacht Museum und Park

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